As I was in the middle of a rough Tabata session today, the instructor brought up dolls, and I realized, our girls deserve better toys. She said she never let her mother buy her daughter those American Girl dolls… and then I was too busy doing kegel exercises in between jumping jacks to hear the rest. As I was surrounded by women, of all shapes and sizes, lots of mothers, college students, young and old, I realized that the dolls of my youth, did a terrible job of representing my worth as a woman.
As I left Tabata, red faced and drenched with sweat, I felt like a strong, sexy woman. I didn’t care if my makeup was running, because I didn’t have any on. I didn’t care that I had armpit stubble every time I went up for an extension. I didn’t care that my chub roll showed each time I sat down, or that my sports bra did a terrible job of hiding my back fat. I didn’t even care that through the smell of sweat, I detected a faint smell of urine (must do more kegels).
I was the complete opposite of any perfect little girly, girl doll of my youth and yet I felt strong, empowered, and beautiful. Fuck you, Barbie. Thanks to you, (and other pink plastic toys) it took me 36 years to get over the definition of feminine in my own head. In that moment, walking out of the gym in all my glory, I was the definition of woman.
It’s no wonder that my daughters have never played with Barbie dolls or owned any doll that eats, pees, poops, cries, farts, or whines. A relative bought them each an American Girls Dolls and they sat in a stuffed animal bin until their blonde silky hair got matted and I gave them away. Rag dolls and porcelain dolls creep me out, almost as much as a Barbie Doll with a 3 inch thigh gap. These types of dolls serve no purpose in raising self sufficient girls.
I’d rather my daughters have a doll with dirt on her face. One who drives her own truck, rather than ride shotgun in a convertible. I want the dirt to come from fixing her own flat tire and thick, beautiful thighs to show she lifted that truck tire into her flatbed by herself.
A girl needs a set of weights in addition to a kitchen set so she can not only learn to cook her own healthy meals, but build the muscle to become strong.
Instead of a princess castle, she needs a tool set. The pallet crafts of today, will be tomorrow’s home repairs, making her more independent and empowered.
If you still need to get her dolls, ditch the high fashion outfits and tutus, and buy female dolls dressed like professionals, doctors or scientists. These are positive images that will inspire them into these careers as they get older.
Pretend play is important, just make sure your kids have a lot of options. We had a dress up bin that contained princess dresses, but it also had everyday hero costumes like a firefighter, super heroes and professional costumes, like a veterinarian.
Whether you subconsciously buy the same toys you played with as a kid, or you think you’re doing what every other parent does, stop and think of it’s purpose and most importantly, it’s message. Paint the image you want your children to see, don’t let others control that.
Holiday time is coming! Please consider buying purposeful gifts this year. If you need toy ideas, click on the red hyper links in the text. It will bring you to samples through my Amazon account.
When my kids grow up, I want their hearts to be free, their souls to be nourished, and their burdens to be few.
Part III: It’s time to change the American Dream
College grads with more debt than job opportunity. Jobs that take us away from our families while barely paying us enough to make repairs on our home. Happy marriages that are statistically more likely to end in divorce. Entitled kids that can’t see beyond their tiny phone screen. 16 million people suffering from depression in America. Food that is literally killing us. These are all things that are “normal” in American society. All things that are part of the American Dream, we are unconsciously living.
This version of the American Dream is soul crushing and has to be changed. Recently, my husband and I tried to make some drastic changes to our American Dream.
We put our 2000 square foot home on the market to live in a 700 square foot camper for one year. We were only going to keep the essentials (clothes, sentimental items, etc), pack them into the truck and travel with our 3 girls across the country (and back). I had a writing gig for money and of course, we would have some money from the sale of our home. We were going to document our travels and share with the world our new version of the American Dream.
