The Solution to Pleasing People: Don’t Breathe

I had intended to write something different for today’s post, but then I ate a bag of sour Skittles, read through comments and replied to something that many would say didn’t deserve a reply.  But I had sugar.  And Sugar says I think it did deserve a reply. It’s not really intended for the one who left the comment. In fact, I removed it to save the drama of reader comebacks. 

I wrote this for myself.
And I wrote it for my kids.
And I wrote it for you.

(art from up inside my head by my friend Abernathy)

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Comment goes something like this:

somethingsomethingsomething
your blog is supposed to be about enjoying the little things. Little things like showing off your kids chalk drawings and not your own.
somethingsomethingsomething
Enjoying the little things doesn’t mean wearing aubergine tights to pumpkin patch in Florida!!
somethingsomethingsomething 
I would have preferred to see Nella and Lainey’s chalk drawings instead of your ‘doodles’.

Well thank you, I guess.  I’m glad you have my blog figured out for me.

Listen, I had candy.
So a response.  For me and for you and for anyone out there who needs a little HELLYEAH in the Be Yourself, Try Your Best category.

Here’s a little something I’ve learned the past few years. It holds true to the non-blogging world even more so, but I’ll keep it to blogging because–well, when in Rome.

*************

It goes something like this:

If you post pictures of your kids’ art, they’ll say you exploit your kids.
If you post pictures of your own art, they’ll say you’re promoting yourself.

So, don’t post pictures of art. Ever.

If you wear gym shorts to the store, they’ll say you look like shit.
If you wear cute tights to the store, they’ll say you care too much (but thank you for noticing they were aubergine. Hate when people call them purple.).

So don’t wear clothes to the store. Go naked.

If you write about Down syndrome, they’ll say you’re using your child’s disability to get hits.
If you don’t write about Down syndrome, they’ll say you’re in denial and don’t represent the community.

So just stop writing. Completely.

If you smile, they’ll say you’re fake.
If you don’t smile, they’ll say you hate your life.

So, get Botox and call it a day.

I’ve received e-mails that I suck because obviously Lainey is my favorite child. And I suck because Nella is my favorite child. And good God, those poor girls, obviously Dash is my favorite child! I’ve gained weight! I’m too skinny! Too much writing/not enough pictures. Too many pictures/not enough writing! I can’t believe your friends are okay with you writing about them–way to exploit them! You don’t write about your friends anymore, you must not have any!

Here’s the awesome thing I’ve learned about ill-constructed and poorly given criticism: They all cancel each other out! 

The lesson in all of this would be: don’t look right, don’t look left, don’t create, don’t share, don’t write, don’t talk, don’t breathe.

Well, that’s kind of bullshit.

I do believe in being yourself.
Share.
Make mistakes.
Maybe look like an ass sometimes.
Learn.
Grow.
Have fun.
Make things.
Connect.
Take risks.
Find good people who make you want to be better.
Listen to them.
Learn from them.
Read books.
Write journals.
Weed out the crap. You’ll know it when you see it.
But always.
ALWAYS.
Be true to yourself.
Be your best.
Be grateful.
Love others.

Here’s the other funny thing I learned. If the same people keep coming back to tell you they don’t support you anymore, they don’t really mean it because they keep coming back to tell you they don’t support you anymore.

Oh, I’m a picture girl, and there are no pictures in this post. Okay. Picture a giant field of daisies. And I’m running through it. And I’m wearing aubergine tights.

Wait. My friend Abernathy is an artist and she has a great way of transforming thoughts into pictures.  So here.  Applicable.  I called her to see if I could use her art in a post and she said “I’m on a date, I don’t care, take what you want, I love you.”

See.  My amazing friend who’s all up in my brain. 

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The real pictures intended for this post?  Coming soon.  And more on Down syndrome and more on fall and more on this giant list of brain explosions that says “October! I love you!  People, I love you!”

The end. 
Be amazing.

Big G, Little O

So, let’s talk about letting go but hanging on just a little for yet another time (you’ll have no problem finding Cut the Cord posts from the archives). 

Okay, let me start with a photo–the only photo I took at Lainey’s 2-day cheer camp which consists of nearly 100 girls (I think I counted over 70), all ages, who learn a few cheers in preparation for performing with the big girls at a high school football game.  She wanted to do it and was fine with the fact that she didn’t know anyone who was participating.  And I thought this was awesome.  Growin’ up and stretchin’, that girl is.

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Cute pic, huh? 

Brett saw it and was all, “Oh my God! Why is she alone? Why is she in the back?  She can’t even SEE!”  Which is funny because a:) this picture was taken during the closing huddle at the wrap-up of the camp and is a horrible representation of what it really looked like (fun and happy); and b) this is a perfect example of a parenting optical illusion.

