Monthly Archives: January 2016

Body and Other Four Letter Words

This is one of the final – and best – blog posts I shared on my old site.  This is still a topic that I think about and struggle with every day.


There are many reasons why I haven’t blogged in well over a year, but today I’m going to address one of the main reasons.  One of the main reasons I decided to blog in the first place was simply to address issues most important to me, and with the issues of body image and infertility, I’ve failed to do just that.  How do you address something that affects every single aspect of your life?  How do you address something so overwhelming that no one, not even those who love you the most, wants to hear it?  The thing is that the longer I let these thoughts fester, let these words go unsaid, the longer I wonder if there is something I could’ve done for girls and women dealing with the same issues.

As a child, I can precisely pinpoint the moment when I was told my body wasn’t good enough; it was the day I entered kindergarten.  Prior to kindergarten, no one called me fat or felt the need to constantly remind me just how short I was.  Sure, I was a “stocky” kid, but I was also active.  I played outside constantly with my little sister, cousins, etc.  I never felt self-conscious in a bathing suit; I was having too much fun swimming.  I never felt the need to compare myself to anyone else.  Did I envy my older cousins?  Of course I did!  I looked up to all four of them (all female), but even as a small child I knew that to compare myself to someone so much older simply didn’t make sense.

Everything changed in kindergarten.  In gym, I was always picked last for teams.  When we had to line up by height (again, in gym), I was inevitably last or next to last.  Sadly, I was compared to a little girl who was much larger than me.  I just remember the anger and outrage of such an unjust comparison, and yet, I felt empathy for the other girl.  Was that really how other kids saw me?  As time wore on, kids started making rhymes about my body.  25 years later, and I still remember it all: “Short, fat, and squatty; got no face, got no body.”

In some ways things got better in junior high.  I went from being bullied to being mostly ignored.  As others paired off and experimented, I just threw myself into my school work and books.  Sports were never much of an option for me, and unfortunately, sports at the junior high/high school I attended were the key to popularity, especially if you were a girl.  I wasted my time on crushes who couldn’t be bothered to even talk to me, much less date me.  Once my little sister joined me at the same school, I was bombarded with comments such as: “I can’t believe you two are sisters! Your sister is so pretty and popular!”  The implication, of course, being that I was the exact opposite: ugly and unpopular.

As an adolescent, I would’ve given anything to look like my Mom and sister, both of whom I considered relatively thin (though they would both fight me on that one), beautiful, and popular.  At the time, I wanted blonde hair and blue eyes if it meant acceptance.  I remember driving with my Mom in her new red Grand Prix as a young teenager.  GM had completely redesigned the Grand Prix, and my Mom had one of the first redesigned models in the area.  My Mom had lost a lot of weight, and frankly, looked great.  Every time I went somewhere with my Mom, it seemed as though we would get stares, mainly from men.  I couldn’t help but wish I was the one making heads turn, not my Mom.  Despite all of the disparaging remarks my Mom would make about her own weight, I never saw her as anything but beautiful.

Adolescence is hard, but it is even harder if you are short and fat.  At the time, I thought I was huge, and that there was no chance I’d ever lose the weight.  Today, I’d love to weigh what I did in high school.  In college, I proved myself wrong and lost a lot of weight due to walking Michigan State’s campus and walking all over Spain during my semester there.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would be treated differently.  People were interested in me, in my life – even a few men.

After college, after moving to Houston, Texas for my first “real” job, things changed.  I took all of the stress of that job, the joy of being in a relationship, and the loneliness I felt before Brian joined me in Houston, and I did what I do best: I used it as a license to eat.  The desk job didn’t help either.  Not only did I gain back all of the weight I lost, I kept gaining more too.  It got to the point that my Dad and Grandma were shocked when I returned to Michigan.  They couldn’t even hide it as I’d gained that much weight.

Today I’m at a point in my life where I’d love to lose the weight again.  I’m single, and frankly, happier than I’ve been in a very long time.  The thing is that I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’m scared: I’m scared of all of the attention I’d receive if I did lose the weight.  The experience of having lived through that once left me angry.  Am I really that much more of an interesting person if I am relatively thin?  As I thought through all of that, I realized that losing weight would only be temporary (again) if I didn’t deal with my own body issues.  I’m left wondering how I am supposed to do that when everything in our society states, quite bluntly, that my body, even at its best, will never be good enough on account of my height alone.

