Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What I Wish I'd Known about Invisible Illness

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

Apparently it's "Invisible Illness Awareness Week."  I think that might be a little ironic.  But I'm too tired to say for sure.  Anyway, I've already written a few times about having chronic illness, but I was thinking today about what I wish I'd known when I first got sick about a decade ago.  Maybe it will help someone else who is just starting on a similar journey.  So here you go:

  1. Not knowing is the worst part.  There are so many unknowns.  Most people start out not knowing what's wrong.  If you're lucky you get a diagnosis that has a treatment protocol and a prognosis.  Or, like me, maybe you get an "exclusionary diagnosis," which means "we ruled all this other stuff out and don't really know what's going on, so we'll call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which not only sounds really wimpy but is also something we don't know what to do about."  If you end up with an honest doctor they will actually tell you this.  If you find a compassionate and creative one they may try to help you find ways to deal with the symptoms.  Or not.  
  2. Finding good medical care is important, but can be challenging.  Just about everyone I know with chronic illnesses has at least one story of traumatic experience with the medical system.  "Medically unexplained" illnesses are kind of an insult to the medical system.  Some doctors specialize in them, but they tend to have a few pet diagnoses and treatment plans.  Other doctors view patients who have been to numerous doctors and had many test with suspicion (I've actually been turned away as a patient by a general practitioner's office.)  Having access to quality medical care is something that we need more than every, though, and it's worth working to find it.  Even if there aren't answers for the chronic problems everyone gets acute illnesses from time to time.  I read somewhere that good medical care is a key indicator of quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.  It seems obvious, but...
  3. Life turns upside down, but that doesn't mean I'm crazy.  It feels crazy.  A simple virus leads to mind-numbing, soul sapping fatigue that never, ever goes away.  Tasks that used to be taken for granted become next to impossible.  It's easy to get extremely depressed.  The depression is not the illness, but it compounds some of the symptoms.  Getting psychiatric help doesn't mean admitting that it's "all in your head."
  4. Which reminds me, sometimes people will say things that are hurtful.  Most of the time they don't mean to.  The situation is as upside down to them as it is to the person who is sick.  Plus, our society values activity and competence and independence and lots of other energetic characteristics that most people with chronic illness no longer have.  So trying to rationalize, minimize or solve the situation is kind of a reflex.  But that doesn't make it less painful.  It can be very important to....
  5. Find a supportive community.  Thank goodness for the internet.  Chances are you can find a group of people with exactly the same thyroid condition or digestive issues or asthma or....  It doesn't take the place of relationships with people you can touch and smile at, but it can be a huge relief.  Venting is awesome. 
  6. Planning can be a lifesaver.  Or impossible.  My motto is cliche:  Hope for the best, plan for the worst.  But sometimes making plans is useless because bodies just don't cooperate.  Other times, it's impossible to predict how a course of action will end up and you just have to take a leap.  That's how it was with us and having kids.  It's full of unknowns for everyone, but with chronic illness that's doubly or triply true.
  7. Sometimes the situation improves.  Even though I knew people who'd improved and heard stories of others I never really believed that my health would improve significantly.  I'm not sure if hoping that it would would have made my situation better or worse.  Some people believe that believing you can be healthy is essential, but I have seen improvements that started when I never really believed they would happen.
  8. Even with improvement you will never be exactly the same.  I probably shouldn't say never.  Maybe some people can suffer from a prolonged illness and, on recovering, become exactly the person they were before.  But I think it's probably very rare.  Illness is isolating.  Pain changes the way our brains function.  Losing control makes us think about what we really value in life.  Plus, improvement doesn't necessarily mean "cure."
  9. The "new normal" keeps changing.  Sometimes people get into good routines and are pretty stable.  But in my experience, especially since having kids, change is the one constant.   Remember all those unknowns I started with?  They never really go away.
  10. Kids need to eat every day.  Wait.  That's the wrong blog post.  Gotta fix supper now.
If you've been dealing with chronic illness for a while what have you learned?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

If Babies Ran the Internet

Content on the internet, possibly more than any other form of mass communication is driven by users - right?  I have a laptop, and an internet connection and BAM! I have a blog about... ...whatever my blog is about when I get around to doing posts.

