Costco Fashionista (And Other Acts of Rebellion for Women)

I shop at Costco. And when I say I shop at Costco, I mean I do more than buy a ridiculous amount of food in equally ridiculous quantities.

(What does one even do with 60 lbs. of pork besides bury it? Because clearly, it’s an entire animal.)

I also buy gifts for every holiday, decor for my home, electronics, and random stuff I didn’t know I needed but totally did.

Like these magical hangers that keep my clothes from falling down onto the floor of my closet. (Perhaps they’re made of NASA anti-gravity material? Is that actually a thing?)

Or a squatty potty that enhances the ergonomic experience of pooping. (Yes, that actually is a thing. And I think NASA made it.)

The best finds, however, are in the clothing aisles. Because contrary to what most people think, Costco knows fashion.

And I delight in sharing this whenever someone says, “You look so cute! Where did you get that (insert Costco fashion item)?”

Because for me, buying my clothes at Costco is one of the most brilliant life hacks I’ve discovered to date.

It takes a little elbow grease to dig through the piles of clothes, and it doesn’t look quite as sassy-cute as something I’d find at Ann Taylor Loft, but it’s good enough.

And that’s what life hacks are all about. Good enough.

This is super-tricky for women because we aren’t taught to see “good enough” as, well, good enough.

We’re taught to strive for perfection. In everything we do, from the roles we fulfill (perfect mother) to how we look (perfect body) to what we wear (perfect outfit).

So for me, buying clothes from Costco – being a Costco Fashionista if you will – is my way of practicing good enough.

Of saying, “Screw you, perfection. I just got a bombass denim dress for $29.99 and that is good enough for me and anyone who sees me wear it.”

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Bomb. Ass.

Life hacks like buying clothes at Costco are tiny acts of rebellion. Brave choices you can take as a woman to liberate yourself from perfection. Which is really just a bunch of unrealistic expectations and outdated gender roles that come with being female.

I mean, have you ever met a man who struggles with perfection?

Me, neither.

Here are a few more life hacks/acts of rebellion for you to consider:

The Housing Cleaning Hack

If you can afford it, hire a house cleaner. And if you can’t, lower your standards. (Like to the floor where the dust bunnies live.)

And if you feel guilty about it, do the math. For women who work outside the home, you can calculate how much it actually costs you to clean your house.

Now add in the opportunity cost of not doing other things (like enjoying your life) and it turns out hiring a house cleaner is actually saving you money.

And for women who stay home with their kids, you more than anyone need and deserve a house cleaner. It’s all you can do to keep up with your children’s craft-art disasters and self-reproducing toy piles, let alone the dirt and grime that naturally accumulate in a house.

So stop cleaning your own house. Or stop doing it so well.

The Homemade Meal Hack

Did I mention that Costco also makes delicious meals that, when coupled with a fresh veggie or salad, make you feel like the most responsible wife and best mother ever?

Costco. It’s what’s for dinner.

Homemade meals are overrated. Just ask my kids who much prefer stuffed peppers with a side of broccoli to anything I could make for dinner.

The Good Parent Hack

Orchestra recitals, soccer practices, kids’ birthday parties, and swim meets fill up my children’s schedules and, by default, my own.

So I attend their activities but now, rather than covertly checking email or texting one of the other mothers, “OMG why didn’t I bring a flask?” I make sure to schedule phone dates with my girlfriends. My kid knows I’m there (good parent – check), and I am actually enjoying myself.

Sometimes I’ll talk for hours with my girlfriends, usually with a very important look on my face. Is she talking to the doctor? Someone at work? Arguing with her husband?

No one knows, and that’s the hack.

I realize this doesn’t make me sound like a perfect parent. And maybe that’s a good (enough) thing.

Life hacks are beautiful and courageous. So rather than feel guilty about not making a homemade meal or spending hours cleaning your house, feel awesome.

Pat yourself on the back for being brave.

For being good enough.

Sharing is caring. Send this to a girlfriend who is good enough. Or shops at Costco. She’ll thank you for it. 

Oh, and please help pick out next week’s topic! Survey below.

Raising Brave Boys

“It’s a boy!”

