Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Words and Rhinoceros Skin

A Mother Life
Originally published on February 21, 2014

It’s all in fun.

They don’t really mean it.

It’s only sarcasm.

That is what they always say. The people who say words that tear down instead of build up. And that is what I hear when others ask me about what is bothering my kids. When I tell them the truth of what is going on I hear things like,

Well, my kid doesn't really know what _____ means

OR my personal favorite

Awww, _____ just needs to grow a thick skin.

Ase a deeply caring person, now 19 and in college. Zany, 18 and a senior in high school, doesn’t simply march to the tune of his own drummer; he has a full marching band. Both are straight dancers. Sometimes the joking was about their sport. Other times it was about their personality. Both bravely faced teasing, joking, ribbing, kidding and unabashed bullying from their pre-teens all the way through their teens.

I've watched both boys filter those ignorant words through their hearts. Because of dance, they have gay friends. They went to an “inner city” school and have friends of all the colors.  The jesting words are not simply letters put together. Those words spoken in ignorance have real meaning to them.

AND it is starting now with her.

GirlyK is logical. Doesn't understand drama or why girls put themselves in that position. Gossip is not interesting. She does not see the rational in comparing herself to another person- you are you and I am me, let’s just get along. Her love of dissecting things and collecting bones creeps people out. She conquered her fear of spiders, and wears them regularly.

I am watching her make the similar choices her brothers made. Watching her skin toughen and not taking a risk in friendships. The reason: whether in jest or seriousness, words have meaning.

Age or success cannot protect us from that word erosion. This week I read an article about Jonathan Martin, a Miami football player. He knew the words were in jest. He understood those who spoke them did not intend harm, but they did.

Why does it matter? Why do words stick to our soul?

Because words created the world. With words God identified Jesus at the baptism. Jesus said …out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Paul challenges us to not let harmful words come out of our mouths, but only words that will benefit the listener.

We need to stop and taste words before they come out of our mouths:

Photo taken by xandert
Do they have an aftertaste of envy?
Am I angry?
Am I trying to impress?
Sarcasm has a flavor of truth.

Are those words that breathe life, or spread disease? The listener is just as important as the speaker. If our words offend we need to apologize and adapt instead of offering excuse or pandering. Life is hard enough; do we really need to make it harder?

I try to remember these words of wisdom from A Circle of Friends, “You mustn't mess me about. I know I may look like a rhinoceros, but I've got quite a thin skin really. So be careful with me. Or I'll flatten ya."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shh, They're Listening

Photo taken by hotblack 
Originally posted on November 13, 2013
I must admit, I was out of line.

I didn't ask. I didn't know even though everyone in town seemed to. I purposed to not know. My business was to be her friend, not what events brought her to this place. This sweet friend couldn't believe that I didn't already know. She sat and told me the whole story including her own part.

Then, I opened my mouth. What came out was not the flowers and sunshine usually spoken to this poster child of redemption. I loved her deeply. Her shame needed to drop from her shoulders. Forgiveness needed to be extended to the one who betrayed her. I restated her part. The guilt was equal; it need not define them both for the rest of their lives.

She did not take it well.

Months later the words came back to me twisted and judgmental. My heart ached. Our friendship was mangled. I attempted to reconcile and it seemed we had, but…

Years later, in one of the darkest seasons of my life and newly back in town, I reached out. While I was living away, she developed a friendship with a person very close to me. I was informed that her loyalty was with her.

Last night BoyZ was telling me about a conversation with this woman’s daughter. BoyZ and the daughter cross paths their freshman year in high school. Now seniors, they are best friends. The daughter was telling BoyZ how she hasn’t dated yet because of her Mother’s requirements: christian, etc.

Of course BoyZ is my son…
Photo taken by taliesin

“Why don’t you just date me? That would really piss of your Mom.”

“Why would that piss of my Mom?” She asked in shock.

“Because-for some reason that I don’t understand-your Mom hates my Mom.”  BoyZ is never one to mince words. 

Don’t know where he gets that.

“OH!” A light bulb of understanding lit over her head. “I know what happened. Your Mom was probably just being herself and did something and my Mom is really judgmental. SO she just judged your Mom. And that’s it.”

Damn IT!  When we think we are doing the “right” things, those little buggars are watching

AND listening.

A Mother Life

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marriage On Ice

After a long day I curled up next to Counting Mutant in bed. We began our wind down process; he on his ipad and me on my android. Just as I began to feel drowsy, a blog title caught my eye on Twitter: An Olympic Lesson for Husbands and Wives.

