Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Plastic Surgery...Let's Talk About Boobs.

Hey yall.

So while I typically blog about motherhood, feminism, and spirituality, occasionally I find a way for my day-job ((plastic surgery nurse)) to sneak in.

((For example, here is a post from a few years ago, on the Merge Between Feminism and Beauty))

I get asked A LOT of questions from people about my job.

"Is Botox dangerous?" 
"Do people actually transfer fat to their boobs?"
"What should I have done to get rid of this?"
"Is saline or silicone better?"

I have a big idea in the works for addressing all the questions, but until then, I thought this post might peak some interest.

So, let's talk about boobs.

I see them all day long. I photograph them, measure them, assess them, palpate them, and then help surgically modify them.

*For a while, I felt really strange about the latter.

But, over time, I've realized most of our patients have wanted this particular body modification for years, and after their surgery, they feel confident, empowered, and have a stronger connection to their identity.

It's a bit of a stretch, but many of our patients can relate to Caitlyn Jenner when she said she identified as being a woman, and her whole life felt like she was in the wrong body. Many large-breasted women are dancers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, athletes, or just free-spirited hippies who want to go braless in a sundress but felt like their body type has held them back. Most of society is pretty accepting of the woman who chooses to have a breast reduction. But the other side of that coin is the woman who feels like her chest makes her "look like a little boy" and while she wears feminine clothes and enjoys embracing her femininity in all other aspects, feels as though her lack of breast tissue doesn't fit with how she sees herself. 

Of course, I find the psychological + sociological aspects of surgery fascinating. But I'm going to try to keep it simple with this post and just explain what the procedures are.

  • A breast reduction is essentially the same surgery as a breast lift. The incisions are around the areola, vertically down the breast, and horizontally in the crease. Many people refer to this as an "anchor" incision. 
  • If the intention is to decrease the size, it's called "reduction mammaplasty." If the intention is to lift the nipple position, it's called a "mastopexy." 
  • Either way, when the nipple position comes up, some breast tissue is lost. While every person is different, most people go down a few cup sizes with this surgery. Some people only want to lift the nipple, not lose breast tissue. When that's the case, a small implant can be placed at the same time.
  • Many people who do a mastopexy with a breast augmentation ((breast lift with an implant)) wear the same bra size after surgery as they did pre-operatively. They just fill out their bras differently; they have more upper pole fullness.
  • By far, the most common way to increase breast size is with an implant. 
  • Regardless of saline//silicone, we almost ALWAYS put the implants under the muscle. Implants above//over the muscle can make interpreting mammograms more difficult. It's easier to interpret a mammogram on a patient with implants under//below the muscle because it pushes breast tissue up and makes it more visible. And as an added bonus, it looks a lot better, too. There's a natural slope from the upper chest as opposed to looking "stuck on."
  • The most common incision is in the inframammary crease (("IMC")). If a woman has a breast augmentation, she will likely have a future implant exchange, and the IMC is required for these surgeries, so it makes sense to start there. The armpit (("axillary")) incision is commonly requested, but most women don't realize that these scars show more often than the IMC incisions ((tank tops, bathing suits, sleeveless dresses, etc...)). They also have a slightly higher risk of infection.
    • Saline Implants
      • Are essentially an FDA-approved, expensive water balloon
      • Come with a 10 year warranty
      • Less expensive
    • Silicone Implants
      • Also FDA-approved, feel like breast tissue
      • Come with a lifetime warranty
      • Shows less "rippling" than saline implants, typically a better choice for thinner patients for this reason
        Rippling can still occur with silicone implants, but is far more common with saline. Going under the muscle for implant-placement also helps decrease rippling.
  • Fat Transfer
    • If a patient is opposed to implants, but still wants to make her breasts larger, she can have fat transferred from one area of her body to the breasts ((another common request is to the booty)).
    • Fat transfer is a very safe procedure, but not as reliable as an implant. A lot of times, patients are happy immediately after, but after the swelling subsides, and some of the fat dissipates, the results aren't as impressive. If a subtle change is all that the patient wants, it's a great option. 
This is all just the tip of the iceberg! It's kind of fun to blog about something different, and share some of my expertise with yall.

If you have specific questions, feel free to click on the "contact" link at the top of this page.