Wait. What? Sorry Mr. Doctor Man, but you’re going to have to shove that baby right back up in there because I already have my baby girl’s name picked out and I know what she’s going to look like and she definitely doesn’t have a penis.

That was my response to the birth of my first child. Along with whispering, “Shit,” as they lifted him proudly to my chest. And then, of course, loving him like crazy.

I should have found out the baby’s sex ahead of time, but I thought it would be super-cool to be surprised. I didn’t appreciate how not knowing could turn into believing like I believe in gravity that it was most definitely 100% a girl.

I’m sure a number of factors were involved in my delusion. The most notable being that I believed raising a girl to be a strong woman might be the most important thing I could ever do in my life.

Boy was I wrong (pun intended).

Fast forward a couple of years. I’m at the playground, pushing my son on the swings. Into my hands and then away he goes. In that moment, for the first time, I realized my baby was becoming a little boy who would someday become a man. And just like the motion of the swing, he would pass from my hands into the world.

“What kind of man will you be?” I wondered. And it was then that I understood raising him to be a good man, a brave man, was just as important as raising a girl to be a strong woman.

I just didn’t know how hard it would be. Or how much courage it would take on my part.

Our boys are expected to be strong, which means they are taught to suppress and deny their emotions. The only real emotion they’re allowed (and often encouraged) to express is anger.

Which is like giving them one awful-colored crayon to color with for the rest of their lives.

Schools label our boys for “acting out” in class, even though we know (like, research-has-proven-this-as-a-fact know) that boys need physical activity and interactive learning environments to thrive.

Sit still, be quiet, and pay attention are not boy-friendly expectations. But that’s how most of our schools are set up.

And perhaps worst of all, boys double-dog-dare each other into being more masculine, humiliating each other with accusations of acting “like a girl.” Which simultaneously teaches our boys to view femaleness as weak/bad/dumb/totally inferior.

And that’s not helpful to anyone. Especially women.

So what can we do to raise brave boys?

Boys with a full palette of emotion to express themselves and understand others? Boys who are celebrated for their exuberance and passion, not sent to timeout? Boys who respect girls and later, respect women?

For me, the answer was that I had to be brave myself.

I had to be brave enough to say, “It’s okay to cry,” even though I was so afraid that someday he might be teased for expressing his feelings.

And when he did express his feelings, especially his anger, I had to be brave enough to meet it with compassion instead of punishing him, even though I was so afraid that he might turn into a bully or worse.

I had to be brave enough to advocate for him at school. I volunteered in his classrooms so I could develop a productive relationship with his teachers, all of whom thought he had ADD or a learning disability.

And I taught him to be brave for others, to use the power he has as a male to do good in the world. Especially with his boy peers. He’s defended girls who were called fat, Mexican-American kids who were told they should be deported.

Last year, he stood up in front of a room full of boys and taught them the value of “respect” after they’d made fun of a transgender person.

I no longer wonder what kind of man he will be. While he still has a few more years of his boyhood left, I know.

He will be a brave man because he is a brave boy. And because he has a brave mama.

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Sharing is caring. Send this to a parent who wants to raise a brave boy. Or one who already has. 

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for next week’s topic! I’m posting every Friday and want to write about what most interests you. Survey is below! xoxoako

Masters in Bad*ssery (And Why Every Woman Needs One)

Lots of people get their MBA’s to learn how to run a business for profit.

The Masters in Badassery is similar. Only you substitute “run a business for profit” with “run your life for yourself.”

If the idea of running your life for yourself makes your heart pause because it sounds terrifyingly selfish, I totally get that.

For most women, even basic self-care (sleeping, eating, the occasional mani-pedi) feels like an indulgent self-centered luxury if not an outright act against God.

If the idea of running your life for yourself makes your heart pause because there’s no more room on your “To Do List” for you, I totally get that, too.

We have loooong “To Do Lists,” and most of them are other-centered. Adding ourselves may make it combust into flames.

But running your life for yourself is not about whether you’re at the top, middle or bottom of the “To Do List” (where we typically find ourselves). And it’s not about setting fire to the list. (Although wouldn’t that be nice.)

Everything on your “To Do List” – all of it – is your life. There is no magic fairy wand that will make those things go away. And whether you are at the top, middle or bottom isn’t the point.

