Spark a little mid-break motivation

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR MOOD

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image via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Motivation would be so dope. And, apparently, motivation can be derived by increasing your dopamine levels.

Smack in the middle of winter break, we’ve just finished the highlight of it for most of us: Christmas. That highlight comes at a cost sometimes. The buildup starts before Halloween, and for some it’s positive and merry-making, but for some it’s depressing and anxiety-producing for a variety of reasons.

For myself, it’s a mix. I am blessed beyond measure regarding my loved ones, but I am genetically predisposed to worry and overthink everything. With the main festivities out of the way and no expectation to go back to work for a week, I’ve allowed myself to wallow on the sofa a bit the past couple of days. One could say I deserve it, being a teacher and publications adviser who works crazy hours during the school year and never really stops thinking about deadlines and details. But on the other hand, wallowing begets wallowing. I see others online, too, who just need a lift.

So to the internet I went, in search of ways to raise dopamine levels, and I found this article from Endless Entertainment on the first shot. Glenn Santos writes of 10 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Productivity. Just what I was looking for.

  1. Discover new things, Santos tells us. Well, I can vouch for that. Just searching for and finding the article gave me motivation to share this info. What does he mean by discovering new things, though? Santos suggests taking to the internet and exploring via Amazon or Pinterest, a couple of my personal favorites. He does warn against the addictive nature of those sites. But I’ve discovered such things as rock painting, bullet journaling, lettering, Zentangle and new authors and books, all of which I’ve at least tried, if not fallen in love with.
  2. List your small tasks. The logic here is that completing something, indeed, the act of marking the item off the list as complete, gives you that dopamine pump. So why list one item: “clean the kitchen”, which you may not be able to mark off for a couple hours, when you could list: empty dishwasher, load dishwasher, clean out fridge, wipe down counters & cabinets, sweep floor, mop floor … each swipe of the pencil (or check in a box) gives you a separate dopamine trigger. So if you really want to get the biggest advantage of this trick, do what I’ve always advised: the first thing on your list should always be: “make a list”. Done? Check.
  3. Listen to music. No brainer. What pumps you up? At what volume? Do it for you. It’s medicinal.
  4. Increase your tyrosine, a protein found in common foods.
    Almonds
    Avacados
    Bananas
    Beef
    Chicken
    Chocolate
    Coffee
    Eggs
    Green Tea
    Milk
    Watermelon
    Yogurt
    Almond milk mocha latte with your scrambled eggs, avacado and banana breakfast? Or, heck, just a piece of chocolate about 3 p.m. That’s how I roll.
  5. Reduce your lipopolysaccharides. Your what? Well, if you’re increasing the good stuff, it makes sense to reduce the bad stuff. And don’t kid yourself. You know what the bad stuff is: fatty and sugary foods. They are toxins.
    One way to combat those, according to Santos, is a probiotic diet. He suggests yogurt, which I am familiar with, and kefir and kimchi, which I am not.
    I will, however, put in a shameless plug for Herbalife, and a supplement I can personally attest to: Florafiber. A caplet or two a day gives you fiber, calcium and lactobacillus acidophilus. Message me for details if you are interested.
  6. Exercise often. I hated typing that one. I have an ongoing battle with myself and my personal trainer son about exercise. Intellectually, I know that exercise does good things for me. I know that it not only releases dopamine, but serotonin as well. But, man, I find it hard to convince myself to exercise. This is something I need to work on.
  7. Establish a streak. Santos suggests keeping track of something so you can see progress. Under “new things” I mentioned bullet journaling, something I started last January (Look at me! Did something consistently for a whole year!). I love bullet journaling. It’s a planner, a journal, a sketchbook. It’s any combination in any way you want it to be. Yes, there are original guidelines on which the system is based, but the beauty is that the system is endlessly customizable. Some of the popular features most folks put in their bujos are trackers, graphic elements intended to track behaviors. Bujoers track water intake, exercise, weight loss, moods, housekeeping chores, making their beds and brushing their teeth. They track savings, paying off debt, social media analytics, days without soda or overspending. What would you like to track? Just tracking that I updated my bujo, that I had my Herbalife shakes and tabs, and those evenings I didn’t spend with TV helped me improve in those areas. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet helped me increase my blog posts or water intake. Always room for improvement. Check Pinterest, YouTube or Facebook for bullet journaling practitioners and get some ideas.
  8. Take dopamine enhancing supplements.
    Curcumin is found in turmeric, a spice used in curry dishes. But there are dozens of recipes on Pinterest using turmeric. I’ve tried it as a hot drink with cinnamon and honey in almond milk (meh.) and I actually loved it sprinkled on sweet potatoes, then roasted.
    Ginko Biloba is available over the counter.
    L-theanine is apparently available in great quantities in green tea.
  9. Make stuff. Love this one. Anyone with an artsy hobby can probably attest. If you’re doing something you love and you get in the zone, time flies by. Is it drawing? Painting? Photography? Crochet? Rebuilding motors? How about just coloring? Coloring has been found to reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure in some people. It’s a soothing, repetitive task that produces a colorfully pleasing result.
  10. Meditate. Look into the proper way to meditate or just take an afternoon for ceiling time, as I put it. Uninterrupted time to just stare at the ceiling and let your mind wander, work things out, feel some feelings and work through why you’re feeling that way can be helpful. In addition, you can set goals and plan tasks to get there or visualize positive situations. I sometimes make up scenes for fiction I’m working on, work out plot details or flesh out character traits.

