Why Traditions Are Important

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*orginally published 12/6/15

Traditions inform us of our past and can influence our future. They teach us lessons- about simpler times, what is truly important and sometimes they remind us of traditions that need to be changed. Memories are held in traditions- both of loved ones who have passed as well as life events. As for many others, Christmas is a time of year that holds many sacred traditions in my life.

I see all of the pictures people post of their beautiful Christmas trees, many with specific themes and decorations that are well balanced and color coordinated. That is not my tree.

My tree is a wondrous hodge podge of ornaments that go together only because they all hold a special place in my heart. One of my favorite days of the entire year is the day I decorate my tree. When I turn on Christmas music, and one by one open each bin and unwrap each ornament. Sometimes ornaments make me smile and sometimes they make me cry. Every one of them reminds me of a time or event or feeling or person. I don’t rearrange the ones my daughter puts on the tree- sometimes too close together. That is part of the charm- part of my tradition.

In our house, there are plenty of ornaments representing our love of pop-culture.

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Barbie guest singing with the Max Rebo Band

We get new ornaments every year that usually represent something we love, a time in our life or someone’s personality.

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Yoda and a Grasshopper I bought the hubby because I am cruel. He notoriously hates grasshoppers and I could not resist. 

On my mother’s side of the family, once all of the cousins became adults, there were a few years in which we made ornaments for each other as gifts. One year we even made one together- snowmen out of clay that heavily suggested their poop (snowballs) was for sale. My poop selling snowman is broken, though I did find his arm in one of the boxes. Two amazing things came out of that rather short-lived tradition. 1. The fact that we now do a White Elephant gift exchange, which is even more fun with my Great Aunt Trudi as the wildcard- swooping out of nowhere to steal kinda random gifts, and inadvertently breaking up coalitions, and 2. This nativity made in the image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as S’mores. My cousin glued a bunch of these together, before we even had kids, and I love her that much more for it.

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Perhaps we started the tradition of making ornaments to exchange, because every year my Pop-pop would carve and paint Santa ornaments for all of us. Every year a different design. These are some of my very favorite on the tree. Pop-pop died in June 8 years ago. He never met any of his great-grands, but my daughter knows about him because at the very least, once a year, she looks at the ornaments he made, listening to me talk about him as she traces her fingers along the ridges of the wood carvings. I remember that first Christmas after he died, walking into my Mom-mom’s home knowing I would never get another Pop-pop ornament. But what an amazing and gut-wrenching surprise when we learned my uncle found the carved, but unfinished ornaments Pop-pop had already started and he finished them.

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The last Pop-pop Santa Ornament

I have ornaments memorializing people, as well as welcoming people into the world or my life. Ornaments marking events like trips or my first house. Plenty that are handmade, some by my grandmothers, some by Matt’s, some by me. Beautiful, delicate glass ornaments as well as weird ones. A ton from the dollar store that I bought the year I moved out and had my own tree. Large, smooth carved wood block ornaments Matt’s father made- three of them- one hanging by each of our Stockings.

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My very favorite Santa Pop-pop made. Picture of when the hubby and Newt made The Paper because they were so adorable at a Christmas tree lighting.

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Your tree will never be as cool as mine as you probably DO NOT have a rhino doing karate. Top right- the memorial ornament my sister made the year my step-dad died.

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Top right is Askasleikir (Bowl-licker) my folks brought back from Iceland. Bottom left- one of the first ornaments my sweetie and I got together.

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The ornament from the year I was pregnant- the ultasound picture. The weird looking blown glass cupcake thing was my mother in laws- one of my favorites!

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Matt’s grandmother painted the tree. The cute baby is from my first niece’s first Christmas. I may have yet another niece before this Christmas comes. 

