Tag Archives: personal awareness

Caring for the unloved and overlooked

Today I saw a man pull up to a red light, take off his coat, and give it to the homeless man on the corner.  Changed my countenance completely.  Instantly.  I had driven by this homeless man several times today and never taken any notice of him except to scoff at someone who offered him a few dollar bills.  “Probably a drug addict” went through my mind.  But you know what?  The verses that instruct us to care for homeless people don’t end with ‘if they can prove themselves to be drug free.’  God doesn’t expect us to help only those who make decisions we like, God expects us to care for everyone.  Because God knows what is on our hearts.  God knows what is on the heart of the person taking your offering of money or food or your coat.  You do what is right regardless of what anyone might think or what you think might happen with ‘your’ money.  Only God knows for sure.

For me, I realized that I could almost always offer him something that couldn’t be used illicitly.  As a nursing mother of two small children, I always, always, always have food with me.  What would it cost me to give him my baggie of goldfish crackers and package of applesauce?  From now on, I will try to carry information about the resources in town for homeless people.  I should be keeping a little extra food in the car anyway, just for safety’s sake.  There’s no reason I can’t give some snacks with contact information to a shelter to someone standing on the street corner asking for help.

And after tonight, I think it might be expected of me.

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Let’s Flesh This Out – Breastfeeding and the Bible

Aliza nursing in her early days 

There is a line of thought common to Christians that breastfeeding is sexual.  Or, breastfeeding might not be sexual per se, but it’s still something that should be done out of sight and possibly/preferably out of the room.

I disagree.

In my effort to double check my theories against the bible and God’s theories, I did some research.  The bible has a LOT of references to breasts.  A lot.  They’re all over the place.  Most often, the word breast is an anatomical reference.  The right breast for a sacrifice or the growth of breasts to symbolize puberty.  Then, there are the sexual references.  All seven of them.  Four in Song of Solomon, one in Proverbs, two in Ezekiel.  How many times does the bible reference breasts in the context of breastfeeding?  14.  Plus 10 other references to nursing and drinking mother’s milk.  Twenty-four times the bible references breastfeeding without shame.   Without hesitation.  Without hiding it under a blanket or in another room.

Breasts are used for feeding and comforting babies twice as often as they are used for the ‘comforting’ of a man.  And the authors of the bible (talking about the penholders here) referenced breastfeeding in a way that is so tender.  There’s almost a longing or reminiscing about the days of being comforted at their mothers’ breasts.  Because breastfeeding is so much more than food.  So much more than simple calories.

God designed women (and men!) to have a biochemical response to babies, particularly to breastfeeding babies.  Not only do women let down their milk as a result of an oxytocin release (a hormone that provides feelings of bonding and love) by men are physiologically impacted by the continued presence of a lactating woman.  A man’s estrogen level increases as his primary female partner (aka wife) nears the end of her pregnancy and this hormone level remains high for a period of time after the baby is born, suppressing his libido.  This isn’t an accident.  God didn’t let this slide as a side-effect of our design.  Breastfeeding stimulates feelings of love and attachment, and those feelings are recalled throughout life by members of both sexes.

But love does not have to include sex.  A man is perfectly capable of loving a lactating woman without being either turned on or turned off by her milk.  Just because a man sees a woman breastfeeding a baby/child does not mean he is enticed to lust.

Breastfeeding is not enticement.  Even though breasts may or may not be visible during breastfeeding (even without a nursing cover, there usually isn’t much to see), the simple presence of a breast is not enough to encourage a man to lust.  Each person’s lust is wholly within themselves; as Christ put it: “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed lust with her in his heart.”  The man doesn’t need the woman at all.  He can lust without her knowledge or consent. And his lust is fully within himself.

Hiding breastfeeding does not help a man to avoid lust, either.  Hiding breastfeeding (in another room or under a nursing cover) only furthers the separation of that man’s experience with breasts and the true function and purpose of breasts.  Further entrenching him on an inescapable island of helplessness.  If/when men only see breasts in a sexualized way, the sexuality is reinforced with each exposure.  When you start to temper that extreme view, you desensitize him to his incorrect notion that breasts are only for him.  Only for his own selfish pleasure.  Breasts are first and foremost for the nourishment and care of small children.  Only as an addition can we consider the sexual qualities of breasts.  And if men were seeing breastfeeding twice as often as breasts as sexual toys, we wouldn’t have to have this discussion at all.  Breastfeeding, uncovered, in the presence of men is the only way that I can help a man gain control of his lust.  Not because I expose him to something sexual and give him the opportunity to control himself, but because I expose him to something decidedly asexual and give him the opportunity to understand that.