So is it meditating or is it wallowing? What is it I’ve been doing the past couple of days? The fact that I’m being productive means that it doesn’t matter what I call it.

What can you do to increase your dopamine levels? What can you do for you so that you can be more productive?

Whichever you choose, do it. You deserve to be happy and productive.

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Who’s bossy?

A few years ago I started getting comments now and then that I reminded the commenter of Tina Fey. I knew vaguely who she was as this was about the time she was becoming well-known for impersonating Governor Sarah Palin. I took this as a compliment. I think Fey is a nice-looking woman. We share some physical characteristics, mostly being brunette and of small stature – though I’m not as small as I once was. I also like to think that my wit and sarcasm play a part in the connection. If it’s a newspaper late night and we’re eating pizza and breadsticks and someone’s brought brownies, Fey’s other character, Liz Lemon, probably springs to mind as she loves to eat. I even had a former student gift me with season one of 30 Rock on DVD. #hooked

So on a recent Girls’ Night Out excursion with three of my besties, I was tickled to get my hands on a copy of Bossypants, Fey’s 2011 book about her life thus far.

Bossypants

Oh, wait, perhaps I should quickly define our version of Ladies’ Night Out. Once a year, the four of us drive to the city (“the city” is how Okies refer to Oklahoma City), to enjoy an annual event for book nerds. The Friends of the Oklahoma City Library System has a huge sale of used library books every February, taking up two big rooms at the State Fairgrounds. We load up various tote bags and wheeled apparatuses, drive the hour and 20 minutes, stand in line for 45 minutes, then bust into one of the rooms where we move between rows of tables with hundreds of other book nerds. Some of these are crazier than we are, as they are pushing or pulling wheeled trash cans, huge plastic bins, and suitcases. You can tell the newbs, standing wide-eyed in the aisles wondering how they’ll carry all their books to the checkout line that’s snaking around the room already. Ah, best night of the year. After up to two hours of “shopping”, we go out to eat. That part’s normal.

ANYWAY, one of my better finds was Bossypants, and it was the second book I picked up to read (following Michael Gates Gill’s How Starbucks Saved My Life, which I devoured the day after the sale). Fey is hilarious. She discusses real life topics, but through her Fey lens. Though she tells it just the way it was, her quirky humor made me laugh out loud. At 10, she wanted to shave her legs, but her mom wanted her to wait. I heard my own mom’s voice as she described her mother’s response, that it was too soon and she’d regret it. Both Fey and I had looked down at what she calls “dark shin fur”, and wondered what the heck we’d regret. We didn’t look like our blonde counterparts. It wasn’t fair. Both our mothers wanted to avoid discussing uncomfortable topics. Her mother had given her a Modess My First Period kit, complete with products and a pamphlet titled Growing Up and Liking It. My own mother had given me a set of books from the Life Cycle Library. I still see these books at the occasional used book store or garage sale and have flashbacks.