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Gigi cross stitched this probably circa 1986

I have ornaments from my best friends. Some of those ornaments are from the days before we were married, before we had kids. The days that we would sit on my back porch smoking clove cigarettes, drinking mixed drinks made from cheap rum or tequila and talking about guys- some of whom later became husbands. Some of those ornaments are from more recent times, when we now we sit in the air conditioning, drinking craft beer or red wine, smoking absolutely nothing, as we listen to the squeals and laughter of our girls in the next room- making memories and friendships to last a lifetime. Sometimes we still talk about our guys, but we also talk about things like plantar fasciitis and the benefits of supportive walking shoes and podiatry.

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Handmade ornament of one of my childhood homes- made with love and irony from a BFF.

So many memories were shared with me by my parents when decorating the tree and even more were made. Because of my mom, the BEST Christmas records (yes- I said records because that is what we listened to and I promise you- she still has them all) will always be Alabama Christmas  , Oak Ridge Boys Christmas and Willie Nelson Pretty Paper, and I always cry when Santa comes at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Because of my other mom- Deb, I will always have a real Christmas tree and love cool, vintage ornaments. Like my moms did, I tell my daughter the stories behind the ornaments and like I did when I was a child, my daughter is super excited initially and then gives up about a quarter of the way through decorating- leaving the rest to me. And so, some traditions carry on…..

 

 

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Come take a walk in my shoes for a bit. 

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* This is a trigger warning. The following contains a frank discussion about the realities of sexual assault and the aftermath.

When I was 12 years old I was kidnapped and raped. I was lucky. I survived. 20 years later I found out that not all victims of my rapist did. In 2011 he was convicted of murdering a young woman by strangulation. He killed her 2 years before he assaulted me. I don’t know why I survived and she didn’t.

But let’s rewind to the moment he dropped me off blocks from my home after hours of assault- this is where I lend you my shoes for a bit. Let’s start when the sound and the air changed as I closed the car door behind me and I started the walk to my house, where I knew my mother would be awake and worried. Because I was still in shock I did not feel the physical pain yet. I didn’t feel my broken nose from when he hit me after challenging me to get out of the car- because if I didn’t try, it must have meant that I liked what he was doing. I didn’t feel the pain between my legs. Not yet. I knew that everything had changed but I also knew that I would never tell. At least that is the one thing that I thought I knew that night. So on that walk a few short blocks to home I needed to figure out something to tell my mom about where I had been, so I concocted a story that I was so “stressed out” about the new school year starting the following week that I needed to clear my head so I went out walking the neighborhood. And just like that- minutes after surviving a predator- a rapist and murderer, I was choosing to take the blame. I was a child prepared to accept punishment for an infraction I didn’t do and I felt that suffering alone and in silence was preferable to people knowing that I was now defiled. I. was. a. child. And even as a child, some part of me understood the explicit and implicit societal ramifications of reporting sexual assault.

I walked up to my porch where my mother was crying with my stepfather. They were frantically making calls trying to find me. My stepfather told me to hug my mother, I had worried her so, and to go to bed. The next morning I showered through the fogginess of my brain and afterwards snuggled on my mother’s bed with my 10 month old sister. My mother walked in and did what I only now as a mother can appreciate as being perhaps one of the most difficult things she has ever had to do- she confronted me and told me that she knew something happened and she demanded that I tell her. So I did. I was lucky that I have a mother who followed her gut and didn’t accept everything at face value.

The detective that came to interview me and then drove me to the hospital for my rape exam was so kind. The nurses who assisted me and my battered and violated body explained everything that would be happening so I would be less afraid. And then they provided me the morning after pill just in case. I was 12 years old and had never even kissed a boy and I was taking the morning after pill. I was lucky I was provided that so I didn’t have to agonize about a possible pregnancy.

I testified in a packed court room. It’s not like it is on tv where the attorney asks the rape victim what happened, she breaks down and cries and says, “He raped me,” and that is that. Nope- it is the most detailed, graphic play by play of what happened. It is the victim describing what her rapist’s penis looks like, where he put it and how many times he put it in each place. It is having to answer questions suggesting that you made up the allegations to avoid a punishment, or to cover for being sexually active. Oh, and all of that happens in front of your rapist. And that is what A CHILD has to testify about when they are in court as victims of rape.