Within two paragraphs I laughed. Mutant turned, I read it aloud. He scoffed, “Well, that’s obviously someone who has never partnered.”

I've mentioned a few times that we are a family of dancers. Ase and Zany started dance when they were nine and ten. They practiced, ballet, jazz, modern, tap and hip-hop. They did other sports as well, but in Jr. High they focused on dance. Counting Mutant decided to figure out a way to join them. His thinking was: if they were in football, soccer, baseball, etc. he would help with the team and support them. It so happened that the role of the Nutcracker needed to be filled and Mutant became the wooden hero.

Over the years, the three of them performed together in Nutcrackers, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Coppelia, and Les Miserables. In order to perform these ballet pieces, our studio formed a partnering class. Partnering at this level-either dance or ice skating- is not as simple as a man leading a woman.

I read it to the boys.

Ase said: That does not sound like ANY partnering class we've been in.

Zany said, “The beauty and perfection cannot happen if one person believes they are better than the other.”

Counting Mutant explains it like this, “There has to be trust and equal effort if not more by the woman. He throws her yes, but she is jumping just as much if not more. There is no leading they equally know the steps. They are coordinating their actions. They have to be equally strong to compete at that level. To learn it and perfect it, there was action, feedback, back and forth, action again, mistakes, coordinated improvement, until the both trust in their coordinated actions. If one is dominating or leading too much, it doesn't work.”

Under the beautiful costumes and graceful movements is a well guarded secret. Women dancers have to be physically strong, capable and know their own center of gravity. Along with their strength, men have be in tune with their partner. In order for him to lift her with a look of ease, she must bend her knees and jump: plie. Her core muscles engage and hold her center of balance. Her arms and shoulders control her direction.

In twirling and catching, her whole body engages as she plies. He lifts. They read each other’s center of gravity and shift to match-equally. The illusion of unity. She jumps into his arms and he adds his strength to her motion. He directs that motion to a mutually agreed spot for her to land. The combination creates incredible lift that defies gravity. The partners work in tandem for a common goal.

The illusion of dance and ice skating is to suspend reality. We think of them as super human, possessing qualities we don’t have. What we miss seeing are the hours of rehearsal. The mistakes both make. The falls. The injuries. The blood and bruises. By the time the pair enters the ice we see the fruit of their hard work. The art. The perfection.

Marriage, like dance and pairs ice skating, is work. Sometimes the man takes the lead, other times the woman. They are partners equally engaged and responsible to create something beautiful.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Day Meant for Love

Originally posted Februrary 14, 2011

Photo taken by Seemann
Discontent was growing. It is Valentine’s Day and all I can think about are my single friends.  As usual I began to read blogs and posts about how others felt about this day. St. Valentine was a martyr.  He died for what he loved most, his faith. Cupid and Psyche survived the greatest test of love, temptation then sacrifice of self. Because of this, they were given permission by Zeus to spend eternity together. Matthew Biberman said it best in his Red Room blog, Valentine’s Day in a Time of War, “Valentine’s Day, understood correctly, is the most radical holiday of all.  It is a day to celebrate love between humans.”
As I walked dogs this morning, birds twittered  love songs to each other accompanied my pondering. Single or paired today, all should celebrate. Love is the very act of putting someone above yourself. Jesus quotes the Old Testament when he tells us "Love your neighbor as yourself," in Matthew 22:39.
Usually we apply the first part of that question with nary a thought of the second. It occur to me that I first needed to ask: am I loving myself? Keep in mind, self absorbed and nurturing self are two different things. So the query began:

Am I treating myself with kindness, allowing for realistic expectations?
Am I eating in a healthy way?
Am I taking time to treat myself to things that recharge me?
Photo taken by Ladyheart
Am I forgiving myself?
If I am not treating myself to this kind of love, how can I -love someone else?
Then the question becomes about my neighbor:
Am I demanding my own way?
Have I extended grace to those who have inadvertently wronged me?
Whoever comes across my path am I reaching toward them in kindness?
How am I adding to their life in a way to inspire them to extend love to someone else?
 At some point in time we have experienced love. Today is a day to recognize and honor it.  It could be a spouse or a significant other.  It could a friend, teacher or parent.  Take the time and extend appreciation to that person.  Let them know what their love meant.  We all have a Love to celebrate today.

A Mother Life