Throughout the rest of the book, in that same humor for which she is known, Fey tells readers about her high school years, first loves, going to college, looking for that first job, getting on Saturday Night Live and then her own 30 Rock. She discusses being a mother, being a daughter-in-law and being Tina Fey. And she pulls no punches.

Fey says what we are all thinking but we’re afraid to say. Sound familiar?

That’s what I keep hearing about Donald Trump. “He says what we’re all thinking, but are afraid to say.” Well I don’t like what Trump is thinking or saying, but I like that Fey gal.

Tina Fey for president.

Adventures in bullet journaling

A stack of Post-it Notes and a Sketchbook walk into a coffee shop. Barista says, “Planners are meeting in the back room.”

They order a couple of hot drinks, one skinny vanilla latte and a chai tea, sit at at table and then think, “What else do we have to do this afternoon?” They head toward the back of the shop, where a soft glow spills from beneath a set of swinging double doors…

coffeetime

In the back room, it’s meet and greet time. Several journals are chatting at the far end of the room. A couple of them open their covers to show off their different style pages. Lines, dots and grids are all visible. A huge group of pens are having a scribbling contest on a blank page lying on the floor. They each demonstrate their colors, their smooth flow. Once in awhile, a couple of them flip the page to see how the paper has handled their ink. Rolls of Washi tape are being engaged by a few journals, and, it seems, snubbed by a few others.

Drinks in hand, the Post-it Notes and Sketchbook make their way to the center of the room as the keynote speaker takes her place at what must be the front.

A roomful of office supplies, individually awesome, but often having their qualities overlooked, learn about the possibilities in coming together to build unique organizational systems for people. They know by listening to the inspiring presentation that the life they could have as part of one of these new systems is far better than what they have had – being stuck to computer monitors or tossed in a drawer with colored pencils, only looked at when something else in the drawer is needed. Oh, to be a part of a bullet journal.

*   *   *

OK, it was corny. But I have been seriously corny lately. Doesn’t hurt that in my corniness, I’m accomplishing a few things and playing with my creativity.

A couple of months ago, I ran across a pin on Pinterest that caught my eye. It described bullet journaling, taking a blank journal and creating the pages you need for your own style of planner. The bullet journal combines the ideas of calendar, planner, bulleted lists and doodling canvas in one personalized journal. This person shared her bullet journal pages and I was struck by the neatness, for one. The lettering was soothing to my eyes. Where it needed to be, it was simple, but where it could be, it was fancy. The pages were designed artfully, with headers and banners and framed, hand-lettered quotes. Extreme organization created a hierarchy of information she needed: year at a glance, a monthly spread and daily look. Her habit tracker was something I really liked, and, though I may not track the same habits she does, I took many ideas from hers. I was mesmerized by this woman’s bullet journal. Her name is Kara Benz, and, as it turns out, she is followed by many. Plus one.

During Christmas break, I explored more through Pinterest. I watched YouTube Videos, and I found Facebook groups. I began listing and sketching out ideas on a plain old yellow legal pad for what I wanted in mine. 

I scribbled down every idea I liked from other people’s bullet journals and added a few tweaks of my own. Then I began to storyboard, or plan out the spreads, so I’d know what order I wanted items in the beginning of my journal.

Moleskin and pens

And I ordered an Orchid Moleskin, soft-cover, dot-grid journal, some Sharpie fine line pens and American Crafts Precision pens, .05.

If you would like to take a look at my original inspiration, Kara has a website and several YouTube videos about her bullet journal. But I also found videos by Ryder Carroll. His style of bullet journaling is more functional, not artsy, but it shows that anyone can develop the basic idea in a way that suits him or her. Once YouTube knows what you’re looking for, it will offer up numerous suggestions – because the Cybergods are watching everything you do and often know what you want to look at before you do.

