And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Dressember to Remember

Halfway through my month of wearing dresses.
A little over halfway to my goal of raising $300 dollars for International Justice Mission.

 I've allowed myself to wear workout clothes, when I'm working out and around the time that I am working out.  In the home I've allowed myself to wear sweats, because they point of this is to raise awareness for women who are oppressed, not for me to ruin all my dress clothes while cleaning the toilet.  But when I get dressed  it's a dress.
This has had the unfortunate side effect of making me very aware of what I look like all the time, because when you wear a dress you feel like you have to do your hair, wear makeup, and maybe even accessorize a wee bit.

I've worn dresses through many days of very cold rain.  I've worn dresses through my heater breaking.  I've worn a dress to a birthday party in a bowling alley.  I've worn a dress to a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I've worn a dress when I would've rather just thrown on jeans and a hoodie.

When I first heard of the Dressember challenge (a challenge to wear dresses the month of December to raise money for the charity International Justice Mission) I thought, 'that was totally created by someone from California.'  I soon found out that a friend of mine attends church with the woman who created the challenge.  The church is in Pasadena, California.
Here I am in New England walking through snow storms in a coat, dress, and leggings.
Most of the women who have restrictions placed on the way that they dress live in warm climates, right?
Currently in Kabul, Afghanistan it is 37 degrees Fahrenheit.  Where many women wear a full burqa.
In Thimpu, Bhutan it is currently 36 degrees.  Women are restricted to traditional dress, which includes (you guessed it) a long skirt or dress.
In Pyongyang, North Korea the high is 12 degrees today.  Women are required to wear skirts and if they wear pants they are forced to work in a labor camp as punishment.
While I have access to things like SmartWool socks and fleeced leggings many of these women do not.  I have actually found out that some of my fleeced leggings are warmer than jeans.

I remember when I lived in Nairobi seeing women wearing full hijab in the blazing sun of equatorial Africa.  I wondered how they were holding up in all that black polyester.  I wondered how many of them chose to wear it.
I know that some Muslim do choose to wear hijab, and I can understand that (having the barrier to not be looked at).  The point is that they're allowed the choice.  No one should be forced to wear something because their state or their husband says they can't leave the house unless they are wearing it.
I am not speaking out against traditional dress either.  Just that women do not have the freedom to dress as they see fit.

I haven't worn a dress to work out.  I don't think I could take my workout seriously if I was worried about a dress getting caught in a Spin Bike, or tripping while running, or sweating through one of my nice dresses while doing burpees.  I have seen film of Afghan and Saudi women rowing crew and skateboarding while wearing hijab.  I am thrilled to see them out there in boats and on boards, when so many of us would not.  Before I went to that bowling birthday party I found myself in my bedroom doing lunges with my hand on my bum to see if my dress would ride up while bowling.  I don't know if it did indeed while at the party, because I was also squatting, bending over, and lifting small children around.  Hopefully my leggings are not see through....
Certain types of dress certainly do restrict freedom of movement.  There also seems to be a correlation between the restrictions placed on women's dress and the restrictions placed on them elsewhere.

Through a storm of first world problems (bad weather, sniffly children, a broken double stroller, large embarrassing temper tantrums) I have found myself cooped up in the house with my children for the past few weeks.  There has been the few times when the thought of getting dressed properly was another straw on the  camel's back of not leaving the house.  This has made me think of women who's movements are restricted by other forces.  In some countries women can't leave the house without a male escort.  I can't imagine how difficult my life would be if I had to wait for my husband to be with me so that I could go somewhere.  I don't know about you, but my husband works and is not with me for most of the day.  He also travels for his job and is often gone for days at a time.  I would be home for weeks at a time, with just my children.  I don't know what the infastructure is in those countries that restrict women so heavily and if they have parks and libraries available to them, but I know that most of my day is spent shuttling my children to the YMCA so we can get some exercise or to the library or to parks.  So restrictions on my movement effect the the health of my children as well.  Which effects the overall health of a people group.