Rather, it’s about how you “do” your “To Do List,” and by that, I mean instead of having the items on your list run your life, you run them. 

Like a badass.

Here’s how this might look.

Ever been invited to a neighborhood potluck? The one where everyone brings a homemade dish (if they’re a woman) or a bag of tortilla chips (if they’re a man)?

We have one every year in my neighborhood, and I bring a gorgeous fruit pie.

That someone else baked. Someone named Whole Foods.

I even put it on a plate and break the crust a little bit.

Bam. Done.

Total badassery.

Ever volunteer at your kid’s school? I used to do this every week, which was a complete nightmare.

The commute between my office and the school was double the amount of time I spent volunteering, my daughter sobbed hysterically when I said goodbye, and the kids were so snot-covered that I needed a hazmat  suit.

The ROI simply didn’t add up.

So now I volunteer to run the Halloween Party, and I do it in such an epic, badass way that I feel absolutely no pressure or guilt to do anything more for the entire year.

I bring in a smoke machine that makes all the kids super-excited (and wheezy because apparently it’s better suited for outdoor use or dance clubs).

I make a “witches brew” with floaty corpse hands and dry ice. (Cautionary note: Dry ice has been banned from most elementary schools because it burns through children’s esophaguses so you’ll have to sneak it in.)

And I roll in dressed up like Wonder Woman. Which makes me the most awesomest, coolest mom ever.

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Total badassery.

Running your life for yourself looks like figuring out ways to make your life work not just for everyone else, but for you.

Running your life for yourself is something women need to re-learn how to do. And I say re-learn because somewhere between our girlhood and now, we forget how to do this.

If you cannot imagine ever, ever living this way, let me re-introduce you to your twenty year-old self.

Because I bet that woman knew how to run her life for herself.

Granted, she didn’t have the same responsibilities and pressures and commitments that you have today. But she still had responsibilities, pressures, and commitments.

They were just different. (And less loud because they didn’t have mouths that talked, begged, or screamed.)

She didn’t succumb to the “right way” to do something because she either didn’t care or she didn’t know any better.

The first step in getting your Masters in Badassery is to remember your twenty year-old self. Like, really remember her.

What would she put on her “To Do List”? And how would she manage the stuff that’s on yours?

Here’s my list:

  1. Make dinner
  2. Attend service club meeting
  3. Buy birthday present for dog
  4. Go to 4th grade Back to School Night

Hmmmm…. What would my 20 year-old self do with that list?

  1. Make dinner  What’s cookin’ Whole Foods?
  2. Attend service club meeting after a glass of wine
  3. Buy birthday present for dog  Here’s an extra scoop of dog food
  4. Go to 4th grade Back to School Night (This stays on the list because how else am I gonna sign up to rock out the Halloween Party?)

Now it’s your turn. Lemme know how it goes.

Sharing is caring. Send this post to a badass girlfriend. She’ll thank you for it.

(Oh! And don’t forget to vote for next week’s topic! I’m posting every Friday now, and I love love love to get your input. Survey is below. xoxoako)

 

The Man Question

I imagine this title may generate a bit of curiosity, especially in a blog dedicated to women’s development.

And because, generally speaking, women have a lot of questions about men.

To illustrate this point, here’s a quick summary of the questions I’ve had about men, sorted by decade:

  • My 20’s:  Am I ever going to find my man? Does this man like me? Love me? Like really love me? Will he ever ask me to marry him? (I know, I know. I was young.)
  • My 30’s:  How can I get this man to change? (That really was the only question for an entire decade.)
  • My 40’s:  What do we DO with the men? (Especially relevant now that we’re in the midst of a women’s empowerment revolution.)

Most of these questions center around being in a relationship with a man, but The Man Question has nothing to do with dating or marriage.

It’s a question posed to me by a male reader (of which I think there are about two) who responded to my invitation to submit writing topics for this blog. And it was this:

“How can I be a good father to a little girl?”

Oh. My.

Are you trying to break my heart wide open right now? Because you totally just did.

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After a few days of mulling The Man Question over, here’s what I came up with.

