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Archive for October, 2014

What’s it going to take for our society to just STOP seeing women, and even girls, solely as sex objects?

This past couple of weeks, one woman’s blog post asking Target to stop the miniaturization (i.e. sexy-fication) of young girls’ clothing went viral. Rightly so. I have four daughters, ages 18 down to 7, and I have long chafed over the fact that retailers simply make girls’ clothes shorter, tighter, and smaller than boys’ clothes.

(Unfortunately, the one place this doesn’t seem to apply is in the waist and hips, because it’s dang hard to find a good variety of slim pants sizes for my slim girls. JCPenney makes them; Gap and Old Navy make some slim sizes; online retailer Lands’ End makes them. But this being a slightly-related but not completely-related topic, I’ll just keep it to this: can’t we have more sizing options? Yes, I know that, one, people — including kids — come in all shapes and sizes, and two, there are more and more heavy kids in what’s becoming an obesity epidemic, thus necessitating the plus sizes in kids’ clothes, but there still are some children out there who eat fairly healthy and are naturally slim. Argh.)

My oldest, in Bermuda shorts.

Anyway, back to the topic: Just because teen girls seemingly prefer short-shorts instead of Bermudas doesn’t mean mothers want to buy Daisy Dukes for their toddlers and elementary-school-age kids.

This goes as well for all the junior-department dresses that are about 16 inches long, particularly formals, that are strapless and end mid-thigh. Pair these with the also-trendy stilettos or huge platforms, and we have the stereotypical image that’s traditionally been reserved for prostitutes.

And look at what a really gorgeous and fun but not-skimpy dress we found for prom.

And look at what a really gorgeous and fun but not-skimpy dress we found for prom.

Mind you, I do like style, particularly dresses. I adore dresses! They’re so fun and girly and there are just SO many styles and interesting looks. I love to shop for myself; I love picking up new frocks for my girls (on sale, naturally; the better the bargain at a nice retailer, the bigger the smile on my face). But there is no reason for such a high proportion of dresses to skimp so much on fabric. And taking the sexy styles of teens (which are too sexy for girls who haven’t even reached adulthood yet) and adapting them into preteen styles is just NOT COOL.

More of us parents and shoppers should be ACTIVELY doing more to contact retailers and demand change. So kudos to this blogger. See? One person asking for change can make a difference.

Then there are the constant stream of images in the media, whether it’s music videos or movies and TV shows (to which our girls are looking for inspiration or, at the very least, simply can’t NOT see in their digital lives). The latest, apparently, is a horrific video by Maroon 5, “Animals,” featuring Adam Levine as a butcher who stalks a female customer. Oh, yeah. Let’s glorify the “fantasy” of a male stalker — a butcher surrounded by bloody carcasses, no less — with an “animal” lust that can’t be controlled.

What continues to elude me is why women who are participants in these blatant displays of demeaning women are willing to sign on. The Maroon 5 video features Levine’s new wife, Behati Prinsloo. No doubt the honeymoon phase hasn’t worn off yet. Otherwise one would hope she would be the first to say, “Look, Adam, honey, I don’t think that’s a great idea. Let’s try something else, shall we?”

Then there are Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea celebrating their barely-clad backsides in “Booty.” (Let me note that I have not watched these videos, just seen a few screenshots. I do NOT care to put any more images in my head of these things.) They are the stars of their own shows; J.Lo, with her clout, arguably does or could control her image and what kind of music she sings and videos she shoots, so I hold her more responsible. I believe the typical argument goes like this: “I’m a strong, empowered woman, and I’m taking control of my own sexuality and am CHOOSING to show my sexual side.”

My only response to this is this: Baloney.

You know that you’ll get lots of attention and more money by using your sexual side to sell your “brand.”

Think what these empowered women could do if they really put their money where their mouths are and CHOSE to send different messages, messages about how richly talented and diverse and interesting women and girls all are, starting with themselves. And think what we as consumers could do if we sent a message the other direction to these celebrities and the media who promote them: What if we truly did not buy their products? What if millions of us rose up in protest and sent emails and letters, showing that we really don’t want what they’re foisting on us?

In an age when many of us really are trying to teach our girls something better, to rise above worries about trivial matters of our appearances, why are the music industry, the film and TV industries, working so hard against us? (Rhetorical question, folks.)

I heartily agree with this sentiment expressed by a parenting researcher and author in The Daily Telegraph: “I am sick of trying to teach my daughters how much they have to offer the world, only to have everything I say undermined by the sleazy, unhealthy messages that someone with no respect for womanhood promotes to the mass market to make some more money. The wellbeing of our wives, sisters, and daughters is worth more than that. It’s not OK.”

