Tag Archives: women

Stopping At A Rest Area When You Are Alone In The Dark

How do you feel about rest areas? How about if you are alone and it is dark? Do you stop? I’ve been thinking about how much I have changed since driving across the country from Connecticut to New Mexico. These weren’t questions I asked myself or others when I was 28.

Rest Areas

I stopped at all sorts of rest areas in the middle of the night. I never thought much about it when I started on my journey from Connecticut to New Mexico.  While I was driving from state to state I was pretty carefree until my car broke down. I had to call AAA and this husband and wife team picked me up and brought me to get my car repaired. I had to spend the night in a local hotel and the husband and wife promised to pick me up the next day, to take me to my car, even though they weren’t obligated too. The wife of the rescuing duo was shocked that I was traveling alone. She was obviously concerned and worried about me.

She asked, “Do your parents know you are doing this?”  When I nodded yes she went on to ask, “Aren’t you afraid to stop at rest areas at night?”

I wasn’t afraid. I’d been doing it without any problems for a day or so. I had no idea that I should be afraid. If my parents were worried they never expressed any of their concerns to me. After my car was repaired I got back on the road and drove to New Mexico without another hitch, but I was a little more cautious about the places I stopped and found myself looking around before exiting my car.

Fast forward almost a decade later and here I am at 8:30 pm with a four year old in the backseat crying that she has to pee so bad she can’t make it until we get home. I knew she was desperate so I pulled into the next rest area and parked. I was looking around. It was dark of course and there weren’t any other cars, but I was on high alert. It might have been because a couple of years ago there had been a shooting at this very rest area. It might have been because I now had another human being to look after, but for whatever reason, I was a little scared. I was on guard. I was making escape plans and exit strategies and getting my phone ready to dial 911.

I told my daughter, “Listen, you need to hurry up and get out of the car. No fooling around. I want to get in and out as soon as possible.”

She asked, “Why, mom?” as she dawdled and fooled around with whatever debris she could find on the backseat.

“I feel uncomfortable being here in the dark. I don’t know who is going to show up and I want to get out of here as soon as possible.” I answered.

“Who is coming? Bad guys?”

“Maybe. Let’s hurry, OK?”

“Don’t worry, Mom. I will karate chop the bad guys.”

“Please, let’s go. Get out of the car!” I replied in a slightly higher pitch than usual. I could hear the anxiety in my own voice.

She finally got out of the car and we went into the bathroom. I raced her back to the car and she climbed into her car seat. I was fumbling with the buckle when another car pulled up next to us in the parking lot. I could feel the panic creeping in. I wanted to get her buckled and drive out of there before the person exited their car.

As I finally latched the buckle on the car seat the door of the car next to us opened and a woman climbed out. Within moments her young  daughter followed and I found myself sighing with relief and feeling a little silly about my heart pounding in my chest. I got into the car and drove home.

As I was driving I worried further. Was I teaching my daughter to be scared when she didn’t need to be? Was I setting a bad example? Or, should women approach a rest area, at night and in the dark, with some caution? Was that an appropriate fear to model? As I thought about it I realized I didn’t want her to be scared, but I also didn’t want her to be foolish. So I sat a while just feeling uncomfortable and wondering about rest areas and being places in the dark and how I wish it wasn’t something my daughter ever had to worry about.

Beauty Is Only Soul Deep

When I was a child I received many messages about my physical appearance. Some were good. Little old ladies (hey, they were probably my age now, but I was a kid and that is how I remember it) would stop my mom in the store to go on and on about how beautiful my big eyes were and how lovely my curly, brown hair was. Some were bad. My peers told me my big eyes made me look like a frog and straight hair was way prettier than frizzy, curly hair ever would be. It was confusing and being beautiful seemed like a lot of work and possibly impossible to achieve since there were so many different opinions and people to please.

As I got older I realized I was probably never going to be beautiful (and by older I mean age ten). I was obviously an acquired taste. Some people thought I was pretty. Some didn’t. Some thought I’d be pretty if I only brushed my hair more, stood up straighter, smiled more, had designer jeans, wore makeup, lost a few pounds, gained a few pounds, got a face transplant. You know, the usual.

