Harvard's Parenting Advice, Racism & My Stepparenting Essay

For your Sunday reading pleasure, here are three of my favorite links from the past week. Harvard psychologists have been studying what it takes to raise "good kids." I love the first tip: hang out with your kids. Could "good" parenting be so simple?

These tweets about how white people sound when they disagree with people of color about racism are brilliant. She puts a humorous twist on the entitlement of people who deny a problem simply because they haven't personally experienced it. You don't have to be racist to perpetuate racism.

And finally, today, Scary Mommy published my essay about the question every stepparent dreads in which I share a story from my own life to address a rarely-discussed issue concerning the fine balance of blended families.

This is day 21 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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I Will Not Over-Edit

We're only three minutes to midnight, midnight being doomsday, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, for reasons of "unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals." They say, "international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization." The way I see it, the human race drains the earth of her finite resources in an attempt to provide infinite stability and perpetual protection. The masculine tendency. Which is normal and necessary and effective when balanced with the feminine prerogative to nurture and give back to Mother Earth. Every mother knows she needs to care for herself first.

But we are off-balance. Because women, who hold the bulk of the nurturing feminine energies, have operated under varying forms of oppression for centuries.

Today I make a plea to the women. To balance the planet, we must own our power. We must live according to the truth of who we are, not who we've been taught to be.

I have a few ideas on how to get started, if you're interested. Treat these as mantras.

I do not over-edit myself or my work.

I do not diminish what I have to say.

I do not self-deprecate.

I do not apologize unless I've done something wrong.

I do not downplay my achievements.

I do not feel ashamed of my passions.

I do not measure my worth by my productivity.

I do not measure my life by my bank account.

I speak my mind.

I stand up for myself.

I nourish my interior self.

I listen to my intuition

I respect my feminine body. 

I feed my spirit.

I support other women.

I am worthy of recognition. 

I turn the other cheek to bullies and misogynists.

I assert my power.

We are this planet. We must fill our cups before we can fill others.

Go ahead, write your own mantras, empower yourself. Be unafraid of your power. Use it now. Nothing lasts forever.

This is day 20 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Want to Get Rich Quick?

I saw this little quip on a church reader board in Napa, California: Want to get rich quick? Count your blessings. We strive for more to ensure future survival, but in the process, we forget that in order to thrive, we must love our lives as they are. Now. Right Now.

I strapped a tired toddler to my back on a recent morning and I hiked up a storied San Francisco hill. This felt luxurious. The warm squirming child, the 70 degree sunny skies, the world-famous architecture, the views of the bay. I looked people in the eye when I passed them. Sometimes they pretended not to see me. I discovered new sets of stairs to climb. I looked with new eyes, and I saw new things. I walked without a destination, like I do when I'm a tourist. I love to travel my own city and explore it's many undiscovered pockets.

All of this felt so good that it was too good. Guilt arrived to drag me off my cloud, back to the cold hard ground. Who am I to love my life this much? Who am I to live in this beautiful city and have time to take a walk at 10 am on a Monday morning? Who am I to write a blog and expect people to come?

Why is it so hard for us to enjoy what we have?

I dreamt of the life I have now. I did not take shortcuts. I worked hard to get here.

So why do I waste time thinking I do not deserve it, or that I have far more to accomplish? Haven't I done enough for today? Won't the rest come in time?

Perhaps our nature has not caught up to modern life in which we have all our basic needs met. Perhaps we invent problems to solve. Or perhaps, humans have struggled with this brand of guilt and dissatisfaction for eons. This could be an inextricable part of being human--or not. I don't know. But I'm done with it.

People often speak of gratitude lists and counting blessings because we must be reminded, and often, to focus on the good. Because there is bad, too. Because the world contracts and expands according to our focus. Our thoughts, they matter. Our thoughts, they can make us poor, or they can make us rich.

This is day 19 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Are Women Blocked?

At some point in history, women learned to feel shame for receiving. We were programmed to give, give, give. We deny compliments. We diminish our achievements. We downplay our strengths. We give everything away, most tragically, our power. Maybe you think you don't, maybe you know that you do. Regardless, you know a woman like this. A woman blocked from receiving. It happens on an individual level, passed between generations and families, until the program takes on a life of its own and woman everywhere are paid less than men for the same job. We repeat the pattern without realizing that it is not us.

