All posts by kendycox

My Soccer Mom Journey: Defeat Doesn’t Preclude Victory

I have a confession.

It bothers me that my daughter isn’t a stellar soccer player.

Further, it bothers me that it bothers me that my daughter isn’t a stellar soccer player.

I’ll give you a minute to process those two statements.

When I delivered a beautiful baby girl almost eight years ago, I had a vision for what I wanted for her life. I prayed for health, happiness, and spiritual wisdom (hers and ours). I definitely didn’t have any strong desire for my daughter to play sports. Why? Because I didn’t play sports. In fact, I have no hand-eye coordination (or foot-eye coordination, for that matter) and early on I found my sweet spot in more creative endeavors and never looked back.

My husband, on the other hand, played every sport under the sun. To him, there was no doubt our little girl would be a natural athlete. Of course, the decision about what activities she wanted to pursue wasn’t up to us, so we waited for her to develop her own interests. Now, she really enjoys dance, has played one season of basketball, and excels in school. We are so very proud of her accomplishments.

And then there’s soccer.

Frankly, soccer stresses me out. The first year she played would have been comical if her teammates weren’t already so skilled. I expected to watch five-year-olds twirling on the soccer field, but instead I spent the entire year watching intense games while pretending her lackadaisical approach didn’t bother me. But it did. She stood around, played with her hair, approached the ball only when the Mars and Jupiter aligned, and looked forward to the post-game snacks far more than the actual games. I was relieved when the season came to an end and I asked her if she wanted to keep playing. I expected her to acknowledge that soccer might not be “her thing” and I secretly hoped she would want to move on to something else.

She wanted to keep playing. She loved soccer.

My daughter, Bailey, squinting into the sun after a game

The second year was a little better and she started to play with a sense of purpose. She made her first goal and I may or may not have shed a tear. The upward trajectory was short-lived, however, and she began to regress. My husband and I were frustrated and threw around phrases about “not applying yourself” and others we heard from our parents and vowed never to utter to our own children. At the end of the season, I asked her if she wanted to keep playing. Again, I secretly hoped she would ask to try something else instead.

And again she wanted to keep playing. She loved soccer.

So here we are nearing the end of her third full year of soccer. Most people say, “it’s only a game” but it’s also very difficult to watch your child struggle at said game. I hate watching her try so hard and still completely miss the ball or never get the ball at all. I hate listening to the exasperation in her coach’s voice when he addresses her during the games. I hate listening to the exasperation in my own voice, and that of my husband’s, when we call out to her from the sidelines. And I hate not knowing how I’m supposed to handle the post-game talk. If I don’t address her performance at all, I feel like I’m doing her a disservice. If I come down hard on her, I’m not adhering to the philosophy that youth sports are supposed to be fun.

Continue reading My Soccer Mom Journey: Defeat Doesn’t Preclude Victory

Unsung Lullabies: National Infertility Awareness Week

NOTE: Last year, I wrote an essay about infertility, miscarriage, and infant death. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week®, a nationwide campaign intended to educate the public about infertility and the concerns of the infertility community. In honor of the campaign, I reposted my “Unsung Lullabies” essay.

[kendy]

I’ll never forget the day I realized I was ignorant in my belief that having a baby is one of the simplest and most entitled acts in the world. My husband’s cousin Michael and his wife Tina were days away from delivering their first child and we were all excited for little Emma’s arrival. Then, in an instant, excitement turned to grief. Through a series of frantic phone calls and bits of information left on voicemails, we learned that the unthinkable had happened and Emma didn’t survive.

The aftermath was as sad and confusing as you might imagine. Even more than the trips to the hospital and the funeral, my most vivid memory is of watching the frenetic activity around me from within a cocoon of numbness. I felt like I was floating through a strange world that had spontaneously filled with uncertainty and betrayal. You see, I was just 25 at the time and Jason and I had begun conversations about starting a family. Those happy conversations were safely protected by what I thought was impenetrable hope. I had never known anyone who had suffered a miscarriage or lost a child in this manner and the only thought in my head for days on end was, “How can this happen?” Sure, childbirth USED to be serious business back in the day, but not now!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that modern technology has its limits. The reality is that pregnancies still end and babies still don’t make it. When I got pregnant with Bailey, I began to hear the stories I had been shielded from previously. Multiple miscarriages without any knowledge of the reason. Miscarriages at 16 weeks – long after the “safe” 12th week. Planning for months, even years, for a baby that inexplicably hasn’t become reality. Premature babies spending months in the hospital. In short, I became aware of a whole world of heartache I never knew existed.

