The problem with toys for boys

The problem with toys for boys

I was searching online for a Christmas present for a boy who is developing a passion for things scientific. I was horrified to see on one website for science toys a listing of toys for boys… but no corresponding listing of toys for girls. My old friend Scholastic did a little better – on the toys for girls site they had toys for budding engineers. But the boys site had no toys for boys who might like kitchens or dolls.

Maybe only a very few boys will be like my friend who, as a boy, was ecstatic to get a much wanted Barbie doll. But when we designate engineering toys as the norm for boys and dolls as toys for girls, well then, they become the norm.

So what? you might ask. The problem is that if you are a girl wanting a toy from the “boy section” or heaven forbid, vice versa, you are then by definition abnormal.

football BAs you can see by my picture, I have some experience in being abnormal. While my mom wanted a girly girl who’d take ballet, I  wanted to be playing ball with my brothers. While my mother faithfully came to my basketball and softball games in high school, we both knew it was her second choice. (She also used to tell me that I shouldn’t yell so loudly at college games because it wasn’t “ladylike,” but that’s another story.”)

One web site whom I’d contacted about the issue said that they had the listing because people typed the phrase “toys for boys” into search engines. What a wonderful world it would be if typing “toys for boys” and “toys for girls” brought up the same page.

Then no one would have to be abnormal. We could just be ourselves.

 

 


 

  • Ever wonder why you keep sabotaging yourself when it comes to your goals?
  • Ever get tired of biting your tongue and not saying what you really think?
  • Is your heart heavy with what you couldn’t tell them before they died  – or wish you could tell them now? (Even if them is a beloved pet.)
  • Do you wish you had help in making an important decision?

What if I told you there were ways to address all of these things, and all you need is a pen and paper?

It’s true. I see it often in my practice as well as in my own life.

I’ve put together a collector of five writing techniques that I often recommend to my clients. In fact, I use them myself.

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A race over too soon

This week in one of my Facebook groups the posts have been filled with pictures and memories. A woman who’d been with us in many training sessions died after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.

fleet feet running
Lynn Hutchins Edwards

Her friends reflected on her ever-present smile and the fun she brought to even the most mundane workouts. In fact, sometimes they missed the turns they were supposed to take because they were having so much fun. She trained with the training groups sponsored by our local running store and she served as a mentor for other training programs. She was always ready to encourage someone else, trying to seduce them into loving running as much as she did.

I spent some time looking at the pictures they posted and yes, she was smiling in every one. She was strong and she was fit, but she wasn’t petite. Still, she was a runner.

As I looked at her beaming face, I thought about how many women keep themselves from such joy simply because they don’t think they’re the right size. They’re afraid of what someone might think. Their fear of what doesn’t matter (what other people might think) keeps them from doing things that really do matter.

When I bought my first tri suit the saleswoman warned me, “it’s going to show every bulge and you just have to step out anyway.” She was right, it does. But she was also right in that I did. Now I’m training for my seventh triathlon. More than that, I have the joy (okay, and sometimes the agony) of all of those races. I didn’t let the fact that my body wasn’t perfect keep me from a perfectly good time.

Lynn was average size with a bigger-than-average heart. And she was a runner.

Thank God for that, for through her running she blessed us all.

You go, girl.

Death of a Pit Bull

Death of a Pit Bull

I learned this morning that Hector the Pit Bull had died. I never met the dog nor his owners. I only knew of him from his Facebook page.

pit bull
Hector and his family

This was no ordinary pup with publicity. Hector was one of the pit bulls seized from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation. Some of the dogs were too far gone psychologically and had to live in a rescue the rest of their days.

Then there were the dogs like Hector. His early years were spent in brutality, pain, violence, and terror but his rescuers saw past the beginnings and saw past the dreaded pit bull label. They gave Hector a chance.

Not only was he adopted by a family, but he became a certified Canine Good Citizen* and certified therapy dog. As the end approached his family took him to his favorite places, gave him a soft bed in which to rest, covered by a warm blanket. A canine companion stayed by his side. He ended his days on this earth surrounded by his adopted family, who were just some of the people who loved him.

He began his life in a life no dog should have.

He ended his life in a way every dog deserves. Oh, what the heck – in the way most of us people would want as well… given loving attention, lots of treats, a faithful dog by our side and nothing but love at the end.

I have a friend who wants to know if a book or movie “ends well.” She doesn’t want to invest her time if her heart is only going to be broken at the end. Hector’s story ended well.

I don’t know about you, but I can go a long time on the light and the love of such a story. I know such stories sustain many animal rescuers as they wade through the horrors they must encounter in the course of their rescues.