Amid all that nearly obsessive searching, scrolling and clicking, I also discovered a Facebook group: Bullet Journal Junkies member posts now pop up regularly on my feed and, at least for now in this honeymoon period, I’m looking at nearly every post.

I took what I liked of the other systems I saw and did a mashup for what works for me. The beauty is, I can always change it next month if I want. Here are a few of my own pages.

I saw two sets of bullets used in most journals, and I took what I liked in each, realized I wouldn’t use ALL of the ones I thought were cute, so I dropped a few. Still kept more than I’ll probably use. I like adding new pages to my index because that tells me I’m working my plan – or at least building pages about plans.

In most bujos, a full calendar, called Year-at-a-glance, graces beginning pages. I figured it would be handy to have, so I made one, too. Here is where the differences between lined, graphed and dot-grid likely come into play. I chose dot-grid because I want the hint of what I could use for aligning, without the distraction of actual lines. In good light, my 50+something eyes can see the dots, which help me line things up. On the right is the future log. If year-at-a-glance simply tells us what days the dates fall on, future log gives us space to post those dates we know of waaay ahead of time, like birthdays and anniversaries, vacations or business trips planned in advance – or yearbook deadlines, if that’s part of your business.

 

Jan spread

Week spreadI’ve seen the monthly spread in a couple different versions. Some like the block calendar layout, but I thought I’d give the numbers down the side and columns for parts of the day version a try. I note main dates to remember and can put in any of three columns, depending on whether it’s for morning, afternoon or evening.

On the far right, I can note tasks and goals I’d like to accomplish during the month. Getting my bullet journal up and running was first – and it is crossed off the list as done.

This weekend I’ve worked on another project, one where I tackle each room of the house, one per month, to declutter and reorganize. So I also noted on January to tackle kitchen that aren’t part of the regular routine.

The daily or weekly spreads really help me be mindful of completing tasks each day. This is what I’ve always thought of as a to-do list, but it’s easy to toss Post-it notes – hide the evidence. In the bujo, I feel more compelled to get things done and account for them. Even if that means migrating a task to further on in the week. I use two spreads for a week, with four days on one and three on the other. I made a mini-list of items I’d like to add to my closet when I can find them. I see students watch the clock and call out “11:11! Time to make a wish!”, so I figured a clock with that time posted would make a good graphic for a wish list. Unfortunately, I stuck the hands in the wrong place on my first go. So I just made another one. Learning to let go of perfection is another advantage of this form of planning.

I like having my lists in my bujo. I don’t know how many separate notebooks I have all over the place, never mind Post-it notes and index cards, with to-do lists for the day or week, lists of blog post ideas, or tasks I need to do for a bigger project. They get scattered, lost and forgotten. With a bujo, it’s not only a list, I’ve got tasks noted on monthly layouts or on specific days. There’s a PLAN.

But be careful, it’s also addictive if the bug catches you. I should have been satisfied with my journal and that first assortment of pens I got, but a recent shopping trip landed me at Hobby lobby and I added some more pens to experiment with.

A store clerk explained to me the differences between the wetter ink of the marker-type pens and gel pens. I picked up a three-pack of Micron black pens in three sizes: 01, 03 and 05 to add to my colored pencils I already had at home. These were the pens I kept seeing on the Facebook page and in other artsy forums, and I wanted to try them, wet ink or not. They do not bleed through my Moleskin pages, but they do “ghost”. I can see shadows of what’s on the previous page. But I plan to write on this one anyway, so it usually becomes less noticeable. Those three should have satisfied me, but like any junkie, I wanted more. I wanted a template for pretty circles, and I wanted a sketch book for doodling in. So online I went, and there were all these pretty pens, and there were YouTube videos about using these pens. And I just knew that if I had the pens, I, too, could become that artist, make beautiful videos and live in my pajamas if I chose. Not really, but I did want more pens. So I ordered more pens. Now I have too many pens. I’ll stop now.

Hearing terms like “layout” and “spread” is familiar because that’s the language of yearbook. We also like to talk about fonts and pairing plain ones with fancy ones. I have found myself looking at videos about hand-lettering, too. These are my people.

