She is Fierce

There’s an overused quote (well, let’s call it a quote particle, since like many other quotes it is rarely used in full context).  You’ve probably seen it on t-shirts and Facebook pages and inspirational Instagram posts:

“…and though she be but little, she is fierce.”

b3fa0ed9a2994b8cba814764a68f87cf

[[Yes, the nerd in me – the scholar that I imagine I am – the bookworm who spent a few months in college – does get annoyed when people say things without truly understanding them.  When quotes are pulled from the sky without any kind of appreciation for the words that encapsulate them.  When some of history’s most talented authors are reduced to snappy pink lettering in a mere 1080 pixels by people who may never discover the masterful works they belong to.

This misused morsel of verse currently making the rounds as a girl power anthem is actually part of a comedy by William Shakespeare called A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It isn’t as much a statement on a woman’s strength as it is an insult to a certain character’s (Hermia) diminutive size.   Her sister describes her as a vixen (a hellcat) in their school years.  She is a hot head.  A brawler.

Once insulted, she objects to being called “little” or “tiny” and is subsequently referred to as a “dwarf” and a “minimus of hindering knotgrass (a weed)”.  A bead.  An acorn.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that’s certainly not how this powerful woman would like to be described.

For the purposes of this blog, though, I am willing to put all that aside, so please keep reading…]]

I took a gentle vinyasa yoga class this morning and enjoyed it immensely.  It’s a class unlike most of the others I take at the gym, because instead of intense exercise and lots of sweat, vinyasa is more about finding my center, focusing, and learning to balance.  It’s a class I deeply appreciate because all my other classes are pretty brutal, and it gives me a chance to re-connect with my body and check in with myself while still working my muscles. It’s a challenging class, too, because while the other classes concentrate on strength and agility, gentle vinyasa is all about the core – the part that keeps me stable and holds me up when things get hard.

What makes a person fierce?

As I squeezed my eyes shut tight in some desperate attempt to concentrate and steady myself in Half Moon Pose, I thought about the importance of repose, especially in the midst of struggle.  Gentleness as essential for fighting.  Peace as a means to win wars.  The ability to stop and re-center, to take inventory and  in order to prepare for what lies ahead and recover from what has already been accomplished.

Warriors have that. Leaders have that.

I talk a lot about having the heart of a lion, or the raging fire that burns inside me and drives me forward, but so seldom do I mention the stillness.  The wise man.  He is not the thunderous voice that yells at me to keep fighting.  He is the low, barely detectable whisper that summons my spirit to simply continue living.  He is my perseverance.  Perhaps surprisingly, he is the most important part of my inner workings.  Every day I seek him out – whether to read a book, to take a walk, to sit with myself and take deep breaths – I know that I need him if I am to continue to conquer and reach my goals.

Reflecting on some conversations I’ve had this week, I keep coming back to this quote.

…and though she be but little, she is fierce. 

Little and fierce.  Yes, I am. Have I always been fierce?  Undoubtedly.  Both of my parents tell stories of my defiant nature, my strong will, my refusal to accept that something is true just because someone else says so.  Is fierce something I became after years of feeling underestimated and discounted because of my size, or my lack of experience, or my gender?  Yes, absolutely.  I know what it’s like to be underestimated, ignored, dismissed.  The truth, then, is both – my fierce is a healthy mix of nature and nurture.

Similarly, three-year-old son is a bear to deal with sometimes and I honestly think part of his rage stems from being the smallest in the family.  He wants so much to be big like his brother and he just isn’t yet – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable, or smart, or brave, and he will make damn sure you don’t forget it.  He is wild, and loud, and so very confident.  He’s got a walk that’s so self-assured most grown men would be envious.  He has much to prove and yet he does not want your approval.

The other side of that coin, the side that few people get to see, is the sweet and curious boy who seeks out his mommy at night in order to climb into her lap and sit.  He doesn’t want anything else – just to be still, together.  Gentle and quiet and safe, he snuggles up against me to be reminded that he is protected, and to rest before the next day of wrestling giants begins.  As is true with all the world-changers that have gone before him, he needs a time of respite and a place to feel grounded in order to find his fearlessness.