But imbalances correct themselves, eventually. It's happening now. Women are beginning to find it in us to receive, to be the exception to the rules we've followed for so long. Women are opening. I know it's happening because I've seen it.

I saw it when my friend hesitated to accept a sizable donation for her start-up non-profit. Money she needed. Money she could use to do great things. She had good reason to hesitate as she had a strained and strange relationship with the benefactor, who is not wealthy, only generous. My friend didn't know how to accept this token of love and faith.

I saw it happen when she accepted the money as the natural flow of the universe.

I saw it when the floodgates opened and another large donation came in, and after that, a steady stream of opportunities.

I saw it when she said yes to the money, and yes to her work.

I saw it when she said yes to the money, and yes to her purpose.

I saw it when she said yes to the money, and yes to changing the world.

This is day 18 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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How Non-Racist People Perpetuate Racism

I recently entered into a discussion on Facebook with a white man who commented on a public post I made in which I shared an article about Ohio residents greeting Obama by waving confederate flags. I commented on the article with only two words: heart broken. The man responded by saying he was "tired" of the media exacerbating racial tension by pitting blacks and whites against one another. Does he count as "the media" since he posted publicly on Facebook? Aren't we, the people, the media, now? Did "the media" invent police brutality and the segregation in communities and schools that persists today?

He cites his experience as a missionary in Southern black communities as evidence of his understanding. He says he didn't experience racism in the projects. Does he think that associating with black people made him temporarily black? Does he think something doesn't exist because he has not personally experienced it?

He claims that he is not a bigot, and I might believe him, yet his denial of the discrimination faced by people of color indirectly supports it.

I do not know this man at all, but I engaged with him because I felt it important to fight against the contagions in his message. I hoped that by speaking up, I could give others the tools to speak up. I let myself become intoxicated by the freedom of speech. I knew I couldn't change his mind, but I felt empowered by disagreeing with him, openly, unapologetically.

I disagreed when he suggested that waving the confederate flag in the face of our black president was not a racist act but a political act. Then why not hold up signs with political statements as is the norm for such protests? I disagreed when he suggested the confederate flag to be a symbol of unity. The unity of whom? Certainly it was not for the unity of the human race. I disagreed when he said the treatment of blacks is not as bad as the media wants it to be. What if it's worse?

America has a long hard history with race. This country is not going to heal beneath the pretense of equality. We must demand the real thing. We can start by bearing witness to people of color. The media has largely provided us this opportunity.

The first step to change is awareness, which is why this man and so many others perpetuate racism. By pretending it's not there.

This is day 17 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Why We Must Heed Our Hormones

Hormones control every human body. Hormones tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. Hormones tell us when to sleep and when to wake. Hormones tell us when to fight and when to flee and when to procreate. We are conscious beings with free will, but we are also animals at the mercy of our hormones. Through out every month, a women's hormonal constitution shifts. We experience distinct cycles. We are not meant to be even. We are jagged. We must forgive ourself for our sharp points.

Because of my body and because I breastfed around the clock, I went without my period until Skyla was 15 months old. As if nature wanted to compensate for the long nights and short tether. And so I was spared from the dramatic hormonal dips and spikes associated with ovulation. After two years of not ovulating, I have become extra sensitive to the shifts. Furthermore, my body has not found its rhythm and I cannot predict what "time of the month" it is.

Recently I had a bad week. I came loose at the seams. I despaired. I felt aggressive and angry. I had no idea how I could get through another week. I didn't have to. It was not all my fault nor was it my children's fault. It was my hormones. I had PMS. I had no way of knowing because my body felt fine otherwise. No cramps no headaches no cravings. The symptoms completely manifested in my mental and emotional health.

No matter how you experience your hormonal shifts, don't discount them, my fellow women. Just as the moon pulls on the ocean, your moon cycle pulls on the ocean inside of you. To ignore the tides is to throw yourself in the sea and swim against the tides.

