Am I Ready?

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Today I decided to find a quote from one of my many Pinterest boards of quotes and use that quote to spur a blog post. When I came across this quote as I was browsing my own boards, I jumped out at me because it relates to some things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Do I agree with this quote? Yes, absolutely. I wouldn’t have saved it if I didn’t. This quote is a reminder to me – someone who tries to be a perpetual planner and simultaneously a worry wart – that I can’t plan everything and wait until I’m ready to do big things. Now granted, there is importance in being responsible and thinking about things before doing them. I’m not wishing I was an impulsive decision-maker. I don’t think that’s what this quote is about. I think this quote means, to people like me, that sometimes you have to throw aside the worry and the what-ifs and just choose to have faith that you’ll succeed at something you choose to do.

In my life recently, I’ve been thinking about future decisions I could make. Here’s one: a decision to have another child. I never realized that once your first child turned three years old that you, as the parent, crossed a line that offered you up to being asked numerous times by family, friends, and strangers WHEN you’re having another one. Not IF, WHEN? It’s odd because before I had a child, I always thought I’d want more than one. Then I had the first one, who is incredible – don’t get me wrong – but all of the hardship of having a baby made me scared to have another one. See, I’m not blissfully ignorant now. I know what it’ll be like. And I just don’t feel like I’m ready yet. There are finances to think about…Ella as an older sibling…totally changing the way we live our lives AGAIN… I think about all of these things, and yes, I pray about them, too, but my thoughts always come back to “I’m not ready!” Then I read this quote and wonder just how much of a control freak I’m being. How much am I letting fear hold me back from growing my family, growing my blessings? It’s almost like I have to have a blind abandon – just say “Okay, I’ll do this,” and then leave the circumstances up to faith and God. I’m not saying I’ve made a decision to have another child just yet, but instead of jumping to a “Heck no!” answer when asked if I want another one, I can likely stay calm and give a “Probably” answer. When? I don’t know but I’m trying to remember it’s okay to not be totally ready.

Another big decision I think about a lot is going back to the classroom and being a high school English teacher again. I’ve been away from teaching English for almost eight years and while I’d have a foundation for returning to teaching, it’d likely be like starting over again because technology and techniques have changed so much in eight years from when I started teaching straight out of college. While I feel the desire to fulfill a higher purpose by returning to teaching – doing more to affect teenage students than what I’m doing now – I still have the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I won’t be ready. I won’t be prepared for the extra hours to plan, execute, grade, evaluate, etc… I’ll likely mess it up and won’t be a good teacher. And it’s when I have these thoughts that I’m convinced I’m not ready to take that leap again. Like with having another child, I’m not blissfully ignorant. I know what to expect and how hard it is to be a teacher, especially in a high school setting. When I went into teaching straight out of college, I was still wet behind the ears and thought I knew what to expect, but I really didn’t. Now I’ve been away from it for so long yet have the notion that I want to go back to it. I keep saying I’m not ready, but when I read the quote from above, I’m reminded that lots of people go into new and different jobs and careers without being 100% ready. So it’s possible that I can return to teaching without feeling totally mentally and emotionally ready, but I’ll do it and succeed at it because I think it’s in my heart to teach and influence young adult students. I’ll experience a lot of on-the-job training and I’ll continue to grow and adapt. I don’t have to be totally ready for everything that will come my way – I just have to be willing to give it my best and maintain the flexibility that is required when you’re human and just need to cut yourself some slack sometimes. 🙂

So those are just two major life decisions I have on my mind lately. I have no clue what will happen down the road but I do continue to pray for guidance and wisdom in how to make certain decisions. However, I think I also need to remember the quote above when I’m stuck in a pattern of overthinking and trying to control too much. I need to remember that it’s okay to leave some things to faith and realize that you may never be ready to make a particular jump in life, but once you make the decision, you find your blessings and figure out that inevitably, you’re going to be okay no matter what.

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An Ideal Friend

Came across this blog prompt and find it quite interesting. It comes from the site that provides blog prompts for every month. Here’s the link and I’m following it with the prompt.

http://www.thesitsgirls.com/blogging/writing-prompts-february/

Describe your ideal friend – do you live up to this description in your friendships?

