The F Word

“Chris can you stop by our house today at lunch, I really need your help.”

That was me speaking to hubby’s voicemail.  The problem – I couldn’t get the outlet covers off the wall and I desperately wanted to paint the office before the day ended.  A screwdriver didn’t work; the end of a knife didn’t work.  Sigh.  What’s a girl to do? I panicked and called the hubby.

I was thwarted by tight screws and then…I thought of the drill. 

My husband has gazillions of tools.  This guy is no MacGyver throwing duct tape on everything that’s broken.  He’s got tools and he knows how to use them (insert some ZZ top background music).

I know because  I’ve watched him use tools for 12+ years. 

I decided it was my turn to give the drill a test run.  ZZZUuuu, zzuuuuuu and the screws were out.  It took roughly 2 seconds and that included a break for a drink of water.  Why oh why had I not played with this miraculous tool before?  At what point did I decide there were “things that boys do” and “things girls do”?

Flashback to my high school days. 

Georgia in the late 80s early nineties where hair was BIG, southern accents were thick and our generation (at least in my house) was learning that women could now do anything.  I walked with my shoulders held high because I was going to have an amazing career someday and take the world by storm.  First of course I had to figure out what boy was the cutest and practice writing my name with his last name next to it.

Oh, and if I needed gas I wasn’t going to get my hands dirty at the pump and stand out in the heat.  I would just wait until my dad could fill it up for me.

As a matter of fact, I never filled a gas tank until I left town to go to university.  Why should I when daddy would do it – after all isn’t car maintenance a “guy thing”.

(Sorry dad – you’ve been outed for spoiling your daughter when she was a teen but I promise not to tell them about how you would take me to the mall to buy me a new outfit if I was in a bad mood)

I never mowed the lawn until 4 years ago when we decided hubby’s allergies were so outrageously bad I would have to give it a whirl.  I can’t feel empowered however because I asked the hubby to be in charge of purchasing the new mower that would be lightweight for me.  I remember this because he bought me a “cute” John Deer.  Come to think of it I’m pretty sure I’ve only filled the red gas container we use for it once at a gas station and even then I went to a full service station and asked a boy to do it for me.  Oh and I defiantly don’t weed whack I don’t care about his allergies that much.

At this point I’m sitting at my desk with my head bowed in shame and I’m literally cringing while typing.

You see on the other side I can be feminist to the point of frightening others around me.  The book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter is one of my favorites.  You probably haven’t read it.  Don’t ask me to loan it to you because I will refuse.  You see, I write in my books and this one has a lot of underlining in it. 

p. 34 “Yet the truth is, as long as one woman is dehumanized, none of us can be fully human”

p. 23 “I’d been disturbed by a stream of statistics, such as four times as many girls die worldwide of malnutrition as boys because boys are preferred and given more food.  Or the fact that women do two-thirds of the work in the world and receive one-tenth of the world’s wages…(FYI she backs up the stats)”

p.  52 “As Jungian analyst June Singer points out, when a girl is growing up, it is not taken for granted, as it is with boys, that her life and needs will be primary, that she will have access to places and authority and power like her brothers or father.  What is taken for granted is that she will find her main source of fulfillment through her husband and family, that she will be secondary to them.”

p. 55 “Through accomplishments and perfectionism we hope to atone for the “original sin” of being born female.  We are hoping that Father God will finally see our worth”

Unlike the author, I haven’t turned from the traditional church, in fact I’m an elder* at our church, I do however resonate with her views on inequality among genders.  {*My denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, voted to approve having women elders in their churches in 2000.   I have a photo of my mother-in law, a wise and competent woman finally becoming an elder in our church once the ‘rules’ were changed}

The show Jersey Shore is currently popping up in articles and blogs with the word feminism swirling around it.  I don’t watch Jersey Shore but I can say I don’t think women’s sexuality or ability to choose to flaunt it is the totality of feminism.  I personally don’t want men to objectify me or my daughters and I don’t think it would equate to female empowerment.

Check out MacLean’s (see link above) to read more about this topic. 

Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.  ~Mary Wollstonecraft

What I AM curious about in regards to feminism is how I, who THOUGHT I had strong views on myself as a women – my worth, how others view my worth and my dreams for the future of women in society could possibly not use a drill until I was 37 because hey why should I?  The boy can do it.  

