Monthly Archives: February 2012

Generosity

In today’s society where everything is instant, people are out for “number one”, and giving to charity is more for the tax breaks than the gift of giving, generosity is a lost virtue. Distrust seems to be more common than gratitude and many question the nature behind the act of being generous.

I was raised in a home where acts of charity were blessings delivered at just the right time. In second grade someone swooped in to pay my private school tuition- an act of anonymous generosity- so I wouldn’t have to switch schools because of cost. As an adult I still remember trying to wrap my seven year old brain around why someone I didn’t even know would do something so kind.

My life is filled with generous people. When Ehron and I first moved into our home, we didn’t have a washer and dryer, and realistically couldn’t afford new appliances while paying rent at two places and juggling our new marital demands (read: bills, commuting, and more bills). A sweet woman with whom I worked told me her parents had a dryer for us, which they gave to us for free. At just the right time they had this dryer available, and their kindness still warms my heart (and my clothes). While I was pregnant I desperately needed a haircut. A mention of this on Facebook led to a free haircut from a lovely girlfriend of mine at her incredibly posh salon. Without this generous gift, I would have never otherwise had the funds or the guts to enter the doors of Jamison Shaw.

Anyone that knows my mom and dad will know that “giving” is their favorite, much like “smiling” is Buddy the Elf’s favorite. My parents would give their children the clothes off their backs to make sure we stayed warm. My siblings and I can say without a doubt that our parents have kept us afloat many a time. Between “grocery shopping” in their pantry, sweetly worded, hand written cards with a $20 bill folded between the page, and all the time they have sacrificed, my parents deserve some kind of award. They instilled this in my brothers and sisters.

Amidst all the noble, virtuous people, I still feel petty. I worry that my home isn’t clean enough or decorated properly. I look at my skin and feel disgusted, and assume everyone else around me thinks the same. I am jealous. I am fickle. I feel undeserving of the love lavished on me time and again.

My sisters are all quite good at this “decorating the home” thing. Each has her own style, her own eye for certain pieces, or a way of putting together a room in such a way that I will never be able to do. One sister in particular finds the best deals on gorgeous things for the home. Tonight she sent me a text to let me know she was bringing me new clothes and things for my house. Waves of emotion hit me when she told me this, and I’m still tearing up even as I type. She is so generous and so giving! It floors me. I live in the small, selfish world of my mind and there are people that love me enough to go shop for me, to put forethought into an action that’s both time consuming and bank account- draining.

Captain Laser Pants is generous with his kindness. He is tender with his words. My sisters are generous with their time. They invest in our relationships, travel to visit me and little Gwinn, bring us cupcakes and treats for much needed pick- me- ups. They encourage me. My mom and dad are generous with their constant, unwavering love. They give when I hate to ask. Our friends are generous with their patience and understanding as we test the waters with a new baby. They brush off my concerns of him crying with a casual wave. The giving that surrounds me is overwhelming.

I want to be a more generous person. I want to be more generous with my words. To be more encouraging, more loving, more giving- these are virtues I want to embody now so my son learns them and benefits from what it means to have a generous family, just like I did.

Thank you friends and family, for your generosity. I am so, so very grateful for the love you lavish upon us.

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To Sacrifice a Human Cow and the Perfectly Natural Order of Doing So

The last time I had a haircut was August. The last time I had it professionally colored was October of 2010. You are welcome to envision something akin to the bride of Frankenstein’s monster. That is mostly accurate (minus the Marge Simpson beehive height).

As a teenager I was lavishly spoiled by my mom, perhaps not in the conventional “I had a Mercedes and a closet full of insert your favorite designer here clothes”, but certainly in things like tanning bed visits and hair-apy.

Oh, the hair I had in high school. It changed color and length more times than I can count. And I loved changing my hair, from wheat blonde to red and white stripes to black and brown with pink streaks. Sometimes it was to the middle of my back, and the next week the tips of my hair would be at my jaw. That’s not to say it was always traditionally “beautiful” Victoria’s Secret hair, but the act of changing it was fun enough for me. And if I didn’t like the end product? Meh. It grew quickly enough for that to be a non-issue.

Fast forward ten thousand years to pregnancy, and I started having “Cousin It” style growth. Seriously, my hair must have grown an inch a month. It is still growing at that rate. My shoulder sweeping hair cut from August has now grown to hair that sits well below my shoulder blades. The color now more closely resembles Joseph’s technicolor dream coat than natural hair color. There must be at least seven different shades in there, ranging from blonde to black and everything in between.

What, you ask, does this have to do with sacrifice or being a human cow?

When I refer to myself as a human Bessie, it isn’t really about the weight any more (I now have 12ish pounds left to drop, and most of that has to stay on during nursing anyway), but more about the fact that between pumping and nursing and being covered in milk spots, I feel like I should have a bell around my neck.

Moo. 

You see, kiddies, once upon a time, I took care of my appearance. Captain Laster Pants saw my University of MN student ID card and exclaimed, “Look at how pretty you are in this picture!” I had on my very cute winter car coat, a cheery red scarf, lip gloss, perfectly applied makeup and glossy, straight hair with gorgeous highlights. My cheeks were pink from the cold of the winter, and my smile indicates innocence and excitement.

