Getting ready to say sayonara to summer

byesummerI spent so much time waiting to grow up, and now that I’m here I wonder when I’m ever going to be offered naptime again. I’d started off this summer with a head full of ideas on how to keep the kids occupied with learning while giving myself time to write. It worked really well for a few weeks, but, just like going to gym, once the routine slips its hard to get back into it. The honest truth is that I found myself, after a month, too overwhelmed to do much of anything. The laundry, the heat, the allergy induced migraines,  and the constant affection required by my darlings helped me understand why parents put their kids in camp. It’s not just about space, but there’s a lot of guilt involved in being creatively paralyzed. Where does one go to escape the heat and crowds without spending?

Oh, the writing? Yeah, that hasn’t gone so well either.

That’s okay.

Life is about learning. I spent the summer learning about spending the summer with my kids. It hasn’t been horrible. It’s been a bit boring, and frustrating, but summer is kind of about lazing about, recharging batteries, and decompressing from the school year while preparing for the incredibly busy academic year looming in the weeks to come.

I’m reminded of something a nurse once told me in the hospital, “This is research.” It’s all research isn’t it? While my protagonist and her pals are busy taking their own vacations leaving me feeling blocked, I’ve been learning about what kids do when they’re bored, and the television isn’t there to rescue them. I’ve watched them become surgeons, and wizards. There was a coronation every day. Imagination transformed my house into an arena for dragon battles, and a ninja training school. My son read more than I’ve ever known him to read. The Little carried a notebook around, because she decided to be a writer ::swoon::.

There’s still a few more weeks left of vacation, which will be spent in various stages of trips, but I’m glad we took this time to breathe. Even though things didn’t happen the way I’d planned, and there were far more days spent inside than out, in the end I did get what I wanted all along. We’re closer now. We know each other better. The kids are bonded, and have spent long hours learning how to play together. We are more than family now. We’re friends.

I’m not sad to see summer go. I’m ready for the crisp Fall air and pumpkin spice everything. I’m ready for brand new pencils, and fresh paper. I think the kids are ready too. Well…maybe not just yet.

I’ll be ready in three weeks.

Not Sorry

not sorryI like flavored coffee.
Chocolate raspberry is my favorite.
I drink it with sugar, and extra cream even though I know the best flavors are appreciated most with neither.
I’m not sorry. It’s who I am.

I still clap my hands when I get excited
even though I’m an adult, and adults aren’t supposed to act like that.
A trailer of my favorite book turned movie;
visits from my brothers;
listening to her read to me;
hearing that he’s happy to live here;
my nieces and nephews.
Sometimes I jump up and down.
Sometimes I squeal.
I’m not sorry. It’s who I am.

I still believe in fairies.
Sometimes I think I am one.
I love princess tales, and barbie dolls, even though I know that people think both are bad.
I would paint the whole world pink.
I love flowy skirts, and satin gloves.
I would wear a tiara every day if I could.
Although I’d probably be wearing yoga pants when I did.
I’m not sorry. It’s who I am.

I talk a lot.
Too much.
I just have so much to say.
I have so many stories.
They take time to tell.
I still want someone to listen, even though I know that most people don’t have enough time to do it.
I’m not sorry. It’s who I am.

I believe in love,
and romance,
and magic.
I’m not sorry. It’s who I am.

I cry when I’m:
angry,
sad,
happy,
lonely.
I’m not sorry. It’s who I am.

I’m not sorry for who I am,
but I am sorry
that you don’t like what you’ve read.

Even with a failure, we’ll call it a win– Summer Camp at Home

The Garden earlier this Spring.

The Garden earlier this Spring.

Gardening is pure magic. I’ve always thought so. You take this tiny little seed and stick it in the dirt, and in a few days a life erupts all green and wobbly. I imagine the hard work it had to do, fighting it’s way through the soil until it reaches the sun. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. I’ve killed almost every single houseplant I’ve ever owned. OK, OK every single one. That hasn’t stopped me from having a garden. Ever since the little was 2, we’ve had some kind of vegetable garden. It started with tomatoes and cucumbers, and has grown every year. This year we have three varieties of tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, snap peas, Kentucky green beans, black beans, broccoli and corn. There’s also a corner for the herbs: lavender, thyme, cilantro, basil, and sage. Oh yeah, there’s also an awesome fairy garden under the trellis. Last year’s crops went to pot after life got a little too crazy for me to have time to tend to them, but we have a saying around here. This family never quits.