Take a look at what others are doing, and if this is a system you can get behind, try it out for a while in any notebook, with a pen or pencil – doesn’t matter. Just see if you think the ideas will work for you. Share your ideas and questions here. If you already bujo (we can make it a verb, too), share some of what you do in yours. We’re mostly visual here, so show us what you’ve got!

Free speech, free speech, free speech …

 

I feel like I’m in permanent PMS. But rather than this state of exaggerated frustration being brought on by hormones, it’s brought on by others practicing their right to free speech – no matter how mean, uneducated or bigoted.

I teach First Amendment, and I feel I understand it enough to do so, but with all the different opinions and misinformation floating about, it’s easy to forget that we ALL have this right, even the people many of us wish didn’t have the right:

The people who are cheering the Planned Parenthood shooting because babies lives will be saved – though three adult lives were taken and others were injured – have the right to do that, disgusting as it may be.

Wyatt Tilton, a former Newcastle police officer can, indeed, make a joke about Adacia Chambers doing Oklahoma State fans a favor. Of course, he is referencing her driving into their homecoming parade and killing people, so they didn’t have to experience the Bedlam loss. But he’s a real loser for doing so. I have a First Amendment right to call him a loser.

People who believe every Facebook meme they see and use them to judge and insult others have a right to do that, even though most of the time, those memes represent half-truths or even non-truths.

All I ask is this:

  1. Be nice to each other. Recognize that everyone has the right to free speech, and if you don’t want to hear what someone else is “speeching” about, unfollow them, leave the room, put in your earbuds. If your disagreement is REALLY strong, do some research and formulate a rebuttal that is free of insults and grammar and spelling errors (you want to be credible, right?). Then post that thing in your own space. Continue to recognize, though, that they had the right to say what they said.
  2. Educate yourself. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Understand how to tell the  difference between biased and unbiased sources, and how to identify those that are not remotely credible. Know who “they” is. I don’t know how many times I hear, “They said …” Well, who the heck is “they”? Know who and what you are talking about.
    When you hear that Trump wants Muslims to wear ID badges or that young, male, muscled Syrian refugees are arriving on U.S. beaches, go check it out, because both seem improbable. Try snopes.com or factcheck.org.
    Turns out Trump answered some reporters’ questions in a rather ambiguous way and his responses were taken out of context and plunked into a more specific context in the article. Yes, he’s in favor of a database, but he never said anything about or agreed to anything about ID badges.
    And those muscled refugees? That pic was taken in Australia in 2013. Syrian refugees would not come to the U.S. by sea. Took me less than 10 minutes to find this information.
    But still, what if some refugees DO have muscles? If a man is in pretty good shape, but his home is bombed or his life and the life of his family is threatened and he finds himself suddenly in refugee status, do those muscles melt away? Does he look like he’s starving the next day? Week? Even month or longer? You could just as easily suddenly find yourself in a bad way here and you can’t make your muscles go away so you’re a credible homeless person.
  3. Have some empathy. Understand that no one has control over what family they are born into or what nation they are born in. We fear what we do not understand (see No. 2). Most Christians do not understand Islam; and most Muslims do not understand Christianity, but both are quick to condemn the other, and quite often based on extremist behavior. Muslims judge the Christian west based on what they see on American TV. Think about that for a minute. What would YOU think of us?
    We do the same. Christians judge Muslims on what they see ISIS doing. ISIS is a small (but horribly violent) segment of Islam, not the general population of Muslims. Philip Yancy wrote a post that I found interesting, and it helped me understand some of the differences, even among Muslim countries.

    It’s not so different between various cultures that thrive here in the U.S. The average individual doesn’t really understand that someone else’s experience in the same country, in the same city, in the same school, can be vastly different from their own. Open your eyes and try to understand others. Not everyone has electronic devices, a nice car, plenty of clothing for all the seasons, or shoes that fit, the opportunity to go to the doctor when needed. Not everyone has a home with furniture, with heat and water, with food in the cabinets. Not everyone has a mom and a dad in the same house. Some live with one or the other. Some live with a grandparent or two. Some live with other relatives or even foster parents. There are those who live with two moms or two dads or with friends because they have no one else. There are lonely kids out there who don’t live anywhere. Not everyone’s experience is the same, but each experience is valid and real. Accept other people’s reality. Help if they need help, but don’t condemn someone for not having the same experience as you, whether because of an economic, racial, religious or other artificial divide.