I believe this is a common thread woven in the stories of history’s overcomers.  The one quality that separates losers from victors.  Stillness.  Perseverance.  A willingness –  a compulsion, even – to come back to ourselves, to re-align and re-group.  To “huddle up”, as my dad says.  This is the calm, stable part that holds us up when things get hard.  The well from which courage is drawn.  It is almost indescribable to those who do not know it, and invaluable to those who do.

Fierceness is about so much more than fighting, and size is irrelevant to heart.  It has nothing to do with being combative or loud and everything to do with quiet stillness.  It is not the obvious drawing of a sword on the battlefield.  It is in the moments we don’t talk about enough – the in-between times when we reflect on how far we’ve come and steel ourselves for what is next.  It is in the ability to pause, reflect, balance, breathe, and focus.

In life, as in vinyasa, it is not the arms or the legs that keep me balanced, but the core.  My inner workings, where sits a small whispering voice that beckons me onward, even on the toughest of days.  Fierceness is born in the moments of quiet determination and reflection.  It is not the roar of the lion or the lap of the wildfire flames that make a great warrior, but the less obvious, less celebrated, sheer will to remain steady and to keep moving forward.

…and though I be but little, I. AM. FIERCE.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Don’t Be Beige

Don’t be beige.

I scribbled the words excitedly in my journal like a 15 year old writing about her new crush.  So profound.  Or was it?  I can never tell with these thoughts that occur to me in the shower, or while driving around town, or while I’m half-watching Law & Order: SVU and half-making an imaginary grocery list.  (Does anyone else do that? I’d imagine it’s a normal part of life as a mom/household manager/toddler wrangler.)

Anyway… beige.  The walls in our apartment are beige. I don’t mind it.  It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s fine.  Beige is a neutral – one of the blending colors.  It’s a color that allows all the other decor to be seen. Beige is a good background because it isn’t memorable or noticeable. It does not stand out.

Don’t be beige is my new motto.  So what exactly do I mean when I say, “don’t be beige”?

ffee0cd87bea6ad63ec7f0165de9b54a

I mean show yourself.  Reveal who you are.  Don’t be afraid to live your life at full volume because you think someone else won’t like your song. In order to live a fulfilled life, you need to in full glory and magnificence, without any care for what anyone else thinks.

I think that people are comfortable being beige. Beige isn’t scary. I get that.  They feel beige is safe. It’s polite. It doesn’t offend. I tried to be beige, I tried to please people, tried to blend, tried to step back so others could have the attention.  While blending in and being beige may make others comfortable, ultimately living life this way ends in disappointment and regret.

Two major things I noticed while I was consciously camouflaging myself:

  • There is no benefit to me. – I gained nothing from stepping back, dimming my own light or quieting my passion.  Literally nothing good comes from silencing my voice so that someone else can speak.  I get no life experience, meet no new people, and receive no praise because no one sees me.  And ironically trying to please others didn’t make them like me more ore less.
  • There is no benefit to others. – The people who shine do that because of who they are. Colorful, magnetic, fun, talented. My beige-ness didn’t accentuate them. It only hid me. Worse, being beige causes me to miss out on contributing to the world in a way that only I can.

When I realized I wasn’t being my authentic self, I made a choice to be more colorful. I spoke up when I felt passionate.  I accepted invitations to parties.  I wore the sexy dress without worrying what someone else might think. Creatively, I have so much to give, and expressing that through writing, podcasting, and other venues allows me to contribute something tangible to the world.  My kids see me being silly and it shows them that they can be silly too.  I follow my own rules and beat my own drum and in the same way, peers and friends hear me telling my story and they are emboldened to tell their own.  It’s a beautiful domino effect.

These days, I have renovated my soul. There is no beige. I am memorable. I stand out. I am not a neutral, because I have a voice and I’m not afraid to be seen, and my home – and my whole world – is so much more colorful.

Say Geronimo!

I went running this morning at one of my favorite parks.  It’s close to my house and the scenery is breathtaking, so when the stars align and I am able to get there for a workout, I feel grateful.  These days I’m trying to be outdoors more (and on the treadmill less) in order to improve my fitness and raise my vibration.

