February 2014 archive

February Resolutions Update

If you recall from a previous post entitled “Welcome 2014,” I made three resolutions for this year. I resolved to publish this blog every week, to read 80 books by the end of the year, and to create a piece of art or a craft project each month. To keep me honest to these resolutions, I’ll be posting my progress each month on this blog. Here we go!

You can tell by my previous posts that I have kept up with posting at least once each week if not more.

For February, I’ve read the following books:

  1. Allen, Sarah Addison. Lost Lake.
  2. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times.
  3. Hammond, Diane. Hannah’s Dream.
  4. Hammond, Diane. Friday’s Harbor.
  5. Hart, Miranda. Is It Just Me?
  6. Meyer, Marissa. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles).
  7. Pearce, Jackson. Cold Spell (Fairy Tale Retelling).
  8. Stiefvater, Maggie. The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle).

Here are some pictures of the one and only craft project I did this month. He’s now happily hanging by the front door to be our Welcome Owl.

20140225_121011 20140225_121017

“Love Thyself” – An Additional Commandment

I was watching the British comedy game show QI (Quite Interesting) hosted by Stephen Fry the other day, and one of their facts stuck with me. Fry said the following: “We are all such arseholes because that is how we start off. It is the first part of the body that is created when we are in the womb. Creatures that start off like this are ‘deuterostomes’. Most other creatures are ‘protostomes’ and start off with the mouth.” Yes, it’s true. We started off as assholes; the object of this game called life is to not continue as an asshole. Are you winning so far?

How does one not be an “arsehole”? I could list things such as manners, helping others, consideration, and having a conscience, and while these all are certainly good things to practice in the everyday, they are not the most important way to avoid being a poop-chute. I believe the most important thing for us all is to first and foremost love ourselves. It’s far easier to love things, activities, or other people than it is to simply love the self. I’m not instructing you to be self-absorbed, conceited, eg0tistical, and arrogant; this isn’t love of the self. People like that don’t actually love themselves either but are rather trying to protect their hearts from further hurt. Most, if not all, of the evil in the world originates from self-loathing and trying to gain the external love that we have lost for the internal self. We cannot fully love someone else until we have begun to love ourselves.

“You cannot say ‘I Love You’ without the implied foundation of ‘But I love myself first.’ If you do not love yourself, every time you have ever said ‘I Love You’ it was a lie.” – Ashley Wylde

I remember thinking I was the bee’s knees when I was younger and in elementary school, but somewhere along the line of growing up, I lost that wonder, that awe, that love of myself. It has taken me awhile to catch a glimpse of the person I love and to appreciate her. It took years to mend the ways I destroyed myself looking for external love when all along I had it internally. For me, it wasn’t until I turned to spirituality and Christ that I began to understand the love God has for me and the love I should then have for myself. “Thou Shalt Love Thyself as I Love You” should have been the eleventh commandment. This turning point can be different for everyone; Christ may not have been your turning point, and there is nothing wrong with that. I just hope something has helped you to love yourself as I am continuously working on day by day for myself. There are few things in this world that we can control, and how much we can appreciate the people we are is one of those few controllable factors.

Growing Love
My past—a timeline—
Of embarrassing moments,
Excruciating memories,
Heartaches better left buried,
And people left in my dust.
Brutality in a silver pickup
That left me bleeding for days.
Taking care of drunk
That I loved just as much
As he loved the bottle.
A failed attempt at near marriage
Broken down by unknown hotel charges.
A stalking ex pushing me
Further and further north.
Turning my back on a dear friend
Because she reminded me too much
Of a past I couldn’t get over.
Taking time for myself
To remember myself
And grow into who I had become.
Taking years alone
To emerge from the shell
As a person I could
Finally love.