Today it occurred to me that if babies were the ones generating content the internet would be a much different place.  Since my baby is "older" (crawling but not walking) lots of my examples relate to that stage.  I started posting these on Twitter with the hashtag #ifbabiesrantheinternet but the (incredibly small portion of the) Twitterverse that (theoretically) knows I exist is ignoring them, so here they are for my loyal blog readers:

Blog posts and news stories would change to include the following:

  • "Everything You Want to Know about Your Older Sibling's Bedroom (but can't get in to find out)"
  • Tips for avoiding long car trips.  
  • "Hanging out with Daddy and Other True Stories of Surviving in the Midst of Adversity" (Sorry!)
  • "17 Really Good Reasons to Cry (With 2 Foolproof Reasons for those Who Can't Count to 17)"
  • "Tired Parents and Other Myths"  
  • Inspiring stories of resisting sleep training. 
  • Tips for maintaining proper boob access.  
  • "7 Signs it's Time to Drop that Pesky Morning Nap."
  • "Five Scientifically Verified Reasons Why Food on Mommy's Plate Tastes Better."  
  • Ironic lists of stuff moms freak out about. 
  • Advice about strategic times to poop.  
  • Great parodies of adults saying stuff like "did you poop?"
Social media would also change.  There would be:
  • Snarky social media posts about siblings with all their teeth not really being better at biting people.
  • Theories about why adults find "peek-a-boo" so entertaining.  
  • Shocking revelations about objects it that are not pleasant to put in the mouth. 
  •  Instagram pics of tasty snacks found under the kitchen table. 
  •   A lot more videos of people dropping things.
Real life might even change.  For example I'm pretty sure that waterproof cameras would be included in hospital goodie bags.

I'm sure there are plenty more of these.  What have I missed?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Would You Pray about Buying a Time Share?

nuchylee, via

The minivan has a button for tuning the radio on the steering wheel.  I guess this could come in handy, but mostly I end up bumping it by accident.  Then there's some guy answering a caller's question with the phrase "Catholic birth control."  I hit the button again, hoping that it's in the opposite direction from the first hit and I'll hear NPR playing classical music again.  No.  Now some other guy is explaining why he doesn't recommend time shares.  You pay whether you use them or not.  Maintenance fees go up.  They can be very hard to sell. So don't rush into it, he advises.  Pray about it.  I hit the button again.  NPR.  Relief.

But... of course the little voice from behind me pipes up, "Why'd you change it Mommy?"

I try not to lie to my children.  I can explain (hopefully in developmentally appropriate terms) where babies come from.  I answered truthfully that yes, in some states men can marry other men (but you still can't marry your brother even if you do love him more than anyone).  But in this case I... don't exactly tell the whole truth.

I say, "We don't need to listen to someone talking about time shares.  We are not going to buy a time share."

I didn't feel like I needed to explain that I find this advice to pray about buying a time share irritating.  Because most likely he would again say "Why?" and I'd have to try to explain.  And it's complicated.  I guess.

I mean what does this financial and apparently Christian sage expect to happen when his listener prays?  Will someone miraculously knock on his front door and offer to sit down and map out his income and expenses so that he can see exactly how much money he can afford to spend on vacations each year?  Will he have a feeling of peace about his decision that will cause him to move forward?  Will an obviously "better" opportunity present itself?

I know.  The Bible says to pray about everything.  But if we're doing that then why point out the need to pray about this, particularly?  Just in case he forgot? 

I also know that the Bible promises that if anyone lacks wisdom he should pray for it and God will provide.  But either people are forgetting this promise or it doesn't work quite the way we'd hope because lots of decisions get made - especially regarding finances - that I would not consider to be wise.

But really, it's not bad to pray.  I didn't really change the station because I have a problem with praying.  I changed it because I have a problem with this casual way that we talk about praying.  As if it's.... what... some kind of magic eight ball that will reveal just enough of the future to let us know what to do?  What about common sense?  What about basic principals like spending less than our income?  What about charitable giving? 

If there are moral/spiritual issues involved they have to do with meeting obligations to people who rely on us and thinking about possibly helping people who don't have the basic necessities of life like clean drinking water and basic medical care.  But hey, maybe all those factors have been considered and the listener really does need a few weeks out of the year to rest and relax and maybe a time share would be great.  Maybe praying would help him reflect on all of this.