Friday, August 7, 2015

My C-Section ((How I Felt Then + Now))

When I was pregnant with Lilah Grace ((to be fair, years before I was even pregnant)), I envisioned for a natural birth. In nursing school, my group was selected to present at the statewide research symposium, on our findings on water immersion during natural labor. My mother-in-law birthed her 3rd son at home. I watched the natural birth documentary, The Business of Being Born several times, and all subsequent episodes. I read all the Ina May Gaskin ((legendary midwife + author )) I could get my hands on.

If I'm being honest,  "C-Section mama" was a title that meant one of two things to me:
  • A woman who was taken advantage of by her doctor's schedule and/or the medical system
  • A woman who didn't care about the experience of childbirth; somebody who wanted to skip labor and just hold their baby
During the childbirth class at the hospital, I didn't even attend the c-section segment. There was just no way that was going to happen to me. I did my research, I found a midwife who had privileges at a hospital that took our insurance, and if nothing else, I've had "child bearing hips" on my otherwise petite frame since middle school.

I shared my opinions on this blog while pregnant ((with Lilah Grace)). Some of my words:
  • "I also have been reflecting on some powerful words by Ina May Gaskin, before I embark on this journey of BIRTHING our baby! I am not afraid to go into labor. Sure, her size is intimidating...and I know it's going to be painful...but I am excited to be the vessel that allows a spiritual being to become her own physical lifeform. What an honor."
  • "I'm not fearful of labor. I can endure anything for a day. And women have been having babies for all of time. I'm actually excited (feel free to roll your eyes). The concept of being a vessel that brings a spiritual being into a physical being is an honor, and I think it will be a transformative and spiritual moment."
  • "After seeing "The Business of Being Born," I thought birthing at "The Farm" in Tennessee would be an amazing experience. I even called shortly after discovering I was expecting, but was disappointed to hear that we could DEFINITELY not afford it."

I visited "The Farm" ((arguably the natural birth hub of the world with the lowest c-section rate, at 2%)), meditated + visualized + prayed, and ultimately knew on a deep level where I belonged; I would be a naturally birthing mama. I already identified with that group of mothers. I already judged the others.

At an estimated 42 weeks, I tried to sleep, but the intermittent discomfort + anticipation kept me awake. After a few hours of contractions in the bathtub at home, I woke up my husband and told him it was time to go. The natural birth was indeed going to happen!

I had ALL OF THE FEELINGS on my 12 hours natural labor-turned 10 hours epidural labor-turned emergency c-section where my epidural had worn off, and I felt horrible + traumatic pain//pulling//ripping//electric shocks from the cauterization. 

But beyond the physical pain, I felt like a complete failure as a woman. I felt like I failed at the one thing my body was made to do...that all women's bodies were made to do...that every woman in my family and George's HAD DONE. Then, I felt like a spoiled, first-world brat. Everybody telling me that Lilah and I would've died 50 years ago made me feel really weird. Of course, I was grateful for modern medicine, and I thought about women in countries right now, in this decade, who die because the lack of adequate healthcare. I was grateful for the medical team. But I wondered...was my body made to reproduce? If I wasn't even capable of bringing a baby into the world without a major operation and the help of a medical team?


I think the spiritual reason I had a c-section with Lilah Grace was to teach me humility. I pretty much already had my natural birth story written out, in detail, in my head and in my heart. It looked nothing like the real story.

Before she was even born, I was prepared to soak up compliments from family + friends on my courage, bravery, and badassery. I was desperately craving external validation that I was a powerful woman.

Now, 2 years later, and 20 weeks into my second pregnancy, I realize I needed less judgment on moms who have c-sections. On moms who say "yes, please!" to drugs during labor. Because the labor//birth story doesn't prove you're powerful, though it can make for an inspiring story. I still cheer on the sidelines for the natural birthers, and I'm still impressed + inspired when I hear about those beautiful birth stories. Honestly, I'm still a little jealous. But my perspective has evolved quite a bit.

Overcoming obstacles showcases power. Being grateful and happy are more important to me than being sad about the birth story I wanted to have, but didn't. At last...internal validation.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Sherri.

Once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea
April: Allison + Annie 
May: Jen
June: Mallory 
July: Becky

For the month of August, I'm proud to showcase Sherri.  