So any time you restrict women, you restrict children.  When you endanger women, you endanger children.  When you endanger children you endanger your future.

That's why I chose to wear dresses all month to raise awareness and funds for International Justice Mission an organization that fights for the rights of the oppressed worldwide.  They've shut down sweat shops in India, they've pulled people out of sex trafficking, and protected many others.  The founder Gary Haugen, the President and CEO of IJM came and spoke at my church in Santa Barbara several times and I loved hearing his story and how he stepped down from a prominent legal career to fight for the underprivileged.

Thanks for reading my thoughts that have been swimming in my head as I've spent the month being ladylike, if you haven't donated to International Justice Mission and would like to here's the link to my Dressember page.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Something They Need

Something to read
Something to wear
Something they want
Something they need.

This is an interesting category to write about.  
Mostly what comes to mind are things like mittens, coats, warm hats, cold weather gear, those are things that children actually need. But, see, here in new England I had to buy stuff like that back in October.  Actually it usually goes like this; you get lulled into a false sense of security in October, because October is not that bad.  Then In November you get your first really cold day, and then realize that child's hat, or coat, or mittens don't fit from last year.  So if you've got your stuff together you make them try it on in October so then you can have it ready for that first cold day.
If you're me, you end up buying it in November after having to force your child into last year's coat.
There is usually tears.  
Not always theirs.
So, what I'm saying is that by Christmas time, my children already have all their cold weather gear that they will need to not lose an extremity here in New England.

So what do my children need right now?
Actually, really nothing.
They need warm clothes.  They have plenty of those.
They need a warm house.  We have that.  Of course warm is a relative term.  I believe right now the thermostat says 64.  
They need food.  We have that.
They need love.  We do love them.

So what do they really need right now?
I cannot think of a single thing.

Scott and I have been talking about to get each other for Christmas.  We have been using the phrase 'could use.' 
"I could use new pajamas."
"I could use another dress shirt."  
"I could use a pair of those gloves with the phone fingertips.  What? Don't give me that look, you keep texting me when I'm walking, then I have to whip my gloves off, it's annoying.  Hey, you could use a pair too."
He refuses to get them on principal.
We actually have all we need.  The things we 'could use' only serve to make life a little easier.  We are at a place where we can buy what we need.  That's a great place to be.

My children aren't getting anything they need this Christmas.  To fulfill that category I would have to make something up.  

Maybe we need to rethink the category of 'need.'  That we shouldn't be giving a 'thing.'  My children need love, so maybe in this season I make sure that I show them I love them.  Maybe by doing things with them I don't like.  You know getting down on the floor and actually playing with them.  Those things.  Meeting them where they're at, instead of giving what you want to.  Everyone has a different way of feeling loved.  I will read books to my children until my voice cracks, but I do not get down on the floor and play 'pretend' with them.
Don't start thinking I'm all awesome, this afternoon we had some former students over for lunch and my five year old was asking them to go upstairs and play with her.  As she was reciting all the different roles that each student would play, one prompted,
"And mommy?"
"Mommy has to do the dishes."  That hurt a bit.  Or a lot.

The other day I took my five year old to the pool, just the two of us.  As I was buckling her in to her car seat I realized that I all she does at the pool is play imaginary games.  Usually she is a mermaid.  I don't engage her in these games because I am usually wrangling her two year old sister.  I realized I was going to have to 'play' with her.  So for an hour, I was a mermaid.
One could argue that she needed that.  There was definitely a smoothing to some of her more difficult behavior after I played mermaid with her.
All it took was one hour.