This park has several miles of woodland trails for running and mountain biking.  I normally run the mountain bike trails because they’re wider, and because there’s a nice canopy of trees that shields me from the sun a bit.  The downside is that there are tons of giant tree roots, and the canopy seems to hold in all the humidity, so some days it feels like running through a giant sauna obstacle course.

Today I decided to run a different route, to challenge myself and keep the ol’ neurons firing.  I parked at the exit, grabbed my pretty pink pepper spray and my cell phone, and set off down the road.  Little did I know, spiritual growth was waiting right around the corner for me.

Having grown up in this city, one might expect that I know a thing or twelve about this park.  The number of trails, the length of those trials, elevation, length of the road, etc.  Useful things.  I don’t actually know any of that.  The positive to this is that so far I have learned something new on each run, which I actually find exciting, so I’ve decided to stick with this “discovery-running” strategy.  I have heard that there are 5-7 miles of trails in this park, though it’s also possible that I have made that number up completely.  (A quick Google search did nothing to help clarify.)  Anyway, I started running knowing I had somewhere between 5 and 7 miles of road to go on, and I wouldn’t make it that far anyway, so my plan was to run as far as I wanted and turn around and run back to my car.

Running through a gorgeous park on a Saturday in Georgia is a glorious experience. I said “hello” and received similar greetings from walkers, runners, bikers, kids, grandmothers, disc-golfers, and a lady carrying a casserole in one hand and a baby in the other.  I could hear country music coming from the speakers of a pickup parked down by the lake, kids laughing as they played in the waterfalls, and friends encouraging each other as they cycled up a steep climb.  The whole place was abuzz with activity, and I was buzzing along in the middle of it.  I felt like I was in a movie, in one of those opening sequences where the camera starts out in space, and slowly zooms all the way into the town where the story takes place, until the focus is on the main characters.  That thought made me smile.

As I was making my way up and down the hilly pavement, mindful of cars and trying to keep my breath steady, I thought about how far I might run today.  1 mile?  If I turn around then, it would be 2 when I reached the car.  It was pretty hot out.  Maybe 1.5?  That makes 3 total.  Maybe I’ll just go .75 and then turn around, but I’ll run it faster than I’m used to.  I have to go to work tonight and I don’t want to be tired and sore at the beginning of my shift.  I knew I couldn’t run the 5-7 miles to the entrance even ONCE, let alone do it and turn around and run all the way back to my car.

Suddenly, just as that negative “I can’t” thought was forming, other thoughts popped up, as if to banish it before it planted roots in my brain.  These other thoughts were encouraging, motivating thoughts.  For example:

  • The story about Bruce Lee and his friend running 5 miles, and Bruce’s philosophy on life. (The story can be found HERE.)
  • Kathy Freston’s book Quantum Wellness, in which she says you should always go farther than you believe you can.
  • The reality that part of me was trying to give up before I’d even truly begun.

What happened was simultaneously anti-climactic and miraculous:

I simply decided to run the entire path, from exit to entrance. My legs felt strong, my breathing was pretty good, and even though I had never done it before, I decided that I would do it.

That’s it.  Hardly worth mentioning, right?  And yet, in that millisecond that I made the choice to “just do it”, my life changed a little bit.  My mindset rotated from “can’t” to “will”.  There was never a question after that whether I could make it, just a quiet, confident knowing that I would.

The rest of the story is that yes, I ran it all.  Guess what?  The road in it’s entirety ended up being a little over two miles, beginning at the exit gate and going “all the way” around the the entrance.  Yep, this thing that I had negated and barred myself from ever doing was only two miles.  I had never taken the time to find out the actual distance, because I already believed it to be further than I could run!! I had counted myself out of the race without ever starting.  This got me thinking – How many times in my life have I done this?  With work?  With friendships and relationships?

Here’s a funny thing about enlightenment, acceptance, and finally letting go of old beliefs:  oftentimes we are standing on the precipice of greatness, and once we step off the edge, we can finally see the beauty of where we are headed.  Before we take that first step, though, all we see is the edge.  We see danger. The unknown. The unattainable.  We see the can’t, won’t, shouldn’t signs all around us that discourage us from trying.  So we don’t.  We don’t try, we stay safe, and we continue to live our lives as we’ve always lived them, because that’s comfortable.