My husband’s response when he learned I used a drill “WHAT!  A woman using a drill”.  Yes, he mocked me.  He knows I tend to be a feminist except when it benefits me to play the helpless female role because he’s watched me do this for 12+ years.

Honey, can you plunge the toilet?  I don’t know how

Seetheart, can you call the roofer about his quote for the roof?  You’ll understand the technical aspects better.

Can you put my suitcases in the van? 

I’m so embarrassed.

I suppose it is time for me to walk my talk.

I’ll get right on that.

Meanwhile, I wish Chris would get home soon.  I need him to hook up my printer, turn on the grill and change a light bulb.  I hope he remembered to take the garbage out this morning.

Here are some quotes you might enjoy.

Feminism is dated? Yes, for privileged women like my daughter and all of us here today, but not for most of our sisters in the rest of the world who are still forced into premature marriage, prostitution, forced labor – they have children that they don’t want or they cannot feed.
Isabel Allende

I asked a Burmese why women, after centuries of following their men, now walk ahead.  He said there were many unexploded land mines since the war.  ~Robert Mueller

It starts when you sink in his arms and ends with your arms in his sink.  ~Author Unknown

No one should have to dance backward all of their lives.  ~Jill Ruckelshaus

The young women in my classes are feisty and clever and believe, often with the passion of youthful optimism, that feminism is a battle already won. I worry for them – and for my daughters, too.
Louise Brown

Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.” – Erica Jong

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is:  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute.  ~Rebecca West, “Mr Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice,” The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca, 1982

Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors.  ~Evelyn Cunningham

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power.  You just take it.  ~Roseanne Barr

Man endures pain as an undeserved punishment; woman accepts it as a natural heritage.  ~Author Unknown

I’ve yet to be on a campus where most women weren’t worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career.  I’ve yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing.  ~Gloria Steinem

One of the things about equality is not just that you be treated equally to a man, but that you treat yourself equally to the way you treat a man.  ~Marlo Thomas

Posted in Gender Roles | 1 Comment

Mr. & Ms. Fix-It

Quit It!

Stop trying to fix everything. 

When someone is sharing their feelings – listen.

When someone is venting – listen

Leave your tool box filled with “I think you should” , “have you tried” , “my cousin’s boyfriend’s sister thinks” outside in the shed.  Not next to your phone or anywhere near your body.

Listen.  Get curious.

Helping and “fixing” are not the same thing.

For the record if any of you think this is aimed at you, think again.  This morning I was talking to a dear friend and Mrs. Fix-it started coming out of my mouth before I could stop her.  Interestingly enough I’m also attempting to “fix” the way people interact by telling everyone not to turn into Mr. & Ms. Fix-It.  Huh

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Safety Switch

This morning a repairman came to assess my washing machine.  It has been broken for a while and this was to be the day of its resurrection, or so I thought.

With six of us in this home (5 of us female and let’s face it we change clothing entirely too often) I was certain our washing machine had given up.  After two years of endless loads it stomped its foot and said “I will spin for you no more mother of four!”  I understood.  It needed a break. 

The repairman’s diagnosis was not what I expected – the safety switch is broken and needs to be ordered (oh goody another week with no washing machine, sigh).

A safety switch?  All this drama for a safety switch!!!!

But then I started thinking about the idea of a safety switch.  What if when life seems insurmountable we had our own safety switch that would give us the rest we need.  Wouldn’t that be nice? 

Wait a minute . . . I’ve had that before and it was actually depression and it wasn’t nice at all to say the very least.

The saga in brief: A few years ago my mother died right as we were selling our house and moving to a new one.  Two months later we were pregnant with daughter number 4. Surprise!  By the time number 4 arrived, and we figured out the new house was a bit small for 6 people, all of these events mingled with the hormonal soup of my body (that was fed up with giving birth and altering itself every other year) caused my safety switch to break sending me into a deep post partum depression.  It was the perfect storm.

A safety switch?  All this drama for a safety switch!!!!

Just like my washing machine it was a bit gradual.  My machine slowly started hiccupping and not working as smooth as normal.  It needed a little extra shove and it would continue onward.  I also continued functioning, sometimes needing a little shove and all the while thinking maybe I was going through a mid-life crisis early because I felt a bit “foggy” and “off” . 