Gardening is magic, especially when the fairies move in.

Gardening is magic, especially when the fairies move in.

What the heck does that have to do with our camp? Well, for one, today’s group exercise token was spent weeding the garden, but it’s also a pretty good analogy for not giving up when you have setbacks.

The little came down with a bit of a cold on Tuesday night, after we’d already shifted that day’s tokens to Wednesday so we could spend some time with cousins. That meant the little wasn’t in much of a mood for lessons, and I didn’t push. My body was clearly fighting something too, and the rainy weather was wreaking havoc on my headache situation. While we did catch up, for the most part, we still didn’t get it ALL done. Cleaning day never happened, and while I did get to move my blog writing token, my 1 hour reading, and my writing token are still up on the calendar. Oh yeah, and the whole Summer of Sonnets thing was a total bust. Finding a time to do it was tricky, and the first 17 sonnets have a similar theme, which got boring fast–for all of us.

Sometimes things just go wrong. That doesn't mean you flush the baby down with the toilet water.

Sometimes things just go wrong. That doesn’t mean you flush the baby down with the toilet water.

That’s OK.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfection is not the goal.

The goal is to give the kids some guidelines on how to spend time together. The goal is for me to help my kids’ brains stay active so they don’t lose everything they learned during the school year, and are prepared for the Fall. The goal is to help them develop good habits, and a positive attitude towards learning. Oh goodness, the goal is to teach them to love to learn.

Do you want to know how I know it’s working?

They finished all their lessons. The little did extra pages in her math workbook because she wanted to. The teenager wrote an incredible essay, and spent several hours working on it. Both kids are STILL excited about camp.

Earlier this week, after describing our camp to someone, she asked me, “That’s camp?”

I know kids are supposed to spend hours outside coming up with plans to get Boo Radley to come outside; raising a runt pig; or creating their own Terabithia, but my kids are allergic to almost everything that grows, and are much more contented with awesome indoor activities. Seriously, the teenager specifically requested NOT going to the beach because he hates sand so much. All that means is I have to get creative about our out of doors excursions…oh, and stock up on allergy meds.

Our Summer of Sonnets replacement book.

Our Summer of Sonnets replacement book.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if we hit every goal on the board. We had fun. I had some really great talks with the teenager, and most of all, the little and he are getting to spend their first summer together. So we’re tossing out the sonnets. No problem. Instead we’ll start on a book we can read out loud together starting with: Gone Away Lake.

What are you reading this summer?

 

Summer Camp Revealed

Summer camp chartsIt may have taken all week to get to it, but last Thursday we finally sat down, and made a plan for our summer camp. We did this in two phases. The planning phase, and the design phase.

Planning Phase: This is where we decided what we were going to work on this summer, and how we were going to earn activities. My intention with this phase was to help the kids set goals, and choose how to approach achieving these goals. Putting the control in their hands gives them the ability to invest in the process, which I’m hoping will motivate them.

 

 

Discussion circle

  1. Before we entered our circle, we took about fifteen minutes for each of us to make a list of things they wanted to do this summer.
  2. I started off the session by reading them the climax of my novel (which I’d just finished that day).
  3. I revealed to them that I’d shared the climax of my novel because my biggest goal for the summer was to write my novel, and that no one could meet their own goals if we didn’t work together.
  4. Then we shared our lists while I wrote them all down. I organized their goals into four lists:
    1. Learning Goals
    2. Individual Reward Goals
    3. Big Group Trips
    4. Small Group Trips
  5. Next we took a look at their 4th marking period report cards, and decided where each of them need more work. For both of them it was reading/writing, and math.
  6. We also chose to work on Spanish together, exercise twice a week, and have a day set aside for cleaning.