Freedom of speech is powerful, but it is wielded much too carelessly, especially here in the digital age.

I wish I could give everyone who posts or speaks thoughtlessly that long, uncomfortable teacher/mom stare that makes you (quickly) reflect on what you’ve done, what was right or wrong about it, how it will affect others, how you can make it up to someone you’ve hurt and how you’ll consider all of that before you post/speak next time. Honest.

But that’s not the way it is, and the problem is much too vast. All I can ask is that you, who are reading this, join me in trying to use the power of the freedom of speech responsibly and set a good example for others to follow.

Be nice.

Educate yourself.

Have some empathy.

The ugly side of Facebook and why I’m taking a break

Keep Calm FB

Why do we stay in abusive relationships? Like the one(s) I have with Facebook?

The relationship I have with Facebook itself is unhealthy. The tab sits there at the top of my screen, taunting me as I try to do work, begging me to click over to see what’s happened in the last 27 minutes since I was there. Whether I’m writing lesson plans, assessing student work, paying bills, trying to build up desire to work on one of my creative writing projects (I was supposed to be a self-supporting novelist by this time in my life), Pinteresting, participating in an educator Tweetchat, or, erm, writing a blog post, my self-diagnosed ADD kicks in and I GOTTA CLICK ON THAT FACEBOOK TAB. Something might be happening in the world of my closer friends. I MIGHT MISS SOMETHING. I’m like your basic 3-year-old.

That’s a problem in itself. However, a bigger problem has grown out of my obsession. I don’t know what it is about the past few months, but people have become nastier. And it makes me sad to say that because, while I’ve met people far and wide on Twitter, and I appreciate that I can connect with them on a friendly and professional level, my friends on Facebook are mostly people I actually know, people I see in town, people I’m related to, people I’ve taught or taught with. I know that we live in a democracy – heck, I teach the First Amendment, and I know that whether friends or relatives, we often believe differently. But in these past few months something has changed. People are mean. People I like are being hateful and rude and intolerant and judging other people without knowing their stories.

We all think we’re right when we’re on one side of a controversy, but I can respect someone whose belief is different from mine if they back it up with sound argument, with some facts. What I find hard to handle is the loud folks who bluster in ignorance.

In cases where, for instance, an article is shared on Facebook – say, did you hear the one about President Obama coming to Oklahoma? And how he was greeted by Confederate Flag waving idiots? I was lured into the comments section on more than one article. I don’t know why I go there. I know it’s going to upset me, but I go anyway. The ignorance that abounds – the hate that drips. Why do Oklahomans hate our President so much? These commenters are mostly folks I don’t know (except one comrade I often find already hit those comment streams with a dose of fact – shout out, Melvin!), so I sometimes reply to some ignorance there. If the article was presented from folks on my side of the political divide and the comments are positive, I can add to it, like I did on the article about the President visiting a federal prison while he was here and comments he made about needed reform. A comment I made there scooped up about 30 likes. I must have touched on something people were thinking but no one had brought it up yet.

But when my peers post hate messages directed at my President or people with whom I am in agreement on issues, I usually feel I must remain quiet (even though they did not) so as to keep the peace. I don’t want my co-workers disliking me. If they follow my posts, they are bound to know where I stand on issues, so I have to remind myself that it really does no good to go off the handle on their posts on their timelines. They have the same First Amendment rights that I do – even if much of what they mention seems extremely uninformed to me.

I spend way too much time on Facebook, anyway, but lately, much of that time has been in fuming and trying to decide how to respond to something that has angered me (No one is actually trying to take your guns), and whether to respond at all. That time is wasted. That energy is wasted. That emotional stress could really be put to better use somewhere else.