 

I wonder if that’s why breastfeeding is a more common biblical context for breasts than sex.

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Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, CCE: Mom on Mom

“Mothers are people, not categories. 

. . . it’s glaringly obvious that the person speaking is tired and not thinking about what she’s saying, not thinking about all the obvious exceptions to what she’s saying, and would not say it if she heard what she sounded like.”

via Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, CCE: Mom on Mom.

Love it!

Often I consider the receptive vs expressive nature of the internet.  We subscribe to people who think like us, ‘friend’ people who have similar views, and frequent the blogs that espouse what we want to hear.  It’s all very good for encouraging and normalizing the new habits/thought processes you’re trying to internalize, but tends to turn us into extremists.  Instead of being open to a different idea or experience, we become experts in our favorite rhetoric and begin regurgitating those talking points on any forum we see.

We aren’t being receptive.  You don’t get ‘likes’ or comments of encouragement for sincerely listening to someone’s perspective.  You get them for skillfully and hurtfully delivering your own message.

Most of us, most of the time, are trying to be helpful.  Using this powerful analogy or that emotionally charged line is meant to get your attention and show you the issue under a new light.

Sometimes that works, but not often.  Not on the internet.

Like usual, I am guilty of this.  I try really hard to be loving and kind and understanding, and I usually do a better job in person than online.  But even in person I sometimes fail.  I haven’t slept that beautiful, deep sleep of the non-parent in 3 years, and that does wear on a person’s eloquence.

But I am trying.  I do try.  Which is why I so encourage being challenged.  I am not so proud as to cling to my opinions in the face of a good and reasoned argument to the contrary.  I am not opposed to changing my opinions or editing my words.

Because in the end, this is just the internet.  I am just me.  I don’t really take myself all that seriously.  And there’s no reason for you to either.  I’m just figuring things out as I go along, and writing here so you can follow along if you like.  No big whoop.

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Late-night Wishful Thinking

Sometimes I just ache for a New York City kind of success.  Like the opening scenes of Mad Men.  1960’s office in the city, house in the country, corner office, expensive suits and skinny, sexy cigarettes everywhere I look.  [PSA:  I do not actually want to smoke, nor do I want to be surrounded by it.]  I want to command my field.

I love the idea of living the single life in such a fast, expensive city.  I love the idea of dressing so that an image of success is projected from any way you could view me.

Sometimes I wish I had taken a business or money driven route.  Combined with singledom, I’d have such a luxurious life!  I’d own all my own money.  I’d depend on no one and no one would depend on me.  You know what that means for my money?  It’s all disposable.  Every penny can be spent on whatever catches my eye.  Even if most of those pennies go toward rent, or retirement, I make those choices based on me and me alone.

Another green bit of grass is my childhood dream of riding horses at a higher level.  How can I help bu think about the fun of riding to the top of that field too?  I’ve had a taste of that success.  I know what ribbons & accolades feel like.  I had options in that field.  An acceptance and scholarship money to a prestigious equestrian school. A  place held for me in any of their equestrian programs and/or any of their intercollegiate teams.   I had a horse with potential and spectacular bloodlines.  I had a natural inclination for the sport.  Success there is easy to dream about, and was close enough to seem so real.

But one of those dreams is based on an avenue I never wanted to visit and the other is based on entirely on the past.  Neither is related to present reality for me.

Success as a mother is so hard to define.  I know what I want for my kids.  but even if they turn out fine I might have failed in my goals for my own behavior and actions.  Even if I do everything right they may not live the lives I dream for them.  They may not be the people I’m trying to teach them to be.  [This is where the whole 'personal responsibility' line gets me going.  Sometimes, a lot of times, correct actions just don't match up to correct consequences.  they just don't.  That's life.]

Even if I could define ‘success’ for my carer as a mother, is that the kind of life that keeps me entertained while I’m waiting for sleep to come?