1) Respect their mother. The way you treat her mother will be how she thinks she should be treated. In fact, she will most likely end up marrying a man who is just like you. Which I know is scary because you’re still figuring your own self out and that’s a lot of pressure.

So here are a few quick tips:

If you want her to be talked to nicely, talk to her mother nicely.

If you hope she will be appreciated for her awesomeness, appreciate her mother’s awesome.

And even if you’re divorced, you can still honor whatever it was that brought you two together in the first place by being respectful.

2) Do your chores. Seeing you participate in traditionally female roles (cooking, cleaning, caregiving, etc.) will free her of the expectation that women must somehow “do it all.” This expectation comes at a cost to their careers, future income, and leadership aspirations.

So if you’re not already doing so, please pick up a broom, cook dinner, drive the kids to daycare – whatever – because equality must start inside of the home if we’re ever going to achieve it outside of the home.

3) Make her tough. I know having a girl child is a melty-melt experience for most fathers. When our own daughter was born, my husband treated her like a delicate little flower.

As much as I love this, it’s super not helpful because that delicate little flower is going to have to go out into the world and deal with some pretty tough stuff.

So make her tough.

Get her into competitive sports, remark on how strong she is (because she is), tell her she’s as good as (if not better than) any boy.

When she falls, encourage her to walk it off. Because she’s going to fall, be pushed over, and tripped, just like the boys if not more so.

I know it’s scary to raise a daughter. I have one myself. Compared to my son, she will be more vulnerable, she will experience more challenges, she will wrestle with more doubt (her own and others)…

AND

At the end of the day, she will have a father who respects her mother, who models equality home, and who shows her that she is tough enough to handle her own life.

A father who believes in raising brave girls who then become brave women.

A father like you.

Sharing is caring. Send this to a brave man who wants to be a good father to a little girl. (That little girl will thank you for it.)

Oh! And as you may know from last week’s post, Write Like a Mutha, I’m blogging every Friday now, in a way that’s more interactive with you. Use the survey below to vote for next week’s topic! xoxoako

 

Photo Credit Kyle Head

Write Like a Mutha

I woke up this morning and realized I’m a writer.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for the past year, it may be surprising that this just occurred to me. But for those of you who really know me – like in real life know me – it’s probably not.

I’m a slow learner. Super-smart but slooowwww on the uptake.

Now that I’ve established in my own mind that I write, I’m gonna write like a mutha. (That’s a play on words. I am a mother and I’m gonna write a lot. In addition to being slow, I’m clever. They kinda cancel each other out, right?)

Prior to this morning – and quite literally, I just woke up 9 minutes ago – my writing took a long time to get out of my body and onto the page. Then I’d agonize over the words and structure and….everything, until it was 100% ready to go.

Not gonna do that anymore.

I’m not aiming for a Pulitzer Prize (if I remember correctly, that’s a writing award of some sort) and I’ve received enough validation to know I’m good enough.

Sidebar: Good enough. Yes, let’s repeat that. I am good enough.

So I am going to write to you every week. Specifically, every Friday morning, you will get some kind of awesome from me.

And my topics will double down on women’s and girl’s development.

This is a nice way of me saying that if you’re not down with women’s and girl’s development, it might be time to unsubscribe.

BUT I HOPE YOU DON’T.

Because you are my people.

Whether you got here because you’re a mom who has been walking around in shock since the election,

A budding feminist who doesn’t quite get what the word “feminist” really means but gets my words,

A woman who has survived what most women go through – body image issues, unwanted sexual anything, work-life struggles, marital explosions, children,

Or a dude who loves any of the aforementioned women…

You are my people.

And I’m going to write for you. Because I’m a writer and that’s what writer’s do.

But here’s the catch. I want you to help me write.

I want your questions, your wonderings, your fears, your whatever that’s related to women’s and girl’s development to be the topics of my writing.

In exchange, I promise to be funny, smart, and true.

I’ll share how this will work in my next post because…well, I still need to figure that out.

I’m sure there’s some technological gizmo that will allow me to interact with you outside of the blogosphere (maybe it’s good old fashioned email?) but I need to do a little research first.

I’ll get back to you.

In the meantime, think on it. Because we’re going to do something awesome together.