He was convicted. He was sentenced to life for the kidnapping charge and received 7 different 60 year sentences for sexual battery and one 60 year sentence for charges of lewd and lascivious acts- all to be served consecutively. He is never getting out of prison. But I was lucky. That is a highly unusual result. For every 100 rapes that occur only 3 perpetrators ever see even a single day in jail. And we don’t have to reach far back into our collective memories to recall a convicted rapist who was sentenced to 6 months because of how a longer sentence would affect HIM.


During the 8 months between when I was raped to the trial I had some relatively minor trauma reactions, but overall I felt ok- numb but ok. My brain was protecting me as it knew I wasn’t done yet- I still had work to do before I could start healing. After the trial the flood gates opened. That’s when the flashbacks really started. And the nightmares and I stopped eating for days at a time. And I had panic attacks and I slept on the floor of my parents’ bedroom. And I cried- a lot and seemingly randomly, though now I know they probably weren’t random and I was experiencing a PTSD trigger. I was officially diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and I started medication that I called my happy pills. I resented those happy pills because all I wanted to be was “normal” and I felt weak that I needed them because I couldn’t handle my emotions. People told me that I was so strong for surviving and going through the trial, but I felt weaker than I ever had. I felt fragile. I now understand that my tears and my paralyzing fear and panic have nothing to do with strength or weakness, or my character- but everything to do with my trauma.

I had a very difficult time making it through each school day, something that I dealt with off and on until I graduated high school. I often missed school or had to be signed out because I just could not make it through the day. But I was in therapy and I had lots of support and those who knew what happened believed me without question. I still struggled with immense feelings of shame and guilt. I was trying to feel safe again at home. Safe again at school. Safe again when I knew I was with safe people. I was lucky- I had safe people and people who believed me.

One day in 8th grade I had to make up a math test after one of my many missed school days because of my PTSD. My teacher sent me to sit in the back of the classroom next door as she was going over the answers to the test with the rest of my class. Almost as soon as I sat down, the 9th grade boy sitting next to me leaned over and started whispering what he was going to do to me. There I was in a classroom of 30 people, some mere inches away from me, who didn’t see or hear what was happening to me. That this person was describing in graphic detail how he was going to sexually brutalize me. How he was going to cut off his own dick and feed it to me. And while I got up and went back into my classroom explaining to my teacher that one of the kids was bothering me, I never told anyone what he said to me. Not until today.

Because of my own journey- where my shoes have taken me, I understand how it can be possible that a woman might be sexually assaulted in a public place, say an airplane, and NOT say anything and NOT fight back or scream or move away. Because of what I know about what it means to be a woman and how we as a society view sexual assault and sexually aggressive behaviors and where we place the blame- How even other women sometimes judge the trauma responses in other women either because they have never experienced it and assume they would react a certain way, or because they did and their reaction was different- because of this I can think of several different psychological explanations for why women might come forward decades after an alleged sexual assault by a powerful man, that have nothing to do with money or an attention grab.

I was lucky. What happened to me is very close to the classic, and much feared, stranger rape scenario so it is very easy for people to accept my trauma and not challenge my account. My “victimhood” is obvious and unquestioned. I was a child. It was violent. This was “real rape.” But even so, the shame and guilt and secrecy that I have felt to varying degrees in the 26 years since that night when my whole world changed were at times unbearable. And even today, when I told a friend that I was going to do it- I was going to self disclose on this blog and share my story she checked to make sure that I was sure. Because she knows what that might mean for me- to be so open and honest about being raped. That at the VERY least I will have some people that will view me differently. And the truth is that I am not sure that I want to do this.  But I am open and honest about most everything in my life, except this one thing. I guess that’s the shame and responsibility and stigma attached to being a survivor of sexual assault. So while part of me feels that I need to share because it might help even one other survivor of sexual assault, it also feels like I need to do this for me- to shed the last of any shame I might have about it.