I suppose the other two dreams offer me this:  I would know when I’ve ‘arrived’.  I would be able to define success and know when I’ve gotten there.  But motherhood doesn’t afford me that.  It’s not that clear cut.  And instead of being riled up by that challenge, I’m just flustered by it.

Not that I don’t love being a mother.  I do.  I’m just not used to being uncertain with my accomplishments.  I want to know in what percentile I rank.  I want to know how I measure up and how often (and how well) I’m completing my task.  There is no monetary reward for motherhood to tell me how much my time is worth.  There are no ribbons to put on the wall or videotape for me to review and critique.

But there is my daughter’s sweet, small voice saying, “Okay, mom.” when I ask her to get off the table and sit in her chair.  Surely that’s equal to a blue ribbon.

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Chaos & Cooties

Sometimes I want to be seen as that mom with her kids in a neat, orderly line.  Everyone saying the right things, doing the right things, all on cue.  Like I have a tight rein on them.  I want to be seen that way, but I don’t actually want that.  I don’t want that much restriction for my kids.  I don’t want that much repression or oppression.  But I want to be seen that way.  Thinking about this made me realize this is yet another insecurity.  I want people to see calm and order and to not pick up on my scared inner trembling.  My nervous questioning self is wondering if they think I’m doing a good job, or if they’re secretly criticizing me, or if maybe they want me to just go away.

My inner chaos or calm will be revealed by my kids.

That, I think, is true.  My inner chaos or calm will be perceived by my kids, lived out by them, and then revealed to those around me.   My kids pick up on my nervousness or confidence, my tension or my calm.  And they respond accordingly.  It’s a part of ‘social referencing.’  Kids look to adults to determine how to react to a situation, especially an unfamiliar situation.

With this in mind, I no longer want even to be perceived as being the lady with her kids in line.  I want my own exuberance and joy to be reflected by my children (I think it is).  My kids might be a little too loud sometimes, they might have a little too much energy, and they might be too eager to show affection to their friends.  But that’s how I feel inside.   I experience life at a higher volume than most, and with all the energy I can muster, and with all the love in the world.  God fills me with a holy love that overflows from my heart, through my kids, and on to everyone we encounter.  That kind of spillage may not be neat, or quiet, and it probably won’t stay neatly in line.

That’s why joy is contagious.  It spreads like cooties.

But those cooties accompany a more secure, confident self.  And a more secure, confident parenting style.  The cooties bring a freedom from worrying about what other people think or how they evaluate what they see.  Their evaluations would inherently be flawed because they can never know my story, my place, my background, my character, or my heart.  And the cooties bring a sense of that and I’m able to let go of their spoken judgment, and ignore their unspoken judgments.  And that freedom calms my children.

My freed, calmed soul is reflected in my free, calm children.

Well, maybe not calm.  We are talking about a toddler here.  But you get the idea.

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Clarification (and Confidence)

Listening to music wasn’t just an opportunity to think about boys.  Actually, I’m not sure listening to music was ever about the boys.  It was about me.  Listening to music was introspective.

A chance to think about myself and my place in the world.  My relationships and my self-concept.  Listening to music gave me a chance to process events in my life and establish my identity.  Though, apparently, my identity required maintenance.

This is not a new concept for me.

Many, many years ago I was sitting in a psychology class.  A guest speaker was brought in who was somewhere in the process of gender reassignment.  I was blown away.  Up until that moment, I had honestly thought that all ‘the gays’ (and I still thought in those terms) were in California.  I had never questioned the far-right rhetoric.  For the longest time, I sat in that class, looking at the speaker, with my jaw hanging open.  I just didn’t suspect that anyone outside of the Fox News image of the ‘good American’ could be in MY home state.  As I sat there, confronted with the idea that ‘those people’ were REAL people, I realized that I knew nothing.  “I need to get out more” just kept running through my head.  Shortly after that class, I applied for AmeriCorps.