More importantly, we were going to fulfill our dream of spending a year together as a family, seeing things none of us had ever seen before. As a teacher, I could teach the kids their online school work to ensure they met the “standards” but in traveling, they would be learning through experience, and there’s no greater lesson than that. Exploring caverns, and writing about adventures. Meeting Native Americans and learning about their sacred land. Camping under the stars and learning about science in our true environment. These lessons would be truly unforgettable.
However, this didn’t happen. We expected to sell our house in days, it sat on the market for weeks. We started to get pressure from family regarding our parenting and whether we were thinking of our own children in all this. It turned nasty, because some were too stuck in their selfish feelings that they were not able to see the amazing experience this would have been.
What I’ve learned is that the majority of people are afraid of change. They’ll work a dead end job where they spend more time at work than with their family, because they’re afraid to take a risk to try something different. They’ll listen to their kids complain about countless tests and an epidemic of bullying, because they don’t understand the endless school options now available.
I’ve also learned that many of the people who judge us, are the same people who discriminate against others. Their fear of the unknown motivates them to have a very closed-minded, one-sided view of the world, and they’re not afraid to give their very judgmental, biased opinion.
While these people are driven by fear, my husband and I are driven by purpose. Our purpose is to expose our girls to things in life beyond their current understanding. To bring experience and passion into their lives so when it’s time, they will make decisions based on experience, rather than someone else’s belief. They will be strengthened through our ability to take a risk without fear of failure and given the confidence to follow through on their dreams. Most importantly, we’ll give them the freedom to choose because we realize the importance of never telling someone who or what they can be.
Our dream is on hold right now, but it’s not dead. This year holds a lot of changes and we are very excited to embrace them and share them with all of you.
To be continued…
When my kids grow up, I want their hearts to be free, their souls to be nourished, and their burdens to be few.
Part II: About A Girl
Her parents didn’t have money to send her to college, they didn’t even have the means to make sure she finished high school. She was determined to go to college because there she would have freedom. All she ever wanted was a happy heart and a soul mate.
She thought she’d be a Sports Broadcaster, do something many women weren’t doing at the time. She loved football and imaged herself on the sidelines calling the game and talking to athletes. She was a dreamer.
Unfortunately, without any money, she had to work full time just to pay for part time credits in college. She was really good at her sales job, so much so that she made more money than her mom did that year. Her dad, who wasn’t in the picture much, was also in sales and applauded her choice to choose work over school. She had approval, money, and a boyfriend, but she was unfulfilled.
She worked at that company for 5 years before transferring to another city to follow her boyfriend. He had his degree, there was never any question that he was going to be in business. She found sales to drain her and went in search of something more.
She ended up getting married and having babies. Her heart was full as a stay-at-home mom. At night, she attended college classes and eventually earned her degree in education. She loved learning, it fed her soul.
Unfortunately, once she found herself, she lost her husband.
She could have sacrificed herself, forgiven him and moved on, like she had before, but this time even though her heart was breaking her soul was full. She chose to muster her strength and seek her happiness again. She found it, within another, but most importantly, within herself.
She never lost faith in herself. She was given the power of making her own decisions. She was given the trust to fall, knowing she would have to pick herself up again. She was given the confidence of unconditional love.
She has a free soul; Society resents her. She refuses to fit in a mold; Baby boomers judge her. Her heart can be a bit of a kamikaze; Realists laugh at her. She doesn’t care. Her mind is as open as her heart and she refuses to let anyone tell her how or what to think.
How do I use experiences like these to teach my girls how to be happy and empower them to make their own decisions? Read more below:
I have one simple wish for when my children grow up; I want their hearts to be free, their souls to be nourished, and their burdens to be few.
Part I: About a boy
It was Senior year, he had taken all the classes his parents told him to take and ended up with a very high GPA as well as a partial scholarship. When asked what college he was going to, he answered with the same college his mother went to. When asked what he wanted to major in, he answered with the program his dad guided him toward.