So I'm probably just being petty.  I'm probably jumping to conclusions about how people who are calling into radio shows aimed at Christians who have questions about their finances act and think.  I'm probably a little bitter that when I was growing up we spent so much time traveling around, visiting dozens of churches, hoping to convince enough people to give us money that we would be able to spend four more years bringing the gospel to an isolated "unreached people group."  While some guy here is sitting in a radio studio telling people to pray about whether they should buy a time share.

Or maybe I'm just frustrated and discouraged by years of pouring out the desires of my heart to God and feeling like it didn't make a difference.  Maybe I just don't know what to do with the fact that when I couldn't stand to pray anymore, when any attempt brought up a well of pain and sadness, when I decided I couldn't expose myself to that any more... that was when I found some measure of peace.  Not the perfect peace that the Bible promises, but a greater peace than I had known when I was hoping and yearning and reaching out. 

Maybe, in spite of a lifetime of teaching on the subject I just don't understand prayer at all.  But I do know that this kind of glib instruction to pray about an issue that might be better handled by careful study and thought rubs me the wrong way.  I think that the Christian community would do well to think about how we talk about these topics in such a public way.  Maybe I'll even figure out how to drive the minivan without hitting that button.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Third Culture Mom at the End of the School Year

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

Being a Missionary Kid (MK) or Third Culture Kid (TCK) is kind of like being a Preacher's Kid (PK).  Long after one stops being a "kid" the experiences and ideas encountered as a child leave a mark.  I'd say, though, that for a TCK the effects are farther reaching and more profound.  (Also MKs can also be PKs.  I'm not a PK but that's another story.) Here's an example of how being an MK still affects me today.

Lenny finished kindergarten a week ago.  It was amazing to me how casually the year ended.  Yes, they had a special school assembly (celebrating his elementary school's 60th "birthday" as chance would have it) and a field day (which was rained out in the afternoon).  He came home with a school t-shirt after the field day (they improvised in the gym).  On the last day of school he brought home a beach ball saying, "I had a ball in kindergarten!"

Lenny was sad to see school end.  He knew that it will start again in the fall but that he will be in a different grade and have a different teacher - across the hall from his old classroom.  He knows that he will be at school all day and eat in the cafeteria.  But he said, "It will just be for the same amount of time."

I didn't understand.  I reminded him about all day school.  "No, the same amount of days.  Then it will be over again."

Ah.  We needed a moment of melancholy to acknowledge the friendships that would be lost and the familiar routines that would change.  I said, "Yes, life it like that.  Every year you will have a new grade and a new teacher and some new friends.  For twelve more years you will start a new grade every fall, finish every spring and after the summer start again. Then, if you go to college there will be lots more changes.  Then when you finish college you will get a job and maybe buy a house and then things will be the same more.  Unless you become a dad and have kids.  Then all the changes will start again."

I may have overdone it.  But he said, "I like that last part."

"Which part?"

"The part about being a dad."

And the discussion was pretty much over.  We were on to what we were going to do after school.

I was more prepared for this non-event transition than I was after the first year that he was in preschool.  That year I felt myself panicking a little and pushing back a profound sadness.  My reason and time have taught me that in a small community in the Midwest transitioning from the school year to summer does bring changes, but FAR fewer than the changes that I dealt with growing up.  Most people stay in the community.  Even if we don't see them regularly there's a good chance we'll run into them at the library or the park or Lenny will encounter them in a class or other activity.  And then there's social media - a boon for introverts like me who really do care about people and want to stay in touch but dread picking up the phone and can't handle a crammed social schedule.

Growing up the end of the school year was a time of profound sadness mixed with eager excitement for me.  I didn't go to the same school for two years in a row until I was in fifth grade.  Even when I stayed for a couple of years in a row at a school for MKs lots of my friends left - either for good or for a year for "home assignment."  So at the end of every year I knew that I wouldn't see some people in the fall.  And I definitely wouldn't see them over the summer since I was about to climb onto an airplane and fly to the city my parents based their ministry out of.  Which also meant that the last few days of school were filled not only with painful partings, but with packing.  Everything that I considered mine had to either be taken home with me, gotten rid of, or put into storage.  But not much could be stored.  Especially if that particular year we were going "stateside."