We’re gonna write like a mutha.

xoxoako

 

The TED Talk That Never Was

I am a TED Talk reject.

Admittedly, my talk wasn’t all that provocative or novel. It clearly didn’t qualify as an “idea worth spreading,” which apparently is TED’s tag line.

But I was on a mission to conquer my fear of speaking live on camera, and what better way to do so than with a potentially global audience?

I downloaded all the TED Talk guidelines about how to give a magnificent presentation that TED himself would watch. (And I learned that TED isn’t actually a person but an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design.)

I picked out my dress for the talk. It was purple because that color looks fabulous against TED-Talk-red.

And I told all my friends that I was trying out. Blasted it out on Instagram. Gave a preview of my talk on Facebook Live.

So when I received the “we had a very competitive pool of applicants…” rejection email, I was disappointed. Surprisingly embarrassed. Definitely ashamed.

And I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. All that effort and energy, for what?

I have a hard time with inspirational quotes about failure. Stuff like, “It’s the process, not the destination that matters.”

Because the destination does matter.

I struggle with questions like, “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” Because the honest-to-goodness answer is that I’d jump off a cliff and try to fly.

There are always consequences when we fail, real risks that cause real problems.

Problems like dying.

So as I reflect on my TED Talk failure, I am going to tell you something a bit different than these inspirational quotes, questions, and sayings.

Something that is, dare I say, an idea worth spreading.

Because next week, I am giving my own version of a TED Talk. I have reserved the same theater where the actual, real TED Talk event took place.

There will be cameras to film it. I even have a live audience. And yes, I will be wearing my purple dress.

At first blush, this may seem like a stubborn act, a rejection of my rejection, so to speak.

But it isn’t.

I was asked to teach an online class and they needed to film it. And because I’d put all that effort into preparing for my TED Talk That Never Was, I was ready.

I was ready.

For me, that’s what failure is all about. That is my idea worth spreading.

Failure makes you ready for the next time. But this time, the next time, your are smarter, wiser, and a little more brave.

Am I nervous about my non-TED Talk? Absolutely.

People might not show up. And if they do, they might not think my ideas are all that provocative or novel.

They may find my purple dress to be a bit much.

I may very well fail.

But if that happens, I will learn new things. I’ll end up smarter and wiser.

Braver.

And I will be ready for the next time.

 

Post-script: Eat your heart out, TED.

 

 

 

 

I Wished to be a Sparrow (Reflections on depression & faith)

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I stood in the field alone, looking out to the western foothills. The sun was starting its descent from day to night, but it wasn’t quite sunset.

Not quite.

It was the magical time just before. The window through which everything is more vibrant in color, more alive, rimmed with gold. My favorite time of the day.

“This is when they should bury me,” I thought.

This is when they should lower my body into the ground, when the sun turns the world golden before its arc into night.

When the leaves on the trees flash a bright spring green. And the cottonwood floating in the air looks electric. When the long grass glows warm, its tips a blur of undulating white.

When everything is just a little too bright, just a little too beautiful, just a little too intense.

Just like me.

I was out in that field looking for God, not for salvation but for some sign that things would be okay after I died. For me and for the people who would miss me so, so much.

Depression is like being dead in a world that is cruelly alive. Cold and hollowed out like a corpse, you try to connect with the living, try to feel the warmth of their hope, but you can’t.

My only tether to this life was my love. For my mom, my brother, my friends. For the dreams of what my life was supposed to be. For my children who had yet to be born.

But the pain was becoming greater than my love, and so I was preparing to die. I didn’t know how exactly. That was for later, after I’d made peace with myself and with God in this field.

After I knew I’d done my very best to live. Because I wanted them to say at my funeral,

“She did her very best to live.”

I noticed sparrows darting back and forth across the field. As the sun began to set, they emerged.

Dozens and dozens of them flew about, only a few inches above the glowing grass, catching bugs in the last light of the day. A few of the braver ones flew close enough that I could hear their chirping and the swish of their wings.

They were exuberant and joyful. And I contemplated why they were not afraid. Their minds could not comprehend that the setting sun would rise again the next day, but they flew like it would.

They had faith that it would.

I wished to have that kind of faith.

I wished to be a sparrow.