It's a thought process.  A paradigm shift.  When one lives in a state when you have all you really need, your needs change.  What my family needs for Christmas can't be put under the tree in wrapping paper.  What they do need will take thought, I'll have to actually think through how to give them something they need.  I might even have to talk to my husband about it.  Or think about how he feels loved, am I missing him on that?  How do my daughters feel loved?
Then take time to do that, rather than getting them another thing that they don't really need.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Something They Want

'Maybe we shouldn't do presents this year,' I texted my husband a few Fridays ago.
The thought had occurred to me in a moment of radical conviction.  I knew that he would save me from myself.  Because if we don't do Christmas that means that I don't get a Christmas present.
And I really want a new winter coat.
I want one of those down sleeping bag coats that covers me all the way to my knees.
I pointed out a picture of one to Scott about a year ago,
"What do you think about this coat?"
"It's not that flattering, I think it looks like, 'I give up I'm cold,'" he responded.
I give up.
I'm cold.

"What do you want for Christmas?" I asked both of my children.
There was some silence.  Emma thought for awhile, 
"Pinkie Pie," and that was it.  I looked at Carys, and asked again, she lifted both hands over her head and proclaimed joyfully,
"A Toy!"  
That was pretty much that.  I was so proud of my girls.  I proudly told people that they didn't know what they wanted.  They don't watch television, except for PBS and DVDs, so they don't see commercials.  I strutted for a few days...and then my mother in law sent a Little People Nativity set.  Something I am more than happy for them to have, but it came with a catalog.  Pretty soon Emma started following me around with that catalog.  Asking for something every day.  
Eventually I threw it away.
I remember wanting as a child.  Seeing toys that I was powerless to purchase and wanting them.  I am sure that I caused many embarrassing moments for myself and for my parents over that want.  I was hoping to spare my children of that want
Christmas makes this hard.  Sure there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to give small children gifts.  The experience is certainly fun.  I do remember eventually being disappointed with those things that I wanted and then actually got.  Or deeply wanting something and never getting it. Not understanding all the nuances that go into gift buying, like budgets or that something may have already been purchased for me.

We asked our Kenyan friends what they do for Christmas and they all talked about getting a new Christmas outfit and then walking around their town and visiting family and friends and eating.  That seemed lovely to me.  
Giving presents is part of the tradition that our country has adopted to celebrate Christmas.  To take that out of our families tradition seems, well, grinchy.  So I can't do that.  How do I help my own children not get into the want trap.  Or is it inevitable?

Well, fortunately for us, our budget forces us to keep the gifts at Christmas simple.  
A friend of mine just hosted a Toy Swap at her house, where we all brought toys that our children no longer played with and picked up toys that we could give to our own children.  I was able to score Carys' main gift and find a few things we needed.  A total blessing.  
Now for the extended family, we exchange gifts with ten families.  For the past several years we have constructed a box of things that were important to us that year; like a souvenir from a place we traveled that year or a shell ornament from the beach by our house.  My relatives have kept it simple as well, either making things or giving food.  One sister usually gives a box of fun snacks from Trader Joe's, one sister made a body scrub for the women and her husband (my brother) made a bbq rub for the men.
Simple, easy, and I'm thinking of you.
Isn't that what this is about?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Something To Wear

'Something they want, 
Something they need,
Something to wear, & 
Something to read.'

I'm not sure that what I wear during the month of advent makes my life more complicated.  
Ugly Christmas sweater parties?
Okay, that's kinda fun.
Cocktail Christmas parties?
Let's face it at about any of those parties in America it's completely acceptable to wear jeans.

I have a few events during Christmas that I need to look a wee bit fancy for, but nothing really that stresses me out.  I'm at the age wear I've started buying what I like and what looks good on me as opposed to what is trendy.  My clothes are lasting longer because of that.  I also have started practicing buying fewer and nicer items, rather than lots of cheap items that fall apart or pill in a few months.

The only thing I can think about is that I haven't bought much lately to refresh my winter wardrobe and I'm already sick of my clothes.

It's only the fifth of December.
I am in so much trouble.