You know the drawing that shows either an old haggard lady or a beautiful young woman depending on where you focus your eyes?  There’s hundreds of similar scenarios in parenting–experiences that shape our kids, and we as parents will emotionally volley back and forth between two perceptions:  they’re sad, their heart is breaking, they’re going to be traumatized (translation: we’re sad, our heart is breaking) or they’re learning about themselves, this is good for them, they’re developing tools to face challenges in life and be amazing.

I’m sensitive to both scenarios, and what I really want to do more than half the time is run in, knock everybody down and hold my kid.  But I don’t.  Because I know that to teach my kids how to be truly happy in life, I have to know when to let go. If you keep a plant in a little pot, you might keep it alive but you’re going to stunt its growth.  I want my kids to stretch their roots, so we constantly move to bigger pots until someday they find a stretch of land where they’ll want to be planted to grow on their own.  But listen.  My lawn chair won’t be far, and I will have reserve watering cans on standby for the rest of my life. 

We moved to a bigger pot this week.  It looked like a gym full of girls, and it was loud and crazy–clapping and giggling and shouting and lots of synchronized high kicks.  For a second, I could have seen it as too overwhelming for a little bird who’s still trying out her wings.  I mean, she ties her shoes with the bunny loops and hasn’t even lost a tooth yet.  But she wanted to do it.  And she got right in there the first day, barely turning around to see if I was watching her. 

She held her own in a swarm of girls–smiling, carefully following directions, mimicking every clap and kick and “BIG G, LITTLE O, GO! GO!”  And I watched from one end of the gym, alternating between waving, smiling and using my eyes to transfer psychic thoughts of I’m right here!  I see you!  You’re doing great! and putting on my game face–This is no big deal.  I’m so confident you’re fine that I’m just going to read this book and pretend I’m not acutely aware of your neon pink sweatshirt in my peripheral vision at every moment.

Kids are like bees.  Don’t let them smell your anxiety. 

I kept my helicopter parked through this whole cheer camp thing.  I sensed her uneasiness in the middle of that gym, surrounded by all those girls she didn’t know; but I sensed too that she wanted to work it out on her own.  I didn’t jump in to fix it for her.  I smiled and waved and sat by the bleachers, but I also read a book and even left the gym to take a call (gasp!).   

Lainey left the camp tonight with a permagrin, a new herkie ambition and a chant we’ll be hearing for months.  BIG G, LITTLE O, GO! GO!  She grew.

For the record, I see a beautiful young woman in the drawing.

*****

Might I add, I’m glad his pot is still just a little one.  Baby herbs need their mamas.

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And papas.
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And this one’s pot is cracking.  Sister’s had some attitude this week, wanting to do everything herself. 

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Happy October, Friends.  It’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I’ll be sharing more later.  I must tell you how awesome you all are though.  The Be Your Tee campaign and our 626 shirt goal?  Um, how about 2029 shirts sold?  That’s $15,000 raised for the NDSS–and one of Teespring’s top ten t-shirt campaigns ever.  We’ll be bringing more designs for teens and adults soon.  Thank you, thank you.

And a virtual computer hug.  Can you feel it?  I hope so.

Me and God?

So whenever I touch on faith and my past church conflicts on the blog, I get a lot of e-mails—most of them really kind—from readers who are interested and/or concerned.

Some sound like: “What the hell happened in your faith past?”

Some sound like: “Honey, run to Jesus and stop pushing him away. You’re going to lose your chance.”

And most sound like: “My faith brings me so much peace in my life. I am praying for you. I’m so sorry your past has presented issues with God. I hope you figure it out. God loves you so much. Just the way you are.” These ones feel like a hug.

I will write more about my faith past. I am writing a lot about it off line. I realized after Bloom, many have conflicting faith pasts.

It is hard to write about because it involves people. People I love. People who read this blog. People who loved me and offered me a lot of good and support as well as their version of faith. But I was told a lot of things about God that I don’t think are true anymore, and not only do I think they’re not true, I think they are very damaging. I realize I have to fight tendencies that make me want to view myself and the rest of the world in a skewed way, due to ten years of input and reactive behavior to that input. And all the people who were involved in teaching me this—I still love them. We are human, we make mistakes.

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Last night’s moon.  Feel’s fitting to include.

The basis of what I believed for a very long time, along with a lot of weird stuff that went along with it, was that God commanded and demanded us to be PERFECT, no exceptions. “Examine yourself” was a phrase frequently thrown around, and I’m not talking a shower breast exam. If there was sin, sinful feelings, sin-like thoughts, anything that resembled sin (“even if you don’t sin but you’re thinking about sin,” we were told), you were going to hell. So, in order to please God, we were basically trained to become professional Sinbusters, constantly examining our thoughts and everything we did to make sure we weren’t sinning. It was exhausting. There was lots of repenting, might I add. For years, it was a completely normal thing for me to walk into the house, call “Is anybody home?” and if someone didn’t answer within twenty seconds, I was immediately paralyzed with fear that the rapture came and I didn’t go. Beginning around nine years old. I had countless nightmares that I was left after the rapture or that I died in a car accident and went to hell. Because of that one little feeling of resentment or jealousy or unkindness I felt.

