Put yourself out there

I wrote an article about breastfeeding. I dropped the F-bomb a lot. It turned out really ridiculous.

I realized something. When talking about breastfeeding, politics, or whatever the controversial issue may be…in the moment it can feel great to outshout or outsmart people who we think are wrong. However, in doing this those people likely aren’t going to change their minds even if they do back off. Instead, they will go to someone else who isn’t as smart or outspoken and fight with them. It seems to me we have only succeeded in passing the fighting along to someone else.

I don’t want to pass fighting to others. What do I want to pass to others? Kindness. Actually putting this into practice can be difficult. With certain people, it’s hard to deeply listen, look the person in the eye, and try to understand. We can choose to see difficult people as an opportunity to practice and an opportunity to be the person you want to be. Acting kind does not make us pushovers or weak people. It means we are strong.

Know who you are, the kind of person you want to be, and then go out there and do your best no matter what happens.

Living your values in life is just like breastfeeding.  Literally, all you can do is take your boobs out in front of God and everyone and do it.

Real Beauty is Modesty-Part 2

“For women, real beauty is modesty.” This statement is from a book I’m reading and there is something that bothers me about that statement.

I can imagine the author seeing someone in reveling clothing, like an actress on T.V who is dressed less-than-modestly, and then saying “Remember, real beauty is modesty” as if she has to override her natural tendency to think that that woman is beautiful.

Let’s say I’m walking around with my 3 year daughter and see a woman walking down the street wearing extremely revealing clothing. My daughter says, “She’s pretty,” and I answer, “Remember, Alisa, real beauty is modesty.”   Would that be the correct response? Well, I think I can do better.

Foremost, I would say, “She is pretty!” We should encourage that response in our children and others instead of trying to tear each other down. I wish I could leave it at that.

The reality of the situation is that as a mother I have to teach my daughter that there is a certain way to dress in certain situations. If a women dressed in very reveling clothing and walked down the street men would likely catcall or honk their car horns or even approach her and say disrespectful things. This is not a safe or pleasant situation to be in. Although I would like my daughter to dress and express herself how she wants I have a duty to tell her, “If you dress in this way this is likely to happen to you.” You will be judged and harassed. The issue in this situation is not, “real beauty is modesty.” The issue is not about beauty at all. Who is ugly in this situation is not the woman for wearing revealing clothing but how some men treat women who wear revealing clothing.

Let’s Talk About Donuts

I saw a show on PBS where kids were making necklaces. A little girl said, “I picked these beads because they look like donuts. I like them because I remember going to the donut shop with my dad.” I thought, “Me too!” As a child, I loved going to the donut shop with my dad.

When I was little, my sister, dad, and I went to this donut shop next to my Grandma’s house called Evergreen Donut.  We would pick one donut each and my dad would get coffee. It was family owned we played with the owner’s daughter who shared her Spirograph set with us.

That donut shop is still there to this day.  It’s under new ownership and the new owner’s daughter is about the same age as my two daughters.  Now it’s me taking my kids there and telling them to pick out whatever donut they want.  We all eat our donuts and I drink a coffee while my girls play with the owner’s little girl.

When I was a teenager I read an article that said donuts are the worst food you can eat.  It said, “The word ‘donut’ would make any nutritionist shudder.”  We all know that donuts have sugar, fat, and white flour. After reading that article, I did not touch a donut for years.  I tried to think of ways to make healthy donuts. Something golden, sweet and round with a hole in it but healthy.  Then I realized that’s already a thing-it’s called pineapple rings. Sigh.

I realize that these days there are all kinds of drama around food. Especially for women. People struggle with food addictions and poor nutritional habits. Plus there are food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies. The emotional attachment and relationship with food is what makes eating healthy hard sometimes. I imagined myself as a teenager, when I was most tortured by my food drama, making necklaces with those kids on T.V.

