The Challenge of Raising A Gentle Giant

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He wasn’t my first-born, but the moment they placed the sweet little bundle of boy in my arms I knew there would be different challenges in raising him. He was a healthy baby and thankfully those challenges wouldn’t be of the medical sort, but the difference in raising a boy are always present. As he entered the years of playgrounds and sandboxes, there began the instances of little boys wanting to play a bit rougher than I had witnessed my daughter and her playmates at that age. Pushing and shoving, sticks in the air, and mutterings of “boys will be boys” filled the playground and my little guy’s world. They also filled my heart with trepidation and a little despair as I wondered how I would raise the kind of man I wanted my son to be, the kind who was compassionate to others, who was aware of someone’s need and was willing to help them, the kind who would be strong yet gentle.

Inevitably, my sweet little boy gravitated toward sports, specifically football, and I was faced with yet another challenge. Raising a boy to be tough in sports can be a double-edged sword. Even with the best of coaches, and he’s had some amazing ones, the sidelines are filled with shouts to “tackle harder” and “get that guy” and “you’re tougher than that” none of which are intended to encourage aggression off the field, yet teaching them to leave it all on the field takes constant reminders and discussions I wish I didn’t have to have with my son at such a young age. A love of sports comes with an interest in professional athletes some of which didn’t learn to “leave it all on the field” and are in the news for domestic abuse, animal abuse, and other behaviors that maybe stem from a belief that they are invincible and will hear the cheers no matter what they do. It’s not that I don’t expect to have these tough conversations with my kid, but having the “when a girl says no, it means no” conversation was one I thought would come a bit later in life.

football, gentle giant, compassion

5 Things I Want My Gentle Giant To Know:

1. Being a great athlete is more than being great on the field. The world is your field and when your days of sports come to an end, it is on this field where your performance will truly matter.

2. When a girl says no, it means no, but she shouldn’t have to say no. You should be aware if she’s uncomfortable and back off. Truth is this goes for anyone in any situation. 

3. Always be the guy who stands up for what is right instead of the guy who lingers in the background, knowing he’s witnessing something very wrong, but is uncomfortable speaking up.

4. Don’t get caught up in messages like “man up” and ” real men don’t cry” and the idea that men are superior to women or that being part of a wolf pack ups your cool factor. Be you, whatever that looks like.

5. Be aware of your surroundings in all you do in your life. Being present and being aware of those around you will make you the best person you can be as you will be truly in touch with others and those who might need a little compassion in their life.

As a mother of a daughter and a son, I share this advice with both and try to raise my children equally. The truth is the world still demands differences from each, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. I encourage my children to be the best they can be in all they do, including sports, and I am always their biggest cheerleader. However, it is my job as a parent to have the difficult conversations, to constantly remind them of what is truly important, to raise compassionate human beings no matter their gender.

I’m raising champions, but I also choose to raise gentle giants. What do you choose?

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This post was part of this month’s #1000speak. Add your post by following the link below.

Grounds For Sculpture

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“Everything you can imagine is real.” ― Pablo Picasso

“One eye sees, the other feels.” ― Paul Klee

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection.” ― Oscar Wilde

The Red String Of Fate

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“It is part of scientist Matthew Lieberman’s case that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water.” Lieberman who is a Professor and SCN (Social Cognitive Neuroscience) Lab Director at UCLA Department of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences conducts research on social cognitive neuroscience which focuses on how the human brain carries out social information processing. His research has led him to a connection between physical pain and social pain. Next time someone tells you their heart is broken or their feelings are hurt, stop and think about that for a minute.

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I personally believe we are wired to connect and crave that social acceptance on some level. However, as I’ve told my children with every relocation, you only need one good friend to make it feel like home. Some believe they need to be surrounded by people to feel accepted, invited to all the parties, hit a certain number of likes, followers, or “friends” on social media. When I think of that feeling of coming home, the kind that illicits a deep, satisfied sigh as the corners of your mouth inevitably form a smile, I think of the people I have truly connected with through the years. I have been lucky enough to meet people from all walks of life in my many moves, and am a better person for it. And yet, during each of those periods in my life there were only a couple whom I felt in my very soul I had been destined to cross paths with, meant to connect with if only for a short time.

In those instances, I always recall an old folklore:  Walking home one night, a young boy sees an old man standing beneath the moonlight. The man explains to the boy that he is attached to his destined wife by a red thread. He shows the boy the young girl who is destined to be his wife. Being young and having no interest in having a wife, the young boy picks up a rock and throws it at the girl, running away. Many years later, when the boy has grown into a young man, his parents arrange a wedding for him. On the night of his wedding, his wife waits for him in their bedroom, with the traditional veil covering her face. Raising it, the man is delighted to find that his wife is one of the great beauties of his village. However, she wears an adornment on her eyebrow. He asks her why she wears it and she responds that when she was a young girl, a boy threw a rock at her that struck her, leaving a scar on her eyebrow. She self-consciously wears the adornment to cover it up.