I’m writing this blog today to encourage you to GET UNCOMFORTABLE. Whatever edge you find yourself standing on today, take the leap!  Take a step.  Do something outside of your comfort zone and just see what happens.

Small picture, I ran 4 miles. This, in itself, is not a big deal, I know.  The bigger picture is that I came away from this run with just a smidge more enlightenment than when I entered.  A mental barrier was overcome.  My perspective was significantly altered.  What is can’t?  What is too hard?  What in life is truly unattainable?  I learned an invaluable lesson about belief, ability, and being willing to say “Geronimo!” and jump off the edge, even and especially when I can’t see what’s coming next.

Nuun, Ruuns, and Fuun

Hi Guys!

I’ve been absent for a while, I know.  Here’s a quick update:

I’m now a Brand Ambassador for Nuun Hydration and I LOVE it.  I’m currently training for fitness only and varying my running surfaces more.  Treadmill, road, and trail.  I am also using the stair machine a few times a week to gain strength in my hamstrings and glutes.  I can tell a difference after a couple of months of consistently doing this.  My legs are more powerful and I can run a bit faster.

In addition to working full-time, I have a 7 year-old scientist and a 1 year-old bulldozer who share my space (and most of my food).  Life in our home is CRAZY.  With Summer fast approaching, I hardly have 2 minutes to myself, let alone time to write.  PLEASE STAY TUNED ANYWAY!  I will be launching a series of book reviews soon, so you won’t want to miss it! (And thanks for your support.)

Also on the way: A recipe series starring my son, who is an aspiring chef/astronaut/storm trooper.

Music for the day: Anything from the Revivalists Pandora station. SO good.

Book I’m reading: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Thought for the week:  Let the fire inside you burn brighter than the fire around you.

MAKE TODAY GREAT!  LEAVE ME SOME LOVE IF YOU FEEL SO INCLINED.

 

6ce5d602-e13f-4967-9857-adf8548ad2ec

How to be the Best Mom

It’s not a competition.

Wait… is it?  Motherhood is, and should be, a deeply personal and private experience.  How we choose to raise our kids, feed them, discipline them, etc., varies by individual.  We are all different in our beliefs, cultures, and heritage.  So it stands to reason that there is no one “right” way to be a Mom.  In these days of social media and over-sharing, though, it feels much more like a contest.  Those of us “less than” moms – I’ll call us the “non goops” – who don’t always have our shirts neatly pressed or dress our kids in coordinating lobster-print boat shoes for sushi day at the prep school, it can be overwhelming.

There are innumerable blogs, websites, and articles out there on the grand ol’ internet about being a mom.  How to be a better mom.  The things we should be doing, but aren’t.  The things we are doing but stop doing immediately or face ruining our child’s existence forever.  The things we didn’t even know were things, we are so far behind, but we need to buy for our kids, make them by hand or from scratch, avoid doing or our kids might die, continue doing or they might die, things to teach them, tell them, make sure they know, make sure they are aware of, sign them up for, keep them away from, feed them, bathe them in, sing to them, DIY for them, protect them from, and so on…

I have been killing myself the past couple of days trying to keep my son occupied.  He is 5 years old, and not in school yet because he has a late birthday.  So I decided that we would do “projects” every day to learn.  Along with projects, we have meals and snacks and karate (or “ninja school”, he says), lego building and swimming and church activities.  Our routine up to this past week has been more relaxed.  I keep reading articles that make me feel pressured to deliver, so I am trying to step it up.  I don’t want to be the one mom at carpool whose son isn’t already counting in 3 languages and taking Chinese calligraphy lessons from a certified master.  My days have been PACKED.  So much so, that I barely got to eat yesterday, did not work out, and did not nap.  Yes I know naps are not a necessity but I could have really used a nap yesterday.

Today, I took a different approach.  We got up, ate (non gf, non organic, very tasty) breakfast, got dressed, and went to a playground.  The weather was gorgeous.  I sat on a shaded bench, reading a book while he ran around and sang songs to himself.  Do you know what happened??  Nothing.  He did not die.  He did not fall down a black whole of insecurity because I was ignoring him.  Seriously.  He was delighted.  I was at peace.  It was great.