Friendship is an interesting subject because I struggle with having deep and solid friendships in my adulthood. I think about it frequently and I’m not sure what the reasons are, but I do find myself lacking in a best friend who I talk to regularly and can say just about anything to. There’s no doubt that I have some really good friends who mean a lot to me and give me a sense of companionship; however, I’m missing a friend I could call or text or email at any point of the day and get a response of recognition, even if we can’t talk at the moment. My ideal friend would be the one I could talk honestly to and say just about anything. We could talk about embarrassing stuff, serious stuff, and if we ran into conflict, we could tell each other our thoughts and opinions with respect and without having to be hurt. As I’ve gotten older and into my adulthood, I’ve had less patience for humoring the poor behavior and choices of people in my life in silence. I don’t like to be around people who act in a way that is negative and then NOT say something. If someone in my life, and our relationship, is hampered by patterns of negativity or dysfunction or obnoxiousness, I’m likely to talk to the person and be honest and say, “Hey, have you noticed you act this way or always talk this way?” and then at least the person knows how I feel. My ideal friend would be open to this type of communication and honesty with me, and in return, the friend would tell me the same things. If I’m going through a pattern of whining or being overly snarky with my sarcasm, I want a friend to tell me. If I’m being neurotic or spazzy, I’d like a friend to tell me. But in return, if I call her out on her issues, she has to be receptive to the constructive criticism that comes from unconditional love. I suppose that in this southern culture, politeness and silence reign when someone is being annoying or acting in the wrong. I don’t subscribe to that type of passive reaction, when no one wants to address an issue, so my friendships with people should be able to sustain my level of honesty and communication. I’m not saying I want to be a bossy friend or constantly judgemental or able to say anything I want about a friend’s life decisions. I suppose I have the mindset that I’ll call a spade a spade, even if it’s trying to act like a heart. How’s that for a colloquialism? 🙂 I would just like to have a friendship that could sustain some conflict and honest words without crumbling.

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On that same note of communication, my ideal friend would share news of her life with me and vice versa. I’d love to have a friend that I could call up on any given day and say, “Wow, you’ll never believe what happened to me today…” Or a friend who would call me up and say, “What are you doing right now? I have the funniest story to tell you…” I don’t have any friends that I communicate with regularly like this. I have friends who I “catch up” with when we’re actually together, but when not together and seeing each other once a week or even more infrequently, I have no friends that I talk to regularly. I rarely just talk about life with anyone, except Andrew, and now that I think of it, maybe that’s why this blog is so therapeutic.

I suppose you can tell that communication and honesty are very important things to me in any relationship. There are other important things in a friendship though. My ideal friend would be kind and sensitive, definitely compassionate on a bad day or in a time of need. I feel like I am this type of friend because I’ve been there for friends in their times of need, whether good or bad, and I’ve given of my time and resources. Have I dropped everything to go to a friend who has called in a time of panic? Yes. Have I received phone calls from friends in the middle of the night when something traumatic has happened? Yes. Have I seen the fear and doubt on a friend’s face at having to go through a situation alone and offered to go with her and be her support without her asking? Yes. Have I done everything in my power to cheer up a despondent friend, helping her to go from tears to laughter? Yes. I know I’m a friend capable of caring and sharing, and my ideal friend would do the same kinds of things for me – return the gestures.

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Another friend requisite: having a sense of humor, not taking herself too seriously, and being able to act silly. Despite being in my 30s, I still enjoy laughing and being silly when hanging out with friends. Some of the best memories are those in which I laughed about something stupid with a friend until I cried and my sides hurt. My ideal friend and I would be sarcastic and joke with each other without being offended. We wouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and we wouldn’t be afraid to laugh at each other at times, too. Do you know that I actually know people, people who are in my life on a regular basis, who can’t take a joke and bristle when a joke is made at them…every single time? Why does a person need to be that serious and on guard all of the time? Another thing – my friend and I might not be politically correct or act appropriately in public all the time, but we’d have fun. We might do crazy things but we’d do them together because the level of fun and spontaneity would go up when we are together. What’s the fun in always being prim and proper? That’s my philosophy, at least, and my ideal friend would be up for craziness and merriment and laughter. My ideal friend would continue to bring exuberance and joy into my life, no matter how we age.

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Going back to the communication thing: My ideal friend would be someone I could confide in, telling my craziest truths and life experiences to, and she wouldn’t judge me or gasp at what I say. I’d like someone to which I could tell my worries and anxieties. I’ve talked about my postpartum depression before – the time after having Ella Grace in which I thought I was crazy because I wasn’t particularly happy and I was constantly anxious. What if I’d had the ideal friend to whom I could’ve talked about my issues and not felt like I had to keep them secret for fear of judgement? Along with the emotional issues of having a baby, the physical and bodily issues were insane! But I didn’t have an ideal friend to call up and ask, “Hey, is it normal for this fluid to be coming out of my body?” I’m very comfortable in talking about bodily functions, but not everyone is, so my ideal friend could handle the occasional conversation about female bodies, in all their complexity, and the physical perils of having a baby and getting older. You know, woman stuff… Can I handle this as a friend myself? Of course. Come to me with any confession and I will listen and do my best to understand. If advice is wanted, I’ll give it. If being listened to is all that is asked, I’ll listen. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at listening to people, and despite what I said earlier in the post about speaking my mind, I make it a point to NOT speak my mind until I’ve thought about things.