According to this East Asian belief, the gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. There are different variations including that those connected to this string which can stretch but never break are destined to be lovers, even married at some point. From what I’ve experienced, soul mates come in all forms.

Red String Of Fate

My red string has stretched and pulled and at times felt like it would physically snap in two, but someone on the other end always seems to take a step closer loosening the tension and bringing us even closer together once more. I like to believe there isn’t just one person on the other end of that string as that responsibility shouldn’t fall on one single person. When I picture who is connected to my red string of fate, I can see all those who love me unconditionally whether the string is extended farther than humanly possible or so close I can see its fraying edges. Those I’ve truly connected with will always be on the other end of a string that leads right to my heart. And, if you see me on the other end of your string and ever need me to take a step closer, just give that string a little tug. I’m here.

 

Whom do you see on the other end of your red string of fate?

This post was part of this month’s #1000speak focusing on the theme of connection.

This Is Not Just A Sweater

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“If I close my eyes, I can see her sitting on the brown velour seventies couch in our living room wrapped in that ugly green sweater, relaxing with each passing minute as though cocooned in a blissful state of peace.” – Little Miss Wordy

My little tribute to my own mom is featured today at What The Flicka?

I hope you’ll check it out and remember a little something special about those who’s motherly

role in your own life made a difference.

Texas Style

I Said Goodbye To An Old Love Today

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“I said goodbye to an old love today. My heart squeezes in my chest every time I allow myself to think about it. The pain is still fresh and the memories hit me uninvited as they slam into my unsuspecting mind and pin me down, holding me hostage until I have to catch my breath and take the journey. It wasn’t all heartbreak and these glimpses of what it once was often bring a bittersweet smile with them though I fight the pull with every tiny movement of the over twenty muscles it takes to smile, or so they say.” – Little Miss Wordy

I’m featured over at Felicity Huffman’s What The Flicka? today and am twice as excited because Helen Hunt is this month’s Guest Editor! I hope you’ll check it out and share!

What The Flicka?/I Said Goodbye To An Old Friend Today

Texas Style

Ten Things Of Thankful

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1. I’m thankful I have the physical ability to drag myself to the gym every day even if the enthusiasm isn’t always there. I’m always thankful I did it when it’s over.

2. I’m thankful my family and I never go hungry. Our hearts are full. Our fridge is stocked. Our souls are fed.

3. I’m thankful for making new friends at this stage of my life. When you’re in your 40’s, making a new friend is an unexpected golden nugget that brightens your world.

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4. I’m thankful to have experienced “normal” at our house these last two weeks when my other half wasn’t traveling for a change. “Normal” looks good on us.

5. I’m thankful to have discovered a new coffee flavor for my Keurig. That morning cup sets the tone for the rest of my day and a delicious flavor is a great start.

6. I’m thankful to have discovered a poem that inspired me this week. It stayed with me for days so I shared it here.

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7. I’m thankful for those I’ve loved and lost. In the loving and losing I’ve grown bigger than the biggest elephant on the tallest tree.

8. I’m thankful my children still want to scoot over on the couch and rest their head on my shoulder without any prompting from me.

9. I’m thankful for friends near and far who reach out when they sense my heart may need a hug.

10. I’m thankful for the drive within me that may dim for a brief time, but never goes completely dark.

Head over to Lizzi Rogers’ Ten Things Of Thankful linkup here.

Imagine A Woman

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Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.
A woman who listens to her needs and desires.
Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Victoria's Secret, Undressed, Lingerie

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.
– Patricia Lynn Reilly

Are You A Chinet Or A Dixie?

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The days are warming up as the sunshine begins to grace us with its presence, but it feels like we’ve just wrapped up the holidays chockfull of picture worthy dining rooms photographed as proof that we are capable of dressing up our tables as much as our bodies. As Easter approaches, we are presented with another occasion to pull out the fine china and gather round the beautifully set table with family and friends. Each place setting lovingly set with items that were pulled out of their resting places in dark corner cabinets, washed, and given a prominent place on the table.

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I love a magazine worthy table as much as the next person, but I’ve come to accept that we are living what I refer to as the Paper Plate Years. The truth is with active young children, dogs, work, workouts and only twenty four hours in a day, paper plates have been a life saver at our house on many an occasion. The benefits of a quick table setting, less dishes to wash, and guilt free recycling currently outweigh a pile of dishes in the sink battling for attention with nightly tooth brushing and tucking in services.

Place Setting, Holiday Table, Dinner Party

And, I’ve begun to use the term Paper Plate Years in other aspects of our lives too.

The lack of dishes in the sink, makes for quick clean up and more time for my husband and I to enjoy some evening quiet time, watch a show or catch up on our day as date nights during the Paper Plate Years often consist of evenings in rather than evenings out.

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The Paper Plate Years may also come in the form of carpets that are showing wear and tear and are in need of being replaced or a car that may have run its course but the money is more wisely spent elsewhere for now.