While the list of women’s issues is long, few matters have remained closer to the hearts of women throughout time than the ability to create life. While some of us have always envisioned our lives with a gaggle of kiddos running around, others have taken steps along the way to preserve a life free from that responsibility, either temporarily or permanently. And, of course, the debate about abortion and reproductive rights wages on to this day. Regardless of the path we choose individually, we collectively have a stake in the reproduction game.  Continue reading Unsung Lullabies: National Infertility Awareness Week

There’s No Place Like Home

When my daughter was four years old (she is almost 8 now), she dropped a bombshell that instantly broke my heart.

“I want to run away from here!”

Even though I was a first-time mom, I knew that most children go through a “running away from home” phase. I may have been knowledgeable, but I was not at all prepared for the moment. I felt so betrayed by the child I’d loved and cared for so sacrificially. I clung to the knowledge that she did not mean it, that testing boundaries is a normal part of a child’s emotional development.

And yet I wanted to cry.

I wanted to ask her what her dad and I had done wrong as parents and vow to do better. I wanted to beg my preschooler’s forgiveness for “mean” things I’d done in the past or would do in the future.

Fortunately, I did not give in to these desires. Instead, I calmly began helping her plan her exodus.

“If you want to run away, I suppose the first thing you have to decide is where you’re going to go.”

She was incredulous, but also stubborn. “I will go to grandma’s house.”

I expected this response since Grandma lived a few streets away. It was evening and dark outside, so I posed a logistical question. “Okay, that’s probably a good place to go. So, have you thought about how you are going to get there?”

This seemed like an odd question to her. “You’re going to have to take me, of course.”

I knew my next revelation would throw her. “Well, that’s not really how it works. I do not wish for you to run away, so I’m not going to take you. If it is your desire to run away, you have to do it on your own.”

She immediately started to panic. “But it’s dark outside!” Continue reading There’s No Place Like Home

Is There Hope For The Friendship Flunky?

My fingers, usually clickity-click fast on my iPhone, hovered above the screen. I knew I was making this harder than it needed to be. Yes, I had chosen to text, because the thought of having this conversation in real time was just too scary. This way, if she said no, I wouldn’t have to quickly come up with an easy breezy comeback that belied my disappointment. If she said yes, well, I hadn’t exactly thought through the next step because I could hardly make myself begin the first. I typed…and then deleted what I typed because it sounded ridiculous. Sigh. How hard can this possibly be?

The above is a play-by-play of something I did just this last week. Was I asking my boss for a gigantic raise or delivering bad news to some unsuspecting soul? Nope. I was inviting some new acquaintances over to our house for a cookout.

Many of you will not understand why I got worked up over such a simple transaction. You don’t understand because friendships are easy for you. From that day in elementary school when you locked eyes with a girl wearing the same “My Little Ponies” t-shirt to the adult days of hosting neighborhood parties and going out for “girls’ nights”, you’ve never really thought about friendships as difficult or complicated. I am not you. I envy you. I do many things well, but making friends and maintaining friendships has never felt particularly effortless or natural. I am an accomplished woman – in fact, I’ve been called “Super Woman” twice this week – but friendship is a chink in my armor.

Growing up, I usually had one friend at a time as groups were intimidating. I often felt ill-equipped to navigate the dynamics of friend groups and far preferred to focus my attention in a single direction. I attended lots of group activities (dances, ballgames, etc.), but put far too much energy into making sure I had a plan for exactly what was going to happen once I arrived, who I was going to sit with, and what we were going to talk about. I was insecure about the friendships I had and often felt like I was constantly auditioning for my role, and only made new friends if they made the first move. And, I was quite passive if and when friendships shifted off course. A few very special people floated out of my life because I didn’t know what to do in response to a rift, so I did nothing at all. While this sounds incredibly depressing, I have somehow managed to enjoy some great friendships throughout my life, and for this I’m incredibly grateful. Thank goodness for people who make the first move!

Age has provided some perspective, but I’ll admit I still struggle with insecurity. About 5 years ago, I learned I am an introvert. I’ve spent my whole life performing, speaking in public, and leading in various capacities, none of which aligned with my perceptions of an introvert. Previously, I defined an introvert as someone who is anti-social or doesn’t like to talk. Well, I get along with people really well and I talk all the time (sometimes I talk so much I have to kick MYSELF under the table). In reality, I’m a fairly typical introvert. I do most everything with some degree of anxiety and fear and require ample down time to recover from my social activities. Further, when stressed, I withdraw as opposed to engage. This insight definitely helped the world make sense, particularly where my friendship history is concerned. Knowing how my personality impacts my actions definitely helps me strike the right balance and compensate for some of my natural tendencies that are counterproductive to maintaining relationships. Continue reading Is There Hope For The Friendship Flunky?

Do People Make Mistakes or Do Mistakes Make People?

“He’s such a jerk. He had a new girlfriend within a month of breaking up with my friend.”

“OMG. Clearly she has no morals.”