He chose finance because, well, money makes the world go ‘round. His parents assured him he would have no trouble finding a job after college and that his salary would be along the lines of what he had been raised on. His parents had money, and their spending whether it be on the design of their beautiful home, or extravagant trips, was never a secret.
He graduated with a Business Degree in Finance and got a job with a local branch of a Wall Street giant. Less than a year later, when the greed and corruption of floating money hit the fan, he was let go. He moved to Tampa to follow his fiancé, and has been crunching numbers with the same company for over 10 years.
He eventually married his high school sweetheart, bought a nice house in the suburbs, and had a couple of kids, but he wasn’t happy. Why wasn’t all of it enough?
It wasn’t enough because he was living someone else’s dream.
He sacrificed his love of art, and his dreams of living in a big city. He never took his musical talent seriously, even though music is what nourishes his soul. He liked the attention of exotic girls, and imaged himself dancing with them until the wee hours of the night at an underground nightclub in London. The image of himself in his heart and in his soul, were unrealistic compared to who he had to be in the eyes of others, so he killed them.
He stopped dancing. He stopped making art. He stopped making music. He hated his job. He got divorced. He felt like he sacrificed it all, for what?
His soul was lost in an American Dream he didn’t create. It’s like a version of the Truman Show where everyone is controlling your life without you realizing it. One day you wake up, and go “who’s life I this? Who am I?”
He lives without true freedom, without a happy soul, and with more burdens than he can carry.
Want to read more?
“Mom, is being gay cool?”
Heck yeah, and why shouldn’t it be? The right to love who we want to love and sacrifice it all is a story as old as Adam and Eve. Aside from Adam, nobody has given up more for love than our beloved gays. They’ve redefined the word PRIDE and continue to fight. That’s really fucking cool!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t explain it like that. I had to explain the dark, ugly side where people still discriminate against those who are different. I had to explain that our society only embraces what it can understand, but give her hope that the positive changes will continue because of people like her.
The new normal
American culture tells us that normal relationships include a man and a woman with approximately 2 kids, who are 50% likely to get divorced. The debt and destruction from these types of normal relationships are part of our views of “normal.” I’ve lived this version of normal, and yet still managed to open myself up to love again.
As a privileged straight female I am free to marry again and again and again and again. I can have babies, adopt babies, even give up my babies. I can kiss my husband in public, I can hold his hand and sit on his lap without getting any disgusted looks from people passing by. I can abuse the privilege of love given to me because I’m straight.
Our gay friends do not have the same privilege. One friend who has given his life to help those with intellectual disabilities can’t be given the peace his partner brings him when in the hospital. He’s dying of cancer and spends weeks at a time alone in the hospital without the love of his life.
Another friend and I have had numerous talks about his struggle to come out and his tremulous past. After ending a 10 year relationship, he talked to me about how difficult it is for a gay man to find love when there is still so much unease in society. If he gets a mixed signal and flirts with a straight man he could be assaulted. We’ve talked about Tinder and oversexualization and STD’s, the list goes on.
These men, my friends, are over 50 years old and have lived a life in fear of expressing their God given right to love.
I like to think that the millennials are changing this. That we are embracing love as love and opening our minds to a world where gender and sexuality are less black and white.
What’s really cool is having an open dialog with our kids when it comes to sexuality.
As a mom, I don’t worry whether my children will be gay. I worry that they will not be equipped to handle the heaviness of sexuality. It is my job to make sure they are educated in all aspects of sexuality including their own bodies and choices when it comes to sex.
From breasts to bodily fluids, I’m the kind of mom who isn’t afraid to talk about sex. While I don’t make it a point to do it in front of other people’s kids, my daughter asked me a question in front of one of her friends, and when I answered her friend said, “oh my gosh! My mom never talks about periods. She says it’s gross and tells me to be quiet.” It seems, some adults even have trouble talking bout “normal” things.
If our kids can’t turn to their parents for answers, they will turn somewhere else. Their confusion could lead them to misunderstandings about themselves and about other people.