As an introvert those intense last days of school were also tinged with a certain disappointment.  I'm most comfortable with a few close friendships but teenage years don't exactly encourage one to be satisfied with that type of social interaction.  Being part of the group - being able to join in with cliques and clubs and team sports - hold a pretty high value.  Sitting around for a day or two signing yearbooks is a great way to highlight the fact that one has a social circle that's smaller than seems to be acceptable.

And any relationship that had been difficult - whether with an adult or a peer - was now unlikely to be resolved.  It was much more likely to be left hanging, possibly for the rest of my life.

Much has been written about the importance of helping TCKs find closure in these types of situations.  That's good.  But nothing can change the fact that every time it happens it's emotionally and physically exhausting.  And even the best of intentions can't change the fact that relationships don't fit well into set time frames.  Hopefully today's TCKs benefit from the internet and the ability to stay in touch over long distances and time.  Getting back in touch with many from my past has changed my view of my connection to my past even now.  But when I was growing up I never would have imagined the possibilities.  Letters between the Philippines and the US could take weeks to arrive and phone conversations cost a dollar a minute.  Even with inflation that's too steep for keeping up with school friends!

So this year I approach the end of the year with some anxiety, but I try to be realistic about what the challenges will be.  I hope that we can manage to keep in touch with Lenny's best friend from this year in spite of her family's busy schedule and ours.  I set up activities for Lenny so so that he will have something to do in the afternoon while the baby and I rest.  As the schedule for the weeks fall into place I realize that the summer will be over before we know it.  I'm already dreading the return of short, cold days, cold and flu season and homework.

Yes, the cycle will continue.  But if the end of the year when I was growing up was like skydiving - standing by the open door of an airplane getting ready to jump into the void while hoping my parachute would open - then these transitions are like sledding - crouching on a sled at the top of the hill, anticipating a quick slide to the bottom followed by another long climb up.  There will be some laughter, a few thrills and possibly a harmless tumble.  It's memorable, but much less momentous.  Calmer and much more manageable. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Quick Note About My Thought Process

From the zoo:  Don't waste your time searching for signs of life!

A friend commented that she hasn't seen much movement on my part regarding this faith journey I'm on.  I've been thinking about that.  I think that what I've been doing, actually, is settling in to the point I'm at right now. 

I've spent a lot of years avoiding thinking about what I believe about God and the Bible.  I went for two years, in fact, without going to church at all.  During that time I didn't spend much time praying, reading the Bible, or even wondering what I believed.  I assumed that I still believed in God, but I had some problems with the details of how my relationship with Him was supposed to work.  Putting myself through the ringer of trying to figure it out was too stressful, so I just stopped trying.

Then when Lenny was starting to really understand what was going on around him I felt that it would be good for all of us to go to church as a family.  I'd found some other ways to plug in to the community, but church was always one that was important to me growing up and I felt that it would be good to do that for my child.  We ended up staying at the church we had been going to (Allen never stopped).  Lenny loves it.  His biggest disappointment is that we always have to leave and he never gets to spend as much time as he would like with his church friends.  It's pretty much the complaint he has about any social interaction.

My biggest anxiety is that I am not teaching him about God the "right" way.  I don't want to fill his head with a bunch of rules and rote answers about who God is and how to please Him.  Perhaps as a result Lenny said, when his children's Bible suggested that he tell others about God, that he doesn't know very much about God and wouldn't know what to tell others.  We suggested he tell what he knows and, if more information is needed, ask an adult.

But when I went back to church things had changed pretty dramatically in my life.  Besides becoming a mom I'd gotten more involved in the community, made one of the closest non Christian friends I've had in my life, and seen an improvement in my health.  I felt more capable and less inclined to accept influences in my life that lead to emotional upset.

People say things like "I don't know what I would do without God in my life" or "God has blessed me so much."  I might have said that in the past.  But the fact that some truly positive changes came in my life at a time when I was feeling very distant from God is confusing to me.  Either I should be extremely grateful because He chose to work in my life at a time when I was doing everything "wrong," or doing everything "wrong" was really the right way to do it and the good changes had nothing to do with belief in, or the existence of God.

