Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things I've Learned from NPR Lately

Ok, by "lately" I mean...two months ago...but, that's how we roll.  I have mentioned before that I listen to NPR a lot in the car.  This is why I'm notoriously behind the times with knowing what songs are "hip" now.  I do, however, get to learn a lot from the folks over at public radio.  (Who, by the way, have such ecclectic names! I am always wondering if having an interesting name is part of the hiring requirements over there, or if people change their name when they become NPR reporters.)  An-e-ways.

Two separate stories struck me. Firstly was an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist.

One of the things Mr. Tyson spoke about was his dislike with people calling him, and other very intelligent people, "gifted".  He said, no, he had to work very hard to get to where he is now.  I think that this is very important to remember.  We do have God-given talents and propensities, but there is still actual work involved in our success.  All too often we look at others' achievements and discount them because "that's their gift".  Similarly, we decide that we "can't" do something or another because we just aren't gifted in that area, or we don't have the personality for it.  While it is true that certain tasks are more difficult for some people than others, it does not give us a free pass on life.  Whether we are strong or weak in a particular area of our lives, there is work required.

The second piece that got me thinking was some remarks from correspondent Miles O'Brien, who recently had a partial arm amputation due to acute compartment syndrome after an incident with a heavy case falling on his arm.

O'Brien was actually on NPR to report his story on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but he stayed on at the end of the piece to speak with the NPR host about his injury.  O'Brien was marvelously upbeat about his life moving forward, and said something to the effect of  "Life is a series of challenges, some that we chose, and some that are sent to us..." 

What hit me most about his words at the time was the fact that there are challenges that we chose.  Think about it.  There is so much in life that we don't chose--shouldn't we be more choosy about what we do chose?

This ties in with something I learned from watching the first episode of Call the Midwife ('s on PBS, it can go w/ stuff from NPR!) with Steven the other day. (Yeah, he bought it for me, and watched it with me.  I like him.).  One of the midwives says something like, "Sometimes we just have to deal with what the Lord sends."

A friend of mine says that I am like Nurse Lee. I'll take it! ;)

Sometimes the situations we are handed are less than (our) ideal.  A lot of times, actually.  So, we work to make our strengths stronger and our weaknesses smaller, we pick our battles, and we roll with the punches.  Why? 

Because life. Life is work.  Life is joy.  Life is beautiful. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Myth of Motherhood

Wow. There is a whole lot out there written about moms, isn't there?  Mom's are crazy,  mom's are mean, mom's are the best, mom's have it the hardest, being a mom is so rewarding, being a mom is beautiful, being a mom is dumb, working moms neglect their kids, stay-at-home moms are lazy. The range of things written about mom is absolutely no surprise,  because everyone in the world has a mom, and everyone in the world has an opinion.

And so do I!  Time to dust off the old soapbox again, methinks...

This video about how motherhood is the toughest job in the world has gone viral over the past week or so. Matt Walsh beat me to the punch and pointed out some of the flaws with the thoughts behind it.  He pointed out that being a dad is tough as well, that neither job is as tough as that ad for employment made it out to be, and that beyond these things, there is actual damage to portraying motherhood in this way (or, parenthood in general if we're being honest):
I’m all for being real with people, but all we accomplish is making otherwise fine young men and women utterly petrified of starting a family. They constantly hear that you’ll never sleep, your life is over, and you’ll never have fun again, unless you learn to define ‘fun’ as ‘poopy diapers and bankruptcy.’ And then we wonder why birthrates are plummeting? (--Matt Walsh)
So, what's the deal?

There are two extremes of the concept of "mother" being played out in today's society. On the one hand, being a mom is the super-hardest-toughest-most-overlooked position in society; mothers are trampled on, neglected, un-showered and lonely.

Exhibit A

On the other end of the spectrum is SuperMom.  A woman so perfect, it's hard to look at her. She has 2.3 to 3.7 children, works part-time, or has a small home business, her house is immaculate, her children are well-behaved, her clothes are fashionable, and she never has a bad hair day. Ever.

Exhibit B.

The problem with the two extremes is that nobody wants either one!  Who would vote to be a frumpy frazzled lady for life?  And who wants to try to meet Everest-ian expectations for everything? Nope. 

Not nobody. Not nohow.
Now, nobody's kidding anyone here. Being a mom (a parent in general, of course!), is hard.  It is simply not a breeze all of the time. It is actual work. Motherhood is one of the most important jobs on the planet (despite what they say over there @The Guardian--srsly?! Srsly? :P), because you have the immense responsibility of introducing other persons to everything. It's your job to make sure they know how to react and interact and put on pants. All of that.

But motherhood is normal. Let's all say that again. Being a mom is normal. "Mom" is the job description for more people on the planet than anything else.  Seriously.

I once had a friend* ask me how I knew what to do with the boys, like, did I read books or something?  I had to stop and think about it.  I absorbed a lot of mothering information and style by growing up around a bunch of kids. My family isn't humongous by reality TV show standards, but there were always some cousins to babysit.  So, changing diapers, making lunches, and playing made-up games for hours were all, well, normal.  My family gave me the background to assume a lot of the responsibilities of mothering, and, most importantly, the attitude that I could be a mom: normal people are moms, I can do that.