Before you give me my shoes back, I want you to walk with me through today. It started like any day, but suddenly and randomly in the shower I started crying.  I thought about how my 61 year old mother was aggressively called an ignorant cunt by a stranger on her way to work on Tuesday because of her Bernie and her “I’m Ready for Hillary” bumper stickers. And I cried because of what happened to me years ago, and I cried for my fears of what this election might mean for women. It turns out that these tears were not “sudden” and “random,” but the result of a trauma trigger- or multiple trauma triggers that I have been successfully managing all election cycle.

Trauma triggers are tricky things sometimes. They can be tricky to identify and difficult to explain to someone else why they are a trigger. The experience is visceral and physiological. So while I cannot fully articulate what my triggers were today the best I can do is say that the thought I keep coming back to is that I cannot understand how and why it is not shocking enough or troubling enough for multiple allegations of sexual assault and a taped admission to engaging in sexual assault to prevent people from electing this man to essentially be one of the, if not the, most powerful person on this planet.

But I did what trauma survivors do. I reached out to someone who I knew would support me. I pulled myself together, put on some lipstick and I put one foot in front of the other (ok- maybe not ALL trauma survivors put on lipstick- but its a metaphor people- in part because I’m not sure I know what the hell these boot straps are that people keep telling others to pull up).  My shoes took me to my job that I love. And as my computer was booting up I perused Facebook and read some personal accounts of other people’s trauma reactions. I spoke with my colleague about some preparations for our round table discussion we have scheduled with other mental health therapists to discuss ways we can assist our clients who have been reporting increased trauma responses, anxiety and depression related to the election (lead up to and results of).  But I broke down again reading about how those that are crying about the results should suck it up. People used terms like douchebag, idiot, and Un-American. People saying the problem with people today is that are just too sensitive, that they need to get over it, that it is laughable for them to be that upset. People being shamed for expressing their emotions in a, frankly, healthy way and hurting no one by doing so.

Since you are in my shoes you can see that today I wasn’t sobbing because my candidate didn’t win and I can’t handle disappointment. I was sobbing because of ALL of the above. You can see that I already do know that life will go on and there is no need to panic, but I needed that release. While in my shoes you can see the skills I have been developing for years for myself and others to help manage trauma and stress and anxiety and disappointment and abject terror, etc, etc, etc. You can see how I keep kinetic sand on my desk for a tactile coping skill- I find it better than playdoh when I just want something to kneed as it doesn’t dry out. You can see how I have coloring books on hand- that I often share with others. You can see that I keep a candy jar stocked in my office because sometimes chocolate is just what someone needs (It worked for Harry Potter with the Dementors and it works for stressed out counselors). You can see that when I moved into a new administrative office with glass walls I positioned my chairs just so- so that someone just walking by won’t happen to see if one of my peers needs a safe place to talk and maybe cry. You can see my Wonder Woman collection as my visual reminder not only of my strength, but also of my need to accept the help of others.  You can see (or smell) that I keep a soothing scent in my plug-in. You can see that I have multiple music and podcast play lists ready to go at any time for any mood.  You can see that one of my greatest fears in sharing this post is that people will feel sorry for me and feel that they are obligated to offer supportive words or feel the need to soothe me or take some burden from me.  I manage my burdens pretty well and I have plenty of safe people that help me carry them when I need to. I wrote this NOT to share my own burden but to perhaps help someone feel safe to share theirs with someone. I wrote this so that others might be given a perspective they had not considered when assessing responses in others.

And now I want my shoes back….

If you are the survivor of a sexual assault and need help- there is help to be had. Here is a link to the National Sexual Assault hotline- which is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Or the number is 1-800-656-HOPE.