Dreams of fine china vacations may currently be replaced by staycations during the Paper Plate Years and laundry may not get the attention it needs in exchange for loads of family time instead.

Homework is a large part of the Paper Plate Years as school projects need supervision and little readers need encouragement.

The house may not be as pristine during these Paper Plate Years, but life is messy when you’re living it to the fullest.

Intimate moments may often feel impossible with toddlers in the house, but your creativity will surprise you (and your partner) during the Paper Plate Years.

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We’ve all experienced the Paper Plate Years at some stage in our lives. Some of us may still be living smack dab in the middle of them. Each phase of our lives brings with it a set of challenges but also a set of dreams. When the kids are young or money is tight it’s easy to lose ourselves in wishful forecasts of what awaits, but the Paper Plate Years are the memories we will look back on and cherish when we have plenty of time, money, and energy for date nights, vacations, new cars and clean homes.

The most important thing is to be fully present in the here and now as you pull up your chair to your family table and make it a fine dining experience filled with love, conversation, and of course, paper plates.

In what aspect of your life have you experienced the Paper Plate Years?

Some People Are Hard To Love

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Some people are hard to love. Some people’s choices differ from ours. Their actions don’t make sense to us. Their beliefs are foreign to us. Some people are hard to love.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to love them anyway. It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our love, our time, our compassion.

When my daughter was one, we took her to see her first movie, Disney’s Finding Nemo. She was mesmerized by the giant screen which transformed before her eyes, when the lights dimmed and the movie started, into an aquarium larger than life . There’s a scene in the movie where the seagulls are all intent upon eating Nemo and his friend Dory, repeatedly claiming their prey with an incessant chant, “mine, mine, mine, mine.” To me, it is the funniest scene in the movie. My daughter is now twelve and I still laugh at that scene.

The thing is, I’m not sure if it’s the scene itself or the fact that it reminds me of our own human behavior. It seems to me we’ve perfected this seagull mentality in our own lives as we build walls around our yards and ultimately our lives, as we claim our prey in the form of a new car, a promotion, a cool friend before others do because how would that make us look after all. Many of us, blinders on, choose to ignore the signs when someone needs help, dismissing it with a “it’s not my problem” attitude.

If you’ve ever been around a toddler for any amount of time, you know it is much like this scene in Finding Nemo. Compassion begins at home. It is our job to teach them to be aware of other’s needs as well as instill in them compassion when it comes to those around us. I’m not going to get into a political debate here because that’s not what this post is about. As I stated above, we all have our own beliefs, etc. I believe if I worked for something, I earned it. I don’t expect some greater power to demand I share what’s mine with someone else. What I do expect is for me to help someone less fortunate in my way when I see a need. I am raising my children to do the same. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, compassion should always be present.

Life isn’t a fairytale or a Disney movie with a guaranteed happy ending. As I like to say, we each have our own once upon a time, our own unique upbringing, our own cultures, our own personal experiences that make us who we are today. However, we can all come together to write the next chapter. We can reach out and help someone close a hurtful chapter and begin a new, more promising one. In the simplest of ways, we can make a difference for someone by simply showing compassion whether in person, in writing, online, with a comment or even a smile.

Teach the children in your life to be aware of the needs around them, to be kind, to love those who are hard to love, and to show compassion in all they do. It has been said it takes a village to raise a child. Do your part to raise a compassionate child for that same child will grow up to have a role in the very same village some day.

1000 Speak, Compassion

This post was written as part of an initiative that is near and dear to my heart, 1000 Voices For Compassion.

I invite you to join 1000 bloggers on February 20, 2015 as we flood the internet with compassion in the form of blog posts, videos, photos, etc.

Write a post about compassion on your blog, join our Facebook Group, invite others to participate.

You don’t have to be a writer to submit a post to the website or simply post a comment on FB, share a post or tweet something compassionate with the hashtag #1000speak then sit back and see how one little blog post has become a movement.

The preparation of this event is already connecting people across the globe. It has taken on a life of its own which to me simply means a little compassion goes a LONG way!

Let Them Eat Cake! – Photo Friday

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The day each of my children was born was life-changing for me as it is for many parents. I believe in celebrating their birthday special every year as much for them as for myself. Through the years, after the kids go to bed, I have spent many a night creating a cake for the occasion. Amid yawns and stretches, I relive each moment of my pregnancy, each memory of their birth. As I bake, ice and decorate, I imagine the look of joy on their sweet faces when they lay their eyes on the finished product. It may not be Cake Wars worthy, but I know they will remember these cakes and the love I poured into each one for many birthdays to come.

Do you have a special birthday tradition for your children or loved ones?

For more Finish the Sentence Friday and diabolical ideas of what to do when the kids go to sleep, check out

Kristi (Finding Ninee)      Stephanie (Mommy For Real)    Kerri (Undiagnosed but Okay)