I would love it if tomorrow at church I had a supernatural encounter with God that reminded me all over again of the faith and hope I once had and restored my belief to the level it was then.  But I can't go back to the emotional wasteland I was in at that time.  I would rather be here, questioning everything to do with faith but with a tentative confidence in my ability to live a full life than clinging desperately to my faith while my hopes are shattered again and again against the rocky shore.  If God is real, if truth is revealed in the Bible and demonstrated by the church then that reality will withstand questions and even a more skeptical, distant examination.  Well, some might question that.  I've been hearing and reading some interesting thoughts about the nature of belief lately, but that will have to be dealt with another day.  Or night.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Capital T Truth: Examination of Faith

I claim on my Twitter bio to be "obsessively honest."  I should probably take that out.  I probably would be soul-searingly honest on this blog except that I don't want to hurt other people or violate their privacy by revealing parts of their lives they'd rather not have smeared all over the internet.  Also, I don't always want to deal with the feedback I might get.  On that count I should say that for the most part the feedback I've gotten so far has been very positive and helpful.  Some discussions offline have been... revealing.  And tended to leave me feeling a little more cautious about what I share here.

I read a blog post this week about honesty and how it can be good in relationships, but also used as a weapon.  I don't want to do that.  Ideally I would deal with the parts of my story that have to do with other people privately and just share the parts that have to do with me.  It's not really that simple, though.  Nothing that I think or believe or do is not somehow connected to some other person.  That's probably not the best way to say that.  Everything I think and believe and do is somehow connected to some other person.  I can't tell my story in any meaningful way without including parts of the stories of other people.  Maybe that means I just can't tell parts of my story right now.

So here's a story I think I can tell.  My husband and I met through a Christian group on the campus of the large state university we were both attending at the time.  We shared a Seder meal one year with some other group members.  It turns out that lamb does not agree with my digestive system.  I got terrible cramps.  Also at the meal was a Jewish man - an Israeli national who, although he identified as an atheist, had agreed to share the meal with us and explain some of the traditions.  When he saw that I was in pain and hard my explanation he said he thought he could help me - if I was interested.   I agreed - mostly to be polite, I think.

He asked me to sit down and close my eyes.  He asked me if I was a believer.  I was confused by this question.  I said, "I believe some things."  He said something to the effect that what he was going to do might not work without belief.  Then he reached out and placed his hand near my abdomen.  I don't remember anything else that he said or did.  After a moment a warmth spread over the area that had been hurting and the pain subsided somewhat.  He must have seen me relax somewhat and asked if I felt better.  I said I did.  The evening moved on, as far as I can remember, without much discussion of the event.

I still don't know what he did or why it worked.  It might have been Reiki.  That's the closest thing I've heard of to what happened.  This was outside of what I was comfortable with or expected to happen at that time.  But I didn't dwell on it much or question it.  I think that I thought that the mind/body connection is powerful and could probably explain it somehow.

The point is that the question about whether or not I was a believer has stuck with me all these years.  Growing up I was taught that it was not enough to simply believe.  One needed to believe the right truth.  Accepting a general idea of spiritual possibilities or even seeking a general good wouldn't get a person anywhere.  Capital T truth, as defined by the Bible and interpreted by the Evangelical Christian tradition was necessary.  For salvation.  To avoid eternal suffering and separation from God.  Other types of belief were only interesting to me in terms of how they compared or contrasted with "real" truth.  I didn't explore or consider them for their own sake.

Now I wonder if I have really even explored my own faith.  When I read about different ways of interpreting and thinking about scripture I realize that I have accepted some ideas uncritically.  I have been satisfied with the answers I was given growing up and have not really considered the alternatives.  Well, maybe satisfied isn't really the right word.  I accepted them, anyway.  There was a certain element of fear involved.  I think that I didn't want to look to closely at the alternatives.  Capital T truth, after all.  Salvation depended on it.  Eternity.

I thought I was well informed.  I went to church and Sunday school.  Bible class taken seriously at the Christian school I went to.  I have memorized so many scripture passages and they still roll off my tongue.  I took Old and New Testament Survey classes at my Christian college.  I think I know more about Evangelical Christianity than the average bear.  (Or person sitting in the pews or the plush purple chairs as the case may be.)