We have to do better.

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I remember it clearly.

I remember when I looked at my daughter sleeping. She was only a few weeks old at the time. So perfect, so amazing. And I burst into tears because I knew that no matter how hard I try I may not be able to to protect her. And she might not always be safe. Not when 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18.

I remember it clearly.

Watching her in her dance class. Marveling at how un-self conscious she was- clad in tights and a leotard. Neither she nor the other girls in her kinderdance class comparing their bodies. None of them thinking or worrying about what they look like. Not thinking about what might be “wrong” with their bodies, only exploring some of the wonderful things their bodies can do. And then I wondered how long that would last- how long until she started viewing her body as her enemy? A recent study found that 85% of women and 79% of girls opt out of important life activities when they don’t feel good about the way they look.

I remember it clearly.

I remember being angry as I read about the reports of mass sexual assaults in Germany this past New Year’s Eve. But it wasn’t my anger at the assaults that really got me riled, it was the outrage by the world- an outrage that, to me at least, seemed more about backlash against immigrants and refuges than really about the assaults. It was the politicization of sexual violence. Why would it seem like that to me you ask? Possibly due to the lack of outrage of sexual assaults that happen EVERY SINGLE DAY to women in nightclubs or events. It is a conservative estimate that 80% of the time I went dancing with friends, I experienced a sexual assault. And you know what is so weird, I only recently started identifying them as such for myself. I pretty much took it as a given to expect at least an ass grab or two every time I went out. Every woman I know who has gone dancing has developed their own techniques for getting away from random men grinding their semi-erect penises on us- and most of the time ending up getting called some choice and disgusting names by the spurned man. There was the time the bouncer lent a hand to help me up when I fell, only to plant a kiss on my married lips. Or that time at my bachelorette party, after my dozen or so friends and I had been hanging out all evening with a group of guys that seemed “safe.” These guys were respectful and pleasant. Actually talked with us and seemed to listen when we talked. And then, near the end of the night, the nice guy that had been talking with me all night about his wife and children, and listening to me talk about my excitement of getting married in a couple of days- that nice guy grabbed my breast. Just grabbed it- right there in front of my friends, his friends.

We have to do better.

We have to do better for our children. We have to do better for ourselves.

Victory for an anxious mama

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I have always been an anxious person and becoming a mother certainly did nothing to decrease my anxiety. It took me until well into my 30’s to really start confronting my fears and doing things that I always wanted to do but was too afraid to take the leap.

By virtue of both nature and nurture, my kiddo also has her fair share of anxiety. And while I make light of situations such as when we were in the produce section of the grocery store and she told me she “needed” to fix that someone had set a garlic bulb randomly on a bunch of tomatoes, I am all too familiar with the inner dialogue that accompanies those behaviors.

It can be difficult to keep myself in check and have a “perfect” balance of challenging my daughter to push through her anxieties and not let them impact her life, but also listening to and respecting when it is too much for her to manage.

Which brings me to swimming.

We live in Florida. We have a swimming pool. We have a pond behind our house. Water and water safety are a huge concern for us, so naturally we put our daughter in swim lessons early. It was a great program and she definitely learned how to swim and how get to safety, but even after 3 summers of lessons and countless hours in the swimming pool, she would still cry when asked to swim any distance in the pool, or jump in, or anything other than sit on the steps. She would bargain with us about how many times she had to do a skill before she could go back to her float. She would cry and hyperventilate.

This summer, she and I were in the pool and I asked her to swim to the far side, which was where she deemed was the deep end and thus off limits. I reminded her that since she was swimming and not walking, it didn’t matter that it was over her head.

And then it happened. My scared 6 year old took a deep breath. She closed her eyes briefly and said to herself, “Don’t let your fear control you.” And she took off and swam across the pool.