Sherri is the daughter of our family-friend, Al. Al is my biggest cheerleader and confidence-booster, and also my go-to car mechanic. We call him Lilah Grace's "Fantasy GrandDad" because he plays the role of grandfather, and spoils her rotten. He lives near us ((in Texas)), but his daughter lives in New York. Anytime Al talks about Sherri, he lights up and goes on ((and on, and on, and on...just kidding, Al!)) about what an incredible woman she is. As soon as I met her, I knew exactly what he was talking about. She has so much radiance, grace, poise, intelligence, compassion, and love for humanity ((and animals)) pulsing through her veins. 
Sherri became a mama one year ago, and her son, Dash, is one of the most adorable babies I've ever seen. I was beyond ecstatic when Sherri agreed to share her heart while participating in this monthly series. In reading her responses to these questions,
 I discovered way more about this amazing mama, and fell even more in love. Enjoy the inspiration! 


What’s your definition of a feminist?
Someone who believes strongly in and fights for equality for women.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I actually consider myself a "people-ist". I know that's not a word but it best describes my feeling about it. I am always on the side of people in general not being treated equally. I get very upset and feel strongly when someone is being treated unfairly. Whether they are a minority, gay, a woman, the elderly, poor, misunderstood, etc., I feel the same for all.

Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since having a “feminist awakening”?  Further from it?  Ambivalent? 
I have not had a feminist awakening exactly. I have always felt women should be treated equally. I grew up in a house with 3 brothers and I was the only girl. My dad would sometimes make references that seemed sexist and I would call him on it. Even as a young girl, I didn't really know that's what I was doing, but I was. He now laughs at things he says that are sexist and realizes he is being ridiculous when I point it out.  He's grown a lot!

Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another? 

I feel that spirituality is something that is so deep in your soul that you feel passionate about and makes you a better person. If feminism is that for you, then yes, I believe it's related for that person.

What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work?

I am a makeup artist in film and television. I grew up doing makeup from the time I was 4 years old. I always loved it even though I don't currently wear a lot of makeup! My mother was also a hairdresser when I was growing up. This also influenced me.

What spiritual habits//practices//routines do you incorporate into your life?  How do you bring spirituality to your family life?

I would have to say that the most spiritual things we incorporate in our lives is church for my husband and sometimes me, music, love, and love of animals. Everyday when I'm feeding my child, I sing to him. The way we look at each other during this time feels very spiritual to me.

Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child?

I am actually not a religious person. I did not grow up in a religious household, although as a young girl, I went to church with my best friend's family and became very involved. The church that I went to was very fanatical, in my opinion, and was very strict in its beliefs. It believed that this religion was the only religion that would go to "heaven" and any other person that was not "saved" by us would burn in hell and the blood of all of these people would be on my hands. It was so scary that I went to my father hysterically, who was Jewish, and told him I had to save him and I didn't want him to burn in hell as I cried. He told me that one day I would realize that I was being brainwashed and that he was going to be fine. This, in fact, is what happened.  I witnessed some very hypocritical things during my time in this particular church and it scarred me to the point that I was anti-religion for many years. My husband is a member of the episcopal church and has had many conversations with me to help me better understand what religion, when not fanatical, is really about. I have a new view on it now and have opened my eyes to the incredibly accepting episcopal church he belongs to in NYC. They are what I wanted to believe religion was really about. This church has women reverends, many gay members, transgender people as part of the procession, and is just, in general, a very open minded place of worship for many other reasons as well.

For these reasons, I have been attending this church and I am learning to trust religion again. This is how I want my son to be raised. He has been going here with my husband or both of us since he was born. I want him to be raised in the episcopal church and make his own decision about it when he is old enough to understand his decision.

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
Well, to me, spirituality is anything that makes you feel centered, whole, and basically a better person. It can come from anything, ie: meditation, being at the ocean, going to church, music, or doing something that you feel passionate about. In addition to being a makeup artist, I also have a cat rescue in NYC. Saving these precious animals from the streets and getting them into their forever homes is a spiritual experience for me. Especially when it involves helping an injured or extremely frightened cat. Figuring out how to help the animal trust you and communicating with them to help figure out what they need and want is extremely spiritual to me.

Religion is a basic principle and set of ethics that you live by and how you worship. Religion and spirituality can be the same thing for some people and totally different others.

What do you think happens when we die?

I am not 100% sure. In my experience, I have definitely felt the presence of people who are close to me that have passed.

How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?