But then I quit.  I couldn’t keep going.

 My sister-in-law became my nanny, my husband shouldered the load of – well, everything.  I slept for three months.  I would wake up in the morning and make a list of three things I had to do. 

Brush Teeth
Read a bit
Eat Lunch

Some days three things were too much.

All this drama for depression?

Gone was the woman I was.  Doing a million things a day only to turn to my husband at night and say “I need a project to keep me more occupied”.  Socializing and loving it.  Eyes aglow and easily excited about change and activities. 

My safety switch was replaced (meds, therapy, sleep and the grace of God).

I’m back to functioning and I have been for over two years. 

There is still pain in my life; even the occasional pain that makes me long for my safety switch to break so I can hibernate.  Some days my safety switch hiccups and I feel “off”, foggy and down without a clue why.

The woman I was?  Well, I’ve been reincarnated with a little less razzle-dazzle and oomph and a lot more grace and compassion.  I’m ok with that.

So dear reader there you have it.  I’ve striped myself to the core and laid myself bare.  I guess blogs have their own form of verbal nudity.

I don’t intend for this to be gratuitous nudity.  I just wanted to give you a glimpse of a real safety switch because maybe some of you out there have had a broken one or currently have a broken one.  Safety switches break more often than we know because they are very private. 

Maybe your safety switch is hiccupping lately and you are trying to push forward and move on.  Extend yourself some grace. 

Defying gravity is not impossible when your safety switch is hiccupping or broken.  Sometimes moving forward at all is defying gravity.  Even brushing your teeth, reading a bit and eating a lunch can be a triumph.

Don’t be afraid of your safety switch.  Listen to it.  Learn from it.  And you can always ask for help.

Posted in Move Forward, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Summer List Of Fun Days

Many of my friends have asked for a copy of the special days I created for this summer.  After I posted my most recent post I thought some of you might like the list as well.

I created this list with my two youngest daughters while the oldest two were school.  I asked them what they would want to do this summer and they would yell words like eat popsicles and have tea-time and those suggestions turned into special days.

As I have said before, these days were created in order to be intentional about having FUN together and creating meaningful moments of connection. 

We are daily updating out adventures in a photo album we are creating on and enjoying not only the day but the memories of the fun.

As for the logistics, after dinner the kids help us tidy the house in order to have the privilege of choosing a special day in the morning.  If anyone is sick or if I need a break I reserve the right to have a ‘quiet day’ at home.  If we do choose a day we grab our adventure bag (sunscreen, bug spray, water bottles and brightly colored matching baseball hats for the kids) and off we go.

You may not have children or the time to have adventures like these but maybe this will encourage you to try something new and take a stab at being intentional.  Either way I wish you all a wonderful summer in 2010.

Pool Day
Put on sunscreen                 
Lay towels on the grass to relax on
Swim in kiddy pool or at Nana’s  and Papa’s hot tub              
Craft: Seahorse
Find books with pools in them

Bike Day
Ride Bike to Playground                                              
Get treat at Tri-glen on the way home
Craft: Design your dream bike                   
Find books with bikes in them

Picnic Day
Pack a picnic                                                      
Invite Nana
Walk in a local park to find spot         
Rain: Have picnic in TV room and watch Muppets

Popsicle Day
Make our own popsicles                              
Craft: Paint colorful popsicles and glue them to sticks
Have a Popsicle stand                                   

Girl Day
Make magnets as gifts for ladies in our family
Everyone wears pink
Make a list about why girls rock                
Make cookies for tea time
Have high-tea at 3 pm

Hike Day
Pack healthy snacks                                       
Put on bug spray!
Make a list of what we might see            
Make a list of what we do see
Report to daddy about our adventure   

Book Day
Read a book at breakfast                             
Make a photo book for our cousins about us
Everyone shares favorite book                  

Movie Day (rainy day only)
Make the TV room really dark                   
Watch movies in PJs
Eat popcorn and licorice                               
Craft: Draw a picture of our favorite movie
Make a SHORT movie on computer        
Watch Disney movie of our vacation

Castle Day (rainy day only)
Make big castle (fort) in basement         
Can sleep in the castle at night!
Must clean up in the morning                    
Read Usborn book about castles
Craft: Draw a castle and put glitter on

Beauty Day
Baths & Showers                                             
Wear favorite outfits
Cut/paint nails                                                  
Haircuts if needed
Sparkles in your hair                                      
Share what is beautiful in each other’s personality
Put beautiful flowers on dinner table     

Monster Day (rainy day only)
Read Zlossh book                                            
Craft:  draw our own monsters
Make mixed up monster milkshakes      
Movie: Monsters Inc.