Now she is a regular mermaid. She jumps in the pool and will swim and swim and swim. She is the coolest kid. I want to be like her when I grow up. beach pic

Being able to buy fabric with female superheroes is not an issue of political correctness. 

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I was very impressed with my local Walmart selection of character fabric. It is rare indeed to find fabric including female characters who are pretty much anything other than princesses. But during this shopping trip I found not one but 2 fabrics with Wonder Woman. There was also some Star Wars fabric with Rey- though I held off on buying that for now. 

But wouldn’t you know, when I was getting my fabric cut, a male Walmart employee walked up, studied the pink fabric with Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl and asked, “since when did everything become so politically correct?” To which the female employee replied, “I guess 2016.”

Ok. So the term “politically correct” is one so loaded with disdain that implies someone (or some entity) must alter their behavior so as to avoid offending those that are easily “butthurt”*.

I politely educated them. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about time. 

Wonder Woman’s first appearance was in 1941. She is considered one of the “Big Three” in DC comics, alongside Batman and Superman. So after 75 years, it’s about time I can walk into a store and buy fabric with her likeness. Something I have ALWAYS been able to do with male superheroes. It’s about time I can buy toys and clothes for my daughter with the characters she loves and pretends to be. 

The male employee contemplated my sentiments for a second and nodded, saying he understood. He said it was ok as long as she didn’t go trying to wear a tiara with her Wonder Woman garb. 

I smiled and said she will if she wants and that’s ok. She was Princess Darth Vader a couple of Halloweens ago. And then I left with my super cool new fabric. 


*Writer’s note- I actually get really irritated with the term butthurt. I used it here I suppose as a way to minimize its negative impact on me. I did it similarly with the term “curate” in my posts about geek girl toys. 

Quick rant- Planning a Superhero birthday party for my girl

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Four comic book stores, Target, GameStop and various on-line retailers so far and all I have to say is- planning a super cool superhero birthday party that represents at least some female characters is really, really frustrating. 

Went home, dumped out the superhero toy buckets. We dug through the birthday present box and I think we finally have a plan. 

And, even better, it is forcing the hubby to confront his irrational fear of mixing Marvel and DC characters. 

 

pic by Bryan Neilsen

 
I will be sure to post pics in a week or so after the shindig. 

“I’ve just had a really long day.”

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She suddenly looked up at me, big blue eyes, glistening, “I’m sorry. I’ve just had a really long day.”

I cocked my head to the side and furrowed my brow to indicate I had no idea what she was talking about.”

She looked down sheepishly. “I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier. I’ve just had a long day.”

Quickly, and with a little amusement, I mentally reviewed this “really long day” for my not-yet-6-year-old.

This day was my first day back to work after a week vacation, but she still had the day off for teacher planning day following her spring break.

I let her sleep until the last possible minute. I even did her chores of feeding her dogs and fish. I let her have M&M cookies for breakfast. She came with me to work, and she quickly took over my office, the conference room, and eventually my boss’s office with her LalaLoopsies, markers, paper, tape, sand. Plenty of play on her tablet. Then, after work, she got a quick nap in the car on the way to dance. After dance, some running around on playground with friends. Tried out a new podcast on the way home, which she loved, then made plans to take the crazy dog for a walk. (We have 2 labs. One is old and calm. The other is only 2- that is the crazy dog.)

It was then she snapped.

Except, she really didn’t. I think she did yell at the dog, who was jumping, excited to see her, and briefly had a tone in her voice with me, that I called her on. For me, it was quickly forgotten. But as we walked with the dog, enjoying the weather and the discussion, it was bothering her- which brings me to the start.

I fought my natural inclination to respond with a sarcastic comment about wishing I had really long days like hers, and attended to HER feelings instead of mine. I thought about what I want when I am tired and irritable. I just want someone to hear me.

I brushed a wayward curl out of her face as I smiled at her. I acknowledged her really long day. I told her that when we got home we would eat and she could have a relaxing bath and then we would cuddle and read together before bedtime.