At some point I just stopped trying to be beautiful and focused on trying to be smart. Somehow that seemed more achievable. It seemed more controllable. If I got an A I was smart and nobody could deny it. It was so much easier than trying to be beautiful. Being beautiful was so arbitrary. Beauty was in the eye of the beholder. A 4.0 grade point average wasn’t as refuteable.  Plus, nobody would openly debate whether you were smart or not right in front of you. That would be rude. For some reason people have always thought it was acceptable and appropriate to discuss a persons beauty or lack of beauty right in front of them. I’ve had my body parts discussed and rated by all sorts of people. How is that not considered rude? I found that confusing as I grew up too. I never asked for opinions about my appearance, but people were always happy to offer them anyway.

Besides being smart, I also tried out some other attributes like being funny, kind, and good with little kids. I aced them all. Well, the being funny part is up for debate, but since I laugh at my own jokes so much I figure I must be somewhat funny, right? Being kind was easy for the most part because I’ve never liked to hurt people’s feelings or make them uncomfortable because I knew what that felt like. Little kids always liked me. Probably because I was funny or at least kind. Actually, they mostly liked me because I wasn’t worried about being pretty and was content to roll around in the mud and grass with them and run around with sticks stuck in my hair. There is a certain freedom when you give up on being beautiful.

Anyway, people are always saying beauty is only skin deep, but I disagree. Beauty doesn’t have anything to do with skin at all. Beauty is only soul deep and I can prove it. Have you ever met someone with average looks or someone the masses would claim to be downright unattractive, but when they smile it lights up the whole room? Their eyes sparkle so much it feels like you are staring into the universe filled with moons and stars? Have you ever met someone that is so gentle, so patient, so kind that they radiate beauty? Have you ever met someone who loves what they are doing so much that they actually glow when they talk about it? Have you ever been loved by a love so strong that you can barely even see the physicality of the person loving you? That’s soul beauty. That’s pure love. That’s the kind of stuff that makes people truly beautiful. It’s also the only beauty that truly matters.

When I was a preteen there was a woman my parents were friends with. One night I heard them talking about how beautiful she was. When she smiled she became so gorgeous. People were immediately drawn to her. It was true. I had seen it happen with my own eyes. It felt like magic. One day I happened to see her sitting at the table thinking. Her face was drawn into a deep frown. I studied her features because I wanted to be beautiful and gorgeous too. I was trying to figure out what her secret was. She looked very plain. Her eyes were ordinary. Her hairy was mousy and the most boring light brown. Her nose was long and pointy. She wasn’t extraordinarily beautiful in any sense of the word. I couldn’t figure out what made her so attractive. As I was staring she looked up and saw me and smiled. She was radiant. She was beautiful. I could have basked in her warmth all day. I learned a very important lesson about beauty that day. Of course, it took me quite a few more years to really understand the lesson I had learned. I went through my twenties trying to feel beautiful and act beautiful while secretly believing I was probably ugly. I didn’t realize how little beauty had to do with what was on the outside. I was too busy trying to keep up with my peers to stop and think about it too much.

Now I worry much less about my hair, my makeup, or my clothes. I notice less and less of that about other people too. I’m more focused on big, contagious smiles, enthusiasm, sparkling eyes, and love. Mostly love. People who love life, love themselves, and love you are always going to be the most attractive people in the room. They have the kind of beauty that is going to matter most to you because they have soul beauty and it is deeper than any other kind.

Beauty Is Only Soul Deep: A contribution to the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest IV
Art logo design by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson (copyright belongs to the artist).

I am participating in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest IV today. To read more about beauty from other participants please visit the official Beauty of a Woman page. You can win prizes for reading, commenting, and sharing posts so please check it out!

 


Practicing Her Executive Leadership Skills

Tiny-Small started attending school for 3-4 hours in the morning. She went three days this week, by the third day she was practicing her executive leadership skills with confidence and authority. She’s becoming quite good at standing up for herself and helping other people find direction. When I picked Tiny-Small up from “school” (I use the term loosely because it’s more like going to Grandma’s house and playing with kids than structured, formal learning) yesterday her teacher complained. Apparently, Tiny-Small wouldn’t listen to the teacher’s seven-year old grandson when he told Tiny-Small she had to stay outside. Her teacher seemed a little annoyed that Tiny-Small refused to take instructions from a seven-year old boy. I wasn’t surprised by this at all. I mean, seven-year old boys are not the boss of me either. They shouldn’t be the boss of anyone. I remember the power-hungry brutes I encountered in first and second grade. In short, some little kids are down right mean. That is just a little piece of truth people like to pretend doesn’t exist.