So tonight I decided something that was a big something for me. I signed off. I know. I can just pull up a tab and it will open right up, but I’m going to try not to for a week or two. And I took it a bit further. I uninstalled the app on my phone. That’s a biggie. No more notifications. I’ve heard from others that it’s freeing. We’ll see.

What would it take for you to go, at least partially, off the grid?

For the record, since I didn’t post it over there:

  • I like President Obama, and I think he has bravely made some changes for the better in our nation, particularly lately. That meme about Bush loving America more than Obama is STUPID.
  • I would like to see tighter gun control, and although I know it is and should be defined by states, I wish every state would see the need and create laws that more closely reflect those of other states and freaking enforce them. Watch out for potential loopholes. No, I don’t think anyone should try to take everyone’s guns. Good grief.
  • I believe in separation of church and state. That means government owned properties are not spaces for displaying religious pieces of art. Moving the Ten Commandments statue from the Capitol lawn does not remove religion from anyone’s heart. Our money and time should be spent on more important matters. Politicians should stop pandering to the ignorant voters and educate people instead.
  • I think the right decision was made on marriage equality, and those who do not like gay marriage shouldn’t have one. As far as court clerks who are supposed to issue marriage licenses believing it’s a conflict with their religion and they just can’t issue a license to a same sex couple, go get another job. I doubt it bothered you one iota to issue a license to someone who was on their second or subsequent marriage or even young first-timers who’d been living together for a couple years.
  • My congressmen need to stop wasting time and tax dollars on nonsense and work on issues that will keep my state from embarrassing me time and time again.
  • This country was not founded on Christian values or “In God we Trust.” It was founded on religious freedom. I’m so tired of seeing that one. If you want Christian values for your country, then start doing as Christ would. Spread love, peace and positivity. Love your neighbor.

Daughters

Daughters.

I didn’t raise any, but I now have two that I am so proud of, that I love so much. In law, they are a year apart, we having made one a legal part of our family a year and a week ago and the other just last night. In reality, they’ve both been around making two of our sons happy, sometimes confused, most of the time quite smitten and gradually more grown up for years.

It’s fun to watch my daughters together, they are playful and goofy, and they’ve taught me another level of humor I just didn’t know about with the boys. Can’t even describe it, but I realize that I like to have girls around. The two of them have enough in common to enjoy each other’s company, not just to connect about their respective men, but about other things, too. Yet they are different, as real siblings usually are, bringing diversity into our family.

T is musical and a performer, and I feel like I’m as proud as her own mama, when she sings and performs, like she did at her brother and sister-in-law’s wedding last night. I don’t know if she realizes it, but I couldn’t decide where to look. I could barely take my eyes off of her as she sang, but I wanted to see the wedding couple’s reaction as they stood by the Unity Candle (I think they liked it). I wanted to see my family’s reactions (I wanted to say, “See! What do you think? Isn’t she wonderful?), I wanted to hear what was going on in everyone else’s minds, and then as she was closing it, I looked over at her husband, my middle son, and I could see how proud he was, too. Just beautiful.

My newly legally documented daughter (as the preacher said, it’s not legal till it’s filed on Monday), is athletic (Both girls are competitive, just like the boys. Family game nights are awesome.). A is now married to the oldest son who is a coach, but she’s also done some volunteer coaching. Having a bit of basketball background (four years of college play), she’s coached some little league basketball. But because she’s another one not to sit still, she likes to play basketball, too, if life slows down just a little too much – or even if it doesn’t. It’s often said that coaches’ wives are widowed during their husbands’ sports season, but during this past baseball season, she just up and joined a community basketball league. She’s a good story-teller and shared a few tales of pretty competitive play – especially for a community league.

What really made me realize that I have daughters and that they are sisters was watching last night unfold. The bride, of course, worries that things aren’t going to go as they are planned (they/we all do), even with the assurance from that preacher guy that it most certainly won’t – and that it’s OK. Her new sister volunteered (as tribute?) to be runner/gopher/whatever they needed for the day, but I don’t think anyone could possibly realize what all that ended up including. Whether for love or OCD or both, T made sure bride’s and groom’s paths didn’t cross, that things (mostly) ran on schedule so that things could run on schedule, she delivered messages back and forth, fetched things for people, held things for people, told members of the party where they needed to be when, cleaned up areas when people were finished there, and just did everything in her power to make sure her new sister’s wedding went as smoothly as she had the power to make it go.