My son is only 1 years old so I haven't had to answer the big ones yet. I look forward to the challenge though!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Becky.

Once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea
April: Allison + Annie 
May: Jen
June: Mallory 

 For the month of July, I'm proud to showcase Becky. Even though these beautiful people look like four siblings, the woman in green is actually their mother. 

Becky is a close friend of my husband's family. She also has taught Lilah Grace how to swim. I absolutely love going to Becky's house, because not only does she entertain my busy 2 year old while teaching her a love of water, but she also somehow manages to have the most perfectly concocted cocktails with only the freshest of herbs as garnishes. I've always looked up to Becky and her enriching parenting tidbits, so needless to say, I wanted to share her musings on my blog. I was also excited to share musings from a mom who's already RAISED her kids. All the other moms I've interviewed for this series are in the process of raising young kids. We're still trying to figure it out. This month is unique in hearing from a seasoned mama who has been through the Terrible Twos and Torturous Teens, with grace. I discovered way more about this inspiring mama, and fell even more in love. Enjoy the inspiration! 

What’s your definition of a feminist?
A feminist is someone who values the power of women and sexuality and difference.  S/he acknowledges and celebrates the strengths and vulnerabilities of both genders.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since having a “feminist awakening”?  Further from it?  Ambivalent? 
I don’t recognize having a “feminist awakening”.  I was raised by a feminist mom and step dad, who thought themselves to be progressive.  And, in a far more removed sense, by an overbearing male chauvinist dad and submissive step mom, who thought themselves to be traditional.  All of those influences combined to show me the power and glory of feminism; of respecting women (ourselves and our co-earthlings), albeit in different ways.  My mom modeled resilience and drive, divorcing a man without a clear financial plan, knowing she had to leave the violence and fear in order to survive, struggling her way through grad school with 2 small girls.  (I recently toured TWU with Ian and related the stories of how my sister and I, 8 and 10? were left on the campus to our own devices while Grandmother attended school there during summers.  We spent the days trying not to speak aloud, and communicating only in sign language, for fun!)  My step dad gave mom equal space in their marriage.  My step mom was dedicated to keeping her family together, as her role of mom, she was a buffer between her kids and step kids and their dad, who was often frightening and out of control of his rage.  I see that as feminism in its strength.  She had choices and she made them differently than many would, but in the way she saw best to protect her kids. 
Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another? 
I don’t see those as related.  I don’t relate to feminism as a spirituality, but I do believe women are related to the universe differently than men are. 
What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work?
I spent 28 years as a flight attendant.  I always dreamed of it and stumbled into it when I quit college after 3-1/2 years.  It became a perfect framework for raising my own kids.  It afforded me most summers and many holidays at home, more than half the month in days off work, and the schedule that allowed for John and me to be the ones raising our kids for the vast majority of their days, with little need for a nanny.
Once Ian had graduated high school I took the leap of faith of leaving that job for one that would challenge my mind more.  All (and I do mean ALL) of my flight attendant friends thought I was crazy for leaving a job that had reasonable pay and gave me such free time.  But I craved more.  The only reason not to leave was fear, so I knew I had to model that bravery, and go.  Now I am a convention services manager at Gaylord and fight every day to acquire the skills I need to continue moving forward.  It’s a great challenge, and it’s terrifying, and I have no regrets about my choice.   I was fortunate that John supported me fully in making the choice, never considering the financial impact as a reason to stay put.  He always put my happiness first.
What spiritual habits//practices//routines do you incorporate into your life?  How do you bring spirituality to your family life?
One of my great regrets is that we did not have a good stable spiritual routine or practice while our kids were growing up. My aversion to religion blocked me from recognizing my spirituality, and from sharing that with my kids.
Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child?
Definitely NOT.  My mom and step dad were “Unitarian”.  We went to church sometimes, but I always had a weird feeling about it.  My dad shocked me once when I was a teenager by saying in reference to our family, “We, as Christians, believe…”  I had never once heard any religious reference from him whatsoever prior to that.  We never went to church with dad, and only said prayers at my grandparents’ house.  My religious experience growing up was never a comfort to me, and wasn’t ever even clear to me.  I found it frightening, confusing and embarrassing.  I knew that most of the families around us were “Christian”, and we were not, but I didn’t really know what we were. 
 I know I have always had an opposition to religion.  I have always known that the various religions have different dogmas, and that, in and of itself proves to me that there can be no one true religion.  For this reason, I distrust “Religion” that teaches theirs is the truth and the way.  And all of this resulted in me avoiding spirituality altogether, which I regret now for my kids’ sake.   I didn’t realize until much later on that I am a very spiritual person, just not religious, and that I think those two are different, and I wish I could have shared that with my kids when they were young.  I do now represent that to my kids, but I wish I had had the presence and courage to go there when they were little.
What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
Spirituality is in our souls.  Religion is prescribed.  Spirituality is the way we relate to the universe, how we feel ourselves part of a larger importance.  Religion is a set of rules, in my opinion, designed to control people and their behavior based on fear.
What do you think happens when we die?
I really wonder.  I like to believe that our souls fragment and remain somehow.  I like to believe that my loved ones are still with me, and that I can remain with my loved ones when I pass.  I like to believe that our souls can still be connected, even when one dies.
How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?
If it’s a difficult topic, I stumble along and force myself to say what I’m feeling.  I tell them they don’t have to talk if they don’t want to, but they do need to listen.  I always try to just be honest about my views on subjects I find important.  I want my kids to develop their own sets of beliefs, and I want them to know mine.  I always try to think about bringing my information from a place of loving them endlessly and wanting to teach them everything.  I want to honor their truth at the same time I’m providing mine. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Don't Feel Mom Guilt. #SorryNotSorry