With all of our lists made, we decided that we were going to approach the camp by way of a two week calendar with tokens we can use to schedule our time.

Two week scheduling

Two week scheduling

Each individual token is color coded for each of us, and represents a lesson or task. The teenager chose purple, the little picked pink, and I took yellow. We chose green to represent the group.

Then we created a system of earning or unlocking trips and activities where each of us would have the ability to decide to use individual tokens to either earn an individual activity, or put it towards unlocking a group one.

Ten individual tokens unlocks a blue small trip token.

Each foot print is made of felt so velcro backed tokens can stick easily.

Each foot print is made of felt so velcro backed tokens can stick easily.

Three individual tokens unlocks a red individual activity.

The teenager came up with the gumball machine design to represent earning individual rewards.

The teenager came up with the gumball machine design to represent earning individual rewards.

Once a blue token has been unlocked and scheduled, it can be moved to the orange chart, where two blue ones will unlock a big orange trip.

A blue token fits in each square creating a nifty math equation we can all understand.

A blue token fits in each square creating a nifty math equation we can all understand.

Design Phase

On Friday we stayed in and created our charts, starting with the main planning calendar. I had the teenager measuring out the spacing with a ruler and a pencil, while the little separated the construction paper, and felt into colors, and was responsible for gluing. I hadn’t ever anticipated that this particular activity would have so much learning involved, but designing, and creating rewards charts involves lots of measurements and counting. It was also a little irritating to all of us that it took so long, but getting kids to work hard just to get started is another great way to get them invested in the process.

The biggest thing we discovered is that our charts needed to be lined with felt (or have major felted components), and all the tokens needed a velcro backing. This was to make it easy to move the tokens from chart to chart without getting too complicated.

Day 1- Scheduling & a Spanish lesson

On the first day of camp, we put up all the charts, and were ready to get the ball rolling.

First we ran through how our process would work, and how each of the token could be used to plan our lessons, and moved towards unlocking group and individual activities. Then we jumped right it. We started by scheduling this week’s exercise and cleaning days. Then we scheduled our Math, Reading/Writing, and Spanish lessons. Each week we’ll have an overarching theme which will determine the specific content I intend to weave into our lessons. This week’s theme is “All About Me & You”.

My own tokens I left pretty open since there are always some domestic duties that need to get handled. For example, I need to schedule days for blogging, novel writing, and those crazy little tasks like finally sending school photos to family members, or paying bills, or scheduling medical and dental visits.

I do have a plan on how to execute and plan the lessons, but since I haven’t gotten that far this week, I flew by the seat of my pants with our first Spanish lesson. Using a dry erase board, and some blank word strips, we walked through a very basic conversation. We read, repeated, and role played a conversation that included how to say the following:

Spanish phrases on strips make up a word bank en Espanol.

Spanish phrases on strips make up a word bank en Espanol.

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Good Morning
  • Good Afternoon
  • Good Evening
  • Nice to meet you.
  • What is your name?
  • My name is________.
  • How old are you?
  • I am ________ years old.

Then I assigned each of them the task of creating their own skits with the vocabulary we’d used. It was a lot to ask of the little, so we worked this out using the word strips as a word bank from where she could choose the phrases to make up her skit. We did this orally instead of as a writing assignment.

The teenager and I read his skit together, taking up a part each.

When we were done, each child was allowed to move their individual token to the reward chart of their choice. The teen picked the individual chart, and the little chose to strive towards a small group activity.

Just after a preliminary lesson I can see that I’ll need to spend some significant curriculum planning time, and age appropriate modifications are completely necessary. Plus I need a way to reinforce the material throughout the day. No one said summer camp was going to be easy on me.

Stay tuned for updates on the summer of sonnets later today.

 

Sonnet 3, Meditation & The Emperor’s New Clothes– SOS

Sonnet 3

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remembered not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.

wordinventorShakespeare is obviously stuck on a theme for these sonnets. Last night’s sonnet was more about the benefits of having children, and the importance of ensuring that there is someone to carry on your beauty once age has taken your own away. We didn’t come up with a translation, since it’s pretty identical to the sonnet we read the night before.