“I can’t believe someone would throw a fit like that. She’s crazy!”

Admit it. You’ve made a similar statement at some point in your life, perhaps even recently. I don’t have to look too far back in my own memory to stumble upon a few similarly disparaging comments. In making these statements, I felt justified in my conclusions about someone’s character based on their actions. Sadly, we often find a certain satisfaction – consciously or subconsciously – in pointing out, reveling in, or discussing others’ mistakes or offenses. If this was not the case, we would not have so many disreputable periodicals available for our perusal in the check-out line at the grocery store.

My question is this: How often do you define others by their worst behavior?  I know I’ve done it and I’m certain it’s been done to me. Should we chalk it up to human nature and move on, or should we change the way we respond?

On a blog I follow, MckMama recently explored the issue of defining others by their worst behavior. In the midst of personal pain that society would say easily warrants a hurled insult or twenty, she made a decision to abstain from defining her wrongdoer by his recent hurtful behavior. In her case, the wrongdoer is her husband who abruptly left the family a month ago (mom and 5 kids) and hasn’t spoken to any of them since. She is angry and heartbroken, and she desperately wants to lash out at him and about him. She has thousands of virtual friends who wouldn’t at all blame her , as well as the perfect medium to try him for his crimes. No one can argue that leaving the family was an honorable thing to do. However, MckMama has decided that her pain is no worse than his, even though she doesn’t fully understand the source of the pain or the reason behind these actions. She believes it is her responsibility to preserve her husband’s honor and character during this difficult time, certainly until they can put aside the hurt and get to the bottom of their issues. While he appears to be acting irresponsibly, he is also the same man she married and deserves more than being labeled, judged, and hated.

My own husband recently learned what it’s like to be defined by behavior he doesn’t even remember. Continue reading Do People Make Mistakes or Do Mistakes Make People?

Whitney Houston: The Soundtrack Of My Youth

A week ago, I wouldn’t have labeled myself a Whitney Houston fan. Sure, I can appreciate her talent and my, oh my, was she a pretty lady, but I hadn’t kept up with her career since long before she entered her turbulent Bobby Brown years.

Her tragic and untimely death prompted me to reflect on her long career. I had forgotten how many great songs she produced. I had forgotten that she acted for a little while. I had forgotten how many moments from my childhood and adolescence featured none other than Whitney Houston.

You need only log onto Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, or Google to see the many ways lifelong Whitney fans are paying tribute to their idol. These public discussions are tempered by those who are concerned about the lack of negative attention regarding the anticipated cause of death and the implications for how we as a society view drug use and abuse. My intention is not to address this conflict, as I don’t have anything to add to this particular discussion. I do, however, look fondly on the memories I unearthed this week from the recesses of my brain, and I will contribute to the various tributes by sharing those memories with you.

I clearly recall the first time I saw the Whitney Houston album cover and heard Whitney’s voice. Granted I was a child, but I had never heard a voice like hers and I certainly had never seen a woman who looked like her. You may remember the album cover – slicked back hair and exotic dress. She was gorgeous. My friends and I would spend hours dancing around our bedrooms singing “The Greatest Love of All” at the top of our lungs. We were convinced this song would change the world, but only if we sang it loudly enough and with extreme passion. My friend Hayley was a forward thinker and called dibs on having the song performed at her future wedding. We all reluctantly agreed to let her have it, because we couldn’t find a loophole in the dibs system. Come to think of it, I attended Hayley’s wedding and I’m pretty sure Whitney Houston was not present, nor was the coveted song performed. I knew I shouldn’t have given up so easily during those early negotiations.
Continue reading Whitney Houston: The Soundtrack Of My Youth

The Plight Of The All-Noing Parent

No. Nope. Negative. Nuh uh. Not gonna happen. Absolutely not. O, let me count the ways I tell my kids they can’t have or do something. In short, I say “no” A LOT.

I’ve heard a good amount of conflicting information about the impact of saying “no” to children. Now, I don’t think anyone would argue the need to stop a child from stepping into the street or touching a hot pan on the stove. There’s a good deal of discourse, though, about the right and wrong ways to respond when our children ask for (or demand) time, attention, or toys, or are behaving in a way that needs to be stopped.

While one expert expounds on the necessity of parents asserting authority and reinforcing firm boundaries, another warns of the devastatingly negative impact to a child’s self-esteem of denying kids their thoughts, opinions, and desires. As with many other philosophies in the parenting world, I feel like we are set up to feel guilty no matter where we stand on the issue.

Just in my circle of family and friends, I see divergent beliefs. Some parents work very hard to avoid saying “no” to their children. These parents aren’t pushovers, but they believe there is something inherently damaging about the word. They distract their toddler when they see the telltale gleam in her eye when staring at the dog’s food or when she’s demanding chips for dinner. They are quick to praise good deeds as a way to elicit only good behavior. And, they ask their kids why they want to do or have whatever it is they are asking for in order to understand the child’s point of view. The child eventually tires of the conversation and moves on to something else.

