August 13, 2018

Ruffling feathers

I was born and raised in the South.
Despite its flaws, I love the South and for the most part, I love the way I was raised.
I was taught to respect my elders.
To always say "Yes Ma'am" and "Yes Sir."
I was taught to be kind.
To always be nice and agreeable -- especially to people in positions of power.
I was taught not to ruffle feathers or to cause a scene in public.

But....

Children are senselessly dying or killing others after gaining access to unsecured firearms.
Mothers are being murdered in front of their children by partners with histories of domestic violence.
Men are killing each other over parking spots and cell phone conversations in movie theaters.
Teens are taking their own lives with weapons they can easily obtain from family members.
And of course, as we know too well by now, we all live in constant fear that a madman with a gun will storm our office, school, grocery store, local restaurant, or park.
And despite these things, our culture and our politicians tell us that all we can do to protect ourselves from this nonsense is pray and pack heat ourselves.
They tell us that it is all about "defense" and that there is no offense we can play in this game.
I grew up where the Friday Night Lights shined bright and I know that there is always an offense.

It is time to ruffle feathers. 
It is time to cause a scene. 

Last week, I had the immense pleasure of attending Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America's annual leadership conference aptly named, Gun Sense University ("GSU"). Even though I've been a volunteer, member, and leader for the Arkansas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for quite awhile now, I was eager to meet up with other mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and yes, gun owners, who like me -- desire to see some sanity introduced into the "gun debate" in our country.

In the event you do not already know, Moms Demand Action is a non-partisan organization that (much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was created to demand action from legislators, companies, and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun safety reforms. The organization is not "anti-gun" but rather, believes that the 2nd Amendment and common-sense gun safety measures can (and should) co-exist. Moms Demand Action envisions a country where our children and families are not constantly plagued by gun violence and it works towards this goal by educating, motivating, and mobilizing supporters to take action that will result in stronger laws and policies at local, state and national levels.

GSU was overwhelming for me in a lot of ways. I spoke with survivors of gun violence. I hugged mothers who had their children murdered by someone who should not have had a gun. I sat and talked about self-care and racism with a woman who had been shot five times (3 of those in the head) by her partner in front of her two young children. I listened to friends and family who lost someone they loved dearly to firearm suicide. I learned from police officers and community health workers who talked about real-world consequences of the number of guns on our streets and how they end up there in the first place. I danced alongside those who once contemplated taking their own life but were able to get help before they were able to find a gun. Hell, I even got to share a belly laugh with a celebrity I've always loved who shares my passions.

I was so inspired by people with full-time jobs and multiple kids who despite having just as much time in their day as the rest of us, still manage to care so deeply about gun violence prevention that it has become their life's work.  I walked away from GSU knowing that things can change. Even better, I walked away knowing that things are changing. And they aren't changing because a handful of full-time activists are coordinating huge national strategies backed by millions and millions of dollars either.

They are changing because a single mom in Indiana chooses to write postcards supporting Gun Sense Candidates during her kids' nap time.

They are changing because a working father in Florida enters volunteer information in a Moms Demand Action data bank at night rather than spending an hour scrolling through Facebook.

They are changing because a grandmother in California who has never "been political" learned who her state representatives were and decided to go talk to them during the legislative session about how important gun violence prevention is to her and her family.

They are changing because a teenager who watched the aftermath of the Parkland shooting decided they didn't want to live in fear anymore so they attended a meeting with peers to talk about things they could do to help.

They are changing because an Aunt in Arizona attends a festival and hands out free gun locks and a flyer to people who pass her table.

They are changing because a stressed out mom in Texas, who juggles a full-time job and boatload of responsibilities at home, decided that she could find one hour a week to contribute to the cause.

You see, they are changing because average citizens are finally mounting an offense. Our offense is currently 5 million volunteers strong.

Activism is sometimes scary.

It can seem overwhelming and hopeless. It can seem as if you are already treading water and that adding one more task might cause you to drown. It can seem like you don't have anything of value to offer to a movement or cause. Or for those like me, it can seem to go against your nature or the way you've been raised.