Today we recognize the amazing determination of one teen girl in pushing for education for girls in her native Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: one of the finest achievements anyone could aspire to, and she’s only 17. We aren’t all in awe of her for her booty, her figure, her beauty, or her style; far from it — she covers her head in public with colorful scarves. She bears scars from being shot in the head for campaigning for girls’ right to education. No, everyone is impressed with her convictions and bravery to do the right thing, despite almost being killed.

That’s what matters. That’s what we want to encourage our girls to embrace about themselves: their strength, their bravery, their determination to find the best in themselves and make it better and share it with others, conviction to make the world a better place. They’re all different sizes, different colors, different backgrounds. But they all have so much to give! I speak from experience because I have amazing girls.

It is high time we ALL spoke up for the amazing girls and women of this world and helped them reject being reduced to mere one-dimensional sex objects.

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I love carbohydrates. I absolutely adore them: breads, pasta, starchy veggies, fresh fruits and, yeah, refined sugar. I’ve always known that white sugar (and, well, brown, that amazing kind that not only tastes good as part of a streusel topping or a cookie but entertainingly can hold its shape like a sand castle …) is bad for me. But it’s been, honestly, my one vice. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I do eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, but I indulge overmuch in baked goods and ice cream.

I was raised, though, with the belief that whole grains were a no-brainer. They were, undoubtedly, good for me. My church has always taught its members to be prepared for all kinds of eventualities (natural disasters, emergencies, job loss) by storing food and other necessities, so my parents stored wheat, among other basic items, and I always have since I’ve been on my own. I own a wheat grinder, same as my mom, and we both grind our wheat and bake all kinds of things with our freshly-ground whole-wheat flour. Sounds delightfully down-to-earth and wholesome, doesn’t it?

So not only do I love carbs, I love to create carb-loaded goodies: homemade whole-wheat bread, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cakes, even from-scratch pasta. I enjoy cooking with fresh wholesome ingredients.

My life has been SUSTAINED BY CARBS.

Come to find out that carbs are not just making me heavy as I’ve reached middle age, they’re very likely the cause of my slightly-too-high cholesterol levels. My dad had always had slightly-high cholesterol levels, too, and he was a fanatic about eating healthy and only eating healthy fats and lean meats and fish and nuts with Omega-whatevers. He exercised. He was too thin, really, for most of his adult life. But darn it if those cholesterol levels weren’t low enough. What the heck? Why?

Now the food-and-health trends are leaning towards showing how carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, are doing us all in. I mean, yeah, we’ve always known that refined sugar isn’t good for us. But the idea that it could impact cholesterol levels, for just one thing, didn’t occur to most of us, after the low-fat trends of the previous decade or two.

I wouldn’t have believed it myself except for battling the cholesterol tests every other year or so. Then this year I happened to be on a good diet where I was drinking healthy shakes for some meals and watching carefully the amounts of sugars and carbs I did eat. And lo and behold, I happened to go in for my yearly lab work during that time. When I sat down with my doctor after the results came in, she was astonished. My levels had gone down from about 220 total to 170 or so. I have to say, I was equally amazed. But putting two and two together and then doing some more reading and trying-out of diets, I have come to appreciate that my body needs fewer carbs. DARN IT!

Like I said, I’ve generally eaten pretty healthy. I love to eat a very varied diet, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, all kinds of recipes and styles of cooking, various ethnic foods, etc. I’ve never indulged much in soft drinks; my parents allowed us one small soft drink once a week and that was it. I have never had a soda-pop habit. Ever. Drink my calories? No thanks. I love water. And yeah, I’ve felt a distinct disdain for parents who have given their toddlers soda, even with caffeine. Crazy. I would NEVER have done that to my kids. I’ve seen people with all kinds of horrible diet habits, who eat processed food and fast food like it’s the only kind of nourishment that exists; people who wouldn’t know healthy food if it bit them. And I’ve judged. Yes. I have.

I have felt a little pride in my good eating habits, in my whole grains and vegetables and fruits. I don’t have to make drastic changes. I just have to try to cut back on my sweet tooth. Not a big deal, right?

Now that I’ve realized how sugar is impacting my cholesterol, I feel like the rules have changed. I never saw this coming.

So I decided perhaps Atkins might be a good way to do some changing. And a month in, being on Phase 1 of the program, with no grains and having to count net carbs even in vegetables, for pity’s sake!, I’ve lost 6 pounds and am feeling fine but am starting to really, really want some grains. Bread! Cookies! Rolls! They are calling my name from the kitchen, from the huge canisters of flour that sit on my countertops.