Here are 3 ways I approach questions regarding sexuality:
I listen to the stories of people who cross my path. I share their stories and sometimes make changes to my approach because of their experiences. I am constantly evolving because I recognize that as long as we have differences, I have more to learn.
I also listen to my daughter’s stories about what happening in their world and help them navigate the rocky waters of adolescents.
My oldest came home from school telling me about a friend, Arianna who cut all his hair off and is now Ari. I didn’t offer any judgement or assumptions, I simply talked to her about it. I asked her whether it changed their friendship, she said it didn’t. We talked about whether his parents were supportive. They have him in counseling to help his transition. Finally, we talked about how hard this must be for him and why it’s so important to treat every person with kindness and respect. When I listen, I don’t judge.
2. Avoid labels
During middle and high school students feel the need to label their sexuality; gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, gender neutral. I had a 7th grade student who came in to talk to me during lunch to tell me she thought she was asexual. When I asked why, she said, “because so many of the girls here like boys or are having sex and I don’t want anything to do with that.” I smiled and told her she’s perfect just the way she is. She, of course, rolled her eyes, but her teeth showed through her lips as she realized she didn’t need to label herself according to her peers.
Make sure kids know that there is a wide range of maturity at this age. If they are not having sexual desires, that is definitely okay. If they are, make sure they know about personal responsibility and the power of their choices.
3. Share many stories of different kinds of love
To a sexually mature adult, it is obvious that loving your best friend is different than the romantic, sexual desire you feel for your husband, but kids don’t always know there are different kinds of love. As a result, they may think that their love for their best friend means they are gay or bisexual.
One way to make this distinction is to share the story of how you developed feelings for their mom or dad. Talk about romantic love through the butterflies in the stomach, the tingling feeling you get when you hold hands. Romantic love can also mean being so nervous you sweat or fantasizing about the other person.
After meeting my friend Sam for coffee, my daughter who was with us, asked if he was gay. I said yes and she smiled like she already knew. She asked if he was married and I had to explain to my 8 year old that gay people couldn’t marry in our state. She was shocked and said, “nobody should be able to tell you who you can love forever.” Even she knew that love is not a tangible thing to be controlled, but a feeling. If you tell someone not to love, you will be met with confusion, anger or resentment.
Instead, of telling our kids who they can love, we should teach them how to love.
Talking about sexuality with your kids is not an easy thing to do. If you are having trouble, seek help. If your child is really struggling with an issue that is beyond your understanding, get them someone to talk to. Counseling or online support groups are a great place to start.
This is the first year, I did not spend the first day of school greeting 120 new students into my classroom, but instead was able to take my own children to school on the first day.
As a high school teacher, I spent my nights grading rather than helping my own kids with their homework. On the weekends I was planning lessons rather than playing at the park. Summers were spent in unpaid trainings to help keep my professional certificates current. While every job has it’s demands, there is no greater responsibility that being in charge of the growth and development of hundreds of children, other than my own.
I left teaching last year for many reasons, and lack of support is a big one. Here are 5 things I wish I could have told my student’s parents:
1. Teachers need your help at home
They need you to be there for your kids, in regard to learning, as they are every day. For an hour a day, provide time and attention at home as a teacher would (no phones, TV, etc.). Make a space at home that feels safe and welcoming so they can focus. Take an interest in what your child is learning in school. Look at their grades online, talk to them about the obstacles they are facing, and if you can’t help with school work, don’t be ashamed. Reach out to you child’s teacher for resources such as tutoring, counseling, or online help. Most of the time, an hour a day of parental involvement will stop issues at school.
2. Teachers are NOT your enemy
They want your child to succeed, not just because they care (and they really do), but because many times your child’s progress impacts their pay and school funding. Teachers begin fitting the standards to your unique child on Day 1. If you feel a teacher “has it out” for your child, listen to his/her concerns and find out what interventions or accommodations have been made. Come up with some solutions as a team and work together to help your child.