It ruffles feathers. It can cause a scene.

But activism doesn't have to be scary.

Activism can be brainstorming gun violence prevention strategies with friends over dinner. Activism can be making a few phone calls a month. Activism can mean wearing a t-shirt to the grocery store and being prepared to explain it to a random stranger who may ask. Activism can mean giving up one hour of TV or Facebook a week to do something that will have long-term meaning on the world that children (perhaps, your children) are growing up in.

Activism can be as simple as texting "JOIN" to 64433 today rather than putting it off any longer.

Activism is offense. 

I've had #Enough so I'm in the game.
Are you? 

July 27, 2018

My Actual Size

From the point in my life where I truly became "aware" of sizing (more specifically mine), I was a Size 4. Comfortably. Over time, I started to identify with this fact. That sounds weirder than it probably is -- all I mean is that I knew easily and without hesitation that I had brown hair, freckles and was a Size 4. I had nothing against other sizes per se.  Those other sizes just... weren't mine. I was a Size 4.

As I transitioned into maternity clothing, I was not the least bit worried about growing out of a Size 4. I assumed it would be a temporary adjustment and that with time, I'd come back to my "normal" size. After my traumatic labor and delivery, I was in no rush to return to a Size 4. Losing weight was the last thing on my mind. I did however, continue to assume that in the future I would eventually be a Size 4 again.

At roughly six month postpartum, I set out to lose the weight. It was relatively easy for me. I started working out a few days a week. I cut down my nightly wine habit. I brought a healthy lunch to work instead of ordering delivery. Before long, I was once again comfortable in a Size 4. That journey, if anything, only cemented in my mind that I was indeed, a Size 4.

But here's the thing... that's changed.
It has taken me many, many months to admit that's changed. Not necessarily because I'm ashamed of no longer being a Size 4 (I'm not) but because being a Size 4 has been such an active part of my identity for nearly my entire adult life. It felt odd to disassociate myself from it.

However, over the past several months my mood instantly soured when I got dressed. It took me awhile to figure out the reason. One day, it hit me: The act of getting dressed made me feel bad about my body.

Each time I'd zip up my Size 4 pants, my self-esteem would plummet. Sure, they zipped. I could even sit in them and somewhat breathe in them. But they were not actually comfortable to me. In fact, I'd find myself unbuttoning them if I sat at my desk for long periods of time. Or immediately rushing to take them off when I got home. Once off, I instantly felt better about myself.

You see, I like my body. I like my lifestyle.
I didn't like my pants.

I was allowing an arbitrary tag number sewn into a waistline determine how I felt about my body and my lifestyle. I realized that the pants hanging in my closet are 100% within my control. I was literally choosing to feel bad about myself.

Is it silly to identify with being a particular size? Maybe; maybe not.
Is it silly to continue to identity as any particular size when it is making you feel bad about a life and body you are otherwise content with? YES!

"If it costs you your peace, it is too expensive."
Being a Size 4 is too expensive for me in this stage of life.

In this stage, I'm putting in extra hours at the office.
In this stage, I'm only able to hit the gym on occasion.
In this stage, I use my downtime to play with my toddler and catch up on self-care.
In this stage, I want to occasionally enjoy ice cream or cupcakes with said toddler.
In this stage, I enjoy unwinding with hot baths and cold glasses of Chardonnay.
In this stage, I am a Size 6.

In the next stage, I may be a Size 4 again. Or not. I could be a Size 8 or a Size 10.
Hell, in the next stage I may no longer be a brunette (hello age!).
That's going to be okay with me too because being healthy and content does not come only in particular sizes or colors.

I'll be 32 in a few months. I'm ashamed that it has taken me that long to learn that cornerstones of my identity may need to fluctuate. For me, that was the size of my pants. For you, it may be something else entirely. Either way, it is okay to be happy being something other than what you've always identified yourself with -- time and circumstance molds us all.

Today, I'm happy being a Size 6. And being nearly 32. And being a brunette -- but I now truly understand that all of the above are subject to change.
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