I also know parents who seem afraid to say no to their kids. They worry their children won’t love them if they are constantly denying them, stating life is too short not to experience simple and inconsequential joys. These parents are usually the same ones who appease their children in order to avoid anything “ugly” in front of other people. As long as the kids get what they want, there is no crying, whining time outs, etc.

Still others feel like “no” is almost an automatic response no matter the question. My husband and I fall into this category. We know we should be in charge and entered parenthood prepared for that authoritative job. We even knew our precious offspring would try to manipulate us – that’s what kids do – and we were poised and ready for the challenge. What we weren’t prepared for was all the gray area, blurred lines, and being so very tired! Lately we’ve been wondering whether our “nos” are always necessary or whether we sometimes take the easy way out instead of doing our kids justice by thinking critically about each situation.

I am not a parenting expert; I’m simply a parent trying to do right by my kids and stay sane in the process. I believe in positive reinforcement and parenting from a place of love and acceptance. I also think saying “no” is absolutely necessary. I believe this is the first step to teaching my children how to say “no” to themselves and others when something isn’t right – socially, morally, or legally. Down the road, when they are faced with life’s temptations, I want them to be able to use their own “no.” I try to remember that today’s second cookie quickly and easily turns into tomorrow’s far riskier choice. Continue reading The Plight Of The All-Noing Parent

10 Tips for the Calorie-Conscious and Culinarily Inclined

If you ask ten people about their New Year’s resolutions, at least half of them will disclose a new or renewed effort to lose weight. If you wait three months and ask those same people how they’re doing, you’ll discover most will have abandoned their weight-loss plan. Some will have tried in earnest, while others gave the plan a good deal of lip service but did very little to actually inspire change in their lives.

Change is difficult at best, and the change necessary for weight loss or healthier living often seems overwhelming. The majority of the well-intentioned population will make claims to go to the gym every single day, cut out all fat from their diet, or never again indulge in their favorite treat. The problem with these goals is that they are unachievable, and certainly not easily maintained.

While I am no fitness or nutrition expert, I am a fan of looking and feeling good. That said, I know firsthand how difficult it is to consistently align my actions with those desires. I don’t want to eat like a bird or have grilled chicken and broccoli for every meal. Even if I vowed to eat this one meal every night, my own preferences would inevitably take a backseat to the greater needs of my family.

With that in mind, I found a way (many ways, in fact) to keep my family full and satisfied without making drastic and unwelcome changes. I simply had to re-evaluate how I prepare our favorite foods and make small, and often undetected, adjustments. In the process, I’ve helped my family cut unnecessary fat and calories from our diets.

I have compiled some of my favorite cooking tips and tricks. I can’t promise amazing weight loss in 3 easy steps, but I can promise that incorporating a few of the below will, at the very least, help you feel more hopeful about reaching your health goals.

  1. Gobble it up. Substituting lean ground turkey for beef will cut your calories almost in half (and save you from having to drain your pan). I have successfully made this substitution in spaghetti, lasagna, chili, goulash, burgers, meatloaf, and more. If you haven’t substituted before, feel free to ease yourself into the idea by first substituting only half of your beef and then gradually increase the ratio of turkey to beef.
  2. Ditch the yolks, folks. I have yet to find one recipe calling for eggs that didn’t taste just as good when I used only the whites. For cakes and other baked goods, I compensate for the omission by either adding in an extra white or simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water to get the right consistency. When making scrambled eggs or quiche, you may want to use one or two whole eggs if the color of an all-white dish is off-putting.
  3. Be creatively cheesy. Most of you who have dabbled in low-fat eating have probably tried to use fat-free cheese for your favorite casserole or snack and are likely familiar with the non-melting quality of said cheese. I’ve found that I can use fat-free cheese for some dishes, like salads, where melting is not required. For a casserole, however, I like to use a mixture of two-percent and fat-free cheese, with full-fat cheese sprinkled on top for good measure. This way, you get all the melting and taste benefits without nearly as much fat as if you’d used the same quantify of full-fat cheese. I typically buy each different variety, but mix them together in a new container for ease of use when I’m cooking.
  4. Give vegetable oil a bad name. If a recipe calls for ½ a cup of oil, use ½ a cup of unsweetened applesauce instead. It provides the moisture necessary to bind your ingredients together and gives your baked goods a light, fruity taste. Plus, you save approximately 90 calories per serving. Continue reading 10 Tips for the Calorie-Conscious and Culinarily Inclined

The Girlfriend’s Guide To The Ultimate Staycation

When I was pregnant with my first child, I received several pregnancy and childbirth books from friends and loved ones. My favorite was The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy because, unlike the better-known What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the Girlfriend’s Guide provided me answers to my REAL questions – the ones I’d be too embarrassed to ask anyone but a trusted girlfriend who’d tell it to me straight. The author abandons the “this is the way it’s supposed to be” advice in lieu of a humorous account of what no one ever told her about the adventure of pregnancy.