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” -William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Throwback Thursday – Just Another Uterus

This is a piece I wrote in January 2012 that I’ve decided to share for Throwback Thursday. The only thing I tweaked would be the amount of time my husband and I have been married so that it’s now the correct amount. While my views on whether we want children may have changed since then, I still believe it is a woman’s right to not have children if she does not want them and that there is nothing wrong with not wanting children despite popular public opinion. Beyond even the issue of babies or not, I think this piece may speak to the problem of people’s meddling in private affairs. No, it is not alright to critique someone on his/her size; it is not acceptable to critique someone on his/her profession of choice; it is not welcomed to critique someone on sexual orientation, reproductive rights, and general political views. There is a time and place to broach these topics if necessary (example: between two friends), and that time is hardly ever appropriate for a stranger no matter what good this person may think he/she is doing. Perhaps we would have a bit more harmony in our society if we could just keep our noses out of each others’ business unless welcomed in at the beginning. *Steps off soapbox.*

When Are You Going to Stop Having Sex Just for Fun and Do It For a Purpose?

I know this isn’t specifically what people are asking us when they bring up the fact that my husband and I have been married for three and a half years and still don’t have children, but it may as well be. Why are my ovaries such a fascinating topic of discussion? It used to be my hobbies, my interests, my mind, or, hell, even my makeup or my hair. Now, it’s my barren uterus. Even people who I just met find my ovaries up for discussion when they find out I’ve been married for over three years. It should no more be a question than for me to ask what’s your favorite sexual position or, worse yet, if your husband can still get it up in the bedroom. It’s personal, it relates to our intimate relationship, and it’s not something I share with everyone. Give it a rest, general public.

Not only do I not want to share it, but sharing details about getting pregnant just creates awkward situations. For instance, I had an experience at my previous job before substituting that I wrote down in my journal, and it went a little something like this:

“Crystal, you should be the next one to get pregnant at the bank. You’re the youngest, and the rest of us already have kids,” my co-worker informed me of her thoughts for my future.

“My husband and I are good with our life like it is right now. Kids just aren’t in our plans at the moment,” I replied, hoping to stave off the co-worker.

“Nonsense. Kids are in everyone’s plans eventually. How old are you, Crystal? Pretty soon, you won’t be able to have kids.”

“I’m twenty-seven, and Hans and I are happy with our dog, Bella. She’s enough of a child for us right now,” I said, praying this would be the end of it.

“Dogs don’t count as children. In fact, once you have kids, you won’t even want a dog. You better start having babies now before you get any older,” Mrs. Know-It-All informed me.

Luckily, a customer walked up and ended our conversation. Although this conversation was plenty awkward for me by putting down my love of my dog, offhandedly calling me old, giving me unwanted advice, and generally butting into my personal life, I could have flipped the tables and made it awkward for my co-worker. When she told me that I should be getting pregnant, I could have gone into detail about my sporadic cycles, my former issues with birth control, and my possible trouble with ovulation. Then I imagine I would have burst into tears in front of the entire bank for dramatic effect. Now who feels awkward?? Everyone in the room.

Forget whether my body is in tip-top shape or not for pregnancy. What if my husband and I just don’t want children? Why is that such a bad thing? Wasn’t the whole feminist movement about a woman’s right to choose? What happened to that? When we say we just don’t want kids rather than getting into the whole “my wife’s ovaries have run up the white flag” thing, we get looks of mortification. Most people treat that like we’ve said Voldemort aloud or—pun intended—dropped a baby. Why do babies equal self-worth? Carrie Bradshaw looked pretty happy in Sex and the City with Mr. Big, and there were no babies involved. Just a woman and the man of her dreams…and a few dozen pairs of awesome shoes. (Yes, I know this was just a movie, but I have known couples throughout my life that are content without children. I chose this fictional relationship, though, because it seems to be one that most are familiar with.) I’m pretty sure I could find a life of contentment without having babies. Just ask Julia Childs, Oprah Winfrey, Bettie Page, Katherine Hepburn, Helen Mirren, and Kim Cattrall.

So I guess the question behind this whole piece is… When did I stop being Crystal and start being defined by my uterus and what is NOT inside of it? Do I really have to be defined by my ovaries? I gave up my beloved last name; do I have to give up my body, too?

A Belated Valentine’s Present

We just celebrated Valentine’s Day on Friday, and for some reason, Valentine’s always makes me pensive and introspective. I reminisce about the story of us, Hans and Crystal, but I also think about what brought me to this place. I brood about the broken roads I have traveled; I reflect on whether I truly have taken a road less traveled; and I contemplate whether I am a better person, reaching more towards the woman I want to be with every action, than where I initially started. The one prevalent thought through all of this is that I am the woman I am because of the people in my life, whether positive or negative, and people rather than experiences have shaped me into the woman I am now.