A friend approached me a few weeks ago about an event called Dressember.  Where you wear dresses the whole month of December to raise awareness and money for women who've been exploited for their femininity.  She's going to do this.  I thought it was a good idea, maybe a little silly.  'What would wearing dresses all month long do to help a woman being sold in Cambodia?'  Besides all the women that live in countries where they would be required to wear a dress are warm countries.  Right?
Because I live in New England.  And it is cold here.  And I can wear pants.  And almost all my dresses are summer dresses.
So how would me freezing my, ahem, off all December help anyone?
When I heard about this challenge I thought, 'I bet a Californian made this up.'  Sure enough, Dressember is registered in California as a non-profit.

And when it comes to raising money I am the worst.  Seriously, cursed, every fundraiser I have laid hands on does nothing.  I don't know why.  

Today I saw my friend in her dress.  
Then I found out another friend was also participating in the event.  
I felt a little bit like a cad.  I should wear a dress for a month.
Might make me a little more thankful for that closet of clothes I am sick of wearing.  
Might make me think a bit more about other women who don't have the choices I have, rather than pouting because my favorite black sweater is now pilly.

Guilt sneaked up the back of my neck.  I felt a little convicted.  Trafficking, poverty and the plight of women are issues that are so close to my heart.  Why can't I do this?

So about five days late I joined Dressember and am committing to wearing dresses all December.  So help me out, all the funds raised will to go to International Justice Mission to lift women out of exploitation and poverty.  
I guess for me 'Something to Wear' is a dress.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Something to Read

Today is December first.  The day that always takes me by surprise.
The day that I realize I should have put together that lovely handmade advent calendar, like yesterday.  Or that I should have hung the advent calendar that my sister-in-law gave me, like yesterday.
When I sit down to read to my children tonight I realize that I should have come up with some plan of attack for our nightly Bible readings, like yesterday.

It's also my eldest brother's birthday.  Which means I should have sent him a card, like yesterday.

This year I may have won this round.

I feel like every idea I see trounced across Facebook for advent calendars is super crafty and takes lots of forethought and organization.  I can craft with the best of them, but forethought and organization?  Now, those things I do not have.  Most of the time when people post things they have done for advent my face starts to hurt and I shut down, it's just all so much.  I also would have had to have it done, like yesterday.

Now, don't get all offended if you're one of those people that loves doing all these things I made fun of.  That's great.  If that's what you want to do, then by all means do it.
But if you don't want to, then you don't have to.
And you're not less of a person.

At least that's what I tell myself.

One of my more organized friends has in the past taken twenty five Christmas books and wrapped them in wrapping paper and each night at bed time her children can unwrap one and they will read it.  When I saw her pile of lovely wrapped books, my heart warmed, those children will remember that forever.  Then my heart dipped, I will never have my stuff together to do that.  Ever.
And it's just so wholesome.
I do, however, have a pile of Christmas books.  I stuck them in the box with the all the Christmas decorations.  I pulled them out when I brought the boxes up from the basement.  There it is.
Something to read.  I didn't have to organize anything, or pay attention to the date.

Now for that whole Bible reading thing....
The ladies that I'm in a community group with have a running text.  One of the ladies texted us this little link a few days ago.  A schedule for reading though the Jesus Storybook Bible during advent.  I thought, 'we have that Bible, I love that Bible, it's still November, I can print that out.'  And tonight when our bed time routine was falling apart because my two year old refused to eat dinner, for only reasons that two year olds understand, I was able to sneak up next to my husband and hand him this little piece of paper with this schedule.
The one thing that is a challenge is that we both put the girls to bed.  One night I'll do it. One night he'll do it.  So whatever we do both Scott and I have to know about it.
This was perfect, print it out, stick it in the Bible.  Neither of us has to think about it, nor does it have to add extra communication to our marriage, which if you've been married long enough you know that doesn't always happen.

I probably should read something myself for this time of year....

Maybe I can think about that next year, before December first....