Fitness · Health · Poetry

Pursuit of Beauty

The other day, I posted a poem and some of you may have gotten it already in an email. But the formatting was wrong and so I quickly took it down, meaning to repost it later that day. The weekend sort of got away on me, so finally now, mid-week, I’m posting it again. I wrote the poem after witnessing multiple friends/acquaintances go through diets that resembled eating disorders.

It broke my heart.

What breaks my heart even more is that while there is some pressure on men to look fit, there is far more pressure on women. It’s hard to even find a group of friends these days where the woman will actually eat something other than a salad, or a lettuce wrapped vegan burger, while her husband munches on a triple sized meal complete with appetizers and dessert.

I’ve struggled with it myself; the pressure that my worth is dependant on my waist size. I get tons of smiles and comments when I lose weight. I get judgmental looks when I order the full burger with a side of fries. And so, I wrote this poem a few years back, challenging our thinking about health and weight. What is true beauty?

 

Pursuit of Beauty

By: Heather Dawn

 

She pushes her plate aside, eyes resigned

He feasts like a king, never bothers to mind

He’s never been pushed, never been told

For fat or slim; they still like him

She wakes up before them and paints up her face

Her workout begins, her pulse starts to race

Long past her goal, a new goal is found

Just a little bit more, just another pound

Her face once full of warmth and life, now is cold and hollow

The cheeks once flushed grow ever pale, the eyes once bright grow weary and dull

She forces a smile, flashing perfect white teeth,

that hurt from the treatments if she touches a sweet

All the beauty that masks the beast raging inside

Fixing only what fades, while neglecting her inmost cry

They like her less, even less than before,

Maybe once she’s shed just a little bit more…

Dear Child, fading slowly, you were fine as you were

They tell you otherwise, but what do they know?

They too are lost in a struggle they’ve always known

Their size is the measure for the worth of their soul.

Look up, Beautiful One and seek out the truth,

Outward beauty is common, it’s not hard to find

Breathtaking it is, but it withers like grass

The rare beauty you long for is not found in a store

It can’t be ‘put on’ or bought, it’s worth much much more

It’s in a gentle free heart, so patient and fair

A face full of grace, hands eager to share

It’s in a voice so sweet, full of life bringing words

Or arms strong and tough, but willing to serve

It’s in love that pours out, expecting none in return,

It’s a harsh word held back, and gentleness learned,

It’s in scars that speak volumes of making it through,

In wrinkles that earned the respect they are due,

It’s in the bright stretching lines on a new mother’s skin,

It’s in the way a little child mischievously grins.

True beauty is what the world seems to pass by.

True beauty is what the world try’s hard to hide.

But the rarer it grows, the brighter it shines.

Dear Child, you must choose what you want to pursue.

Will it be true beauty within, or will the outside of you win?

 

Family

That Poor Survey Woman…

A couple weeks ago Statistics Canada called me on my camping vacation to participate in “month two” of my four month survey – mandatory by law – of course, or no one would sit through a second (or honestly even the first).

The survey topic? Work and Employment.

Which quite honestly hit a few nerves on the first week for this mother of five. Even on a good day, asking a mother who has worked from before the sun rises most mornings for absolutely nothing in return other than the well being of her family, “if she has done anything in the past week that qualifies as work” and then EXPECTING her to say “no” is not only insensitive, it’s foolish.

Being asked that after a week of sleepless nights and VERY difficult behavioural issues with a couple of children and what can you expect, but a very, very emotional and upset response?

The questionnaire, which is repeatedly done for four months, asks questions such as:

Have you done anything qualifying as work the past week?

Are you currently looking for work?

Why are you not looking for work?

With the childcare available in Canada, what is keeping you from wanting to work?

All of the questions above, taking into consideration, is a slap in the face to a stay at home mom.

And suddenly I snapped.

“Pardon me,” I cut in sharply, “But I would like to let you know that this whole survey is really offensive to me! I mean, I know you personally didn’t make this survey,” I told the poor lady on the phone, “But what right do you have to ask a hardworking mother of five, why I’m not sticking my kids in daycare to make money?!? What right does someone have to assume that is a sensitive or appropriate question?!? And that mothering doesn’t “qualify for work”, but working in a daycare does? What right does my government have to make me feel useless for choosing my own children over a job that makes money?”

And yes, I did pity the poor woman as she stumbled and stammered out a compassionate response about this survey “not trying to put down hard working mothers” but desperate to get my point across I continued:

“Seriously,” I said, “I would like you to make a note of this on my survey. That this survey is inappropriate for countless reasons. Because quite honestly, I believe the purpose in asking these questions four months in a row is to put on some pressure on those who are “unemployed.”