My ideal friend would also not be shallow (hope that wouldn’t be an issue anyway), not judging based on looks or my choice in clothing. We’d be able to enjoy things we have in common but we wouldn’t have to be exactly alike. I’m very capable of being friends with people who have different personalities than mine, even a different belief system. But of course, at the core of the ideal friend, there is goodness and humility – a desire to have friendship as much as I do. I’m sure there’s so much more I’m not articulating now, but I suppose I’ll wrap this up as my description of the ideal friend. And in wrapping up, let me just give the addendum that in my life, Andrew is the best and ideal friend I could have. As my husband, he holds all of the qualities I discussed and so much more. But in doing this post, the OTHER ideal friends are the ones outside of your family – the people who are in your life because you and they both choose to be connected. That’s the type of ideal friend I still wish for. However, as I continue through life, I’ve learned that friends don’t always stay and it takes work sometimes to make a friendship last through the years. But as the quote below states, I don’t wait for an ideal friend to be present to continue my life and my growth, but I’ll always want the friend who will weather the years and the journey in my life.

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However, no matter what, I know I’ll always be okay.

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The Sexualizing of Babies!?

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Look at this picture. Think about the age of this little girl – this BABY girl – and study what she’s wearing. Am I the only one who finds this picture disgusting? Is the advertisement of a slutty bikini on an 18 month old vulgar to anyone else? I came across the picture while browsing Zulily, a website that features collections of merchandise at discounted prices. This bikini was featured as part of a line of swimwear called Babi-Kini, which is featured on Zulily. Here’s Zulily’s description of the line of swimwear:

Babi-Kini creates fun, colorful and comfy beachwear for the mini mermaids and sweet surfers in your life. From Baby’s first string bikini to one-piece suits and rashguard sets, each of their adorable designs is made in the USA using high-quality fabrics in a variety of picture-perfect prints.

Look at the phrase “Baby’s first string bikini.” Why is this even a phrase that would be used to market swimwear to little girls and babies? Why does Baby need a string bikini!?

And here’s the “About Us” blurb from the company’s actual website:

We started making Babi-Kini’s many years ago and have had a blast doing so.  What started out as gag gifts for a couple of business associates has turned into a thriving business.  Everyone who saw the little bikini’s wanted one and so the story goes.  Fast forward several years later and here we are, swimming in itsy bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikinis, and we love it!  Babi-Kini’s are so fun to design, produce, and sell because they make everyone smile.  You just can’t help yourself when you see them…..they are so darn cute!

Problem #1: These bikinis started out as gag gifts. And then someone thought it’d be a good idea to make them into a real product. Problem #2: “…They make everyone smile…” No they don’t. I’m not smiling. And the people who are smiling at baby girls in sexy swimwear need to be screened for pedophilia.

Has this country not come far enough in how it values females that it can’t be beyond selling sex on a baby!? I’m livid that there is actually a company in the United States that is proud to create and market this type of clothing for baby girls. Isn’t it bad enough that pre-pubescent girls choose string bikinis, inviting men to stare at their bodies before they’re even fully formed? Now we have to lower the age to the newborn level in which we put a string bikini on a girl in an effort to have her look “fabulous” and “cute.” Granted, the company also offers more modest swimwear for girls, like one-pieces, but clearly its target sale is supposed to be the string bikini.

Here’s part of the issue: a baby girl can be on the beach or in the pool in just a diaper and nothing sexual is thought because there’s an innocence there. A diaper is functional and when a baby girl is seen in just a diaper, the functionality of the diaper creates the subliminal message that nothing sexual is being seen. A baby girl’s body should never incite thoughts of attractiveness or sex. NEVER! But when something like a string bikini is put on a baby girl, equalizing her to a grown woman, the image of sex is meant to be thought. And it’s just wrong. Totally wrong.