However, the kids still had something to say about it:

Said the teenager: “I don’t think he’s talking as much about beauty, but I think he’s saying that this person should have babies so that his family has something to remember him by.”

Said the little: “He said the mother. It’s about love. He knows so much about love that’s why he wrote about it and put it in a book and selled it.”

Last night I asked my Facebook folk if they had any recommendations for a morning meditation to help focus and cleanse our minds, the way we are trying to clean our home to focus our summer camp planning later this week. My good friend, A, posted some great links about morning rituals, and her morning routine with her kids. She’s a great resource, because she recently started homeschooling her girls. So I decided to adopt her morning basket idea, and tweak it to my own devices.

This morning after breakfast, and once my coffee set in, we cleared out the living room, laid out a blanket, and chose a meditation from Youtube. It was an interesting one, about the fact that we exist, and that the state of “knowingness” stems from being firm in your own existence. It was hard for the little to sit still for 13 minutes, and the teenager told me he had a hard time keeping his eyes closed the whole time, but we got through it

Afterwards we read from my leather bound copy of Fairy Tales. We began with The Emperor’s New Clothes, and as we speak we are all taking some time to write about how this story applies to our lives, or just a story that relates.

For me, the meditation and the story were serendipitously linked. Being aware and confident of who you are is the only way to combat the Emperor’s New Clothes situations we are constantly besieged with on a day to day basis. What to wear, how to dress, the words we use– these can be seen as identifiers of who we are, what we know, and whether or not we are “fit” to hold the positions we have in life. As parents we can often struggle to guide our kids to think for themselves; resist peer pressure; make positive choices. How can we show them that they already know the answers? How can we teach them that within themselves they are able to find the strength to say, “But wait, he’s naked!” When the entire world around us seems to be marveling at how fine the fabric of illusions are?

I don’t have the answers, but I have my theories at least. I try to help my kids see that other people will try to define them, but the only one who knows the truth is them. I teach them that the things they are thinking and feeling are the only truths they can count on. Courage is in speaking those truths. Confidence is in knowing that speaking your own truth gives others the strength to speak their own. I’m excited to see what they’ve come up with.

If you’re interested in hearing what they’ve come up with don’t forget to follow my Tumblr where I’ll be sharing excerpts of what they’ve written. Click here to follow me on Tumblr.

As for the rest of today, we’ll be getting the house in tip top shape together, and then reflecting on how we feel once it’s over.

Check in tomorrow for Sonnet 4, and the Planning Day.

The Summer of Sonnets (S.O.S.) Begins

bitcheslovesonnetsWe began our Summer of Sonnets on Saturday with great fanfare. We cooked dinner together, and I printed out individual copies of Sonnet 1. We sat down at our usual spots while I read from my large leather bound Complete Works. To an audience of three I read:

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

“So…what the heck does that mean?” I asked.

To my amazement they dug right in. They tried to extrapolate meaning from individual phrases, “I think ‘beauty’s rose might never die’ might mean not wanting that person’s beauty to go away.” My 13 year old sounded like he should be holding a PBR and wearing black framed glasses. Color me impressed.

I lead them quatrain by quatrain through the poem until we came up with this translation. “OMG you are so hot I wanna have like ten thousand of your babies.” Don’t judge, we’re doing Shakespeare at dinner, this fact alone is enough for me.

I asked the five-year old, “So would this work for you? Like a love poem?”

“Nope.” She said. “If somebody wants to marry me and they say this to me, I would not marry them.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not going to marry someone just because they say things.” Translation- it’s going to take more than words to win me over.  +Parenting

“What will it take?” I asked.

“I only want to marry someone if I love them and that person loves me.” She said. “It’s like you and daddy. You liked him, and he liked you, and you agreed to get married. This is how I want to get married.” Translation–I want to get married because we’re both in love with each other. ++Parenting

Sonnet 2 was a little less planned. It was late, and we’d all had a lazy day. I’d made a hasty dinner of linguine with pesto far a jar, and some Costco chicken meatballs. We were trying to decide if we were going to even read before bed, when the little suddenly remembered, “We forgot the sonnet!” ::swoon::

I read this one from the book directly, and at first we had the same issue as the day before. No one knew what the heck we’d read:

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

The little tried it first. “I think when it said ‘beauty lies’ it means that beautiful things aren’t true.” Yeah. She’s five. Wuuuut.

