Size Matters Not

Growing up, I didn’t believe that fat could be beautiful. No, beauty was restricted to those who were thin. I didn’t understand the beauty of Renaissance models, instead trying to say that they valued fat as a sign of wealth, but that it wasn’t actually beautiful.

And I was completely confused when I watched Oklahoma! and heard Will singing about Kansas City. In the song, he describes going to a burlesque show and how “one of the girls was fat and pink and pretty.” But using the words “fat” and “pretty” in the same sentence, the same description, just didn’t compute. I assumed he must be using the word “fat” to mean curvy, not actually fat. I even said so to a girl I was babysitting (who was also confused by that line).

In both cases, I was performing mental gymnastics to avoid associating anything beautiful with fat. Fat was a bad word, an ugly word. After all, all the media told me that beautiful women were thin. My grandfather, who was wonderful in many respects, also commented negatively on the weight of any in the family who were not super thin (and praised those who were slender).

Even though I was naturally slender – to the point of being accused of having an eating disorder, which is also not a fun stereotype, but not the same as fat-shaming – I always hoped I wouldn’t gain weight. I hoped I wouldn’t gain the “freshman 15” in college, for fear of being less beautiful. I’m ashamed to say I even looked down on those who did gain that weight.

But now I have children of my own, and I see the media portrayals and stray comments with a new perspective. I wonder how my children will receive and internalize those nearly subconscious messages. What I want them to know, what I want to teach them, is that their beauty comes from within, and that their clothing size matters not at all in that determination.

A lot of this comes from my acceptance of the changes in my own body, having had 3 children well over 8lbs at birth, and the diastasis recti that has come with that. While I wish I could’ve come to this realization earlier, I’m glad I’m learning it now, and I hope my children see me be comfortable in my own skin and internalize that example. I’ll just keep repeating that size matters not, and pray that message will overshadow what the media tells my children.

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A Room with a View

I decided to tackle the romance classic for this Back to the Classics reading challenge I’m doing. I wanted a book I hadn’t read before, so I pretty much just did a search for classic romance novels and this one came up. I duly downloaded it on my Kindle and started it.

It read fairly quickly, but I found hat I kept wanting the characters to just hurry up and do what we knew they would. When I was a third of the way through it, I debated just stopping reading it, but decided to continue. It ended much the way I expected it to do. It wasn’t horrible (or else I wouldn’t have finished it), but I much prefer other books in this category.

Let Kids be Kids

In the newspaper today was an article about the new Early Learning Centers in our district. In these centers, kids as young as 3 will be taught literacy and “classroom skills” (eg: how to stand in line, go to centers, etc.). The centers only go up to 2nd grade, and all the work is more intense. The reason? Too many children are deemed to be unable to read at grade level by 3rd grade, and so the powers that be are trying to find ways to avoid that happening.

Some thoughts: it seems that every year I hear about school systems seeing that some kids are falling behind and saying that the solution must be do things earlier and with more intensity. Usually there are also then articles from those who are experts in childhood development saying this is the wrong approach and that children learn by play, which needs to be encouraged. Somehow the school districts never seem to pay attention to that.

How many adults could sit quietly, keeping completely focused, for an entire school day? Not many, I’d wager. But these students are expected to do so. In the article, there was a description of a 1st grade classroom. A group of students was sitting at the teacher’s desk to have discussion time with her, and it mentioned that one girl was instead standing and jumping/dancing around while answering questions. Now, my daughter is in 1st grade, and does the same thing. It’s perfectly normal for a child that age.

In the article, though, it was mentioned that most teachers wouldn’t allow that, and don’t understand that children learn in different ways, but that this particular teacher knew the girl was engaged in the lesson and so was okay with it. How sad is it if our teachers don’t know that this age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate? I remember when I was teaching 3rd grade. I had a student who just truly needed to be standing and moving around to do his work. I made an agreement with him where he could do that, provided he was within reach of his desk. Suddenly, his behavior problems weren’t a problem, because he was able to do his work. When I praised him and recommended him for an accelerated program, though, I was met with skepticism.

My own children wouldn’t do well in a program where they had to sit quietly for hours on end. K needs to walk around to think about his ideas. C needs to bounce around. Often they try to sit on my birthing ball to do their work. And really, I don’t want them to just sit still all day. Don’t we hear every day about the obesity problem and that children (and adults) aren’t active enough? Why would I then want to make them develop the habit to be sedentary during most of their waking hours?

So really, I just want kids to be allowed to be kids. It’s how they learn best. Maybe we should change our methods to match their reality and development, instead of expecting them to just be quiet and sit still to make our lives easier.

2017 Classics Reading Challenge – Update Completed!

Update: I’ve now completed the challenge.