And shouldn’t we be protecting small children from harmful UV rays when they’re outside at the pool or the beach? Babi-Kini has a portion of their website that references UV protection, but upon clicking the link, there was no information. “Coming soon” was all I got. I can’t help but wonder where the UV protection is going to be so beneficial if it’s included in a string bikini. A baby girl’s nipples, genitals, and butt might be protected, but since that’s all the string bikini covers, it seems pretty pointless.

Let me also comment on the fact that baby girls are not born with the innate desire to show their bodies and bare skin for positive attention, acceptance from others, and affection. At some point during a girl’s growth, she is TAUGHT to show more skin, and with this company, apparently that point in the process of growth is at birth! Baby string bikinis start in a size classifed “birth to 6 months”. Newborns can’t even regulate their temperature well, but let’s roast or freeze the girls in a string bikini, bared to any and all environmental harm. When little girls are put into teeny bikinis at an early age, they’re being taught to show their bodies for affirmation AND they’re being opened up to the scrutiny of adults who are likely horrible people. I’m 100% sure that there are adults out there who would see an overweight girl, no matter how young, in one of these bikinis and think the girl shouldn’t be wearing something like this because she’s too fat. Why would any parent want to open up his/her daughter to judgement and scrutiny at such a  young age? Shouldn’t we be protecting our little girls in this harsh and unrelenting society as long as we can? Is there no more innocence and modesty to be found in this society? As you may be able to tell, I’m totally flabbergasted. I’m upset that I’ve been slapped in the face with images of baby girls, bared for all to see, offered up like pieces of meat.

And then I think personally about my own little girl. Ella Grace is so young and innocent. She’s not aware of her body being a vessel for judgement as she grows. Right now her body is neutral to her. I don’t think she knows to think positively or negatively about it yet, but as her mother, I’m also very conscious of how I talk about her body so that she doesn’t begin to develop any negative body image issues at a young age. We talk neutrally and honestly about Ella Grace’s body to her – we call her vagina her vagina. Her nipples are her nipples. We made the decision to go with straight body talk so that Ella Grace wouldn’t feel like her body was funny or something not worth talking honestly about. We want her to feel comfortable in her body and with her body, but I certainly don’t want that confidence to translate into a sexual showing by her at an early age. Along with respecting her body, I want Ella Grace to learn the value of keeping her body her own for as long as she can. If she’s four years old and showing off everything for all to see, her body is becoming less personal to herself. With all of that said, there will come a day when Ella Grace is old enough to make a decision for herself about whether or not to wear a string bikini or flaunt a little cleavage. But until she’s old enough and mature enough to make those decisions for herself, it’s my duty as her mother to make decisions that protect and honor the integrity of her innocent body.

And now let me leave you with this. I continued to browse the Babi-Kini website and look at different collections of swimsuits. I noticed there was a link for a boys’ collection. I clicked the link and saw one picture. It’s below. Notice this little boy has skin that is far more covered and protected from the elements. This little boy lives in a society in which bearing the torso of a male is normal. Yet this company makes swimwear for a boy that covers his whole torso and his legs down to his thighs while also marketing a small and disgusting set of swimwear for little girls. 

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Why, why, WHY is this society still failing girls and women in how it teaches respect and integrity for females? Babi-Kini is definitely one of the reasons.

To Ella Grace:

Here’s another random blog idea I pulled from a blog site.

And here’s where the blog idea came from: http://www.kludgymom.com/idea-bank/

 10 things you want your kids to know about you as a person (not as a parent).

To Ella Grace:

  1. I’m an anxious person. This fact is probably no secret to you anyway. My anxiety used to manifest in emotional breakdowns but now that I’ve gotten older and I’m able to handle my emotions more effectively, my anxiety will find its way into me by way of mostly unseen physical symptoms: my heart races, I get the shakes, and I sometimes flush. I probably didn’t realize my anxiety until I was in high school, but even then I just called myself a worrier. Now I’ve made it to the age of 31, and I’m still a worrier, but I’m aware of my anxiety and I know how to deal with it better. I hope you never feel that my anxiety affects you negatively because it’s a motherly goal of mine to NOT project my personal issues onto you.
  2. I’ve been told I’m a funny person. I enjoy cutting up with my friends and coworkers, and if I can make anyone laugh, I feel good. As a kid and teenager, I was a goofball and I’ve grown into an adult who is not easily embarrassed because I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m highly sarcastic, sometimes to a fault, but I love being able to interact with people and make them smile or laugh with the things I say or do.
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  3. When I get really mad, I usually cry if not in a public situation. I have a temper and sometimes might speak before I think or cool down. Overall, though, I try to be laidback and let most things roll off my back. If I didn’t, the aforementioned anxiety would have me constantly incapacitated.
  4. I love books and I love to read. This is another tidbit that should come as no surprise. I’m a bookworm! Always have been! I can date my reading abilities to back before I started kindergarten. I don’t remember learning to read before kindergarten – who taught me and/or how I learned – but I do have a memory of being in kindergarten and for show-and-tell time one day, I was able to sit on my teacher’s lap and read a book to my classmates. None of them could read yet, so at the time I guess I was advanced. I read chapter books at an early age and by middle school, I was reading highly mature fiction, like that of Stephen King. I’ve continued to read into my adulthood, and my love of reading is definitely a reason I excelled in English classes and then pursued a degree in English in college. I hope you find a love of books as you get older, too.
  5. Speaking of books and reading: My favorite books include The Catcher in the Rye, The Joy Luck Club, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Life of Pi, The Fault in our Stars, The Book Thief, anything by Amy Tan, most things by Jodi Picoult, stuff by Mark Twain, most Asian-American literature, historical fiction, and other cultural literature. I don’t read things that are highly philosophical or complex, but I’m usually very open to reading most things that are suggested to me.
  6. Other favorites: color – green; season – winter or summer; day of the week – Saturday; holiday – Christmas; animal – owl or dog; movie – Steel Magnolias; meal of the day – breakfast; fast food restaurant – Wendy’s or Burger King; local restaurant – The Fourth Street Filling Station; other chain restaurant – Olive Garden or Chili’s; TV Show – Lost, The Walking Dead, Parenthood (only one is still on air with new seasons); ice cream – cookies and cream or strawberry cheesecake; cake flavor – chocolate, strawberry, or red velvet; drink – sweet tea or coffee; vegetable – green beans or asparagus; fruit – granny smith apple or clementines. Why is this important? I don’t know. Maybe one day you’ll think, “I wish I’d known those little things about my mom.”
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  7. I’m a romantic, even if I don’t act like it most times. As a teenage girl, I swooned over romantic gestures: getting flowers, receiving love letters, holding hands, going on dates your dad planned, etc… I still wish there was more time in my life for romance, but I understand that other things have replaced the time I spent being a starry-eyed teenager when I first met your dad. I tend to act like I don’t care about romantic gestures, but really, I still sometimes wish I could get flowers or be the recipient of a love letter again. 🙂
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  8. Phobias: getting shots or anything else dealing with needles, being high up but not restrained from falling (so it’s not a true fear of heights – being on an airplane doesn’t scare me), car wrecks, singing in front of people (though I’ve done it multiple times)
  9. In relating to my #7 post about romanticism, I want you to know that I am so in love with your dad. I know I’m not supposed to write about anything as your mom, so just count this as a woman telling you how much she loves her husband. I do love my husband more than I can explain. We have a long history involving a high school romance, which budded into a committed relationship in college, and then went on to be an engagement and marriage. Your dad and I have been together as an official couple since August 27. 1999, when he asked me to be his girlfriend at a high school football game. We’d been friends since our freshman year of high school. We went to college together at Appalachian State and got engaged on March 4, 2004. He asked me to marry him in honor of his own birthday. We got married on July 16, 2005, roughly two months after we graduated from college. This summer, we’ll celebrate a whole decade of marriage. I can tell you that your dad is a great husband to me. You will hopefully grow to see just what an incredible father he is, and you’ll likely observe that he’s a good husband, too, but in case you never really notice, I want to tell you straight from my mouth. Your dad is wonderful. He’s incredibly mature, though he likes to have fun, and he’s extremely hardworking and responsible as a man. As a husband, he’s patient and loving – always there for me and extremely dependable. We have our moments – sometimes even on a daily basis – of when we tiff and argue, but I never hesitate to know that there is no man better for me than your dad.
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  10. Morbid to leave you with this but still important to share: When I die, I want my organs and tissues to be donated, if possible. I’d love for folks to gather to remember me, but I don’t want a saddening funeral, persay. I’d like for my life to be celebrated and for people to be happy in remembering me and all of the good I hope to have done and meant to others. I want to be cremated – not buried. You can keep my ashes or give them to whomever wants a “part” of me to remember, but please spread some over the Cowpasture River in Clifton Forge, Virginia, which is the homestead of our Grandma/Nanny Hallie and a place I consider one of my most favorite on Earth. But most of all, I hope that whenever my time comes, because you know tomorrow is never promised to anyone, that you will remember me in all the positive ways possible and that you’ll never have to wonder just how much I loved you.
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