When I began AmeriCorps, I began by getting on an airplane (which I had done exactly two times – to DC on a field trip, and home from DC on that same field trip), flying to a city I’d never seen, thousands of miles from any place I’d even seen before, hoping that someone I’d never met would be at the airport to direct me.  My team consisted of 5 girls just like me, two guys I did not at ALL understand, and one guy who was (!!!) bisexual!  Hallelujah!  The holy grail of the ‘others’!  Turns out, most of my lessons learned that year were taught by the people I was serving, not those I served with.  (I feel like there’s a spiritual lesson here that I haven’t really pulled through yet)  But while learning about all of these people who were different than me, and while living with the people I was working with and working for, I began forming my own ideas.  Slowly, those ideas built up into something more.  A capable, independent woman.

After AmeriCorps, I moved to Denver.  With no job, almost no savings, no help, no furniture, and only 2 acquaintances.  I held my head high.  My confidence was not ill-founded.  When I walked down the street (because I didn’t have a car) I carried a sense of self.

Over the next few years, my objective measure of independence fluxuated.  Sometimes I was unemployed or getting married or otherwise changing.  My confidence in my own abilities would ebb and flow or wax and wane.  And always, always, I could regain my status within my own estimation if I took a walk listening to the right tunes.  Not a wandering amble through a park, but walking to take care of business.  Getting somewhere.  With every step.  That would always bring back some chutspa.  In the past, I attributed this to the walking, but now I think it might be tied more to the music.

The beat pushed my footsteps, my mood, and my confidence.  The beat spurred me on.

We all know that confidence is tied to sexuality.  And certainly motherhood has brought me into new realms of insecurity.  Previously unheard of levels of questioning.  I suppose we could simplify the whole thing by saying that music gives me confidence (borrow much?) and that confidence is tied to sexuality.  But that’s just not sexy.

It’s true though that motherhood has affected my sexuality through my confidence.  Which is strange.  I’m not insecure in my parenting, I’m not insecure in my body, but somehow I wind up insecure as a new mother.  I know I’m an excellent mother.  But I question individual decisions.  The little ones.  But those must add up.  I question my decisions in an attempt to better myself.  Eventually, I was questioning my own worth.  Questioning my intuition led to undermining my self-confidence.

And without a regular influx of confidence borrowed from the right artists, I was letting my levels get lower and lower.

I’d come up with an ending for this post, but I’ve already had to stop to feed the baby three times, and I really want to go curl up with my husband instead.

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Music & My Va-Va-VOOM

My sensual self has always been closely tied to music.  Listening, singing, dancing have all helped me find the part of me that is confident in my sultry skin.  And the more music I listen to on a daily basis, the more connected I am to my physical manifestation.

 

Cheesy boy bands, empowered feministas, soft folk lyricists, more strong rockin’ women, and then my line of preferred auditory inputs took a serious turn.

 

I now listen to kids songs.  Almost exclusively.

 

I haven’t heard new music in two years.  When my husband plays a song I don’t know, I feel so disconnected.  And I don’t know any of them.  The constant disconnection to something that has always been so close to my heart (physical?  metaphorical?  I’m not sure.) deadens my nerve endings a bit.  I respond that much colder, or that much more slowly.
This could just be a season in my life.  Something that will pass with time.  The music I’ve enjoyed in the past is brimming with things I just don’t want my daughters to hear or repeat – so it doesn’t get played when they’re around.  When they nap, I find myself either desperately struggling to keep them asleep or contentedly immersing myself in the silence.  By the time they’re in bed, I’m just not much for dancing or singing aloud.
Could I just have grown past the music?  Matured right out of part of my identity?  I lost my single, independent self when I got married.  Lost more of my independence and my arrogance when I had my eldest.  By now, I laugh I about how different I am from the person I once was, but I’m not sure I’m happy about any of the individual changes.
Maybe some.  The return to being responsible for another person is fine.  Letting go of selfishness is certainly not a problem.  But what of that energy?  The vibrant pulse of life that built in my chest when my hips moved to a drum beat?  I don’t want that to go away.

 

I’ve never even bothered to load music on my computer.  I never seem to listen to it, so what’s the point?

 

Maybe it’s time for a really solid playlist.  Some old favorite artists (minus the boy bands) and classic songs.  With a little work and patience I should be able to find songs that are appropriate for my kids to hear right?  Without withering into a mushy pile of corporate wuss tunes?

 

Yet another project for this winter.  The long, cold, dark, dreariness that I will not let into my heart.

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