Line by line we went through it again, until we finally came up with this translation: “Dude, the only way to keep yourself from caring that you’re old and ugly is to have a kid to pass on your good looks.”

We all agreed that this was probably the worst way to woo any of us, but sounded more like a pair of dudes talking to each other.

Summer Camp Day 1 was supposed to begin today, but we learned that bringing in more stuff is impossible when there is nowhere to put it. The truth is that I think I did pretty well this year as a new mother of two, but I was nothing close to prepared for the whirlwind of end of the year concerts, club meetings, and culminating ceremonies that left me with lots of no time to clean. Today was the day to remove the papers we’d shoved in every open crevice, sort them and dispose of them. It was the time to remove all the clutter crammed in the bookshelves, and reveal the ::gasp:: books beneath them. We are exactly halfway through the cleaning today, so tomorrow will likely be more of the same. –Planning Ahead

Stay tuned for more of the Summer of Sonnets (S.O.S.), and the planning phases of our Summer Camp at Home.

DIY Summer Camp- pre-planning phase

Can you feel it? Summer is coming.

keep-calm-summer-is-coming-36For most of you it’s already begun, but in my neck of the woods summer doesn’t start until next week, when the school bells ring for the last time, the tassels get turned from one side to the other (no one is ever really sure if it’s right to left or left to right), alma maters are sung, and caps are tossed into a perfect 1980’s freeze frame.

It’s my first summer as a mother of two. While most families increase by adding a newborn, my family increased by a teenager at the end of last summer after my son’s mother passed away tragically at the end of last summer. It’s been a great year despite it all. My daughter is learning to read, and is mimicking my favorite past time by picking up a chapter book that is way over her reading level and declared she will read this before the summer is over. My son went from barely passing the 7th grade to pwning the 8th grade on merit roll the first marking period, and honor roll for the rest of them. I couldn’t be prouder of my brood, but that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified of the prospect of an entire summer in each other’s faces.

I know I could have sent them to summer camps, and preserved my daytime quiet, but this is the first time we’ve all gotten to spend this much unscheduled time together, and I’ve decided that I want to enjoy it. So instead of sending them out to camp, I’m bringing camp to us, and I plan to share it all with you.

Here’s the plan:

  1. Democratic Education: When I was in college I’d intended to become a high school teacher, so I took a few of my university’s education courses. Montclair State University teaches a method called democratic education, which means including the students in all aspects of their own curriculum, and that’s how we’re going to plan our summer. Together.
  2. Goal setting: We’ll take a look at their test scores and report cards to assess where the kids need help. For my rising first grader that will likely mean practicing writing, reading, and making sure she doesn’t write her numbers backwards. For my about to be a high schooler we’ll focus on building math skills, study habits, and reading comprehension skills. During our first week of camp we’ll discuss the areas they’d like to grow in, what things they want to learn about, and what we realistically think we can accomplish together. So far here’s what we’ve already come up with:
    1. Have a garage sale to clean out the basement, and donate anything unsold.
    2. Learn Spanish.
    3. Exercise. We each want to be able to do 25 real push-ups by the end of the summer.
    4. A summer of sonnets. This was my personal goal that I expected to do on my own, but when I mentioned it to my family they thought it was a great idea. Each day we’re going to read and discuss each of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This will either continue into the Fall, or we’ll take on two or three some days. I’ll be blogging the summer of sonnets here, so be sure to tune in every day for the results.
  3. Incentives: In the real world we are paid for the work we do, so while some parents might look at incentives as bribery, I fully believe in rewarding my kids for their diligence, and giving them a motivation to continue.
    1. The activity jar: On color coded popsicle sticks we’ll write down ideas for activities we can do to reward ourselves for a job well done. We’ll have ideas for rainy days, way too hot days, day trips, and pure fun good weather days. Some examples are:
      1. Great Adventure: we have a season pass to the Six flags theme park and water park, so this is a pretty budget-friendly idea.
      2. Beach time
      3. Pool time
      4. Movies
      5. Board game tournament
    2. The big trips: Once we’ve decided the areas we want to grow in and learn about, we can look for ways to take weekend jaunts to places where we can engage with those topics. A weekend trip is a great way to reward ourselves with a change of scenery, and is a great way to bond as a family.
  4. Visuals: I haven’t made this yet, but I want to create a large calendar with movable tokens, where we can decide how to plan one week at at a time. I want to be able to have some daily activities that are constant, as well as a selection of activities they can choose to complete on their own. We’ll decide what we want to accomplish per week, and then on Sundays we can choose tokens that correspond to various subject areas, and add them to the day we want to do them. Each person chooses for themselves, but is responsible to the others for completion. If we each achieve our goals, we can choose a reward activity.
  5. Feedback circles: At the end of each week we’ll discuss how we think the previous week went. Were our goals to high? How can we modify our curriculum to make it better? Are there any activities we’d like to add to the jar? This gives us a chance to learn as we go, and not be constricted by a set of rules for the entire summer.