Lest you think I mistitled this article, the explanation of my preferred literature is merely a frame of reference for the information to come. I recently took an extended period of time off work in order to spend quality time with my family. I rarely take more than a couple of days at Christmas because I want to save what little vacation time I have accrued for, well, vacation. However, this year I threw caution to the wind and took the lion’s share of time I had in the bank as a way to repay my family for the last several months of work stress and long hours away from them.

As I prepared for my first-ever staycation, I anticipated the time off like it was an exciting, new project. I asked friends for guidance on kid-friendly activities to fill our days. I made a list of chores I wanted to get done around the house. I fantasized about the memories we would make during our extended time together.

Now that I am back to work (sigh), I am reflecting on my expectations versus the reality of the experience. I hope I can speak for my family by saying we had a wonderful time. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t provide a somewhat more frank take on this family-bonding adventure. Much like what I appreciated in The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, I hope you will appreciate the between-you-and-me nuggets about what this working mom learned from staying home for 12 straight days.

Lesson #1: I did not accomplish 90% of the household projects on my list. I went into my time off with visions of reorganizing drawers and cabinets, finishing craft projects, sorting through clothes in the kids’ closets, putting pictures in albums, and cleaning my house from top to bottom. We DID make several trips to Goodwill and I printed, labeled and filed about 500 pictures. While most of my list remains undone, I now have photographic evidence that we have children in the house who are out of diapers. As a frame of reference, they are now 7 and 4.    Continue reading The Girlfriend’s Guide To The Ultimate Staycation

Lessons From A Bad Gift Giver

As much as I love Christmastime for the religious significance, decorations, music, and good cheer, I dread the everywhere-you-look (and listen) emphasis on gifts. I am not opposed to giving or receiving gifts, but the hustle and bustle is a constant reminder that I am a “bad” gift giver. You see, I believe the entire population can be divided into two categories – good or bad gift givers. A REALLY bad gift giver – the one who hastily selects their gifts from the shelves of 7-Eleven on Christmas Eve –  is on the list of the most repugnant holiday offenders along with the one who brings fruitcake to the party, the one who wears ugly Christmas sweaters (not in jest), and the mall Santa who cannot even grow a real beard. My self-given label of bad gift giver does not mean I give undesirable gifts, it just means I do not enjoy the shopping experience and I rarely feel like I have accomplished something meaningful with my resources.

While money is sometimes a factor in determining what constitutes “good” and “bad” where gifts are concerned, I would argue that being a great gift giver has less to do with financial means than a general confidence in the process of developing “outside the box” ideas. Further, a great gift giver has the endurance to shop until they’ve met their uncompromised shopping goals. These are the people who set their alarm clocks for an indecently early hour on the Friday after Thanksgiving, put on their most comfortable outfit, gather their supplies (two bottles of water, Band-Aids, Advil, and a 5-Hour Energy shot) and head out to finish their Christmas shopping while it’s still dark outside. These people are highly admirable and just as highly annoying.

I have neither great ideas, nor shopping endurance. Sure I can ask people I care for what they would like, go out and purchase these items, and call it a day. No sweat. These purchases, and the gift presentations that follow, however, lack the element of surprise good gift givers take for granted. I end up feeling like I should have handed over a wad of bills and let my loved ones shop their own lists. Why not cut out the middle man?

Surely there’s far more to being a good gift giver than the ability to neurotically circle parking lots for the closest space or grab the last limited edition Mario Brothers Wii game (or whatever is this year’s premium gift). I would argue that some of the best gifts are comprised of words and deeds. For me, the gift of my time, talents, compassion, or encouragement is a way to share something far more meaningful than anything that can be purchased or wrapped.

While improving my tangible gift-giving skills is likely a lost cause, I’ve made a personal commitment over the last year to become better at attending to the needs of others. That said, I’ve learned that desire to do something does not always lead to definitive or completely selfless action. Sometimes I look at my calendar on Thursdays and think about all the ways I would rather spend my time than reading with my reading buddies at Edwards Elementary. Continue reading Lessons From A Bad Gift Giver

Where Have All the Great Marriages Gone?

I spend my days talking about marriage, divorce, family strengthening strategies, and child-well-being. I can spout research and trends, and articulate the many factors attributed to changing family dynamics. I’ve seen firsthand the complex challenges low-income families and single parents face in trying to make ends meet and help their children belie the odds. Let me tell you – it isn’t pretty out there.