I hear a lot of moms saying they feel "mom guilt" all the time. I am certain I've experienced it in certain instances, and I probably will countless times in the future, but I have to say, most of the time, not so much. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had a boy. Who knows. I consider myself the most important female influence in Lilah's life. I want to model self-love, self-care, the ability to communicate my feelings, and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. I want to model a strong marriage, strong + loyal family ties, strong female friendships, and a strong work ethic.


I work part-time as a Registered Nurse in an operating room. I think it's important for Lilah to know my worth both in and out of the home. I think I'm modeling work ethic and dependability. Being her mom is my favorite role but it's not my only one, and I want her to not just hear that, but know that.


I am going to California in July for a self-awareness workshop, where the entire purpose is bettering myself and learning more about myself. I'm going by myself for FIVE FULL DAYS.


If on a rare occasion I get off work early, and Lilah is with the nanny, I'll stop in at Anthro on my way home, or spend time at home in my journal, or with my Tarot cards, or just with my feet in the grass in our backyard, not rushing to pick up my kid. 


I have A LOT of help. LG is the first grandchild on both the Van Meter and Tinker sides of the family. Lilah spends a TON of time with her grandmothers, especially. I absolutely love watching the individual relationships she has formed with our family members, and absolutely love my time to myself! My lack of guilt here is not to be misunderstood as a lack of GRATITUDE. I'm super grateful for my tribe, my village, so I don't feel alone in raising Lilah.


I scheduled an entire day to binge on Orange is the New Black the Saturday after it came out.


And finally, as I write this blogpost, my husband is being the sexiest dad alive, making Lilah giggle in the bath, brushing her teeth, getting her to go potty, putting on her pjs, reading her a book, rocking her, and putting her in the crib. Only to be followed, I'm certain, by crying and insisting that she needs to potty again, or needs water, which then means she'll need to potty again, or she wants to "rocky" again.


Sharing the load in parenthood is my best non-kept secret. While this style of motherhood might seem selfish to some, I guarantee, I'm one of the most patient + loving mothers you'll ever encounter. That's because I'm not spread too thin. When I'm with Lilah, it counts. I'm present. I want to be there. 95% of the time. 

And when I'm getting to the point with my precious 2 year old where my patience is wearing thin and I know I'm not being the best mom I can be, I reach out for help. My husband has received many-a-call of "WHEN WILL YOU BE HOME and CAN YOU TAKE OVER?" and then I go for a walk with LG and wait for my "5 o'clock hero" to come through the front door. Sometimes I'll plug in my headphones while we walk and I'll listen to a podcast, or a guided meditation, or some rap. Whatever mood strikes. Many times, I have reached out to my mom or mother-in-law, "Can you get Lilah?" And as a result of my gracious + loving + supportive family, I have kept my sanity for 2+ years in this parenthood adventure.

Feeling grateful.
Without an ounce of the guilt.