Out of all these people, I find myself most grateful to my husband. I may be one of the biggest feminists I know, but I also am able to recognize a great man, especially when he’s sleeping right beside me. As Melvin says to Carol in As Good as It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man.” Or in this case, “woman.” It is with Hans that I have finally begun to feel comfortable in my skin as a woman. I’m no longer constantly trying to prove that my worth is every bit as good as a man’s; Hans believes I am his equal (a first in my life). I no longer have to worry every day whether my hair is styled just right, my makeup as flawless as real life can get, and my clothes the right style, color, etc. for this specific season; these are superfluous excesses in Hans’s eyes that while they may enhance do not ultimately improve what God and nature have already provided me. He is just as proud to be my partner in public whether I’m perfectly coiffed or not. While I was learning my self-worth and my true beauty before he came along, there is something powerful about his affirmations. I strive to live up to what he sees in me and to be the one who is worthy of him, and I know my husband is doing the same due to my influence in his life.

We didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in an extravagant fashion. Instead, we got cards for one another, we enjoyed chocolate together, Hans cooked us ravioli, and we watched Up together. When your wife still can’t walk on her recovering foot, a night in sounds great rather than fighting the stairs to leave and dealing with the crutches throughout town. As minimalistic as our night sounds, it was really quite precious, but I didn’t give Hans his gift. This poem is dedicated to him.

Woolly, Michigan Socks
Cold after sitting on that park bench,
Talking for hours—Love, Family, God—
Reaching your apartment
For a reprieve from the cold.
You offered me socks,
Woolly, Michigan, handmade socks,
For my Georgia, flip-flop feet.

Cold again sitting on that same bench.
Grains of sand felt through
A flimsy, little, black dress.
You took my cold, Georgia-girl hand
In your warm, Michigan-man hand
And got down on your knee,
Offering me a sparkling jewel for
A special finger.
Yes.
I’ll always have woolly, Michigan socks
For my Georgia, flip-flop feet.

From a Demolisher to an Engineer: The Woman I Want to Be

Heads Up: I do talk about a somewhat graphic incident in this post, so if you’re not up to reading something of that nature, read my other more tame posts. :-)

I watched Miss Representation the other day (which is currently available on Netflix streaming), and this documentation spoke to me in a way that most films cannot. The plague of misrepresentation of women in the media is one that has plagued me throughout my life even when I was not fully conscious of it. I have loathed the way I look, tormented myself about my weight, and even objectified my own self since the tender age of eleven (or at least this is as young as I can remember it starting). Not only did the media put unrealistic expectations on me, but peers and even family members added to the weight on my shoulders. “If you lost weight, you’d probably find a boyfriend.” “You’d be so pretty if you were skinny.” “Men like women with toned stomachs. You have to flatten your abs if you ever want to get a boyfriend.” Think I heard these statements from TV, the radio, magazines? Think again. All of these statements were made by various male family members. I couldn’t win.

I was in line to become valedictorian in my high school, but that wasn’t enough. In fact, what did being smart have to do with success as a female? Even a family member told me that it was great that I was smart but didn’t I want to start looking for husband material. I hadn’t even graduated high school yet. Then there was that double-edged sword when I did start dating. If you put out, you’re a slut. If you don’t put out, you’re a tease, you’re frigid, you’re the ice queen, and the guys just make up stories about you putting out anyway. There was also that fact that no one tells you once you start dating—everyone will want to critique your appearance and how this plays into your dating life. A friend of mine was just told that she looked like she was putting on weight from a complete stranger. Let’s let go of the fact that this complete stranger would have no idea if my friend is or is not putting on weight since she does not know my friend and focus on some other questions. Why is a woman’s worth tied to her physical appearance? And why does this horrible truth make it OK for every Tom, Dick, and Jane to comment on it? It is not necessary or your job to tell a woman if she doesn’t meet a certain physical criteria that society has put on the shoulders of every woman and the mind of every American. More importantly, it is not our job to believe it as women.