I never thought whole grains, whole wheat in particular, would ever possibly be the bad guy. Just changing that one aspect of my diet seems like a sea change, one I don’t know if I’m prepared to make permanently. It’s devastating! If it’s that hard for me to just change this part of my eating habits, how in the world do people change their entire diets when they’re really eating a ton of stuff that’s bad for their bodies? Disdain aside, I’m feeling more affinity for them.

Atkins it is for me right now. I’m also prone to emotional eating and less motivation during hormonal times of the month, so it’s been a little tough the past week. I’m giving it another week to see if I swing back to being just fine with this trial of Atkins. If I don’t think it’s just the right fit, I might look into Paleo. Or I might just see about not doing an official diet but just trimming my diet down to a very minimal amount of grains but still some.

I’m just in the early stages of a sea change. We’ll see how well I can swim … or surf … or captain my eating-habits boat.

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Next week will mark five years since my dad’s death. I expected I’d write a post then to observe the occasion, but I’m finding I’m missing him a great deal right now, so that anniversary post is happening now.

Dad’s death was unexpected and a completely devastating experience I was wholly unprepared for. I felt sure I had a good decade or more with him so I wasn’t at all ready to face the possibility of him not being in my life. His loss upended me, changed me utterly, and created a crater in my very self, as if a fiery asteroid had crash-landed in my torso. Time passing and the reality of no more phone calls or visits or little notes or pictures in the mail have forced me to accept his absence, but the crater is still there. Only problem is that it’s somehow been covered up over time by the accumulating detritus of life, so few observers have any idea it’s there, this charred chasm.

Dad and Cathy LOVEDad and I were close. I have come to appreciate that calling him one of my best friends is not an exaggeration. He really was. He also could be completely exasperating and sometimes annoyingly clueless. He was a hypochondriac and an over-sharer, and loving completely unconditionally did not come naturally to him, thanks to a difficult upbringing. He was obsessed with taking care of his health and was a bit underweight, and he focused overmuch on other people’s appearances. Thanks to that, in part, I am overly concerned with how I look, a frustrating shortcoming that can sometimes take me away from what’s truly important in this short life. Honestly, I could write a few more paragraphs about how he could make me crazy, sometimes even angry.

Nonetheless, I adored him. I have so many treasured memories of time with him, daddy-daughter time. He taught me so much and transferred so many of his own “likes” and preferences to me that I feel sometimes I can just channel him. Dad took me to cultural events: orchestra and band concerts, ballet performances, plays (because he was a university professor we had access to some great performances at the various universities where he worked. And if they were free or a very low price, all the better: he really disliked spending money). He instilled his love of music and his humor. I can still almost hear him laugh. Just … almost … the sensation, the sound, is just out of reach, like a word on the tip of my tongue. I can imagine his reactions to just about anything. He loved card games and was quite competitive. He had so many distinctly-him mannerisms. I can practically bring him to life any moment by repeating something he’d typically say or by aping a habit. My oldest daughter in particular remembers those things pretty well and can accurately mimic him too, repeating how he’d bug the poor front-line workers in a McDonald’s about “What kind of oil exactly do you use in your fries?” or deliberately and dramatically placing a card down on the table when playing a game.

I’ve read over the years how those who are grieving do want to talk about their loved one who has left this mortal existence, that asking questions or talking to them about the person who’s died is actually a welcome activity, not an intrusion or painful reminder. No, we already know that the person we love is gone. We can’t possibly be “reminded” any more. It’s SO true that what I want to do is just talk about him. I want to tell everyone about him, to just talk endlessly about all his quirks, all his high notes, all characteristics in between. In talking about him, I’m bringing him to life for someone else, keeping his memory alive for myself.

I am at peace entirely with my beliefs on where he is now and what he is doing. I’m happy for him to be in this next stage of what I know is an eternal existence. He gleaned what he needed to from this stage of life, and he’s learning more and doing more where he is now. But that peace, knowledge, and happiness that I have for him doesn’t change how desperately I miss him being here, with me. I still miss him every day. I still wish I could pick up the phone and talk to him, maybe get his advice and input, just hear his voice. He was such a vibrant, oversize personality: he was impossible to miss. He spoke loudly and commanded attention (he taught TV broadcasting and spoke accordingly). He was funny and appreciated good humor. Not having that presence around now creates a Dad-size hole that won’t go away until I am reunited with him someday.

I miss you, Dad. It’s as simple as that. My heart will ever be broken till we meet again.

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