Teenage Allison: “These circular beads remind me of pineapple rings. And these square ones remind me of protein shakes. I don’t know why, but these red ones remind me I should go to the gym.”

Little girl: “The circle ones look more like donuts to me than pineapple.”

Teenage Allison: “Now this whole thing reminds me that I hate myself.”

It appears to me, when we say that a certain food is “bad,” especially when we had wholesome childhood memories of that food, then we reject a part of ourselves. This can be confusing and damaging.

Now I realize that donuts are not something to be feared. I think of Evergreen Donut where a nice family makes donuts fresh everyday with simple ingredients. Going to a donut shop once in a while can be a nice treat for families to do together.  If you go with mindfulness-thinking of your childhood, thinking of the nice family who made the donuts, thinking of being present there with your children as they make their own memories-then that donut will nourish you.

Let drama go and don’t be scared of anything. Not even donuts.

Why I Do Cloth Diapers

My 81 year old Filipino Grandma hangs crinkly and yellowed zip lock bags and latex gloves to drip dry in the garage. She rescues every empty yogurt and takeout container from the recycling bin for indefinite reuse. She only uses napkins, straws, and condiments acquired from fast food places. She yells at us when we try to throw away stale bread saying: “NAKO! If you throw food away you won’t be BLESSED!”

My grandma thinks that I’m too cheap.

Why?

I use cloth diapers.

My grandma sees me washing diapers in the garage and asks me why I’m so cheap. I know that when my Grandma was raising my mom disposable diapers were not yet invented. So she must have used cloth diapers. I ask Grandma and she says that she hired someone to wash the cloth diapers for her.

Grandma tells me, “Last time I visited the Philippines I asked about that one who used to wash the diapers. I learned she already died. I asked your mom if she remembered her. She said she did not.”

Grandma then stares at me ominously, frowning. Maybe washing cloth diapers will lead me to a similar fate.

I started using cloth diapers after deciding to live with more mindfulness. My favorite mindfulness writer, Thich Nhat Hahn does not say, “Stop using disposable diapers” but instead says to use them with mindfulness. When you throw one away, think, “I am throwing a diaper away.”

So I tried that. I found that saying, “I am throwing a diaper away” every time you change the baby, minimum 5x a day or so, and it starts to eat at you. Not hard, but rather like a gentle nibbling on the conscience.

“I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

“But I NEED them.” (Guilty feeling).

“I’m busy. And Alisa is already 2 and Amira is 8 months old so it’s not worth starting cloth diapers now. It’s too late.” (Guilty feeling).

Next change. “I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

“I’m busy! I don’t care! I’m sleep deprived. I don’t care about the environment. I’ll stomp through a field of kittens if it would make my like easier.” (Guilty feeling, times 100).

Next change. “I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

This thought pattern would repeat over and over again with each changing.

I learned that when I tried to battle negative energy, like guilt, with more negative energy, anger, the feelings would just get worse and worse. It was exhausting. With the practice of mindfulness one does not fight his or her feelings but instead has to decide to really feel emotions and then work on transforming them.

Next change. “I am throwing a diaper away” (Guilty feeling).

I inhaled and exhaled and focused on the guilty feeling.

I said to myself, “I know I have a bad feeling and it is guilt.”

Inhaled and exhaled and sat with the guilty feeling.

I thought, “I cradle my bad feelings. I cradle my guilt. I cradle my guilt and forgive myself for my unskillfulness in the past. I did not know better and was trying to alleviate my own suffering. Please forgive me and help me to be more skillful in the future.” I felt better.

Then I bought cloth diapers. I put them on both my kids. Alisa, my oldest, was 50% potty-trained at the time and she went to 100% potty trained 2 days. This included nights, naps and going out. My youngest, Amira was 8 months old.