If there is anything I want girls and women to take from this, it is this: 

We should not feel we have to be a certain weight to feel loved and accepted for who we are, society be damned.  Never let anyone tell you differently.

We as a society need to come to accept the simple fact that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Words hurt much more than most people realize.

girl 2

Is this what we want for girls?

Through all of this over-thinking of body image as of late, I came to realize that I’ve never truly even liked my body, and much of the reason stems from infertility.  The first thing I ever remember wanting out of life was to be a mom.  At no point in my life did I ever not want a family of my own.  Unfortunately, biologically, it just isn’t going to happen.  Fortunately, I came to terms with the fact adoption is a wonderful alternative a long time ago.  And yet, I’ve never quite forgiven my body for so fundamentally betraying me.

If I resemble anyone on either side of my family, it would be my Great-Grandma Suszko, my Dad’s maternal grandmother. At nineteen, I was working with my Grandma (her daughter) when she opened a package from a niece containing her parents’ wedding photo, newly redone.  My Grandma kept staring at the photo and then back at me.  It was clear she thought I looked like her Mom, although the fact that I was the same age as the girl in the photograph probably helped.  As someone deeply interested in family history, I have a copy of Great-Grandma Suszko’s naturalization papers.  Her physical description could fit me perfectly, with one exception: she was two inches taller than I am.  My Great-Grandma Suszko had ten children, all but one of whom lived well into their 70s.  Add in the fact that my Mom has four sisters, and I came up with one conclusion: My body should be built to bear children.  It just isn’t.

What people who don’t have infertility fail to realize is that dealing with it is an on-going process, not a one-time deal.  Just when you feel you are fine with it, accepted it fully, and have moved on, something happens that forces you to deal with it all over again.  For me, one of the hardest things to deal with was the day I realized that I fully met the medical definition of infertile (I’ll spare you the details).  There just wasn’t anyone I could share that deep sense of loss with at the time, even my boyfriend.  I’ve talked a lot about my experiences with body image, but it just wasn’t complete without discussing infertility as well.  There was a time in my life that dealing with infertility was so painful that I downplayed my desire for a family of my own.  I downplayed it to the point that my own sister never realized that I wanted children.  It saddens me that those I love most can never fully understand due to the simple fact that they are parents.

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Daughter of Body Image Advocate Slams Brand for Her ‘Drastically Altered’ Modeling Photos

Personal Heroes

Little Richard

We all have personal heroes, whether we want to admit it or not.  Personally, most of mine are people I know well in real life, but there are exceptions.  One huge exception for me is the Beatles, Paul McCartney in particular.  There are bands and musicians I like, and then there are the Beatles.  I bring this up because a friend of mine just lost one of hers on Monday:  David Bowie.  In fact, she wrote a moving piece on what his music, and more importantly, his persona, meant to her on Facebook.  I get it; I truly do.

The thing is, until he passed away, I never thought of David Bowie or his music that much, although my friend’s enthusiasm for his music is contagious.  Now that I have a better understanding of what his music represented and the risks he took with his career, not to mention the generations of artists he inspired, I can say that David Bowie belongs alongside people like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and yes, the Beatles, in a category all their own.  All of those artists broke barriers, created – or helped to create – new genres of music.  They also crossed genres and inspired new generations of musicians.

So why do we care so much about people we’ve never met?  I think that is part of the mystery of art, music in particular.  We feel as though we know the artists when we’ve spent decades listening, discussing, and analyzing their work.  We invest so much time and energy in the things we love – art, books, music, TV, films, etc. – that when their creator dies, a part of the magic is gone.  For example, in my life, there was never the possibility of a Beatles reunion.  John Lennon died ten days before I was born.  My generation will always wonder what Kurt Cobain would have accomplished musically with or without Nirvana had he lived.  Instead of wondering what an artist will do next, after his or her death, fans are left with a finite catalog of music, writing, films, paintings, etc.  There is nothing new to discover, only memories of what it felt like to await a new release.