Friday, June 12, 2015

((Lack of)) Religion and Child-Rearing

What is religion?
According to Wikipedia, "A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence."

Living in Texas and consciously avoiding church is still really frowned upon. So before I plunge into this post, I feel the need to make a couple of disclaimers.

A lack of religion does not mean a lack of faith.
Nor does a lack of religion mean a lack of values.

When I think about the most important text in regard to raising Lilah Grace, I don't think about the Bible, or the Lord's Prayer. I think of some lines from Desiderata.

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul."

I was raised in the Methodist church, probably the most lax of all the denominations in the south. I never had a bad experience in the church. I've blogged countless times about religion, because I think about it all the time. To read more musings, you can check out the bar to the right, under "Soul: Musings on Spirituality", or a few of these links to specific posts:

Stages of Religious Development
Thoughts on Christianity
Freedom and Security...A Spectrum
The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand

In the Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand post,  I wrote about my views on Heaven and Hell:

"Hell is not some fiery pit with a fictional cartoon character complete with horns and a pitchfork, dancing in fire...I would have to really try to believe something like that, and even if I really tried, I just couldn't. That seems so juvenile, so silly. We can see with our eyes pain and despair, and separation from God, right here, right Now. And seeing that, and not helping, but rather, coming from a place of self-righteousness, does more harm than good. Believing in a Hell doesn't make it real, and it doesn't save anybody. Donating money to natural disasters, donating time and service...that makes a difference. Showing people love, and opening people's eyes to the beauty all around them...that is the most effective way to "save somebody" from Hell. We don't have to wonder if Hell exists, or if Heaven is real. We can see it, and experience it. And we can make a difference."

So why am I blogging about this again? Because we were pre-school shopping for our little toddler.

The first program I checked out was the program I attended as a toddler. And the truth is, I think it's a great program. I've heard rave reviews, the staff seems great, the facility is nice. And it's in a church.

The second program I checked out also had great reviews, but was even more affordable. I loved the lady I was in correspondence with, and the woman who gave us the tour was very pleasant. The classrooms looked fun, and again, nothing negative to report. It was also in a church.

The third program was an academy. Like, a non-religious school. It's almost twice the cost of pre-school in churches. But I had to wonder, why? Probably because they don't have the help from a church congregation who tithes to offset the cost. I am not sure if private schools are tax-exempt, but I know churches are, so also knowing those pre-school programs at churches don't have to pay tax could explain the price difference ((maybe, not sure)). Most importantly, the smaller class sizes had so much order to them. The students were so engaged. They were really learning. The teachers were far from militant ((I didn't see that anywhere, at any program)), yet they had the students' attention. It seemed as though the previous programs were daycare programs, and this was an actual classroom. Of course, the classes seemed developmentally appropriate and fun, but with learning as the goal.

My mom and good friend teach at an elementary school and told me the students from the academy always stood out as being the best students. So, naturally, I wanted to send LG there. The only thing holding us back was the money. Fortunately, both sets of our parents chipped in to offset the cost, so we were able to make the decision that was best for us.

((Again, where would we be without our tribe?? I am eternally grateful for the support we have in raising LG with a total village mentality.))

I'm thrilled to say LG is enrolled and starts school in September at our first choice program.

This was the first time when we really confronted the "church" issue as parents. I have to be clear, it's not that we sleep in on Sundays and are "lazy Christians." We consciously are choosing to raise Lilah with faith and love for humanity and the Universe, but not with dogma.

I've felt Spirit, I've been moved to tears, and moved to my knees in prayer. I am far from "atheist". I think more than anything, people like me feel misunderstood. I long to belong to a community, but I know I do not belong in a church community. To me, the Bible ((I've read a lot more of that book than most Christians)) is a great historical collection of writings from men. But I do not believe it is Holy, nor do I believe God wrote it. I believe men were inspired by who THEY BELIEVE GOD TO BE, and wrote it. That does not necessarily mean I'm inspired in the same way, and that is okay.

I recently asked Lilah Grace, "Lilah, who is God?"
Long pause. Then, she answered,
"My friend."

I smiled, and thought, "Me too."

When it comes to education, we made the conscious choice not to implement Bible or Chapel time. We thought it out, and it feels best for us.

My hope through all of this parenting journey is that Lilah Grace knows we have her spirit, mind, and ultimately her life, at the forefront of all of our decisions, and will make our decisions mindfully.