I also have made at least some effort to both live out and experience the truths I've been taught.  In high school I helped with a ministry to the "squatter" kids who lived near our school.  During summers when I was in college I worked at a day camp for inner city kids.  Once I moved away from home I picked churches that emphasized the work of the spirit and expected, but did not demand, God to "show up" in tangible and exciting ways.

And sometimes, in some ways, that has seemed to happen.  But most of them, like the incident with the digestive discomfort, can probably be explained by looking at the power of the human mind or the impact of good, loving people reaching out to each other.  Which, you may say, is one way that God works.  But I have also seen that happen, as it did that night, when the people involved made no claim to know God.  Which doesn't prove that He doesn't exist... or that He does.  It just... is.

The lonely, sick years wore away at my faith.  The times when I poured out my pain in prayer and begged for a reprieve and nothing changed.  The housebound years when for weeks at a time the only person I saw was my husband.  The lonely feeling of having an illness that required an explanation but was never really understood.  The disappointment of losing a career that I had labored so hard for.  God did not take that time away.  He did not change that situation.  It was like that for a long time.

It did change.  Now it is different.  And part of me thinks that I "should" be so thankful.  That I should be shouting from the rooftops that God is faithful and has finally answered my prayers.  But the career is gone, I think, forever.  And my children still feel the impact of my lack of health every day.  It's so much better than it used to be, but it's far from "good."

So now, in the midst of this full, overwhelming, extremely exhausting time, I try to think about Truth.  I try to understand how it can sit inside me and bring healing instead of constantly rubbing against the old hurting places.  I look at the "popular" ideas that have floated around in my consciousness for as long as I can remember.  They don't seem consistent with my experience.  Is my perception wrong?  Have I understood what I have been taught or the Bible wrong?  Is there a "Truth" out there that I can be at peace with?  It's hard for me to think about it without experiencing debilitating pain.  But it seems impossible for me to walk away from these questions. 

I've realized lately that I haven't really spelled out what my questions about faith are on this blog.  Maybe I can do that soon.  In the mean time, if you have a Pinterest account you can get an idea of what I'm thinking about by looking at the board "Spiritual Journey."  I'm not really trying to plug my Pinterest account here, it's just a great way to spy on people in general and me in particular.  Did I say spy?  I mean... understand??  Maybe I should do a post with links to some of the posts I've pinned with a summary and my thoughts or comments.

Is that enough of a conclusion for this post?  I hope so, because it's what I've got for now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Beautiful Bodies are Everywhere!

I want to say something about body image and beauty but I'm worried I'll say it wrong, or a least won't say it as well as I'd like to.  But it seems that Zig Ziglar (whoever he was) was right about this:

So here goes:

A few days ago (may be more by the time I actually get this done) a blogger I like a lot posted a thing on Facebook about how she was dreading buying a swim suit and apparently people gave her a hard time about it because she's kind of skinny.  I missed the giving-hard-time part because the comment went by on my feed and I didn't bat an eyelash.  Lots of people are uncomfortable in swim suits.  But then she commented again saying that she had learned her lesson and apparently all the struggles she's had with body image over the years do not qualify her (or allow her or something) to make comments about her body without people hating on her.  I did read the comments after that, lots of which were supportive.

And it got me thinking.  Somebody used the phrase "skinny shaming" and I get that because it's happened to me.  Someone used the phrase "skinny privilege" and tossed out some stats about thinner people making more money and doing better in politics.  I'm too lazy/tired to look them up right now, but I believe it.  It bothered me.  It's not right.

I wanted to talk about physical beauty.  Not "sex appeal" but whatever elusive qualities in a physical body that lead us to enjoy looking at another person.  I'm not talking about having a beautiful personality here.  That's important.  Extremely important.  Probably more than physical beauty.  It's just not what I'm talking about right now.

I wanted to tell people that they don't have to listen to lies about what their bodies have to look like to be beautiful.  I wanted to be like Oprah when she gave away all those cars:

Everybody gets a beautiful body!

