One Question to Ask Before You Die

Death in Death Valley by Dee Ashley

The recent Facebook announcement about enabling “legacy accounts” reminds us: We will all die. That’s the honest truth that we forget. From the moment the wrapped bundle is put into our arms to say hello, we are on the path of depreciation, until we are back in the hospital, arms around the same body, to say goodbye. Morbid? Or, as my family have always called me, blunt? I prefer to think of it as pragmatic. Reading the stories in semester’s Gender in Folklore class reminds me that the worst thing that can happen to a child is to lose one of their parents. Films like Super 8 show us the pain of faintly remembering a lost parent.

Valentine’s weekend had me ruminating on the nature of love. How I want everyone to know how much I loved them. And my life. I’ve had a great one thus far. Hopefully many more years to come. Failing that, I want to celebrate at my funeral how wonderful it was.

So I wrote a letter to our two sons, to be given to them at age 10, if I don’t live to see that. The letter isn’t very long, and in it I try to avoid superlatives. I give the advice I would like to share with them when they are on the cusp of becoming teenagers. I emailed the letter to a few friends, giving them instructions on how and when to share it, encouraging them to write one of their own.

One friend writes in a journal every year on her children’s birthdays. Another records her thoughts about their major events.

The interesting part of writing a letter like this is the gratitude that swells up for all the love you have to share.

Who would you like to write a letter to? And do you have to wait until you’re gone?

Just in Case

I hope you remember me, not for my sake, but yours. Because you will grow up into men who know they were cherished but who also had responsibilities. Never raise your hand or voice to a woman. Never persist after she says no – to anything. Never lead a woman on because you need the emotional comfort. Choose your bed partners and friends carefully. If you have private photos of someone – those are not for you to share with anyone else. You don’t have time for drugs because you are busy doing something important: for yourself, the family, the world.
Enjoy parties and celebrations and being with those you love. Jesus did.

The world seems scarier to me for young people than it did when I was growing up. Back then you could only get pregnant or thrown in jail. Now you can be publicly humiliated on the Internet. Have no part in that. And if you see it happening, say something.
Stand up for the underdog because that’s what I was growing up as the child of immigrants. Not everyone will like you. That’s okay. You’d rather have their respect.

Givin' it to Yourself

photo(3)One of the (many) challenges about the holidays is they often mean you’re on your spouse’s turf. Whether staying in the house he grew up, visiting college friends, or smiling through the extended family dinner, you might feel the strain of not doing things your way. Even after 8 years of Christmas visits to the northern part of the US, I still long for the warmer temperatures of Florida, my own friends, and favorite haunts. These longings don’t need long to be fulfilled however, as my husband and I are part of the lucky few: every year we have enough vacation time to subject each other to this cycle. First we see his family, and then mine.

This year the cold, the second child, the jet lag were conspiring to make me particularly grumpy.

Needless to say I counted myself lucky when a friend let me crash her mommies night out. In place of the innocuous, “Oh, you live in the Middle East, that’s far,” comments and then blank stares I often get from people, this was a group of gorgeous, smart women. They all had two (several of them three children) were well within their target weight for their size, dressed fashionably, were wearing makeup, and didn’t interrupt if someone was speaking.

And they were all wondering if they were good mothers.

“I try to be a good mother,” one woman is completing a residency in psychiatry said. She described a seven day week where she cooks homemade meals for her children everyday, alternating her parenting challenges with stories of how people in her profession are routinely killed by their more disturbed patients.

Each of them had a version of this, wondering if they were doing their children justice, critiquing themselves on how they were doing in various areas: challenging the kids in extracurriculars, helping them with homework, doing the right thing in sleep training.

I had an Oprah moment.

“Tomorrow, I want us to wake up and the first thing we say when seeing ourselves in the mirror should be: I am a good mother.”

They looked at me blankly.

“Whatever they’re getting from you, they’re better off than if they didn’t have you in their lives,” I said.

I wanted them to give to themselves what they give to their children and husbands: acceptance. Love. Support.

There are so many cliches around the holidays which still fail to mitigate rampant commercialism.

The best things in life are free is perhaps the most flagrant one.

This Christmas I want to give to all mothers (and fathers, though I rarely hear men talk about their fears about parenting) a gift: the gift of confidence.

We are all doing the best we can. And relaxing into that truth make this your best Christmas ever.

I know it will for me.

What’s one gift you’d give someone this year that they really need?


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Wordless Wednesday: How You Disrupt the Pink Aisle and Beef with the Beastie Boys

I found out about Goldie Blox, pastel colored toys for young girls, as an alternative to dolls. You can’t imagine the amount of controversy such a concept has started, even among my friends. Do girls need toys geared towards them? Why can’t they play with boys construction toys? The numbers don’t lie: women in the STEM professions are few, despite being half the population. As a mother of toddlers, I know that play is the most important work children can do. What do you think? Is mainstreaming the answer? What gifts do you like to give girls?

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