Such light and love sustains me in my work as well. Sometimes someone will ask me, “How do you do it? How do you listen to such painful stories?” Some of the stories my clients tell me are indeed heart-breaking. Some of them make me angry for the injustice that has been done. We don’t get much choice about our beginnings, and some of their beginnings have also been tough.

The joy of my work, however, is that the beginning of their stories isn’t the end of their stories. As we work, I get to see the light come back to their eyes… or maybe shine for the first time. I get to see them move through the pain into the healing, to stop listening to the lies about who they are and what they deserve in this life.

Hector’s past wasn’t his present.

What about you?

*Canine Good Citizen requires that a dog pass a test safely handling things such as encountering strangers and strange dogs.

Who are you today?

I’ve been reading Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: Adventures of a food critic in disguise. Reichl served as food critic for the New York Times, although you may know her, as I do, as a judge on Top Chef. One of the challenges of any food critic is remaining anonymous. Before she even arrived in New York for her interview with the Times, local restaurants had her picture on the wall for employees to see. Of course, if you’re found out a food critic the visit is worthless; you’ll get the very best treatment possible.

When Reichl began working for the times she began getting creative with her disguises. With the help of her friends she began creating not only a disguise but a persona, crafting a story that fit her character. She enjoyed this rather advanced version of playing dress up. What took her by surprise, however, was how different she felt inside the garb of each woman. With some she felt free and outgoing; with others she felt burdened and invisible.

But she didn’t just feel different; she was treated differently. From the doorman of her apartment building to the taxi drivers to the restaurant staff, her interactions varied widely according to her disguise. Sometimes people were eager to engage with her. Other times people are just as eager to hide from her.

All of which made me think: what guises do we put on? As you prepare for the day, do you put on the emotional clothes of the failure and screw-up who can’t do anything right? Do you wear the jacket of a victim who never seems to win? Do you put on confidence or a trusting curiosity about the world?

Just as Reichl discovered, the people we become affects the people we meet.

Tomorrow morning as you prepare for your day, ask yourself: Who am I today? Who do I want to be? Who do I choose to be?


memoir coverI am very pleased to announce that my latest book, I Don’t Remember Signing Up for This Class is now available in paperback through Amazon. Here’s what some people are saying about it:

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“Don’t just stand there despairing.”

It’s been a rough week on this corner of the planet. A boy is killed, apparently for the color of his skin, and the long simmering racial divides of a community erupt into what looks like a third world uprising: unarmed protesters against authorities in full military gear. And we wonder how it will be different.

A man who was obviously enormously talented in moving us both to laughter and to tears as well as making our hearts soar (and who was by all accounts a lovely human being) takes his own life. We try to imagine – or try not to remember – the depths of such black despair and we wonder how it will be different for others.

In other parts of our planet centuries of conflict are being played out with weapons old and new. Hatred stoked by the centuries erupts into killing and cruelty, and we wonder how it will ever be different.

Along the border of our own nation there is a struggle between too much and not enough. Children fleeing from too much danger, abuse and hopelessness find themselves rebuffed by communities feeling already over-stretched by not enough resources, not enough answers for the problems they themselves face. We wonder how it can ever be different.

There were events in my own life this week that didn’t make the news. A former client shared an email with me that she’d sent to her friends, “outing” herself as one who has struggled with the great black dog of depression and who now consciously chooses to live her life in ways that allow the light in. It was a brave and heartfelt email, and a reminder that for her, life is very different.

Last Saturday I also attended a meeting of the Steering Committee of Baptist Women in Ministry, NC. As we talked about next year’s meeting I thought back to the first meeting I attended so many years ago. Thirty, maybe forty people huddled together hoping for hope that locked doors might be opened. Our theme, taken from a song lyric, was “One by one, truth will grow.” As we met on Saturday I thought about how different things are now. We provide not insubstantial scholarship money for a woman student at each of the Baptist Divinity Schools in NC. And in recent months women have become pastors at both Watts St. Baptist in Durham and Riverside Church in New York City. One by one…

This week I’ve been reading John Philip Newell’s book, The Rebirthing of God. In it he quotes Nobel Peace Prize winner (and Mayanmar activist) Aung San Suu Kyi who has spent most of the last twenty-five years under house arrest. “Don’t just stand there despairing. Do something.”

It seems as good a word as any for this week. Don’t know how to resolve the Middle East or global warming or immigration or race relations or the scourge of depression? Do what you do know. Do one thing. You may think you’re only touching one life but you do not know how many other lives that one life will touch and how many lives those lives will touch. You may only write one letter but you do not know if yours will be the letter that’s the tipping point. You may only clean one stream or befriend one person who is of another race or political party or from the other side of the tracks. But you do not know where those steps will lead.