I do all of this as a part of my job, which I love, but some days I feel like a fish swimming upstream. It’s easy for the stories and statistics to fuse together in my head and settle into a discouraging presence in my heart. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, because the nagging concern I feel certainly motivates me to plug ahead and work hard to implement programs and strategies which help couples and individuals achieve their family goals. And, even though I hear some tough stories without a happy ending, I’m privy to an equal number of revelations by couples who admit to feeling hopeful for the first time in weeks, months, or even years. Hope is a powerful emotion; without it, they will most certainly fail. With hope, however, amazing things can happen.

Another bright spot for me and something that adds to my own feelings of hope is the launch of the “Oklahoma’s Most Inspiring Couples” campaign. For the past three years, we have worked with a media partner to conduct a statewide search for couples who have shown commitment to their marriages in a significant way – have triumphed through adversity, endured through sickness and health, or otherwise inspired friends and family with their support of one another or zeal for life. Just when I start to feel like there are no couples to serve as role models for hard work and enduring friendship, the “Oklahoma’s Most Inspiring Couples” campaign reminds me that long-lasting and healthy marriages ARE possible.

It just so happens that this week is the launch of our new campaign, so what better way to kick it off than to share some information with those who care about Oklahoma and Oklahomans – you! If you’ve been inspired by an Oklahoma couple, Continue reading Where Have All the Great Marriages Gone?

A Quota of Blessings

Not long after our wedding, the questions and comments began. You know the ones.

“When are you going to start a family?”

“I think you’d look great pushing a stroller.”

And my favorite….

“You aren’t going to be one of those women who chooses career over motherhood, are you?”

Most people approach having a child as a given and are not shy with their opinions on the matter. Fortunately, I have always wanted children so the pressure I felt was relatively healthy in nature. After a few years of alone time, my husband and I knew the time was right to start a family. The day our daughter was born we underwent an incredible metamorphosis. We were no longer a couple, but a FAMILY.

No sooner had our daughter weaned from the bottle than a new set of questions and comments began.

“When are you going to give Bailey a sibling?”

“You’re going to try for a boy, right?”

And my favorite…

“Only children are spoiled. It’s your responsibility to have more than one child.”

Fortunately again, I envisioned myself with more than one child so the comments aligned with our family goals. We put the questions to rest by adding a precious son to our clan three years after our first was born. Children are blessings and we were overjoyed to grow our family.

Now that my children are ages 7 and almost 4, the questions have a different texture. “Are you done?” seems to be laced with judgment from those with small-family experiences and expectation from those with large families. Continue reading A Quota of Blessings

What Do You Get When You Add Celebrities To The Twitterverse?

The answer, my friends, is unadulterated magic.

Before I share the rest of my article, I have to warn you that reading beyond this point may actually kill perfectly good brain cells. Proceed at your own risk.

The day I realized Kirk Cameron had a life as someone other than Mike Seaver was the day I became a pop culture addict. I’m not so sure addiction is the right word to use, as I categorize my uncanny ability to remember obscure details about television shows, movies, and celebrities as a talent. I can tell you the plot of the show JAG, although I’ve never watched it. I know Lady Gaga’s real name. I’ve seen pictures of Fergie when she was just a little tyke on “Kids Incorporated.”

For whatever reason, my senses are attuned to all things pop culture. Perhaps one day I’ll find myself being held at gunpoint by a mad man who says he will abandon his plans to blow up a building if someone can tell him the name of Balki Bartokomous’s love interest on “Perfect Strangers.” You will all thank me when I disarm him with the confident shout of “MARY ANNE!” Continue reading What Do You Get When You Add Celebrities To The Twitterverse?

There’s No Beauty Cream For THESE Wrinkles

Most of us try to live our lives according to the Golden Rule, but “Love Thy Neighbor” is a daunting mandate when you start to think about how to turn words into actions. Should we love our neighbors by giving hugs each time we see them? Do we show our love by being a good listener? Does this mean we put others’ needs ahead of our own? And who are these pesky neighbors anyway?

Just because I’m an adult does not mean I have completed my education on showing my love to others. Every day is a new learning opportunity and my hope is that I do far more encouraging and empowering than belittling and devaluing. I think I do a pretty good job most days, but the failures stay in my thoughts long after the offenses occur. I do not fear the words “I’m sorry”, but also know an apology is a poor substitute for conducting myself in a manner which does not require apologies at all.

When it comes to teaching my children how to treat others, I feel even more concerned with how to impart meaningful knowledge instead of simply reprimanding them for failure to say “please” and “thank you.” I tend to forget how difficult some concepts are for children to understand and my recent experience trying to talk about friendship, kindness, understanding, humility and consideration has reminded me that these are big words with a heckuva lot of collective meaning.