In that moment I was reminded of my own childhood.  I was raised by grandparents, mostly, (mom worked a lot) and I remember thinking that they were the best ever.  Literally.  No kid was as lucky as me and my brother.  We had it all – a house to live in, food to eat, clothes, and on Fridays (grocery day) I got to eat a treat from the grocery store.  WOO HOO!  I was living the high life, and life was GOOD.

The funniest thing about all the best days will those ‘best’ people, is that at no point did they make me feel like I was the center of the universe.  The sun, I was assured, neither rose or set out of my bum.  I did not get brand-new clothes (lots of hand-me downs and hand-sewn dresses), I did not eat fast food, there was not much tv, no video games, no DIY projects to keep me occupied.  It was more like, “go outside until lunchtime.”  So we did.  We are better for it.

After the playground today, I made homemade french fries (method at bottom) and reheated some leftover pork chops and broccoli.  While we ate together, my son  talked about life (5 year olds have deep thoughts!) and then suddenly, out of nowhere, he looked up at me and said “Mommy, you are the BEST Mommy there ever was.”  And you know something?  He meant it.

As adults we don’t remember the outfits we wore (less the tragic, embarrassing ones) but we do remember words of affirmation.  We don’t appreciate eating twinkies as much as we appreciate those days in the sun laughing with people from our own tribe.  Lobster-print boat shoes?  Forget about it.  I had my step-mom’s old high-top Reeboks.  To me, they were beautiful because she was beautiful, and because she loved me.

My point is, competing with other moms is silliness, when we won’t know them in 20 years anyway.  Enriching our kids’ lives has nothing to do with what other moms are doing and EVERYTHING to do with how much of ourselves we pour into them in every moment.  Loving words.  Homemade meals.  Story time.  Making up silly songs.  Praying together (he always spontaneously hugs me).  These are the criteria for “best mom”, and how wonderful that it’s an honor we can all achieve.

222

Homemade French Fries (super simple)

prep time: 5 mins cook time: 25 mins  total time: 30 mins

Select 2 medium red potatoes.  Rinse.  Cut into slices or squares.

Place potato pieces in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil (a little at a time – it goes a long way!)

Add salt as desired (again, a little should do), mix with hands.

Spread out on aluminum foil on baking sheet

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (depending on how thick the pieces are) or until tender.

Serve plain or with ketchup.  Pat self on back. Receive hugs.

Hebrews 12:1

“12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

My analysis and how to apply this…

Starting at the beginning: yes, we are surrounded by a huge crowd, aren’t we, followers? Everywhere we turn people are observing, watching us to see if we are like Jesus. SO that is motivation to really be like him, to really lead them to church and ultimately, to the Lord. I don’t want to be the one who convinces someone they DON’T need what Jesus offers!

Many Christians struggle with extra weight, anger is mine which I have told you girls a thousand times already, but there are others, and we all have them. I think this verse is saying to lay that all down because otherwise we can’t run this race. I think about soldiers who run with big 50 lb packs on their backs. I would fall down and die! And my anger is like those packs, weighing me down, slowing me down, and usually making it impossible for me to continue the way God wants. UNTIL, I put it down.

I must say, I love the analogy of running. I feel like it’s so accurate to what this life is like, what my walk with God feels like. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, feeling awesome, wind in my face, I’m totally confident I’m going to make it to the finish. Other days it’s lots of hills, slow going, having to coach myself out loud to take another step.

One last thing to mention. The NIV version says to run the race that is “marked out for us”. I wanted to include that because, it’s so important not to compare our race with others. Keep your eyes on your own lane on the track! Your race might be shorter or slower, faster, bumpier, smoother, whatever… than someone else’s race. But it has been marked out FOR YOU. You’re not running their race, you’re running the one that was given especially to you. The other way I read that is that the course has been MARKED. Which, if you’ve ever run a trail race you know the markers that tell you where to turn are crucial to success. Without them you get lost in the wilderness. Same goes for our faith. The race has been marked out, if we follow Jesus we won’t get lost.

Prayer for today: Father, thank you for this word today! Thank you for how happy I feel writing about it. Help me to keep this light and share it with others and always feel this passion for witnessing. Thank you for my race. Thank you for marking the way for me and encouraging me to keep going. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Run!
Run!