How do you spend your summer? Do you send your kids to camp, or do you choose to embrace the lazy days of summer sun or somewhere in between?

 

Stepping out of the routine

Half a selfie while I’m out at a conference.

Today I traded my converse for cute ballet flats. Instead of a tank top with a subtle literary reference, I wore a pinstripe vest, and pallazo pants. There was a blazer involved. I kissed my children goodbye this morning, and texted about how much I miss them. I do.

All the same.

It’s nice tonight. The weather in New York is gorgeous. Balmy, yet somehow breezy. Your sweat beads up on your upper lip, and beneath your boobs, but you don’t really care. Or at least, I don’t. My pace is quicker here. Even under the burden of a heavy backpack, and a rolly suitcase, I walk just a little faster.

Tonight I put on my favorite BoHo dress–way too long without heels, but the extra fabric makes me feel like Carrie Bradshaw.

NYC is a blur. Taken on my midnight walk.

My posture is straighter here. I am confident. I am doing something I am good at. It isn’t brain surgery, or a high profile litigation, but I am at ease in these skills. I’ve been at them since I was fourteen–I’d better be.

Tonight I told stories, and drank expensive prosseco cocktails. I wore eyeliner I learned how to apply on Pinterest. I got to talk about my novel to people who were really interested, and don’t already know every detail of the plot.

Even the crazy worry about what will become of my daughter’s hair in my absence tomorrow morning is delicious.

Tonight I took a walk–just around the block. Thirty-fourth street is busy enough for me to feel safe even at almost one in the morning. As I walked up Eighth Avenue, back towards my just the right sized hotel room, I saw the Empire State Building in all its glory. There’s something so tantalizing about New York City, especially at night. There’s something that calls deep into my soul. The lights, the hustle and bustle, the non-stop traffic, the wafting scents of street foods intermingling, the stumbling drunks whose stage of dress are never surprising despite the varied hours– it’s an intoxicating concoction. Its refreshing to the soul.

Tonight I’ll sleep alone, and set a sleep timer on the television. It will be lonely. There will be no reassuring sleep sounds of my children in the next rooms. There will be no warm arms  around me when I wake up in the morning. No breakfast in the living room or hurried trips to school. Instead there will be heavy backpacks, and fees for baggage check. There will be awkward moments standing in the middle of the street trying to distinguish the cabs with passengers from those ready to pick me up, because the sun is too bright to see the illuminated numbers. There will be a final day of foundation, and eyeshadow, and smudged eyeliner. There will be blisters on tired feet, and sore muscles from heaving about possessions. Tomorrow there will only be reminders of why this trade only happens three days out of every year. As much as I love the concoction, the confidence, and the ballet flats, there is truly no place like home, and no job like Mom.