Some of my former charges ;)

Now, I don't think you had to have been an all-star babysitter to be a mom, or even a great mom, but the situation has definitely been made more difficult by the attitude of many people today that I've illustrated above.  When people perceive motherhood (and fatherhood) as either slave-work or heroic, they are repelled from it, because most people are neither slavish nor think themselves heroes.  Add to this is the perception that children are a burden, and that multiple children is an undertaking bordering on insanity, and all of the sudden motherhood is a mystical enigma of epic proportions.

{side bar soapbox: why is it OK to judge other people's family size? Really?}

So, if you didn't grow up in a large family, or weren't babysitting cousins often, it's ok, really.  There are books to read, and blogs, and websites, and medical people, and Google--not to mention that your own mom and friends are a wealth of information.  And if you're ever really starving for advice, just show up at the grocery store with at least one child in tow. There are always experts in the grocery store line. ;)


Folks, listen. There are several billion ways in this world to be a mom. Most of them are just fine. You can be employed a lot, or a little, or not at all.  You can breastfeed or bottlefeed, cloth diaper or use disposables.  You can obsess about the ingredients in the Kool Aid, or make your kids boxed Kraft mac n' cheese until they turn orange.  Go for it.

Being a mom is everything they say it is, and you can do it. The trials of toddlers and laundry, budgets and babies, the wondrous monotony of motherhood is normal, and it is good. Somewhere between the Frumpy-Frazz and the Super-Queen lies the truth of motherhood: you.  And lady, you've got this one.

Leo & Mama c. April 2011

*Special thanks to my dear friend for getting me to think about this stuff :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Liebster? I don't even know 'er!

Alternate title: I won! I won! I won!

SO, while I was shamelessly plugging away for someone to award me a Lobster the other day, Julia already had! Thank you, Julia, I am humbled and honored, truly, truly. (and. let's face it, this girl needs more humility!)

I've been seeing several Liebster/Lobster winners over the past week or so, but I had to clarify the rules for myself. So, I Googled it. This post makes it seem pretty complicated, but this one says all you have to do is accept it and pass it on, you make up the rest. Sounds like my kind of prize!

SO...without further ado (too late!)...drum-roll please...

Julia answered and then asked the following questions:

Where do you live and why do you live there now?
I live on Black Sheep Farm, in northeast Ohio. I live here now because this is where we are building up our family. We live in a 100+ year old farmhouse on land that's been in Steven's family for...8 generations now, or, at least since 1832. Kind of a big deal. 

What are you currently watching or reading?
Hmmm....does pining after the next season of Sherlock count?  We also blitzed through all four seasons of Downton Abbey this spring. I haven't been much of a reader lately, which is sad to me, but I am crawling through The Fellowship of the Ring again. The last really meaningful read I had was The Glass Castle, but I already told you about that. Oh! I just remembered! Steven got Unbroken on our Audible account. He says I will really like it. I don't know, because it's sure to have some horrific war drama that I'm not positive my wired mom/nurse-self can handle, but I'm willing to try it out. Maybe.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Own vs. wear is a distinction that Sarah highlighted, and I will go with. I have 7-8 pairs of footwear that I wear. I like to have footwear for specific activities. Leo always asks if I'm going to work when I put on my clonky-Dansko clogs. I suppose I own the boyos shoes too. They have 3 pairs each in whatever is their current size (sneakers/church shoes/boots). 

Are you a good dancer?
I can rock the amateur-type-in-home-dance-party, and I was a ballerina once. As in, for one season, at age..5 (?). I played a guppy in a production of The Little Mermaid. My sister got to be an oyster. Her job was way more glamorous, believe me.  

Who usually drives, you or your husband?
Steven, because he is the best driver, and I am the best co-pilot. I was trained in this prestigious vocation by riding shotgun for my brand-new-driver sister at the tender age of 15. I can call lane changes and feed a hungry charioteer french fries like nobody's business. 

What is your favorite holiday, and how do you celebrate it?
I really really love Easter. The Easter Vigil is one of my favorite services to go to.

Which is correct, left or right?

Left. Always left. Although, not that it matters around here. I give you Exhibit A:

Do you have any scars?
At first I was going to say no, or maybe tell you about the (pretty much faded) minuscule scar on my right index finger from shutting a pocket knife on it while carving a stick at the age of...old enough to know not to do that. And then I was like...OH yeah....there was that one other, *lee-tle* scar...AKA C-section delivery of my firstborn son. So, yes, scar, check. (I'm tellin' you, don't have kids! *wink*). 

What's the most famous thing you've ever done?
Ummm....nothing. Seriously, nothing yet. You'll have to wait for my children to grow up to be amazing inventors of something really awesome, or everyday saints, or champion of all-the-things, and then everyone can say, "she's his mother!", and the crowd will cheer. That will be my fame. 

And, because I can, I nominate Marie (who should always get a prize!), Jamie (who will have fun answers!) and Christina (whose answers I can't even guess!) for the prestigious Liebster award! 

Questions to answer:
-Who is your favorite saint and why?
-What is your least favorite food, and the last time you ate it?
-Who is your alter literary/film ego?
-If you had to make a living teaching something, what would you teach?
-What is one thing you have learned recently that surprised you?
-What is one name you would never give a child, and why? AND top three names you would consider
-What is the most inspiring book you have read?
-What did you want to be when you "grew up" (as asked to your 2nd grade self)?

*AND* if you wished you would have won a special award, let me know. It's just about my favorite thing to give things to people, and I take bribes easily.