As with any task, I think the key to educating children on this broad topic is to take it one step at a time – one concept at a time, if you will. I also believe in illustrations and stories to help them connect to and remember ideas. I’ve stumbled upon a couple of illustrations/activities over the years which have been particularly helpful in communicating to my kids about how I expect them to treat others. The following illustration is something my daughter learned in Kindergarten and I think it is so powerful! Continue reading There’s No Beauty Cream For THESE Wrinkles

I’ll Take the Chick But Can I Keep the Rib?

"Adam's Rib" image from "The Brick Testament" website.

I have the privilege and the challenge of teaching Sunday School class to three and four year-old little boys. While I love talking with them about the Bible, my challenge is helping them grasp high-level concepts in ways their little brains can process and remember.

Our lessons this month all focus on the story of Creation. We had lots of fun last Sunday learning about God creating Adam to watch over the land, animals and sea. We learned that God realized Adam needed a companion who was more like him. I had the boys act out the story, first by pretending to mold Adam out of dirt. Then, I asked them to lie down on the carpet as if they were sleeping. I revealed that God put Adam in a deep sleep so he could take one of Adam’s ribs, which he used to create Eve. As they “woke up” I asked the question, “And what do you think Adam said to God about his new companion?” After just a brief pause, my son definitively exclaimed, “Give me back my rib!”

When I recovered from my fits of laughter, I started thinking about Adam’s lost rib. DID he want it back, or did he realize what he’d given up was insignificant compared to what he received in return? Or maybe he didn’t even know anything was amiss. Inquiring minds want to know, I say! Continue reading I’ll Take the Chick But Can I Keep the Rib?

Helping Young People Understand the Myths, Risks and Realities of Relationships

As director of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, I sometimes fancy myself a caped crusader saving families one marriage at a time. In reality, I’m no superhero with all the answers. In fact, when I look back at my approach to relationships during the first 2/3 of my life, I laugh about how me ending up as a relationship “expert” is a bit like the kid who continually got C’s in high school math class ending up a college Algebra professor. While a C isn’t bad, the grade clearly leaves room for improvement. Somehow I managed to figure it all out, however, and I am thankful for the luxury of making a living by talking about marriage and relationships all day. I manage the numerous moving parts of a highly complex statewide initiative providing services and supports to couples and individuals, in various life stages and circumstances, in an effort to positively impact outcomes for children. I am proud to know many, many heroes out in the field who dedicate their time to imparting research-based and practical information to those who are struggling to make their relationships work and who often have little hope for the future.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects of the array of services we offer is our work with young people, both high school and college students, who are formulating their ideas about relationships. I love this work for two reasons: 1) I can vividly remember my own struggles with relationships and wish I’d had the tools to better evaluate my choices and emotions, and 2) I believe in the efficacy of intervening early and hopefully helping young people avoid some potentially devastating mistakes.

The benefits of educating young people are balanced by an equal number of challenges. At age 34 (I know, I know, I don’t look a day older than 33), I can remember what I went through at age 16, 18, and 20, but I certainly don’t have the same mindset as I did at those points in my life. Educators must keep in mind research which says the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and problem-solving, doesn’t fully develop until well into the 20’s. Our experiences, and the fact that we can look back on what we learned from those experiences, influences our judgments about what young people should and shouldn’t do. However, young people don’t yet have that perspective to aid them in making decisions. This makes connecting with them on issues such as relationships, drinking, drug use, etc., a daunting task.   Continue reading Helping Young People Understand the Myths, Risks and Realities of Relationships

The Great Bikini Debate

I know plenty of women who hyperventilate at the mere thought of a bikini. I’ve always worn one and never thought much about it. However, on a recent trip to a family resort, I thought I was going to have a panic attack at the very sight of an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot bikini.

Okay, so it wasn’t yellow but the rest is accurate.

My anxiety had nothing to do with my own body image, but that I saw this particular bikini on the body of a little girl not much older than my second grader. And then I saw another, and another. In fact, there were miniscule pieces of fabric covering pre-teen bodies everywhere I looked. The experience made me look at my own little girl with more fear than I’ve felt before in my life; I seriously thought I might assume the fetal position and start clawing my skin while murmuring over and over again “I’m not ready!”

Before I go any further, let me acknowledge that this is a controversial subject and I make no claims or judgments about the decisions of others or the intentions of any little girl wearing a bikini. I actually witnessed a fairly nasty Facebook debate on the topic which ended with name calling and husbands defending the integrity and parenting skills of their wives. As a passive observer, I could sympathize with both sides but the reality is that it won’t be too long before I’m going to have to manage expectations about what is appropriate for swimwear, in addition to a host of other choices.