The High Cost of (Not) Being Yourself – Part 1

David Bowie

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? – BlogHer

You Need to Take Care of Yourself First – BlogHer

Just when I feel hopeful about the future, reality seems to rear its ugly head.  Lately I’ve been reminded time and time again that I need to take care of myself first.  That is all well and good, but I need people in my life.  I know I can get wrapped up in my own life to the exclusion of all else (with the exception of my family), which is why I worry that I’ll end up alone in the end.

How do I let go of that almost paralyzing fear that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life and yet concentrate on myself?  Maybe that is exactly what I need to do at the moment.  I am tired of living in a society focused on narrow measures of beauty and success.  None of them apply to me.  They never have and they never will.  Where does that leave me?  I don’t exactly know.

I know that I need to create my own path.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what intimidates some people, even though that is the only option I’ve ever been given.  Then again, why should I care?  The people who understand are the only people who matter.

Middle Grades Versus Young Adult Fiction

LIW Quote 2

The topic of young adult literature fascinates me.   As part of her MOOCs discussing the life and work of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill, an author herself, explores the development of the YA genre, as well as the ever-shifting boundary between middle grade and young adult literature.  As a writer who intends to eventually write in both genres and as a future middle school/high school teacher, her explanations of both genres left me wanting to learn more.  It also left me feeling as though there are no hard and fast rules.  Pamela Smith Hill credits authors such as Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder with creating the young adult genre, even though the modern classification didn’t formally come into use until the 1950s.

Until I watched this series of videos, I never thought of the Little House series as divided into middle grades and young adult fiction.  I classified it all as middle grades, even though I reread the entire series, including The First Four Years, as an adult.  However, throughout her series of videos, Pamela Smith Hill makes a compelling case for considering On the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years among the first young adult novels.  While I always knew that The First Four Years could not rightly be considered a part of the Little House series, I now have a much better understanding as to why.

According to Pamela Smith Hill, the book was Wilder’s attempt to write for an adult audience.  Indeed, it does deal with adult themes such as marriage, choosing a vocation, and economic hardship.  Interestingly, the book only came to the attention of Rose Wilder Lane, Wilder’s only child and literary heir, upon her mother’s death.  There are several theories as to why, but what I find interesting as a reader is that The First Four Years just feels different.  There is a different tone, and in many ways, it is sparse where other novels in the series are not.  As a writer, I understand why it was not published in Wilder’s lifetime, even though it is a good book.  It simply did not fit her literary legacy.

All of this leads me to a few conclusions.  First, it is possible to allow a series of books to grow with the reader.  As a child, this is what left me disappointed with mystery series.  The main characters never seemed to grow.  This is also why the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little House books remain among my childhood favorites.  Second, rules in publishing can be broken.  What it is important is to tell the truth, even if it isn’t the whole truth.  Dealing with difficult issues honestly is particularly important in YA literature.  Laura Ingalls Wilder did this well, even if she did fictionalize some aspects of her story to conceal identities or to simply make a better story.  Finally, it is important to control one’s literary legacy, even if only during one’s lifetime.  As a child of the ‘80s, I am completely conflicted when it comes to the Little House on the Prairie TV series.  I loved it as a child.  As an adult, I question the liberties taken with the source material, among many other things.  That leads to an overarching question:  How much control can a writer exert over his or writing from the grave?  If nothing else, it is an interesting topic.

Refining My Creative Process

art love

Cultivating the Creative Process – Ellen Vrana

If you happen to be a writer, you are missing out if you are not reading Ellen Vrana’s blog.  It is simply beautiful, and yet relatable.  In other words, it makes me want to run off to London.  In this particular post, she addresses an issue that I’ve thought about quite a bit lately:  How place affects the creative process.  After Christmas, I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my local writer friends for lunch.  Our conversation made me realize that I am in a place where I need to seek out new places to write.  One’s surroundings affect the writing process, and I need to do something new.