It is our responsibility to keep track of our cycles, not only for the sake of family planning, but for sanity. Society teaches us to suck it up and pretend these shifts are not happening within us. But in reality, hiding our symptoms hides nothing. To track the cycle is to find the current and let it carry you home.

What if we took note of our sensitive times of the month and took extra time for ourselves? What if we soaked in the bathtub or got a massage? What if we got a babysitter? What if we forgave ourself quicker for crying? What if it was okay? What if we expected to feel this way? What if we were actually prepared?

At some point in history, women would go into the "red tent" when they were bleeding. We took care of one another. These days, no one will look after you if you don't look after yourself. We are grown-ups. We are women. We are complex. We are not even. We are not meant to be.

I am tired of stifling my feelings. I have high highs and low lows. I have feared myself. I have heard the clinical words. But deep down, I know there is nothing wrong with me. By my very nature, I experience life in cycles. I see and feel in vivid color. I will not dull my edges for the comfort of others. Just ask my neighbors.

This is day 16 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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What I Learned When I Stopped Wearing Makeup

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"- Erin McKean (wrongly attributed to Diana Vreeland)

It happens to most women who become mothers. We forge a new relationship with our physicality. We don't apply makeup or style our hair or accessorize for at least for a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer, maybe forever.

I still wear makeup now and again. I still like how it makes my features pop. Makeup is art. But do we need makeup as much as we are conditioned to believe we need it?

The less I wear makeup, the less I wear makeup. The less I wear it, the more comfortable I feel without it. And most notably, the less I wear it, the less beautiful I feel when I do wear it.

I used to think I needed makeup to fix parts of me. In middle school, my best friend and I were quite concerned with being beautiful. We loved spending hours together getting ready for special events, from Bar Mitzvahs to birthday parties, doing and redoing our hair, doing and redoing our eyeliner until it was "perfect." When we had nothing left to do, we would ask one another, "what can I fix?"

We grew up watching movies like Clueless and Beauty and the Beast and television programs like Saved By The Bell and 90210, and reading books like the Sweet Valley High series. Stories in which the heroines were valued for their beauty and agreeable disposition. For many years, I believed I had to be pretty to be valuable and valued. Sometimes, I believed I could be pretty if I tried hard enough. Sometimes, I didn't.

Implicit in the application of make up is the belief that a woman's face is flawed and/or needs to be "flawless." When we wear makeup daily, we learn to see our made up face as the "right" face. We stop seeing the beauty in our natural features. We invest time, money and thought into fixing ourselves under the erroneous belief that beauty can be achieved by the right product and method.

I did not notice the shape of my eyes until I stopped masking them with eyeliner. I did not see clarity in my skin until I let it breathe. I did not know the perfection of my God-given colors until I stopped dying my hair blonde (it's true) and saturating every inch of my skin with self-tanner. And when I stopped wearing makeup, I started believing that I could be beautiful. Not conditionally beautiful, but unconditionally beautiful. 

I would like to encourage my fellow women to take a step back from the allure of cosmetics. I challenge you to run around a few blocks or pump some iron or take a dance class, and look in the mirror at your naked face. I would like you to see the real color in your cheeks, the unmasked sparkle in your eyes. I would like you to see all that goodness you stir up just by using your body. It's inside of you. It has been there all along.

We already know where real beauty comes from. Sometimes we have to turn inside out to find it, sometimes we have to become vulnerable to show it, but it's always in there. Because it cannot be bought, it cannot be stolen. And because it is limitless, it will not run out. Your beauty is real, and it is power, and it has nothing to do with being pretty.

This is day 15 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Hustling, Podcasts and the Ultimate Diet

My perfect Sunday allows plenty of quiet time for reading. In this spirit, I would like to share three online reads I found valuable this week. The first is a piece about the right way to hustle. It's not what you think.

If you haven't started listening to podcasts yet, start with this list of nine podcasts for a fuller life. You will want to bookmark this one. (Or if you're like me, leave it open on your phone for weeks.)

And finally, you must read this body-positive essay by my friend, Gail, where she reveals the only diet you'll ever need.

This is day 14 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow the blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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