A lady once stood up in our church and repented to the entire congregation, kids included, for her sin. You want to know what her sin was? Going to a garage sale, seeing a jar of buttons for a dollar and buying them. Why, do you ask that’s a sin? Because she saw another lady eyeing them and she bought them anyway. I guess it was unkind not to offer them to the other lady who wanted them. Not only unkind but SIN. Sin that sends you to hell. And when people heard this, they shook their heads and said “Amen” and applauded her for her stellar sin detection skills—a Class 1 Sinbuster (okay, we didn’t really call them that). And I remember even at twelve years old, listening to this story and thinking WHAT. THE. HELL. But then I repented later for thinking “What the Hell” because I didn’t want to go to hell. When hell was described in sermons where children were present, nothing was held back. “Gnashing of teeth” was a common phrase because somewhere in the Bible it says that about the people who burn there. And we were told that it’s so hot and miserable and tortuous that people BEG God to forgive them, but NEVER. They were already warned, it’s over. It was important that we knew that time never ends in hell. As a kid, I’d ask things like “even longer than 100 years?” and be answered with things like “100 times 100. Time NEVER ends in hell.” Imagine going there all over a jar of frickin’ buttons. In all fairness, we knew that heaven never ended either. This was supposed to be a really exciting fact, but A: the hell thing kind of took over, and B: heaven was described as endless sitting around listening to Jesus teach and singing for hours, and—well, that sounds kind of boring, even now.

This is one among hundreds of stories like it. Ten years of repenting, waking up with sweaty palms and a racing heart from rapture nightmares. I was never good enough for God, and I knew it. I couldn’t shut off sinful thoughts and while I smiled and told all the church people when they asked (and they did) that I was Tony-the-Tiger Grrreeeeeaaat with God, I knew inside that I was doomed for hell.

When we were feeling the energy to extend beyond our own heart examinations, we took it upon ourselves to do it for others too—telling people when they were in sin. Separating from them. Cutting off anyone who “called themself a Christian” but lived otherwise according to our superhuman standards. We cut my cousins out of my life. My grandparents. I didn’t see my dad for four years because he was gay, gay was wrong and 1 Corinthians says, “put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” It also says you couldn’t eat with these people. So we didn’t. One time, when we were still seeing my dad, we went to a restaurant and sat at a different table—just me and my siblings—while my dad sat alone in a booth behind us. I was nine.

All the things that could send you to hell—I realize now that they are the things that make us human. Imagine. Going to hell for being human. So you had to be something better than human, a perfect subspecies. I carry remnants of these feelings today. As if we don’t have enough guilt to deal with in motherhood and trying to do it all. It’s okay to be human, I say to myself a lot. It’s okay to be human. If you need to know this, I’m your girl.

I get hung up on wanting to know the answers to things I might never know, but I’m okay. Me and God? We’re good, we’re getting there, and sometimes, many times, we are beyond good–a peaceful, settling, oh-so-loving “so this is what it’s supposed to feel like.” As far as Jesus and the Bible and all that other stuff—well, I don’t know. Telling me to run to Jesus is like telling a beaten dog he should come out and trust people. I heard a song the other day that said “Get out of the box and come into the clear,” and I think that’s a good description for where I am. I don’t ever want to be in a box when it comes to anything in my life. There’s a giant clearing around it, and it’s full of daisies and sunflowers and grass as far as you can see. There are so many more experiences to learn and grow in the clearing than I could ever find in the claustrophobia trap of the box. I think God is in the clearing. And I know he wants me to run around and find him in the many places he exists. It’s a challenge.

Our old church has pretty much dissipated. I don’t see “church” now. I see humans. Humans who make mistakes and get confused sometimes. I may not have always felt that God loved me, but I did feel love from people. And I always felt loved and accepted by my parents.

I realize that my church past is a unique situation, and I’m so glad there are churches around the world that do so much good. Can you imagine a world without church? We’d lose a lot of comfort, a lot of good and a lot of love for people who need it. I’m so glad there are churches.

The thing about God that I hang on to the most? It’s being loved simply for existing. I think that’s a pretty powerful thing.

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As for the rest, I’m going to take this broken glass and glue the shards together to make some amazing stained glass windows. I’m going to build a cathedral. Actually, I think I’ll just shoot for a little hillside chapel. With lots of love. And a nice mix of dandelions and daisies on the hill. So much better than a cathedral.

The regular blog will resume next week. It was ETST Deep Week. Kind of like Shark Week but with less blood.

Oh, and HAPPY FRIDAY! (confetti, confetti, confetti!!!)