 

Dear Daughter, Please Don’t Fall in Love with Christian Grey

My Dear Daughter (and all other women too):

Please do not fall in love with Christian Grey, or anyone like him.

50-shades-of-abuse-flyer-canadaSure, he’s hot, and, yes, he’s super rich, but you are worth more than a pretty face and a fancy car. Just because he gives you butterflies in the stomach when he walks into your place of work, and fixes his stunning eyes at you when he asks you to direct him to the cable ties, doesn’t mean he loves you. Sure, he showed up after you drunk-dialed him from the bar, and he whisked you off to his penthouse after you puked in the flowers, but when a man warns you to stay away from him, you should listen. Especially if his idea of flirtation is threatening to hit you when you don’t want to be hit.

I’m all for empathy, and compassion. I really am. I believe people deserve second chances. I believe that bad things happen to good people, and that we don’t have any real control over some things. The thing is, my beautiful, sweet, darling girl, that there is no past so troubled; no history so convoluted; no dysfunction so incredible that it can explain, or excuse exerting oneself over another. There is no explanation that will ever make me understand or forgive a man (or woman) who abuses you.

  • It is not an expression of love when a man says:

“Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone–remember?'”

This is, in fact, a direct threat. It doesn’t mean that he loves you so much that he would never let you get away.  What it means is he is controlling. It means that he is a stalker, and stalkers are abusers. We’re not talking harmless high school drive-bys with your friends. We’re talking about tracking cell phones in Alaska, and having no where to run. Why else would you be running, if not to get away from someone who was trying to do you harm?

  • It’s one thing to hide it from me, even though I truly hope that you will trust me enough to tell me, but if you can’t tell anyone, you should really consider whether it’s because they won’t understand, or because you’re afraid they’d be right. That goes for anything that happens in any relationship. If you actually feel confident in your decisions, you won’t need validation, and it won’t matter what anyone says. You shouldn’t do things you aren’t proud of doing, or at least things that make you feel ashamed.
  • “What can I do to make you understand I will not run? What can I say?”He gazes at me, revealing his fear and anguish again. He swallows. “There is one thing you can do.”“What?” I snap.“Marry me,” he whispers.”

You should not agree to marry a man just to prove that you aren’t going to leave him, especially if he’s worried you’re going to leave after having beaten you/threatened you/yelled at you/ manipulated you. Marriage isn’t an endeavor to prove your love. Marriage is an agreement to join paths; to be partners; to grow up together. If a person is worried about your loyalty, marriage will not convince them. It will only serve to entrap you into an abusive relationship that will be even more difficult to escape.

 

  • This should not be your lover’s response, let alone your husband’s, to the announcement that you are pregnant.

“‘Christ Ana!’ He bangs his fist on the table. Making me jump, and stands so abruptly. he almost knocks the dining chair over. ‘You have one thing, one thing to remember, Shit! I don’t fucking believe it. How could you be so stupid!'”

Even if you forgot about birth control, your husband/lover/wife should never EVER call you stupid, yell at you, or frighten you. In fact, you shouldn’t be worried about making him mad all the time. He should respect you, and be concerned for your well-being. He should not manipulate you, isolate you, and he should certainly not touch you without permission, in ways you do not want to be touched. He should not leave bruises on your body to prevent you from being able to expose any part of your skin. He should not impose himself on your career. He should not infringe upon your healthy relationships with your friends. He should not hurt you, and no matter how many times he apologizes for having done so, you should not tolerate a repeat offense.

  • I can tell you that love is not about fear. Not in the way the relationship in this horrific excuse for writing is trying to convince you of. Questioning a relationship  for reasons like these:

“Because I can’t touch you, because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse – beat me?”

are serious indicators that you are not being loved the way you deserve.

  • Most importantly, my darling daughter, you have a right to consent to sex. No one…and I mean NO ONE has the right to force sex on you. The moment you say “No”, anyone who loves you will stop until you tell them otherwise. This:

“‘No,’ I protest, trying to kick him off. He stops. ‘If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.”

is rape, plain and simple. For no other reason, other than the fact that he is a rapist, you should stay away from men like Christian Grey. You do not need to save anyone from his past.  After sex you should never feel like:

“a receptacle – an empty vessel to be filled at his whim. […] an overwhelming urge to cry, a sad and lonely melancholy grips and tightens round my heart. Dashing back to my bedroom, I close the door and lean against it trying to rationalize my feelings. I can’t. Sliding to the floor, I put my head in my hands as my tears begin to flow.”