Society's definition of beautiful body's is too narrow.  LOTS of bodies are beautiful.  Lots of people are physically beautiful.  All kinds of body parts are beautiful.  Lets take legs, as an example.  Long legs and short ones - hairy, smooth, with or without a thigh gap, bowed or straight, pale or dark, muscular or willowy, curvy or straight or showing signs of a lifetime of hard use.  Yes, even legs with cellulite and varicose veins are beautiful.

But then I thought, maybe this is a little like all those participation trophies kids get these days.  They show up and manage not to assault anyone, so they get a trophy.  Does it really mean anything?  Maybe not.  You show up and have a body and I tell you it's beautiful.  Does it really mean anything?  Well....

If you just read this post then no.  Me telling you that you have a beautiful body is not meaningful.  Sorry.  Beauty is about perception.  It's subjective.  It's personal.  You are beautiful because someone looks at you and sees beauty.  I cannot do that through my blog.

But as human beings we do it all the time.  We look at people and find some of them beautiful.  Way more, I think, and of a far greater variety than one would guess by looking at the magazines in the supermarket checkout line or the lineup of stars at a red carpet event.  Lots of beautiful bodies are walking around in the world.  Lots of people out there are appreciating them.

People are even telling us so.  If someone tells you your beautiful, believe them.  Well believe them if they are actually looking at you rather than writing a blog.  They are the ultimate judge of what beauty is for them.  If you are beautiful for them then it's true.  If they tell you so my advice is to give it the benefit of the doubt that they are not just being nice or trying to make you feel better, but that they really mean it.  Bask for a moment in the sunshine of that "you are beautiful" moment.

Wouldn't it be great if we created more of those moments for each other?

About the trophy thing, though.  Being beautiful is not a competition.  It feels good to be beautiful to someone, but it's not a prize you have to take from someone else.  My husband finds me beautiful but if he sees another woman who is also beautiful that doesn't take away from his appreciation of me.  Partly this is because beauty is not a limited resource - we're not carving up some beauty pie that may someday be consumed.  Also this is because my physical beauty is not the only part of me that he finds attractive.  If that's the only part of someone we know we really barely know them at all.  Human beings are so much more than physical bodies.  Our worth is determined by.... so much more.

Also, while we're opening up the definition of physical beauty lets not try to push people who have enjoyed society's approval for so long out of the circle.  There's room for everyone.  What do I mean by that?  While I was thinking about the whole issue of body image I saw a link to an article about classical paintings that someone airbrushed.  The paintings are of nude women from an era where soft, voluptuous bodies were "the thing."  The airbrushing slimmed them down to make them fit into today's standards.  Some of them are not very attractive - to me.  I think this is either because the original paintings actually distorted the bodies somewhat and it shows up more when they are thinner or because the airbrushing isn't that good.  The top one especially ends up looking like she has too many vertebra.  She looks a little like a Great Dane person.  But the bottom one works pretty well.  Maybe this is a little creepy, but I would look kind of like that... if I gained ten or fifteen pounds.

Because I'm super skinny.  If there's such a thing as too skinny I'm it.  Not too skinny because I starve myself, but too skinny because society tells us that a woman should have some curves and I have precious few.  Because now that I'm almost 40 it kind of irritates me that the clothes that fit me best are in the Juniors section.  Mostly I find this irritating because I like my pants to have a zipper that's more than two inches long and a waist that's within shouting distance of my belly button.  I digress. 

The point is that some people, like my husband find me beautiful and that's good.  But at the bottom of the article, under the painting that looks kind of like me, it says,
"Needless to say, something is definitely lost when the contours of the skin, and all the light and shadow that play on its surface, are cut away and toned to a plasticky finish. The startling GIFs show just how much our perception of beauty has changed over the past centuries, and as well as how extreme today's "norm" truly is. When it comes to beautiful bodies, we're siding with Botticelli every time."
 The authors are entitled to their opinion of which versions are more beautiful.  But implying that thin people are strange and not to be considered beautiful doesn't help anyone. 

Instead I think we should be looking at the people around us.  Really seeing them and realizing that beautiful people are everywhere.  It's probably in our DNA to find all kinds of people beautiful.  And maybe we can enjoy the fact that other people find us beautiful too.

What do you think?  Can we expand the definition of physical beauty?  Can you accept that other people find you beautiful?  Can we have a healthy, balanced view of the importance of physical beauty?  Did I manage to say something that makes sense?