The survey woman paused and said, I kid you not, “Well, I’m sure as soon as your kids are in school you’ll be able to finally get a job. No one is saying you are lazy.”

At this point, I began to cry, because I was heartbroken that our culture has drifted so far in just a few short years.  My grandmother would’ve never been expected to “return to work” once her children were in school. Because the things that she did in that day and age were valued.

Growing a garden and canning has value.

Making homemade, healthy meals, has value.

Volunteering has value.

Disciplining children and helping with homework has value.

So does cleaning, organizing, and mending clothes.

Someone has to drive those kids to sports, music lessons and social events.

Babysitting for others. Blessing neighbours with baked goods. Taking meals to younger mothers who’ve just had a baby or families who’ve lost loved ones.

These things have value!

And if I do something that “qualifies as work” in Canada…all those things I just mentioned, will be pushed off onto someone else or not done at all. And we wonder why everyone is depressed and anxious! Why neighbours don’t talk anymore? Why people suffer their hardships alone?

It’s because somewhere along the way, someone decided that mothering and running a household doesn’t have value!

Dear Canada,

I wonder if we decided to value mothers, how much less we’d spend on the foster care system, on juvenile detention centres, on prisons, on mental healthcare. I wonder if families would stay together, if divorce rates would drop,  if children were given a safe place to grow up?

I wonder if we defined importance, not by monetary value, but by character and ethics, what types of people would be honoured most highly? I wonder if we’d see through the cracked foundations we are so quickly and carelessly pouring for the next generation – if we’d really stop and consider what the effects are of our face-paced, workaholic world… I wonder if we would change.

Would we value mothers, if we slowed down enough to see them?

Why not do a compulsory survey about the despairing effects of distracted parenting? Of workaholism?

I believe the results would be staggering.

Maybe, just maybe, getting more civilians into the workforce to pay taxes isn’t the answer to our countries reckless debt and spending issues. Maybe, it all comes down to those cracked foundations we’re building on. Maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe it’s about the people.

Sincerely,

A Mother who does Valuable Work at Home

Faith · Parenting · Vulnerability

No one is Really Ready for Parenting

When I became a mother at the young age of 18, I clearly remember a very real pressure to prove to everyone around me that I was ready to parent. Now I can’t speak for those who wait until their 30s to first start having kids, but I can tell you from my own experience that I always felt as if someone was watching and even waiting for me to mess up.

As if they had CFS on speed dial and were eager to have the chance to call me in for any mistake I would most certainly make.

Every choice was thought through at least twice.

Every cry was my fault.

Everything I couldn’t afford to provide, I felt the need to justify. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even order a drive-through coffee back then without feeling guilty, as if I should be spending my money more wisely (on baby).

Every feeling of overwhelm was shoved down and pressed into a deep dark pit in my stomach which would only be addressed a decade later as I neared my thirties.

The reason was simple: Teenage mothers get a really bad rap. And I understand this! Often the mother is far too inexperienced, too self-absorbed, far too naive to realize what raising a child all entails. A baby definitely does not just simply mean a cute doll to haul around and a gorgeous Pinterest nursery to create…

Right from day one, the child is a living, breathing, individual being; a little human who hasn’t a clue how to tell you what they need, much less regulate their own emotions or take care of their most basic functions.

Being a young mom, I was painfully aware of this stereotype – so much, that I couldn’t even admit to my very normal feelings of becoming a mother. I couldn’t admit that I was afraid. I couldn’t admit that I needed help or ask for a much needed break. No parent should live with that kind of expectation. Raising children is far too difficult for one person to do alone. I took motherhood all on my own shoulders, lest someone would step into my life and tell me: “I told you so! I knew that you were too young. You never should’ve been allowed to keep your own child. You should’ve given it up to parents who were ready! Parents who are established in their careers, who have a house and can keep their plants alive (heaven knows I can’t!) YOU’RE JUST NOT READY!!!”

And you know what? They would’ve been right about that last part.

Because I wasn’t ready. Not for a second.

I wasn’t ready to give up sleep; to eat cold meals for the next year because the baby needed to be fed.

I wasn’t ready for the postpartum pain women experience after childbirth. I had no idea that for the next month I would have trouble standing without fainting and dread every bathroom break.

I had no idea of the pain I would experience while breastfeeding, or the loneliness of being the only one who was able to meet that need for my baby.

I had no idea of the absolute love and protectiveness I would feel when someone else would hold my baby in a position I knew he didn’t like or wrap him up too warmly.

I didn’t know the absolute terror I would feel as he lay with needles and cords from every limb while he spent almost a year in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis to why he was so sick.

I just wasn’t ready.