Let’s not forget about female-on-female insults, such as fat-shaming, slut-shaming, and whatever other “shaming” that’s now been given a name, while not a positive one. Females tend to be more brutal than the guys. We tend to hate on one another as females more so than the men tend to hate on us. Why? Does it have something to do with how much we’ve been taught to dislike ourselves that we project this animosity on one another? Here’s an anecdote to illustrate the female-on-female venom we tend to spread to one another.

My senior year I finally started dating, and a lot of these guys that I dated were found by riding around in a neighboring town with friends. We would stop and talk to different people and occasionally go riding around with boys. Looking back this was so reckless and dangerous, but at the time, we didn’t realize the danger into which we constantly put ourselves. One night, I agreed to go riding around with this one guy in a silver pickup while my friend stayed and talked to some of our friends. We parked to make out and when I wouldn’t let him get any farther than simply kissing (I only just met the guy), he assaulted me. I managed to get away from him by physically fighting him off and called my friend to come pick me up, but not without him badly hurting me, including making me bleed quite a bit. I hid all of this to my friend, however, and she simply took me home as curfew was coming up for both of us.

I didn’t tell my parents of the assault because of unrest in our own home. I didn’t want to add to the drama, and I was the idiot that agreed to go riding with a stranger. There was nothing anyone could do. I withdrew from my friends. When I finally got up the nerve to tell one of my friends, she responded, “With the way you dress, it’s no wonder that happened.” It cut me to the core.

Looking back, I should have told an adult right away. My friend didn’t know how to handle the situation any more than I did and was probably so uncomfortable with it all that she responded with an off-handed comment. But I believe this off-handed comment originated from that place of dissonance we females have for one another. Instead of hating on one another, we should be supporting one another. If we don’t support one another, no one else will. If we don’t build each other up, who will? Let’s stop being demolishers and start being engineers. Instead of insulting someone, try complimenting that person. Be the change you want to see. Represent the women we should be; the women we want to be; the women we are.

Ode to Dog

In the past few months, I’ve had family members and friends who have lost dear pets to them. If anyone has ever had a pet, you know the devastation of losing a pet. My heart goes out to my loved ones. When we first got our little dog Bella almost three years ago, we knew that one day we would have to tell her a final goodbye. I don’t think we realized what a huge deal this was since this was the first pet my husband and I owned together, and the first life we were and still are responsible for. We discussed that we would be raising Bella, our beagle/schnauzer/terrier mix rescue dog, from a nine-week-old puppy and the fact that one day she would get old. We don’t discuss this anymore, but it’s still there. We can’t watch dog movies. No Marley & Me for us; no thanks. We were even watching a Google commercial the other night, and both of us had tears in our eyes because it involved dogs. Maybe the knowledge that dogs, cats, bunnies, etc. usually don’t outlive their owners makes their time with us that much sweeter. But it doesn’t make their passing any easier.

Ode to Dog

Doggie breath in my face, startling me awake
Smells just like what she licks, no wonder I’m wide awake.
I start to giggle as she starts to growl at my hubby
Her way of saying it’s time to start the day.
He just mumbles and turns over, but she’s more persistent than he.
She yanks the blankets in her mouth until no more cover his body,
And as he complains, her little puppy nubbins wiggles, proud of what she’s done.
Her prize is now to lick his face and get the taste of butt from her own mouth.
If the cover trick couldn’t wake him up, doggie breath is better than cold water.

Our little dog goes about her day in bliss as long as we’re both home,
But split apart the pack and that’s a violation she can’t bear.
She’ll sit at the window all day if need be, protecting the house until we return.
And when we return, we’re greeted by a 25-pound dog that sounds like a mix
Between Chewbacca and a Rodent of Unusual Size.

And on those few days when I’m not feeling well, I have my own nursemaid.
She is vigilant and protective and will get help from her daddy
If ever the need arises.
She’ll snuggle in the exact spot wherever the pain may be
Just to say, “I’m here for you, Mom, and I won’t ever go away.”

Yes, my little girl is sweet and very funny, too.
Like when she farts and acts surprised,
Looking at her behind as if to ask, “Did that come from there?”
She even will chase around her dad and hunt for him throughout the rooms,
And even though he thinks he can hide,
She can find him anywhere.