After making the switch, I save so much money and I’m not constantly taking stinky diaper trash out and filling the whole trash with diapers. Most of the time, I hand wash them and hang them up to dry in the sun. But if I’m too busy I use the washing machine and dryer. And if I’m really, really busy I use disposable diapers but with awareness. I think that some cloth diapering, any cloth diapering is better than nothing. Even if you save even one diaper that is 250-500 years you are saving the planet from a disposable diaper sitting in a landfill.

I never thought I would use cloth diapers. Now there is no more bad feeling and instead I can feel good about saving the planet and myself some hard-earned money. When I change, wash, and dry them I do it with awareness and then every action becomes a source of healing to me.

 

 

 

W.W.J.D

W.W.J.D. or “What Would Jesus Do?” is a popular Christian phrase. It seems so simple but trying to apply it in real life can be really hard. Would Jesus watch Titanic or Friends or read Harry Potter? Finding the answer takes some deep looking.

Let’s try to apply W.W.J.D to watching the show Friends. Should I watch Friends? Should I let my teen watch Friends?

Let’s look at Friends.  It’s funny! It shows this great group of friends.  It’s a secular show so the friends do not go to church but sometimes there are still good moral lessons like the time Phoebe somehow got credited $5000 in her bank account and she decided be honest and tell the bank. When the friends lie to each other, like when Monica starts hanging out with Julie, Ross’ new girlfriends, and lies to Rachael so not to hurt her feelings, they always end up feeling bad and telling the truth in the end.

Although it has some moral lessons, the show is still risqué by Christian standards. Sometimes the friends drink alcohol and have premarital sex.  Premarital sex-big no-no. Casual sex is a bigger no-no.

The Bible sometimes refers to light as truth. Finding the truth takes thinking. It takes awareness, mindfulness and time. The light is a muscle that takes work and maturity to develop.  Should a teen watch Friends? I say sure. But the best way for a teen or anyone to watch Friends is with mindfulness. The ideal situation would been for the teen to watch Friends with their parents. Afterwards talk about issues in the episode such as premarital sex or casual sex and really talk without judgement.  Questions like, “What happens in casual sex when one person get emotionally attached and the other does not want to make a commitment?” There is an episode where Chandler sleeps with Janice and Chandler wants a commitment and Janice does not. Chandler gets really sad. Some people may believe that casual sex is just fine if it’s between two consenting adults who use protection and are up-front to each other about their intentions. But, as we can see in this episode, casual sex always runs the risk of things getting messy emotionally.

Also point out the fact that this show is fiction and does not mean “everyone is doing it” in regards to sex in general.  Watching the show with mindfulness and talking with your teen would be a much richer and valuable learning experience than simply banning a teen from watching non-Christian shows.

We also have to protect ourselves by avoiding images-violent, sexual or otherwise.  Sometimes it’s not worth it to look at a bad violent or sexual movie-if one does not find it entertaining anyway why watch it? It’s just a waste of time and energy. Watching violent or sexual images that serve no purpose will just disturb our peace later on. I would rather save my energy and time for truly excellent books, movies, and T.V shows.

If we isolate ourselves from non-Christian people and things we miss out on some positive people and experiences. My opinion: Friends and Titanic were excellent productions and Harry Potter was an excellent book series. A lot of effort and care were put into their productions. Even though one may not agree with some of the actions of the characters if we view excellent books, movies, and T.V shows with mindfulness and awareness we can guard our minds and build our understanding of the world and other people.

In the Bible, Matthew says that Christians should be a light on a hill. To actually build our light and understanding we cannot completely isolate ourselves from the rest of the world or worse-pretend we are isolating ourselves and then watch a certain movie, T.V show, or read certain books in secret. Honesty is part of that light too.

The light of God is everything good.  It is love, kindness, awareness, mindfulness, honestly and truth. We can ask ourselves what Jesus would do when faced with a certain movie, T.V show, book, website, or conversation. Asking this can help us know when to pass something up and when to view or partake with mindfulness. And afterwards, we can talk to one another about it with kindness and the intent to help. That is an art which will take a lifetime of practice. Doing these things will build the light in each one of us.