As of yesterday, I completed the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge! I’m glad I did it. I read a few books I wouldn’t have read otherwise, and got to re-experience some I’d encountered years ago. Every time you read a book, for the first time or the tenth, you get something new from it. So this was a good opportunity to both find new (to me) books, and reread others. Without further ado, here’s my list (also found on Goodreads):

  1. A 19th Century Classic– any book published between 1800 and 1899. – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe. I chose this book because I quite like Poe’s poems and short stories. Now I know why he only completed one novel – it never came near the genius of his shorter works. Parts of it were ok, but at one point I found myself feeling that it was very familiar. That’s when I realized that it was extremely similar to the experiences of the Essex. He did quite faithfully reproduce the travel narrative that was so popular, at least in parts, while other parts were quite odd indeed (such as the ending). I was glad to get to the end, and am still surprised to find how much I disliked a work by Poe.
  2.  A 20th Century Classic– any book published between 1900 and 1967. – Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner. It’s been awhile since I’ve read any Faulkner, and I’d forgotten how much he likes to write in a stream of consciousness. That took some time for me to adjust, but once I did, I enjoyed the stories.
  3.  A classic by a woman author. –North and Southby Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story. Having lived in northern England and seen the difference that still exists between north and south, I loved reading of others’ experiences with the great difference present.
  4.  A classic in translation.  – A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov. First off, I found the author’s obsession with Byron a little odd. Apparently he really likes everything about Byron and kept referencing him. Then again, we all have that one artist we just adore. I’m more of a Coleridge fan, but he’s entitled to like Byron.I found myself rolling my eyes at Pechorin a lot of the time, but given that the author created the character specifically to illustrate the vices of the age, I’d say that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, Pechorin’s bad traits weren’t limited to that time, but have always been around in some form or another.

    So overall, the book was ok. I don’t plan to reread it, but I didn’t feel like I was just slogging through it, either.

  5.  A classic published before 1800.The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. I just read The Last of the Mohicans, and I quite enjoyed it. I don’t know why I’d never picked it up before, other than the fact that I don’t generally read much American lit (the exception being Poe). I found it a compelling story, aided by interweaving historical events and people into a fictional story. While Hawkeye’s biases towards the Delawares and against the Hurons colors the interactions, this serves, in my opinion, to add to the authenticity. Both sides held that the tribes who worked with them were better than the opposing tribes, even while they committed the same offenses – this is a common view, excusing the faults of our own side, to which I think we can all relate.
  6.  A romance classic. A Room with a Viewby E. M. Forster. Meh. I decided to tackle the romance classic first for the reading challenge, and I wanted to read one I hadn’t read yet. I wasn’t overly impressed. It had many of the standard romance classic elements, but not created in a way that stayed with me. None of Austen’s wit, for example (or even the Bronte’s memorable characters, much as I dislike their characters).

  7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Draculaby Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?! I love all the Catholic imagery, as well, and the allegorical nature of the character of Dracula. And just the richness of the book itself. One of the things I always notice about classics is how rich the language is, and that is especially true of Dracula. It’s one I plan to read again in the future. I can’t wait to share it with others, too.

    8.  A classic with a number in the title.Richard III by William Shakespeare. It’s amazing how rereading a book years later can allow one to catch more beneath the surface. Especially now that I’ve studied more of the history of the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor period, I can see how the Shakespearean account uses the accepted Tudor history to make Richard into his greatest villain (well, maybe Iago fits that. No, I think Richard.).

9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. For some reason this was never on the syllabus when I was in school, so I’d never read it. I wish I had – it’s a beautiful book. While set in the 1930s, the observations about people, prejudice, and fearing those we don’t know are just as relevant today as when the book was written. I want to read Lee’s other novel now, and I will definitely reread this book in the future (probably with my children, when they’re a little older). I feel like it should be required reading in schools, and I’m sad to hear that some are now taking it off of reading lists. Obviously I will be recommending this book to others.

10.A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. – The Woman in Whiteby Wilkie Collins. I was intrigued by this, considered one of the earliest mystery novels, and the bonus is that it is set in England. Being an Anglophile, I could happily visit most places in the UK, and I could easily picture the countryside. As for the story itself, I found the changes in narration to be done well. I could’ve wished that the women were more interesting/less passive. The only one who is truly interesting is the one who is described as being more mannish and ugly. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book.

11.An award-winning classic. – The Rievers by William Faulkner. It’s not difficult to see why Faulkner won the Pulitzer for this book. It’s a comic masterpiece, yes, but it was also the commentary on race relations and the options available for men and women, black and white, that struck me. Faulkner had an eye for seeing the relationships between people of different color and sex and bringing that to light in his stories. Yes, he is also a product of his time, but I think he saw the disparity and lamented it. I felt that the thoughts he gave to Lucius at one point, as he mused on race relations, were in fact Faulkner’s own thoughts.