So if you’re down or feeling blue,
Come on over and meet Bella Boo.

Baby Bella Bella at the Park IMG_20140118_105049

Listen Up, Younger Crystal!

I’ve been reading Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me?, and I’m enjoying it immensely. I knew I would enjoy her book because I love her show Miranda so much. I encourage you to check it out. (It’s available on Hulu.) She’s quirky, she says what she’s thinking, and she’s someone I can relate to as a tall, clumsy, socially-awkward female. However, for this specific post what’s engaging me the most about this book isn’t how much I relate to her but her writing style. She’s writing about life’s foibles and how to deal with them, and her eighteen-year-old self keeps popping up to chat. This allows thirty-eight-year-old, modern-day Miranda to offer advice to her younger self and provides herself someone to speak to besides “My Dear Reader Chum.” This got me thinking. What would I say to my younger self, like my fifteen-year-old self?

Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Crystal,

You look beautiful today. No, really. I mean it. Don’t go running to the mirror. Don’t worry about that stray pimple, or three. You have great skin. What you’re doing is working. I thank you for it. The future me thanks you. Don’t worry about your curly hair while every other girl seems to have straight hair. You’ll appreciate the curly hair soon. I promise. Stop wasting money on coloring it so much. Use that money for something productive. The beauty magazines lie. Blonde hair doesn’t make you more fun. Hair doesn’t have that much power. Trust me. Hair isn’t a super power no matter what anyone says. Color your hair only for you, not for anyone else. And guess what, you are the perfect size because you are YOU sized. Don’t believe me? You are the perfect size for your height even according to all those pesky doctor charts. I know, who knew back then? Don’t worry about what others (even some within your family) say about your weight. You’ll find a man regardless of what you eat, whether you exercise every day, or whether you have rock-hard abs. You don’t have to be supermodel-skinny to attract them. You already do. Stop stressing. You are beautiful.

More importantly, you are a hard worker. Yes, you are smart. Yes, you are in line to be valedictorian, so keep working at that, but don’t forget that you’re a hard worker. If something is difficult or you don’t understand it, keep working at it. You’re not dumb because you don’t understand it. You’re a hard worker because you don’t give up on it. People have told you your whole life how smart you are, but never forget that it doesn’t matter how smart you are if you’re not a hard worker as well. And, yes, the guys who are worth your time will still be attracted to you even with your intelligence. Never play dumb to attract guys. Those guys aren’t worth it. Do as Lauren Conrad did when grossly asked, “What’s your favorite position?” Reply: “CEO.” That’ll shut ‘em up. (Don’t follow Conrad for other advice on life, though. Just don’t.)

Most importantly, you are worthy. Never forget that you have value. If you forget that you’re beautiful, that you’re smart and a hard worker, that you’re funny, that you’re kind, just don’t forget that you are still a person of value. Others will try to tear you down. Don’t let them. You will try to tear yourself down at times. Surround yourself by people who won’t let you, or find someone who won’t let you. Recognize when you start to do this, and get help. Don’t get in situations that make you feel stripped of value, and if you do get in these situations, know that no one can take this value from you. It is intrinsic. It lives forever in you. You can try to bury it, but no amount of mortar can cover this value up. And no person is strong enough to take you on. You are too powerful because you are too valuable.

There are so many things you’re going to experience in the next thirteen years that will fill your life. You will feel moments of joy so bright that you’ll need sunglasses, and happiness so fulfilling that you’ll be sure you’re on the brink of bursting with delight. But there will also be times of great sorrow and pain. I could warn you about these specific times and how to avoid them, but then you wouldn’t end up where I am today. And where I am today is as close to perfection as a person can be. All the sorrow and pain is worth it, young Crystal. It makes you stronger. It makes you kinder. It makes you a listener and a healer. It makes you not only a better person but a better woman. In short, it’s worth it. The times of joy and happiness will outweigh the times of sorrow and pain, so remember the good more than the bad. The next thirteen years will be such fun!

Forever Yours Because Where Would I Go?,

Your Twenty-Eight-Year-Old Self

“Look in the mirror and say, ‘There is none other like you and for that reason alone you are beautiful.’” –Miranda Hart Is It Just Me?