3. Teachers hold professional degrees
While the pay is much different, earning a teaching degree can be compared to a degree in law or in the medical field. In addition to a college degree, teachers must complete 6 months of an unpaid internship and pass two very lengthy, difficult exams in order to be granted a teaching license. They must earn professional certificates in addition to their degree. These certificates include teaching students with learning disabilities and English Language Learners. Once hired, all teachers must take classes every year in order to keep up with the current trends and to keep their teaching license current.
4. Busy is an understatement
Think of what it’s like at the worst possible hour in your house and then multiply it by 100. This is what teacher’s endure every day. From planning lessons, to executing them properly for each individual child, to managing behavior, grading papers, lunch room or bus duty, your child’s teacher has an enormous amount of responsibility. A secondary public school teacher interacts with over 200 teenagers everyday, have a little mercy on them when it comes to returning an email right away.
5. There are times your child’s teacher has no control
I have never met a teacher who isn’t teaching BECAUSE of his/her students. While they continue to put their student’s needs first, people of power are trying to fit every child into one single mold and capitalize off education. New standards, lack of textbooks and resources, mandated state testing, new teacher accountability requirements, all mean added paperwork for our teachers and less time with students.
One parent at open house started yelling at the teacher because her textbook was online. She didn’t tell the parent the state cut school funds and stopped providing books, instead she defended the accessibility of an online resource. Most times, teachers cannot speak out and must teach within the perimeters they are given. Concerns regarding funding, standards, testing, etc. should be dealt with in voting booths, not classrooms.
Teachers and parents both want our children to succeed. We want our kids to go on to be caring, smart, productive members of society, but in order for this to happen, we must start working together.
I have never stopped referring to my former students as my kids, even though some of them have graduated from college and are now my peers. They will forever be in my heart and that is the reward of teaching that I will miss the most.
Earlier this month I was asked to write a guest post for StopMedicineAbuse.org, a website that educates parents on the dangers of over the counter medicine abuse as well as important topics regarding teens.
JUNE 06, 2017 – published on stopmedicineabuse.org
Co-parenting teens can present some unique challenges. As a parent to three girls soon entering their teens, I worry about whether I will be able to give them all the guidance they need to become self-confident, independent women. For 320 days a year, I try to parent selflessly and place them at the center of my world, while the remaining 44 days a year, they are with their dad whose parenting (and lifestyle) is very different than mine.
My daughters ask me many of the same questions I have to answer as a high school teacher. Students come to me with fear and confusion because their lives are changing so much at the hands of their parents, and they feel like they have no control. I often ask myself how I can create a soft place for them to land when I have no control over what they’re going through outside my classroom.
When my kids, be it my daughters or my students, aren’t with me I want them to have the tools needed to navigate through any situation and still feel a sense of safety and control. Here are some things parents can do to help their teen through divorce:
Read more here: http://stopmedicineabuse.org/blog/details/how-to-co-parent-teens-after-divorce
Can sleep apnea actually cause hormonal chaos and even infertility? It sure can.
My readers know that Brent and I have been on a medical journey over the last 2 years that has taken us away from our intended path of having a baby and led us to a whole new understanding of health.
Since Brent was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, we have learned that hormones affect more than just reproductive health, they regulate your brain and mental health as well as your heart, blood, digestive, and other vital systems that keep our bodies going.
After medication and a year of environmental changes, Brent’s MRI showed the tumor did not grow and his prolactin levels are in the normal range now. Unfortunately, his testosterone is still low so his doctor is thinking that maybe the brain tumor isn’t the cause.
Brent’s endocrinologist is wondering if sleep apnea is the culprit. Here is what we know and what we are learning about how sleep apnea impacts your health.