Last week when we were at a wedding in a local park, Tiny-Small was playing with a big group of kids. They were running wild as kids do. Tiny-Small came over to me crying and said a little boy wouldn’t let her go on the stairs. He was only allowing some kids to pass by him and she was not one of them. I told her to march back over to the little boy and tell him, “I am Tiny-Small (she used her real name of course) and I am allowed to go anywhere I want to.”

Yes, I know she needs to learn to follow the rules and listen to her teachers or other adults, but if adults insist on putting little boys in charge they probably aren’t going to get much respect from Tiny-Small or from me. Tiny-Small doesn’t listen to “bossy” little kids. She just practices her own executive leadership skills right back at them. I just keep picturing the two kids staring at each other in disbelief as they try to out-executive each other. I am pretty sure Tiny-Small is going to win any verbal matches she finds herself in. She’s a child who knows how to use her words. I feel sorry for the little boy at her school, well, almost sorry for him. He doesn’t have the verbal development to out-wit Tiny-Small, but, he is the grandson of the woman in charge so I am sure he gets a little special treatment and when he is snotty to the other kids he probably gets a pass.

I know I was informed of Tiny-Small’s executive leadership skills because the teacher feels they are a problem or inappropriate, but I don’t see them that way. I see a little girl who isn’t afraid to stand up to people. I see a little girl who witnesses injustice and refuses to accept it. I see a little girl who doesn’t automatically believe the boys know better or more than she does. I see a little girls who doesn’t follow the rules made up and enforced by a seven-year old boy. I give that little girl a high-five and a secret smile. I am proud of her. There is no way I am going to squash that confidence out of her and tell her she must listen to little boys telling her what to do. I am not going to set that precedent. Heck no. She’s going to be large and in charge one day. We live in an area of the country where having a penis means you are special. When I worked with kids and families I saw that preferential treatment based on sex in action. Little girls waited on their brothers. One mother spoon fed her almost three-year old boy (literally) while her five-year old daughter did chores. I was brought in to work with the little boy because he wasn’t hitting developmental milestones. That’s what happens when you are carried everywhere and never allowed to hold a spoon to feed yourself. Girls are not allowed to do things that boys are allowed to do…like go to college. That’s not the world I want Tiny-Small growing up in, but here we are. The only thing I can do is work hard to change the world we live in. I am starting with Tiny-Small.

I am teaching her that just having a specific body part does not make you special. You earn respect and greatness. It’s not handed to you based on something you have no control over (like being born with a penis or a vagina). If she wants to work hard and study and earn an executive leadership position, she should be able to. If she doesn’t want to take orders from other people she better start practicing those executive leadership skills now by honing her verbal skills and making convincing arguments that promote her position or idea. She needs to learn to be persuasive, and honest, and fair because that’s how good leaders behave. She needs to stand up to people who are mistreating others. She needs to be both brave and empathic. That’s something she can start learning today. She can practice on all of the seven-year old boys (and girls) who instinctively think they have a right to be in charge of her or in charge of her friends.

Tiny-Small and her princess painting.
In front of her princess painting I am working on.

If she wants to do that while wearing a princess dress and carrying around a unicorn covered in glitter, well, she should be able to do that too. She is the director of her own life. She doesn’t have to listen to seven-year old boys. She doesn’t have to sit back while other people make decisions for her. She can change the world she lives in too.

 

I want to thank Sheryl Sandberg for sharing the descriptive words “Executive Leadership Skills” and for all of the bloggers attending Blogher for tweeting those words so the mothers and women at home could read them. I think we need those reminders sometimes. We need a way to frame our power in a positive context. It reminds me to embrace and nurture my daughter’s leadership skills instead of shaming them out of her. It reminds me to take a stand behind her and to defend her actions when I need to. These descriptive words will also allow me to verbally argue my point of view against the naysayers when the day I need to finally comes and it will come. I feel empowered to practice and exercise my own executive leadership skills too. I have an example to set. The eyes of little girls are always watching and I don’t want to disappoint them by speaking one thing and doing another.