My daughter, Bailey, is a seven year-old LITTLE girl, yet there are so many images and messages encouraging her to grow up way too quickly. From the kiddie lingerie (gross) and high-heeled shoes you now see in your local stores to the fashion-focused, halter top-wearing Bratz dolls, it’s very hard to keep them doing and wearing age-appropriate things. In my opinion, how we dress is a reflection of both how we feel about ourselves and what we want others to think about us. And, I hate to think about some of the thoughts that may have been directed toward those girls I saw on vacation. Continue reading The Great Bikini Debate

To Fix, or Not to Fix: That is the Question

In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know this post isn’t a philosophical look at change theories. I do not ponder whether humans can correct the character flaws of other humans.

Nope, this post is about my hair. Specifically, this post is about my ongoing negotiations about whether or not to actually fix my troublesome hair in the morning or to embrace my go-to ponytail persona. Ahhhh, finally a topic into which I can sink my journalistic teeth!

I do not consider myself a shallow person, but this post serves as a confession that my hair has guided a good portion of my decisions since about the fifth grade when I started caring about how I look. Since that time, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my dark locks. On the love side, I was blessed with a thick head of hair that is conducive to many different styles. On the hate side, I have a thick head of hair that is neither straight nor curly and any bit of humidity leaves me looking like a Chia pet who stuck her hand (paw?) in a light socket.

I remember accompanying my mother to her hair appointment and the stylist commenting with pity about the fact that I have enough hair for 2 people. She followed her comment with, “But at least you don’t have enough hair for 3 people like your mom does!” From that point on, I started to compare my poufy hair to the unfair prevalence of sleek and straight hair that existed all around me. While mine wasn’t made for the long, stick-straight style I desperately wanted, I occasionally fooled my hair into thinking this was possible (through a good hour of blow-drying and the application of dozens of products). The result was me spending the evening walking with a stiff neck so as not to mess up a single strand. Regardless of the fact I probably looked like a whiplash victim in need of a neck brace, I was pretty proud of my system. However, I’d inevitably come home to find that, even though I left the house looking like this… Continue reading To Fix, or Not to Fix: That is the Question

I Love You More Than The Sun Loves The Sky

A friend and co-worker recently lost her mother to cancer.  The day of her mother’s death, my friend posted to her Facebook page, “I love you more than the sun loves the sky.” 

I’m sure I’ve heard this before, but I started thinking about moms and daughters.  In seconds, I attached quite a bit of imagery and emotion to the phrase, knowing what it’s like to be the center of my mom’s universe but also having the experience of being a mom and devoting myself wholeheartedly and without regret to my kids’ needs.

While I’m not the most skilled poet and it’s been many years since I’ve attempted to write in this genre, I felt compelled to pen some thoughts on the theme. 

Hug your mommas, dear friends.

I Love You More Than The Sun Loves The Sky

The sun is often credited for the brilliance of the sky.

Mesmerized by a dance of whimsy, we watch her daily rise and fall.

Even the sky delights in the sun’s performance,

Smiling as she holds court in majestic rooms of gold.

 

Mankind claps an ovation of praise, a tribute to all things beautiful. Continue reading I Love You More Than The Sun Loves The Sky

Casey Anthony: The Real-Life Keyser Soze

In the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, small-time con man Verbal Kint spins an elaborate tale about a Turkish criminal mastermind and murderer named Keyser Soze, whom few have ever seen and whose very existence is doubted.  At the end of the film, the investigators discover too late that Kint’s story was largely a highly-detailed fabrication, made up almost entirely and on the spot from cues he spotted around the office in which he had been interrogated.  He was released and, in one of the all-time most fascinating cinematic shockers, we see him walking away and transforming sinisterly into his Keyser Soze persona.

I love getting duped in movies.  Getting duped in real life is a different story.  Does the above sound eerily familiar to the fantastical tales we heard throughout the highly publicized Casey Anthony trial?  The difference is that the movie is fiction meant for our enjoyment, while the murder of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony is very, very real.  By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard the “Not Guilty” verdict and, like me, have expressed thoughts and emotions about the jury’s decision and the performance of the legal teams.  One camp celebrated jubilantly while the other walked away in sadness and disgust.

I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one on t.v.  I tried my darnedest to avoid being the judge presiding over the Court of Public Opinion.  However, I longed for answers – for Caylee, the Anthony family, and society – and I was utterly disappointed.  The truth did not prevail because the truth was so completely mangled from the beginning that no one could determine right from wrong or up from down.  From the moment the world became enraptured by the images of that little girl, I’ve watched tragedy turn to train wreck.  I’ve seen a trial become a three-ring circus.  And Casey was the ringmaster as she spat out lie after lie after lie.  Continue reading Casey Anthony: The Real-Life Keyser Soze