Fish Day
Visit Pet Store                                                  
Make fish soap (on Martha Stewart website)
Eat fish for dinner                                           

Boy Day
Deliver homemade lunch to Papa, Matt and Daddy at their work        
Tell them how much we love them 

 Chef Day
Wash hands and have ponytails                               
Wear aprons
Make banana bread for snacks                 
Plan healthy menu
Eat tons of fruits for lunch                                          
Talk about healthy eating
Help mommy with dinner                           
Set table nicely for dinner

Computer Day
20 minutes screen time each                     
post photos on face book
send emails to family  members         
Skype grandpa
Buy new iPod song

Laundry Day
Wear clothespin on shirt                              
Set up clothesline           
Craft: tie-dye shirts                                                        
Help mommy with laundry
Hang laundry to dry                                       
Wear your new shirt the next day

Exercise Day
Wear exercise clothing & runners            
Workout/dance video
Go for a walk    
Kick soccer ball                                                 
Invite kids over to play a game outside

Garden Day
Weed Plants                                                     
Move plants around
Water plants                                                     
Craft: stepping stones with daddy

Chocolate Day
Bernard Callebaut Factory!                 
Chocolate cake and milk for dessert       
Movie: Willy Wonka

Wild Animal (zoo) Day
Pack picnic lunch
Ride zoo train                                                   
Take photo of each girl with fav. Animal

City Day
Ride C-Train downtown                                               
Play in wading pool         

Shhhhh! Library Day
Visit library                                                         
Read as many books as you can
R & M practice alphabet                               
Write our own stories

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Beauty Day – My Attempts At Being Intentional

This summer I have plan and that plan involves being more intentional in my interactions with my daughters.  I didn’t want to wake up in September, look back at the summer and realize it was spent cleaning the house and telling the girls to go play outside. 

If you get anything out of this post think about where in your life you could be more intentional and what’s important about those choices.  What do you really want and what are you doing to make that happen?

If you want to hear about my adventure in being intentional, read on.

My plan of being intentional is why on Wednesday Claire reached her little 7 year old hand into a box filled with paper and pulled out a slip titled BEAUTY DAY.  The girls squealed with delight and I groaned a bit on the inside.  Couldn’t she have pulled out HIKE DAY or maybe ZOO DAY?  That was not to be so off to the washroom we went.

The kids were scrubbed in a bath, dressed in their favorite summer dress, fairy dust was sprinkled on their styled hair, perfume was sprayed and make-up (gasp) was applied.  40 little fingers and 40 little toes were covered in the brightest polish they could choose.  The girls were ready to party!  Me?  Not so much.

Of course at that moment the doorbell rang.  I was not dressed in a favorite summer dress (baggy t-shirt and a denim skirt that has seen better days); my hair was not styled or covered in glitter (bed head), no make-up or perfume to speak of and my nails . . . ugh they were in rough shape.

I answered the door and my 4 extra-beautiful daughters grinned at a very handsome man.  You know how women joke about hot pool boys and firemen?  This guy was that caliber of attractive.  Don’t get me wrong I’m happily married and it would take a lot more than a hot pool boy, a fireman or in this case a gas meter man to wreck that but . . . I certainly did not want to meet him with bed head and no make-up.

I joined him in the back yard to discuss the moving of my gas meter to the outside of my home and slowly forgot that I was a mess on the outside.  After he left it took me about 15 minutes to pull myself together (minus fairy glitter in my hair and nail polish) and raced out the door to take the girls for bang trims – after-all it was beauty day.

During the rest of the day Maggie cried because she really wanted to go to Callaway Park (local amusement park) Reese had a tantrum in the middle of the mall and I was in need of a nap or a serious jolt of caffeine.