 

I’m so proud of my daughter on the primary Election Day.

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My daughter is not yet 6.

I’m watching her swinging for a few minutes before we get ready for karate. Her crazy blonde curls are flying everywhere and she has the biggest grin. Joy. Open. Kind. Pure.

20 minutes before, in the car heading home from the precinct after I cast my vote for my registered party’s presidential candidate, my brilliant daughter was talking about what she thinks makes a good president. She said the president should have courage and should help people.

And then, in the simplest of ways explained why a president should seek to resolve conflict, not create it- should seek to solve problems not create division. She said if people don’t get along and just go on to the next friend, and then don’t get along and move to the next friend and keep going and going like that, pretty soon the whole world will just be mad at each other and not listening.

No matter what happens in the election today, or in November, or in 4 or 8 or 12 years from now, I will make a commitment to myself and to my child that I will continue to love and to be kind. I will seek to understand the other side, even if I don’t agree, and in conflict will strive to do so with respect.

I will do my best to live up to my daughter’s expectations for a president, so by default, a leader: to have courage and to help people.

 

How being a Slytherin is saving my life.

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Two weeks or so ago I wrote about how I came to terms with being sorted into Slytherin, which you can read here. But before that nasty little business with Ravenclaw (see the previous post), the real story that I wanted to get to about embracing being a Slytherin is that it might be saving my life.

slytherin my intention to be the best

That last sentence was only a little bit hyperbole.

After I got married, I slowly started to put on weight, as I think is pretty common. But after my daughter was born, I gained weight more rapidly. This is something that did not happen overnight and there are a thousand different factors, but one of the main factors is that I always put myself last.

I was so busy taking care of all of my external responsibilities- making sure I was the BEST mother, the BEST wife, the BEST friend, the BEST therapist, etc, etc, that I forgot to take the BEST care of me that I possibly could. I didn’t listen to my own advice to others- that if I didn’t take care of myself, I couldn’t do my BEST at anything.

I passed all of the usual indicators that make people take notice and take action- numbers on a scale, BMI, moving from regular clothes stores to plus sized clothes stores, taking medication for high blood pressure, taking medication for high cholesterol, seeing multiple family members go through major heart surgeries. None of those did the trick.

What really got me was that the pain in my lower back was so bad I couldn’t do simple things like walk to the end of the block so my kid could ride her bike without excruciating pain. That and the humiliation I felt when I was too big to ride several of the rides with my daughter at Legoland. What got me is that my health was impacting my ability to fully engage in and enjoy the world with my daughter.

But still. I felt powerless over this element of my life. I have never had a healthy relationship with food or exercise- not even when I was thin and LOOKED healthy. I have been very successful in many things in my life- but never that. And I felt afraid of change.

And then one day in September last year, when I was trying to figure out WHY I couldn’t get a handle on this, I said, “Fuck that- You are a Slytherin. There is NOTHING you can’t do if you don’t put your mind to it.”

And so I did.

I called my doctor the next day and made an appointment. I have been taking medication to help, but more importantly, eating healthier and exercising. Little lifestyle changes that are becoming bigger. In 5 months I have lost 40 pounds, which is great- but what is better is that I FEEL better. I have energy. I can do things again. I can walk miles now- much father than the end of the block. I enrolled my daughter and myself in martial arts classes. Last week I even started bringing my walking shoes to work with me in case I am able to slip away for a bit.

By taking care of myself, I am being a better mother, a better wife, a better therapist, a better friend- a better me- and hopefully one that will be around for a long time.

When I start to get frustrated or disappointed, I use a little self-talk and remind myself that I am a Slytherin- that I can do this. You just watch me. But- when I indulge- which I do on occasion and without guilt (this is a lifestyle I’m living- not a diet) don’t even think about saying anything to me or raising an eyebrow. Remember- I am a Slytherin- I will bite and I have sharp fangs.

slytherin I will win