12. A Russian Classic. –The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I saved this for last. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to reading more Russian lit. I know that somehow, somewhere, there has to be non-depressing Russian literature. This was certainly a well-written story, and perhaps more reflective of the realities of life than it would have been had Mitya been acquitted. I suppose it comes down to the question of whether art should reflect life, or provide hope and an escape from the realities of life. As a reflection of life, though, this book does a good job. While I don’t really want to reread it, I did enjoy reading this, at least once I got to book 3 of it. I’m glad to say I’ve read it, at least.

 

 

I’ve decided to join a reading challenge for this year. My brother said he was doing the Classics reading challenge, and since I want to catch up on some classics (or reread some good ones), I decided to join him in this. Now I just have to decide which books I’ll read! Here are the categories:

  1.  A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

    3.  A classic by a woman author.

    4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories).

    5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category.

    6.  A romance classic. I’m pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot.

    7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads.

    8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two CitiesThree Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc.

    9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc.

    10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.

    11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received.

    12. A Russian Classic2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author.

No Complaining

I don’t know quite how it began. I complained a little about this, maybe even in jest, then about that, then I was looking out for the negative things, just so I could complain about them. I found I wasn’t as positive as I’d once been, and kept complaining about more and more. Until one day I realized I was just becoming more and more negative, and that that isn’t who I want to be.

See, complaining really does change one’s outlook. If I’m always looking for things to complain about, then I’m missing all the good. The problem is that complaining and looking for the bad becomes an ingrained habit. So how does one replace a bad habit with a good one? I’ve personally decided that every time I complain, or am tempted to do, I should instead find two things to praise and be thankful for. Of course, I can’t just do it on my own, so I also ask for God’s grace to be able to do this. I trust that, with His help, this, and any other obstacles in my spiritual life, can be overcome. Here’s to no more complaining.

The Illusion of Choice

Pre Roe v Wade – a woman is in a difficult situation. Deadbeat partner, not enough money, abuse, or just alone, and pregnant. Her choices? Continue the pregnancy, or find someone willing to perform an illegal, and dangerous, abortion. The underlying problems remain, and she still has little to no support, with or without the abortion.

Post Roe v Wade – a woman is in a difficult situation. Deadbeat partner, not enough money, abuse, or just alone, and pregnant. Her choices? Continue the pregnancy, or go to a provider for a legal abortion, most of which are safer for her (though never completely safe). The underlying problems, however, remain, and she is likely to still have little to no support, with or without the abortion.

I long for real choice. I long for the time when a woman is in a difficult situation and instead of society saying, “we won’t help with your abuse, or mental health, or financial woes, or find a support team for you, but we’ll end your pregnancy for you,” we say, “hey, we’re here for you. You need help getting out? We can do that. You need help paying the rent or buying food? We can do that. You need a community to help you? We’re here!” I’m not naive – I know this isn’t going to magically take care of all problems, nor will it be easy. But until then, I don’t see real choices, just different ways women and families aren’t supported.

Update: I shouldn’t say that I don’t see any real choices, as Catholic Charities does provide that help. More is needed, though, and many women are not aware of this support. I also feel we need more federal support (for example, paid maternity leave).

2nd update: I know I’m just discouraged of late because I keep hearing how women need abortion because of these bad situations. I hate that it’s seen as a need. I know just having support isn’t always enough. I pray for all in these situations, and for the babies.

Vote Trump or the Baby Gets It

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I just saw this meme, and I can’t tell you how offensive I find it to be. Offensive? Yes, offensive.

So, why is it offensive? First, because it’s trying to guilt people into voting Trump by implying it’s the only way to save babies. Never mind that Trump is hardly convincing on being pro-life, that the Senate may very well not be Republican any longer (and therefore his Court appointments might not go through as he says), or that his other policies are the very antithesis of being pro-life. No, you have to vote Trump or else you’re a heartless person who wants babies to die.

I strongly feel that the pro-life movement is becoming a laughingstock by saddling itself with Trump. Certainly my friends and acquaintances who are not in the pro-life movement and are looking at it now are baffled and find it to have lost credibility. How can we champion life while also defending someone who has made inexcusable statements about so many and who refuses to condemn the violence his statements have spawned?

Look, I’m not saying “vote Clinton! Who cares about babies?!” I am saying that neither of them is pro-life, and you shouldn’t be guilted into voting for one based on that false premise. Inform your conscience and vote, but remember that it is also an option to vote 3rd party or abstain from voting for president if you wish. You don’t have to vote the lesser of 2 evils, and no one can make you go against your (informed) conscience when it comes to voting.