But neither is any parent, really.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of bumping into some new parents in their thirties. As I asked them how they were doing, they smiled and responded in awe of how nothing had prepared them for both the joys and the struggles they were facing and with a slight smile the man said, “It’s crazy how such a tiny person can completely change everything in your life!”

And it struck me: These feelings are normal! They didn’t just happen to me because I was too young.

Oh, that I would’ve realized that years ago!

I’m now 31 years old, with 5 kids. You could say that I have some experience…

And yet I still don’t feel ready in so many ways.

I’m not ready to stay calm, when my kid rages out of control.

I’m not ready to give up the things I love so that I can replace yet another worn out pair of shoes.

I’m not ready to navigate the teenage emotions and schedules, much less ready for my oldest to get his drivers in a couple more years.

But parenting never was meant to be about being ready. It’s about doing the right thing, even when you’re not ready. It’s about being the bigger person and admitting your mistakes (and you will make MANY). It’s about grace and second chances, for your kids, for yourself.

It’s about recognizing that everyone else around you was also not really ready, but yet, somehow, are doing it – and doing it well. Because what you really need to become a great parent is selflessness, love, persistence and a whole lot of people to walk beside you.

 

Justice · Uncategorized

Fury Like A Woman Scorned

“Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d, nor hell a fury like a woman scorn’d”

-William Congreve 1697

Some words just seem to stick on us long after we’ve heard them and this quote often dances in my mind.

Of course, this one in particular has usually been misquoted and attributed to William Shakespeare.

The first time I heard it (in its misquoted form of course) I was in grade 9. Someone had hurt my friend and I blasted this particular person with all the pent up rage and defensiveness my tongue could muster without getting me sent to the principal’s office, only to have the boy smirk at me and say, “Hell hath no fury like a woman, that’s for sure!”

His careless attitude got me even more upset and I responded that he hadn’t even seen the beginning of my rage (that much was probably true). But despite being bothered by his amusement of my anger, deep down, I took it as a compliment. The act of defending someone in a “righteous” rage, made me feel a sense of control. Like I had a special kind of anger no man could ever experience: The anger of a woman.

It’s no secret, women in particular are known for their protectiveness and their intense emotions leading to even more intense interactions and conflicts.

It’s why girl fights are often much longer lasting and emotionally damaging then guy fights.

It’s why women in particular are known to have far more friend conflicts than their male counterparts. Women are relational. But when they are hurt they can leave a nasty trial of destruction behind. They don’t call her Mama Bear for nothing.

I’ve been the brunt of some pretty hurtful words, emails, texts and notes in the past…and for the most part, I’ve been able to calm myself down, reacting rationally and even kindly.

But I gotta tell you, nothing, literally nothing gets me as mad as when you hurt someone I love or someone who is unable to defend themselves. It’s as if the protector in me jumps out of my usually passive nature and says:

“Hold on, they may NOT do THAT!!! They won’t get away with it!!”

I am a defender. A brewing storm. An earthquake about to happen. A wild cat, defending it’s territory. A fighter at heart.

The very thing that causes me the most anger is when those in a position of power or authority get away with abuse. The fire within me burns.

How dare they!!

My anger, my rage, longs to see them brought to justice, to see them suffer for all the pain that they’ve brought on innocent, unsuspecting people, those weaker than themselves like the true bullies they are.

I want to see them admit to the wrongs they’ve caused, to see them work to make it right! And until then, no, I do not wish good things for them!

Does one wish the best for the heartless?

For those who reap havoc everywhere they go?

For those in authority who abuse their power by cutting down the weak and the needy and deceive their followers into thinking its for the greater good?

In the end, isn’t the best wish one can have for them is for them to be caught and punished for their crimes? To be brought to justice?

Anger comes over me trying to control that which I have no control over.

After all, isn’t that what anger is? A false sense of control?

How can I say that I trust in God’s judgements if I insist on taking it into my own hands? This lack of restraint is dangerous and in my personal journey, led to me believing a lie that my unchecked rage was somehow a good thing and that lashing out at people was some form of justice.

My heart yearns to rest in a Father who knows and sees all.

He sees my tears.

He knows their injustice.

And he will one day make everything right.

But my mind cries: Will it be enough? Will it be soon enough?

Trust in Him, O my Soul. Trust in the God alone. He will avenge. He will repay. He will reveal the wrongs, even the hidden ones that no one sees.

He is coming to judge the earth.

Sometimes I wonder what he’s waiting for. Isn’t there enough pain? Isn’t there enough unrestrained evil going on?

There’s answers to these questions, this I know, but in the moment of pain and frustration none of the even comes close to comfort.

When will it be enough?

Have you experienced injustice? How do you handle it?