As a student, I seemed to naturally seek out places to study that both feed my creativity and allow me to focus on the tasks at hand.  As an undergrad at Michigan State, I absolutely had the best of both worlds.  When I needed creativity and wanted to dream, I could head over to the women’s resource room in the MSU Union.  It is simply a large, beautiful room set aside for women to study in silence.  Occupying one corner of the Union building, its windows overlook the approach to Beaumont Tower and some of the most beautiful parts of MSU’s gorgeous campus.  Best of all, if I needed a change, the energy of the rest of the building was just outside the door, the type of energy that can only be found on a bustling college campus.  If I needed to concentrate on simply getting a project completed, there was always the business library.  No distracting beautiful views, just a quiet cubicle that allowed me to shut out the rest of the world while I worked, without all of the social aspects of MSU’s main library.

Today, as I finish up my second experience as an undergraduate student, I find myself doing the same thing.  There are places on both SVSU and Delta College’s campuses, their libraries, where I know I can go when I need to concentrate wholeheartedly on the task at hand.  What is lacking is a writing space where I can feed off of the energy.  This is precisely why I would feel right at home living near a college or university.  Instead, I live in the smallest city in Michigan.  There are no true coffee shops where I could spend an afternoon just watching people and maybe write a word or two.  There are no places to really just spend time alone in public.  In my quest to find such a space, I’ve tried two small local libraries.  Unfortunately, they are too quiet for my taste, and they are not particularly comfortable.  If I want that much silence, I might as well be comfortable at home.

As I spend this year concentrating on the very idea of home, developing my own creative writing process is just as much part of my concept of home as my bedroom.  If I am ever going to succeed as a writer, I need to explore my creative process and how physical space affects it.  Given that I live in such a rural area, I may have to get creative.  Without internet access, such a task would become much more difficult.  Fortunately, I also draw a lot of my inspiration from music as well.  I would be lost without my playlists.

What Ellen does so well in her blog post is explain the difference between inspiration as a writer and the actual physical task of writing.  Maybe it is because of our shared heritage (her father and my mother are first cousins), but I can imagine her writing process working well for me too.  I can relate to drawing inspiration from experiences in the city and writing in the country.  This is why I renewed my passport this summer even though I have no plans to travel at the moment.  Much of my inspiration has always been drawn from the very idea of travel, of being able to reinvent oneself and start over.  The idea of having my passport handy is enough.  Throughout all of my study abroad experiences at Michigan State, I wanted desperately to capture it all in writing.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I planned, although there were a few exceptions during my time in Spain.  Quite simply, there was too much to take in, too much going on to capture it well.  Now that I have the desire, time, and space to write, the inspiration isn’t as immediate.  Hopefully I’ll be able to find what works for me in 2016. untold story

 

Adoption and Single Motherhood – Part 2

adoption quote

BlogHer – I Want to Adopt and Become a Single Parent Someday – Stephanie Dolce

I decided to break this blog post into two parts because I feel there is one overwhelming issue regarding adoption that Stephanie Dolce addresses in her post that deserves its own response from me.  All of the myths surrounding adoption – many of which make the adoption process more difficult – need to be addressed and discussed openly.  Unfortunately, it seems as though there is still stigma associated with adoption.

In particular, Stephanie addresses the high cost of adoption.  In reality, there are a wide range of fees associated with adoption.  They vary widely depending on how one choses to adopt.  What most people don’t realize is that there are many reasons as to why and how people make the decision to adopt a child.  Some chose to become a foster parent first.  Others chose international adoption.  The length of time it takes to complete an adoption also varies widely depending on the type of adoption and the adoption law in the state where the adoption takes place.  The process can be so complicated and shrouded in mystery at times that it makes it extremely difficult to make generalizations.

I believe that was Stephanie Dolce’s point.  There just needs to be a lot more open discussion about adoption in general.  There are so many children that need homes, we don’t need to make adoption more difficult than necessary.  Like Stephanie, I wish there was much more discussion on the topic.  Everyone needs to know that you don’t have to be perfect to adopt.  Pregnant women dealing with an unwanted pregnancy also need to recognize that they don’t have to have an abortion.  Placing a child up for adoption is a possibility.  I’m not sure what it will take for people to discuss it more.  It breaks my heart.  I realize that adoption doesn’t always work out and that it isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the best possible outcome in some cases.