For fun, I held this picture up to my image in the mirror this morning. The two females with identical DNA are wholly different.

As new mothers we are expected to forgo beauty salons, pedicures, tanning booths and fun cocktail dresses because there is a tiny human being dependent upon us for literally every aspect of his existence. As a new mom, I’m probably supposed to do this with graciousness and selflessness. I do adore my gorgeous little boy who never stops crying (I suspect he has silent gerd, which we will find out tomorrow if that’s true), and I do cater to his every need (sometimes with more enthusiasm, sometimes with less, like at 3 AM). I am biologically wired, both mentally and physically, to want to nourish him from my body, hold him when he cries, and delight in his every smile.

But, my life is not a Pampers commercial. It is not easy and through a soft focus lens with a gentle narration and soothing musical montage. It is raw, with challenges, with hourly defeats and successes. Every feeding is a challenge unlike any race I’ve run or test I’ve taken. Will nursing hurt us both this time? Will he get what he needs before he starts thrashing and crying, injuring me in the process? Breast feeding is more emotionally draining than a break up. And it has to happen every three hours. When this is reality, putting on makeup and styling hair to be beautiful seem like distant fantasies, right up there with sprouting wings or having super powers. Being pretty is nonessential to the survival of my son and myself.

It would sure be an emotional espresso, though.

So we sacrifice who we once were, or at least how we once presented ourselves, for the greater good of our posterity. We shaves our legs once a month because a three minute shower is all we can sneak into our day.

And love- true, unconditional, selfless love- is what fuels us through our days. If I was without it, from and for Captain Laser Pants and for my precious little Fox, I would have broken down months ago. In a world today where how you present yourself matters more than who you actually are, this love is sustaining.

In a few years I’m sure I’ll see the inside of a spa again. At least, I hope to God I do. In the mean time, I’m going to thank my mom for sacrificing for me the way I am sacrificing now for my son. And I ask that you thank your mom soon, too. We never truly understand the importance of their love and the work they poured into us until we ourselves become parents.


My Mother, (Not) Myself

Earlier this week my mom told me something interesting, “If you had been my first baby, I wouldn’t have had any more.”

Mind you, I’m the youngest of six children.

Since I was old enough to care, I’ve asked a lot of questions about my family- where we came from, who our ancestors are, etcetera. I know that my mom wanted ten children and my dad wanted two. They somehow settled at six. My assumption is that raising each of us became progressively more difficult. The oldest sibling is an incredibly mellow guy. He’s very even keeled, loves his family, and he has a great sense of humor. From what my mom has told me, he was a calm and sweet baby. Fast forward to the stories I’ve been told about my infancy, and I can see why my mom said that about me. I cried until I was five years old, taking breaks only to sleep and eat. I’m not a weepy, emotional adult, but I am what most consider to be a “difficult” person, prone to confrontation and threatening to punch or run over people. My doctors have told me I am patient, and I correct them by saying, “My husband would call me ‘obstinate’.”

I’m pretty sure my child has my disposition.

That being said, I know that many mothers, including my own, would handle the stress of raising him quite differently from how I handle it. I honestly believe some women would break down by mid-afternoon every day. Some would be completely unaffected, some would snap. I am nothing if not stubborn and I tend to muscle through difficulties with bull horns. I am sure there will be epic battles in my house when Fletch is old enough to lock horns with me. God bless him, poor kid.

So how did my mom do it? I would rather shave my head once a week and clip off my fingertips than have six children. I don’t have the patience or the selflessness to bring that many humans into fruition.

Frankly put, my mom and I are completely different people.

She would rather bake someone a dozen cupcakes than tell them something negative about themselves. I’d rather eat the dozen cupcakes and tell that person exactly how I feel about them and hope their suicide note doesn’t mention me by name. My mom is much warmer than I am. That’s not to say I’m a biker chick with a heart of steel, but I don’t believe in protecting someone’s feelings. When my mom went into protective mother mode for my siblings and myself, she had the ability to kill people with kindness. I already know that when I go into protective mother mode, I have the ability to kill people with arsenic and a healthy dose of “face against the curb” action.

There are aspects of my mother’s personality that I want to have. She’s incredibly generous. She’s nurturing. She’s sweet. But, there are plenty of aspects of a super model’s body I’d like to have, too, and unless I pay for them, I probably won’t ever have them.

When I have stepped outside myself to evaluate my maternal success or failure, I learned:
-I am relentless
-I am nurturing, in a very different way
-I am willing to sacrifice anything for my child
-I am infinitely proud of my baby

Am I Sarah Connor, defending my baby boy with automatic rifles and high powered shot guns? No. But will I suffer through hell to feed my baby the way God intended? Yes. Do I secretly beam with pride when people tell me how beautiful he is? Of course. If I am rough around the edges, it is only to keep me from getting a big head about how awesome he is. If I don’t lavish superfluous compliments on him when he gets a B on a math test, it’s only because I want him to do his best and to try as hard as he can. If I drag him by his shirt collar out of a bad situation, it’s only because I expect him to be the best he can be. He’s my baby. And while I’m not my mother, I’m still a pretty darn good one for my child.