This is how a victim of rape feels. This is how a victim of abuse feels. It is not how you should feel after you’ve been intimate with anyone.

  • There is a variety of erotic practice called BDSM. Some say it stands for Bondage Discipline
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    Linked from https://50shadesofabuse.wordpress.com/fsog-chapter-20-analysis/

    Sadism & Masochism. Others say it’s Bondage, Dominance, Submission and Masochism. Either way, it is a practice that is entirely based upon a system of consent, open communication, and AGREED upon exchange of power where both parties are empowered. BDSM is not synonymous for abuse, nor is it an excuse for objectification. It is something that should be enjoyed by everyone involved, and not forced upon another person. Anyone who claims BDSM, and tries to hurt you is misappropriating the terminology as an excuse to be abusive. Needing to control another person’s entire life is not love.

I know you’re only a little girl right now, and I’m hopeful that this movie will be long forgotten by the time you’re old enough to watch it. I know that it’s supposed to be a fantasy, and there are those who will argue that it shouldn’t be taken seriously, and as a book that might hold true, because books have a higher barrier of entry than movies. It’s one thing to read about something. Seeing it played out on a screen makes it harder to separate the fantastic from the realistic. Kind of like the way I’ve spent my entire life hearing the stations of the cross, reading the Passion scenes in the Bible, or hearing them discussed from a pulpit, and then just barely being able to tolerate the brutality of it on screen in the movie The Passion of the Christ. The point is that there are people who might watch this movie and think that it’s a love story; a romance; because love is enough to change the battered puppy into a loving husband and father. It isn’t. It isn’t a love story. It’s a story of abuse. It isn’t about how love changed a man, because that’s not how it works. Love may be a catalyst, but real change doesn’t happen overnight. Real change, like the one this novel attempts to depict, takes LOTS of time.

There’s also an entire world of women who were once the five year-old daughters of mothers like me who are paying money to see this movie right now. I see them talking about it on social media, and my heart hurts for them; for their mothers. I’m writing this to them, as much as I am to you–probably more so.

If, however, you stumble across it some late night browsing Netflix, or it comes on some movie channel, I truly hope you will see it for the sad cry for help that it is. I hope that you, too, mourn for the author’s horrible controlling experiences that lead to writing such a story, and that you are able to see through it all and see the truth. I admit. I read the books. Twice. I enjoyed them too. That is, until I asked myself how I would feel if that college aged virgin was my daughter, or if it had been successful if it was 50 Shades of Brown. It was instant shame. Instant sadness, because it means that somewhere inside myself I didn’t recognize my own value. I pray that you do not devalue yourself this way. I hope that there is no expensive enough car to sway your decisions, and that no man would dare to treat you like a toy. If he does, I’m only a phone call away, and Daddy will happy to teach him what pain really feels like.

Now, if you do happen to fall in love with a man who sends up any of these red flags, step back. Give him time to get help. Give him time to heal. This may mean saying goodbye, and it may mean forever, and it will likely be painful, for both of you. Remember that anyone who loves you will want to make sure they are healthy enough to know they don’t want to hurt you. They will want to be healthy enough to  deserve you. There is no pain worse than losing yourself to another person. You are amazing. You are wonderful. You are valuable. The person who you should be with will know this. The person who is meant for you will not want to get in the way of your emotional health. That person will nourish your soul, and your body…not hurt it. And frankly, if your choice is between being alone and being abused, I’d rather see you with a black cat than a black eye.

So please, dear daughter (and all other women too), don’t fall in love with Christian Grey, or anyone like him. You are worth so much more than abuse.

With all my Love,

Mom

 

P.S. Click here to read more warning signs of abusive relationships

If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship please get help. Click here for information on how.