Adoption and Single Motherhood – Part 1

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BlogHer – I Want to Adopt and Become a Single Parent Someday – Stephanie Dolce

Well, it is time to address the BlogHer article that piqued my interest in the first place.  I saved this particular blog post for last (last of the articles I came across late last week) because it hits so close to home.  Even though Stephanie and I may have differences regarding dating and the possibility for a meaningful relationship (more on that later), we share so much.  Where to begin?

First, Stephanie never shied away from her love of children.  She discusses her years spent as a teacher and coach, all that she has given to children in her life.  That just wasn’t the case earlier in my life.  During my 20s, I let my issues surrounding infertility get in the way of my love for children.  I simply thought that it hurt too much to spend day in, day out with kids not my own.  Well, I can’t believe just how wrong I was.  I finally got over myself and realized the truth that I am meant to be a teacher.  I am meant to make a difference in the lives of children.  I just wish I would have discovered that little gem of self-awareness earlier.  Then again, everything happens for a reason.  All of my experiences in business – good and bad – have made me who I am today.  I doubt I would be planning to take over my parents’ business with my brother if I didn’t have all of that business experience.

Speaking of my brother, Stephanie’s statement that her love of children began with her younger brother rang true to me.  Did I want children of my own before my brother was born?  Yes; it is one of the first and only things I wanted out of life.  However, when my brother was born, I was ten years old.  There was enough difference in our ages that we weren’t necessarily playmates.  My younger sister (three years younger) and I were each other playmates.  Instead, my brother taught me what it is to care for a child.  As his babysitter, I would make him bathe and help him fall asleep.  As his older sister, I made sure he had the opportunity to spend time with me during my college years.  I taught him to appreciate classic cartoons such as Looney Tunes and The Jetsons; he taught me how to ski.  In other words, he will always be my baby brother.  Nothing can change that.  No matter how many children I adopt, he will always be my oldest child.  If one day I am a successful parent, I will have my brother to thank, along with my parents, grandparents, and sister.

If I don’t at least attempt to adopt as a single woman, there will always be something missing in my life.  I think this is exactly what Stephanie is feeling as she approaches 40.  It is what I felt as I approached 30.  It is what gets me out of bed in the morning.  It is the reason why I decided to change careers and go back to school.  Everything in my life – at least anything worthwhile – relates to my dream of creating a family of my own.  Everything.

As a single woman, that dream becomes infinitely more complicated when it comes to the topic of men.  Stephanie comes across as extremely pessimistic when it comes to dating, particularly for a self-described love and relationship advice columnist.  Why?  Why not leave open that possibility that you will meet the right man, even as a single mom?  It might take more work to find the right man, but it can be done.

This is what I am struggling with at the moment:  Making room for others in my daily life.  As I go about creating a life I love, the life I’ve always wanted, I need to find ways to ensure that I am not getting too wrapped up in myself.  I need to make time for others, make sure that I am available.  How will I ever find the right man if he thinks I am too busy for any kind of meaningful relationship?  What kind of mother would I be if I put myself before my child?  Unfortunately, it can be too easy to shut the most important people out of your life, even if that isn’t your intention at all.

future

Starting Over (Again)

years

There are times when it seems as though everything surrounding you is trying to drive home a point.  Over this past week, I’ve given a lot of thought about what is holding me back from achieving everything I want for my life.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’m letting my past get in the way of being truly happy.  No matter how many wonderful things happen in my life, there are certain areas of my life I don’t even want to think about, much less address.  Why?  It is one thing to understand this intellectually, it is quite another to act, to truly put the past behind you.

In the middle of thinking about all of this, a few friends of mine, weeks apart, have picked up on the fact that it is time for me to do something about a certain situation in my life.  They may have different advice and broach the subject differently, but the message is the same.  Unfortunately, it is time.  I am just all too human and afraid my efforts will all come to nothing once again.  Where do I even start?