Even today, from a state away, T has A’s back as the new couple sit in an airport, having done so for most of the day as their flight has been twice delayed, and she’s offered to call the airlines to make demands, only slightly in jest. I honestly think she’d do it and won’t be surprised if I hear she has.

I see my daughters being good care-takers, of my sons in all ways, of me in various ways, of each other whenever needed. And I so love that.

A sat in our kitchen at the bar just over a week ago, as all three boys and their dad were kidding around, which turned into a competition about who had the more muscular thighs, settled with a measuring tape (I told you they were competitive). As she averted her eyes and shook her head, I told her that every once in a while I wonder about my life. I wonder, what if I could transport my 14-year-old self through time to this moment? What would that 14-year-old self (she was quiet, a shy book reader who hated going outdoors, sweating and risking things) think of the fact that these burly boys (all heavily bearded, deep-voiced and fairly attractive) would one day be hers? I imagine it would scare her just a bit. Would she worry about being up to the task of raising a houseful of boys? Would she be able to make them mind? What on Earth would it be like to be the mom of these … men? And now I find myself wondering what that 14-year-old self would think of watching her two daughters, the one straightening the wedding dress skirt for the other and adjusting where the others stood in relation to the bride so the photographer could capture the perfection of the moment?

What do we do about this gender thing?

CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

I’m about to do what I wasn’t going to do – write about Caitlyn Jenner.

First of all, this isn’t specifically about Jenner, as I don’t believe what she has done or continues to do is any of my business. Yes, I do see bravery in what she has done, setting herself up to take on tons of criticism to show the world that it’s OK to accept yourself for what you are. I will not assume that this does or does not make her happy or is the answer to all her former gender identity issues. There is simply no way to know this unless you are Jenner, and we, the world at large, no matter how much we want to predict and surmise (and judge and fuss with each other), are not her and cannot know this.

What I do propose, though – and I am not the first to suggest it, though I haven’t seen it brought up much – is that people holler and holler about gender being fluid, about not fitting society’s idea of our own gender and that we shouldn’t be so gender-oriented, but then some radically switch gender, demonstrating that a specific gender really is important to identify with. It’s confusing – and I’m trying. I guess it’s different for everyone, thus gender fluidity.

My thinking is that babies are born with a set of genitalia, but not with society’s cultural expectations. What if penises didn’t mean wearing blue, playing with trucks, being aggressive, signing up for football, jeans and T-shirts, choosing mechanics or firefighting over floral-arrangement or clothing design? What if ovaries didn’t mean wearing pink, playing ballerinas and princesses, planning the wedding of your dreams, lace and skirts, finding Mr. Right?

Would people yearn to be the “other” gender if these things didn’t matter? What if they could wear pink or lace no matter their genitalia? If boys were accepted as, I dunno, people? Just like girls? Each with hisher own personality, temperament, likes and dislikes, goals and desires? What if we had non-gender pronouns?

Sure, sexuality is still sexuality, and that’s what drives most of us. We’re either drawn to males or females, usually. But what if society didn’t keep tabs and make assumptions about what gender everyone should be drawn to? What if love and relationships were encouraged, but abstaining from such was acceptable. What if our culture’s norms and expectations consisted of compatibility and honesty, and not the proper gender and level of hotness?

I know, too much of what our culture is made up of has gone on for too long, and it’s not possible to waive a magic wand and make gender roles more malleable. But that doesn’t mean that some families who want their children to grow up comfortable with themselves and tolerant of others can’t start by not making a big deal about the gender reveal, not assigning gender-specific toys, clothing, room decor and chores. Give the kids blocks and crayons. Give them cardboard boxes. See what they come up with on their own. Gee, they might just develop an imagination where dreams can be realities and we all just get along.