If she decides to pursue religion on her own, I'll be happy to drive her to and from church/temple/mosque, and ask her questions while showing interest in her musings. If I feel she is endangered, I'll intervene, but otherwise, I'll encourage her to explore her options, rather than telling her from the beginning that there is only one way.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Mallory.

Once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea
April: Allison + Annie 
May: Jen

This month, I'm excited to share some ridiculously enriching responses from Mallory.

Mallory joined me and the Denton Women's Collective ((our 501(c)3 organization devoted to helping women in our can read more here)) recently when we brought the Finding Kind anti-bullying campaign to my alma mater. Any interaction I've had with her has always been a treat. Her vibe is totally chill, but you know there's a lot going on in that brilliant mind of hers. I knew her background was way different than mine, but we have a lot in common today, and so naturally, I was stoked when she said she would be willing to share her musings with me. Enjoy!!


What's your definition of a "feminist"?
Yikes. The F word. I don’t know, man. What can I say that isn’t an obvious answer? A person who advocates for the equality of genders.

A person maybe? Just a person. A person who identifies as a human rather than as a gender. A person who goes exactly where their heart and soul routes them because it is their divine right. I think there a lot of women who do not identify as feminists but actually are. Women who roll up their sleeves and take out the damn trash or mow the lawn or become engineers or attorneys because they can. I think a lot of woman would love the opportunity to remove their beauty routines and skip the unequal pay bullshit, but they may not recognize this as something that could actually happen.
In too many places, people are not allowed their divine rights, and that’s where, I believe, “feminists” really get to take on their armor as advocates. 

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do.  There are two types of feminism. One considers the difference between male and female to be psychological and culturally constructed; and the other considers the difference to be biologically innate. I fall somewhere in between. I recognize the biological difference in men and women. I know I’m more tender, sensitive and nurturing than my husband, but that I also know that I can do anything he can. (Besides pee standing up. He’s got me there.)

Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since a having a "feminist awakening"? Further from? Ambivalent? Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another?
I don’t know about “higher power,” but I do believe feminism and spirituality are related. When you become connected to your inner being by respecting and claiming your divine rights (feminism) you can experience a spiritual awakening. When a person looks inside to declare things for themselves, they have to look deep. They will essentially discover a myriad of values about themselves and the world and the universe (ultimately, spirituality).

I also think spirituality brings you closer to others and creates this resounding need to help anybody who needs it. And feminism is all about it.

What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work? 

I am a senior litigation paralegal.

I initially wanted to be an English, ESL or Spanish teacher. I have my BA of English Lit and Spanish. I never finished my certification for teaching because I got pregnant the semester before I would’ve started student teaching. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage. After the procedure to remove the baby, I became enveloped in depression with the loss, but also felt embarrassed that I missed and loved somebody who I never got to meet or hold. (That’s ridiculous. I know that now.) I didn’t have the motivation to do the student teaching anymore and decided to finish my BA without the certification.

I’ve always been a worker bee and when we became pregnant with my oldest, Van, I knew I wanted a career that was flexible with mommyhood, but still provided a decent income for our family. A very good friend of mine had mentioned that I’d be great in the legal field and actually spoke with her firm about a position for me. I now work for two ol’ cowboys at a small, family run firm. They both have children and put their family first. I learned quickly I don’t have a passion for the paralegal work, but I do for the people I work for. When you love your job, it’s hard to leave.

That being said, I don’t know if I would ever be a paralegal for another firm. I have come to love my boss and their families, but I don’t think this is the field I am most passionate for. When my boys are a little older, I’ll probably spring for the certification and go back to teaching. I have a deep passion for kids with learning disabilities (my husband was diagnosed with a few when he was a child) and I think I’ll probably end up somewhere in education.

What spiritual practices//habits//routines do you incorporate into your life? How do you bring spirituality to your family life? 

I have been into meditation for a while now, although I don’t practice it anymore. My high school gifted/talented teacher would have us practice a relaxation method, and I think that was the first time I meditated successfully. I have a really hard time meditating now, but I don’t mind that. Moms’ heads are often filled with schedules, routines, chores, kids’ desires, husband’s desires, kids’ goals and health and so on and so on. I think sometimes the cloud is too thick for me to clear.  I think the important thing is that I learned from those times that I did meditate. I like the enlightened version of myself. It has expanded and opened my mind.