On beauty day we looked our best (me alas too late to impress the gas meter man) and yet Maggie was still Maggie, Reese was still Reese and me …well I’m still me; make-up or no make-up.

Posted in Be Intentional, Fun Expert | Leave a comment

Elephant or Ant?


The 3 year old was screaming at the top of her lungs.  It was not a good sign. 

My husband and I raced to the rescue and froze in horror.  She was just standing there, nothing visibly wrong and the screams continued.  How could we fix something invisible?  How could we solve the mystery of the scream if she couldn’t even speak? 

Finally she stopped screaming long enough to look up at her daddy with frightened blue eyes and say “Ant.  There was an ant on me daddy.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”

What’s keeping you frozen in your tracks unable to move forward or express your needs?  Is it an elephant or an ant?  Take stock of what’s blocking you and judge its true weight.

Keep an eye out for those ants and next time give brushing them off a try.

Posted in Be Inspired, Move Forward | Leave a comment

Bra shopping: Lessons In Life

Getting Real

Once upon a time I accompanied my friend Gillian to THE CAT’S PAJAMAS in Calgary to help her choose a new bra.  She needed a lift in this area and we had heard this was the place to go in for a professional bra fitting. I smugly walked in with her wearing a favorite Victoria Secret’s bra thinking I was just lending my support to the process.

Allow me to set the stage.  Think Victoria’s Secret.  Got it?  This was not Victoria’s Secret. Cat’s Pajamas was an alternate universe.  There were no bright lights, perky sales girls or trendy tunes.  It’s the type of store that makes you feel like a grown-up and not as if you’re best years were your teens and you need to strive daily to re-capture your miss-spent youth. 

A lovely woman old enough to be a young grandmother sauntered over to assist us.  Her eyes never left our chests as we described Gillian’s needs.  I’m not sure she even spoke to us.  She walked to the racks pulled off three bras and led Gillian to a dressing room.  There was no measuring!  How could this possibly be a bra fitting?  We were thrown off a bit but not nearly as much as when the saleslady walked into the tiny change room.  Imagine two people in an old fashioned phone booth except filled with mirrors and one lady with her top off – yep, you’ve got the picture.  Thankfully I waited outside.  The saleslady allowed Gillian the tiniest bit of modesty by facing her back and proceeded to put the bra on correctly.  Correctly? We didn’t know there even was a correct way to put a bra on. 

Gillian pulled on a top, stepped out of the change room and we both gushed over the perfect fit.  The saleslady had gauged her size with a glance while her shirt was on.  It was a magical transformation.  This woman was clearly a bra genius.

Then she looked my way.

The saleslady leveled me with a look down her nose and in her musical accent (or it would have been musical if she wasn’t criticizing me) said “You do know you need one as well”.  She wasn’t trying to make a sale; she wasn’t talking me into trying something on for fun.  She was clearly telling me my bust could use a serious boost.  Before I knew it my turn had come to be manhandled into a bra.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised I needed one as well, after all supposedly Oprah herself claims 80% of women wear the wrong size bra.

After leaving the shop our feathers were a bit ruffled but our breasts were glorious.  She wasn’t the sweetest woman in the world.  The experience was certainly not the average ‘the customer is always right’ exchange.  It was more like a mother from the past telling us she knows what’s best for us and feeding us spoonfuls of castor oil.  The experience didn’t feel great but the results were phenomenal.  I have never before and not since had a shopping experience remotely similar.

Why was this shopping excursion special?  The experience was REAL.  This lady KNEW what she was talking about.  She had a skill and she wasn’t afraid to admit it.  She made no excuses, tried no false flattery, cut to the heart of the issue and took charge of what to others can be an awkward situation.

Where in your life can you show up as Cat’s Pajama Saleslady?  When do you need to admit you have knowledge that is important?  When do you need to drop the false flattery and excuses and cut the heart of the matter?  One of the buzz words right now is AUTHENTICITY.  When do you need to be more authentic?

Oh yeah, and it’s always ok to get support . . .

Note: The friend in this post will likely play a role in many posts.  After warning her, she had the chance to choose her pseudonym and she chose Gillian.  Trust me, reading a pseudonym will be more fun than reading ‘my friend’ a million times.

Posted in AUTHENTICITY, Be Inspired | Leave a comment