Brent was diagnosed with sleep apnea 3 months ago after an at home sleep study revealed low oxygen levels while sleeping. This test just confirmed what I already knew and had been telling him for years (doesn’t wife always know best). Aside from daytime sleepiness and loud snoring, there are common symptoms of sleep apnea that many times only the partner will observe.
The most notable symptom is short periods of absent breathing.
I’ve been kept awake so many times by Brent’s snoring that I know his sleep patterns:
- He starts with deep breaths and sucks air so hard his entire chest heaves in and out.
- He struggles so much for air that he actually begins to sweat while sleeping.
- About an hour into sleep he will sometimes stop breathing for 5-10 seconds at a time.
- He wakes up often, sometimes without knowing he’s awake.
This unconscious waking throughout the night has actually caused some problems in our relationship. Whether he’s waking up to cough (or spit whatever has been caught in his airway), use the bathroom, or grab a snack or drink from the kitchen, I try to become invisible.
Middle of the night Brent is like an angry, walking beast, unaware of his path or anyone in its way. For this reason, I remain quiet and try to avoid a confrontation at all cost.
The problem is since he’s so tired all the time, he always falls asleep first, sometimes as early as 8pm on the couch. It takes everything in me to wake up this angry beast and hope he peacefully walks into the bedroom and goes back into his slumber. When he doesn’t, a wide range of things can happen:
- He questions everything I’ve been doing while he’s been asleep.
- He gets mad if I pick a certain show because I didn’t consult him (in his sleep).
- He blames me for why he fell asleep in the first place.
- He’ll put me down for the fact that I don’t have to wake up early like him.
- The worst is when he asks for sex after being asleep, snoring for hours. When I say no, he gets very angry and takes some pretty good shots at our relationship.
As hard as I try I sometimes find myself in a full argument with a nearly unconscious man who’s snoring has seemed to capture me as its prisoner as much as my poor husband.
I thought this was the worst of it, until Brent’s endocrinologist told us that sleep apnea could be causing major issues in every aspect of his health.
At his recent appointment, Brent’s endocrinologist prescribed a CPAP machine to regulate his hormones. What? Could his lack of sleep be causing infertility?
We’ve all heard that our body needs sleep in order to “recharge” and this is so true when it coming to hormones. 70% of the human growth hormone is released during sleep which means most men can replenish all the testosterone they need on a nightly basis. Since Brent is not reaching deep, restorative sleep at night, his body is not producing the testosterone he needs to function during the day.
Aside from low sperm count Brent exhibits no symptoms of “Low T” but there are other hormones impacted when this imbalance occurs, including dopamine, serotonin, and other necessary regulators. When one is out of whack, others are too sending your body into survival mode. When our bodies don’t create it, we look for other means to get it.
For couples trying to get pregnant, low testosterone and low sperm count can be treated with hormone therapy, unless the patient suffers from sleep apnea. Those who suffer from sleep apnea are at risk for heart attack, stroke, and arrhythmia due to decreased oxygen levels, so most doctors will not prescribe hormone therapy until a sleep study is complete and the apnea is resolved.
Sleep allows our body to repair damage at the cellular level. Brent works his muscles every day at the gym and at work, but at night he’s not getting the sleep needed to recover. Since there is a shortage of oxygen in his system at night, his body is creating more red blood cells than needed in order to make up for the shortage. This is why his blood results show elevated hematocrit levels.
Elevated hematocrit can indicate low oxygen levels in the blood. At night while Brent struggles to breath, his system is being deprived of oxygen. His body becomes so accustomed to these low levels that his blood levels remain elevated throughout the day.
Although symptoms of high hematocrit usually include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and muscle pain, it could cause serious illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
We now know that sleep apnea can cause chronic health conditions and may be causing more problems than a pillaging, angry beast in my bedroom at night. The CPAP machine may not be Brent’s ideal sleeping partner, but when I see him with that mask on, he looks like superhero to me.
Want to see Brent’s CPAP journey? Click here.