Unfortunately, I am terrible about not “being present.” And one of the things my husband brings to the table is the ability to be present wherever he is. He pushes me to enjoy every moment, really take it in, and stay there. I’d say the spiritual practice I’m most committed to is learning and trying to stay present in every moment. Whether it’s soaking up the sun or breathing in the air around me or touching my baby’s hand while he is nursing, I am just trying to remember and love and be in those sacred moments. 

Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child? 

Hail no. I still have security issues and paranoia from being brainwashed a little too much as a child.  I can’t watch movies the same way that others can. I get scared of demons even though I don’t believe in them. I have had many say, “You don’t believe in that stuff so why are you afraid?” Habit. Foundations. When you grow up with people scraping off your layer of disbelief in the unreal, it’s very difficult to grow it back. I have a few close friends who have also left our United Pentecostal “cult” and they suffer from similar scars.

Although I grew up with people shoving religion down my throat, often drowning my own security in their fire and brimstone sermons, I also saw the good things that religion could do. My dad quit smoking after 20+ years of being a nicotine addict. My youth group volunteered on multiple occasions to help with the homeless or clean up the community. My mother pushed my siblings and I to become better people because she believed in it.

Some religious people are helping the homeless, being the shoulder for the weak, and giving so much to anyone in need. They’re not all picketing at Gay Pride parades. I like to think that’s because they are essentially GOOD people. But maybe the religion has a lot to do with it, too. I don’t know. I just think when you sprinkle the religion over their kind hearts and good deeds; it dilutes the good with intolerance and hatred. We’ve all heard the debates and I won’t go into the details. Because I can see the inconsistencies with religion, (with the bible and other holy books), it’s frightening to comprehend that others don’t.

I think the most important thing I can give my two boys is the lack of that experience. They might make the decision to be a part of a religion someday, but that’s their choice. Not mine. At least I know I didn’t have any part in scaring them into a belief, or shaking them out of their own security. What I can give them is the love and respect for the universe and the people around us. I think that’s more important.

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
I believe Chopra said it best, “Religion is the belief in someone else’s experience and spirituality is having your own experience.” 

What do you think happens when we die?
I fear I’m going to disappoint you with my response, but, honestly, I do not know. I am an optimist and a part of me deeply believes that we are reincarnated into a new being or a new lifeform (and maybe not just on Earth). I believe in souls, and I believe that souls live on even if in a cosmic sort of afterlife, like floating around in some other verse.

I believe if you are a good person, your soul is strong with deep rooted powers. Those good people can live on through their family, friends, or others with those powers. Maybe the bad have a harder time because their powers aren’t as strong. And maybe not. I can’t say for sure. That’s why it’s so important to have your own spiritual enlightenment. You get to choose what you believe in and that will ultimately decide what kind of person you’ll be in this life and the next. 

Conversely, the other part of me just thinks life is one little flame and when it goes out, your body becomes fertilizer, and the memory of your life through others is the only thing that lives on.

How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?
You know, I’m not big on putting a lot of my beliefs in my kids’ heads. When I give answers to questions, I make sure to always tell Van that they are my beliefs and that everyone has their own. I reiterate that he is a being and those big questions are his to answer, not mine. My parents are very religious and I don’t discourage him from being around them because of that. I just let him know that he doesn’t have to do what they do. And he doesn’t have to think what they say is truth, but that doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to their belief.

I fear that my open-mindedness will leave them feeling deprived someday. I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and when she discovered her mother was dying, she felt angry that her mother didn’t brand her with a religion or a God for her to sanction to. I think in the hard times, you want to feel that brand of religion, to give you a safety net. But for the most part, it’s liberating and motivating to be the maker of all your insecurities and accomplishments. It’s like being a mom-sometimes you HAVE TO. Life is about HAVING TO. And when there is no cloud of cotton candy for you to fall into when life is rough, it is then you stand firm on your own foundations. The world around you can provide you with its own safety net. The beautiful earth can give you comfort. The people can give you strength. Education and knowledge can give you a beautiful afterlife. And love can give you freedom. It is okay to not have it figured out. You eventually will figure everything out because you HAD TO.

The big questions are important to me. But they’re important for everyone to answer on their own. While I can guide my little starlings to be good people, I mostly want them to make that journey for themselves.

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