Don’t just stand there despairing. Do something.

Lessons from landscaping

Lessons from landscaping

by Peggy Haymes

First things first: this post has nothing to do with pot, marijuana, mary jane or funny cigarettes. Nope, I’m talking about the regular fescue.

I’ve been in my house for nearly nine years now. Every single year has been a battle to grow grass. The backyard was the first casualty. Between lots of shade cover and a new dog, the grass the previous owner/flipper had hurriedly cultivated didn’t stand a chance.

My natural area in the front started spreading slowly. I have two sections to my front yard – the top years directly in front of my house and the sloping bank. Originally the edge of my bank was grass covered. Since the bank was steep and I could only mow it by running down the hill with the lawn mower (note: I DO NOT recommend this) I extended the natural area on the bank. Up top I have more trees than sun and I’ve gradually been giving up the fight.

This year I took the plunge. It doesn’t look like much now but I’m converting it all to natural landscaping and garden. I’ve taken advantage of the one sunny spot to plant flowers and an herb garden.

You see, in order for me to have grass I’d have to lime the soil, seed, fertilize, water… and then mow. It didn’t seem to be the most environmentally responsible thing to do. Plus, in the last three autumns I’ve had shoulder issues from wrestling my mower over what remained of my bank. I’m glad to give it up.

I finally decided that grass just wasn’t meant to grow in this yard. Instead of fighting my landscaping, why not work with it? Instead of trying to make it into something that it’s not, why not nurture its strengths into beauty?

As I thought about the process I realized that perhaps I’d stumbled on a truth that was true for more than just my landscaping. We tie ourselves into knots trying to fit into someone else’s expectation of who and what we should be. We kill ourselves pursuing a dream that’s not even our dream. We try to be the green expanse of fescue when our soil is really shade trees and ground cover, flowers and herb gardens.

Do you need to let go of some grass?

 

 

Southerners Driving in the Snow

It’s happened again.

winter storm
Southern dogs not intimidated by snow (from 2010)

The south has gotten what our forecasters call a Major Winter Event and northerners call a nice day. The internet is full of the snickers from snow savvy people as they watch entires cities becoming paralyzed by an inch (or less) of snow.

My first reaction, as a southerner, is to be a tad defensive and to invite them to go running with me. In August. At noon. The problem is that life-sucking humidity doesn’t make for the same compelling video as pirouetting cars on ice.

My second reaction is to point out that  I am writing this blog from my office , that despite being both a southerner and a woman I navigated snow covered streets just fine. But that feels like tempting fate. After all, I do have to get home.

And then I realized that this is a great example of something that often comes up with my clients. Sometimes clients will beat themselves up for not knowing how to do something. They’re missing a crucial life skill or social skill. On some level they know that as adults they should know how to do these things but they don’t. Maybe it’s dealing with money. Maybe it’s dealing with feelings.

They take that lack as more evidence of their unworthiness as a person. They must be defective. In the words of Bill Murray from Stripes, “There’s something wrooong with us, something terribly wrooooong with us.” But there isn’t.  They aren’t fundamentally defective. The truth is,  they’re just like southerners in the snow.

There are two parts to knowing how to drive in the snow. First, there’s information. You have to know what to do; for example, don’t slam on brakes. Secondly, you have to have practice. When you live  in a a place where there’s meaningful snow once every five or ten years, there’s not much chance to practice. In addition, in the south winter weather usually means as much ice as snow. Ice is the great equalizer. No one can drive on ice – all you can do is ride it out and try not to overreact.

These people sitting in my office aren’t defective. They just missed out on something. For whatever reason, they didn’t have adults in their lives to teach them these things. The adults in their lives didn’t model good habits and social skills. I tell my clients that it is as if they grew up in a house (and school) where only English was spoken, and now they are down on themselves for not speaking fluent German. In the immortal words of Rocky Balboa while courting Adrienne, “Gaps, we all got gaps. You got gaps. I got gaps.”

Of course, now as adults they have the responsibility to fill in the gaps, to get for themselves the  things they need but didn’t get. That often takes a little work. And a not so small dose of humility. It’s easy to let your pride get in the way, thinking that you should know things and not being willing to admit that you don’t. Like learning to drive in snow, you have to get the information they need and then practice the skill.

I had a dad and brothers who taught me to drive and to drive in bad weather. But not everyone has that gift.

If you didn’t get what you needed, cut yourself some slack. Focus not on what your gaps say about your worth as a person (for in fact, they say nothing.) Focus on what you’re going to do to fill in that gap.

Driving lessons, anyone?

My devotional book, Strugglers, Stragglers and Seekers: daily devotions for the rest of us is available at Amazon.  Check it out!