Maybe it is beyond time to just not worry about any of it anymore.  I think I will just try to have more fun and not take things quite so seriously.  As with anything else, it is much easier said than done.  So much is set to change in my life in 2016, why not everything else?  One of these days I am bound to get it right.

starting today

The Most Important Thing I Learned from My Dad

My Dad and my brother - Red Wing's Game, Joe Louis Arena - December 2015

My Dad and my brother, two of the most important men in my life – Red Wing’s Game, Joe Louis Arena – December 2015

Today is my Dad’s 63rd birthday.  As he and my Mom celebrate at their cabin in Canada with friends, I can’t help but think of all he has taught me over the years.  So, as tribute to my Dad, I am going to answer the one question he asked me several times as a child (and maybe once or twice as an adult).  I will also share the one thing he taught me that will always stay with me and is clearly now a part of who I am.

First, the question.  As child, he asked me all too often “Lindsey, why do you always have to do things the hard way?”  Well Dad, I would certainly like to know too.  The thing is, I always have to discover things for myself, and unfortunately, I am incredibly stubborn, just like my Dad and his Mom, my Grandma Reid.  I can’t help it.  When it comes to my Dad dispensing advice that goes against what I feel is best, I am going to do what I feel is best at the time.  He and my Mom gave me plenty of opportunities to make my own choices even as a teenager.  Over the years, of course, I’ve grown up and made better decisions, but every now and then, I still go rogue and disregard my Dad’s advice, usually at my peril.  So, Dad, if you are reading, the reason why I have to “do things the hard way” is because I am too much like you.

The biggest lesson I learned from my Dad is undoubtedly to go after whatever it is you want out of life.  My Dad may not fully understand why I love the things I do or why I want certain things out of life, but he has always supported me in chasing my dreams.  I watched my entire childhood as he went after his dreams.  There was never any doubt that I was expected to do the same.  There were times when I wished my Dad more fully understood why I love the things I love and why I chase the things I do, but I know deep down he understands more than most.

Happy birthday, Dad!  I love you.  Lonzo.

 

Finding Your Faith

LIW Quote

Religion, Family and Letting Your Kids Find Their Faith – BlogHer

The idea behind this article intrigues me.  I love the idea of allowing children to choose their own faith (or lack thereof).  One of the biggest issues I’ve had with organized religion throughout my life is the idea that there is only one true religion.  This idea is passed down from generation to generation without children really having the opportunity to explore other religions.  They simply grow up with the same faith as their parents without really exploring their own beliefs.  As a Protestant Christian, with all of its varieties and peculiarities, this never made sense to me.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for religious education during childhood and early adolescence.  How else can one truly learn about religion?  Throughout that process, how do you help your child be open to learning about other religions and exploring their faith while learning yours?  It is a tough question, and one that parents should discuss with their kids.  Even if parents don’t explicitly talk about religion with their children often, children will still pick up on their parents’ attitudes toward different religions.

In all of this, I was incredibly lucky as a child.  Even though my parents’ weren’t overly religious, my Mom insisted that my siblings and I had what she called a “religious education.”  We were baptized and confirmed.  We attended Sunday school and church camp.  I even spent some time as part of MYF.  My Mom had had all of these experiences growing up and wanted the same for her children.

At the same time, we were raised to respect different religions.  In fact, as a small child, I attended Mass with my Catholic neighbors almost as often as I attended church with my parents.  My neighbor and babysitter taught Catechism for decades, and thanks to my parents’ openness, I even attended her class a time or two.  Growing up in a predominately Catholic community, I am grateful that I had those experiences.  When you have a better understanding of other religions, conditions such as those that existed in Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s – Catholics versus Protestants, neighbor against neighbor – become incomprehensible.  To this day, I cannot imagine judging anyone based on religion alone.

The funny thing is that until fairly recently, I was highly skeptical of organized religion.  While I did believe in God, I did not necessarily see the need for organized religion.  Discussing all of this with my Mom, she blames herself for passing that skepticism on to me.  Personally, I’m glad I questioned my faith and organized religion.  Now that I see its intrinsic value, I knew what to look for in a church, and ultimately, I am that much stronger in my beliefs.