My Purse Keeps Getting Bigger (and Not for the Right Reasons)

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. –Victor Hugo

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My briefcase-sized purse…easily weighs 8-10 pounds.

Remember the good ol’ days?  Footloose and fancy free?  Not a care in the world?  I do…and what I remember most about them was that everything that I truly NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  Gone are the days of tucking cherry-flavored Chapstick into my pocket and heading out the door.  No more securing a dollar bill to the inside of my sock…you know,  just in case.  Forget about making room in your shoe to save that last piece of gum for later (seriously, forget about that–it’s a bad idea.)  All of these good times ended at about age 16…the year where freedom (a.k.a. driving) meant that you had to carry proof that you were indeed legal behind the wheel!  Thus one enters the era of THE PURSE….

At first, having a purse made me feel all grown up.  My purse contained nothing but the necessities, right?  This is sorta funny because at the time I remember searching my room frantically for items to fill my purse.  You know–a comb, lipstick, gum/candy/breath mints (sometimes ALL three), a pen. perfume (I know…I’m sorry,) a stylish journal (for all my important thoughts) and of course a wallet for money…plus that prized driver’s license (the reason I desperately needed a purse in the first place.)  In the beginning the purse was pretty small…always messenger style so I could wear it across my body.  This is important, because when you’re new to carrying around a purse you need one that you can’t lose…just saying.  The purse and I became sympatico and a love/hate relationship was established.

By the time college came around I had to re-evaluate the whole purse thing.  Life was changing–big time!  I found that college life required a backpack and not necessarily a little messenger purse.  The school that I attended was situated on top of a hill, so a lot of walking was a given.  Fortunately, I found an item that I refer to as a wallet-keychain. This nifty little gadget became my best friend for four years.  It tucked nicely into the backpack, held the bare essentials (license, student ID, money, and bank card) and was attached to my keys!  Genius.  I wished I had discovered it in high school.  This would make everything better…or so I thought.  But the purse would eventually have its revenge.

After graduation I ventured into a career path that required some “primping” to say the least (I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I wanted to be the next Connie Chung 🙂 )  Carrying a make-up bag, a brush and comb, etc. was just the norm for this girl with big dreams.  Add onto that the things I needed for work:  a pen (a back up pen,) a notebook, tapes (and back up tapes,) and HAIRSPRAY!  Then there were the snacks (you wondered when I would get to this point?)  You see, when your lunch hour varies (or doesn’t necessarily exist) you need more than gum to sustain yourself.  Small packages of crackers, cookies and even instant coffee started entering the picture and filling my (now bigger) purse.  My shoulder aches just thinking about those days.

I wish I could say that changing career paths meant less stuff and a smaller purse.  It didn’t…and mostly because I moved to California.  You’re probably wondering why that matters, but it does matter and maybe not for the reasons you might think.  It wasn’t that I needed a big purse so that I could keep up with the Kardashians, but rather I needed a purse filled with survival supplies.  While California is amazingly beautiful, it’s also a jungle!  And jungle life meant that you had to be ready for your 11 mile commute to take as long as two hours.  If you had to cross a bridge, someone else’s fender bender might have you looking at a 3 hour delay.  Traffic is ridiculous there and so you had to pack ridiculous things in your purse.  Water was just as big a deal then as it is now.  Carrying around water bottles was not only in vogue, but it could save your life on a warm, Cali day if the traffic was particularly uncooperative (especially when you AC goes out!)  Food in your purse was a must, but because this was the Golden State you felt obligated to have “healthy” food.  Fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers were the standards–and “fresh” food meant carrying a cold-pak, too.  I pity the person who got busted stuffing their face with Cheetos on the California freeway!  (Really, you should know better!)

But never was the purse’s revenge as terrible as the day I become a mother.  It’s like I could hear the purse saying, “You will never, EVER go back!”  I tried making my purse into a diaper bag and when that didn’t work I asked the diaper bag to do double duty as a baby-things-carry-all and a purse.  Either way you look at it, I was carrying around a bunch of nonsense.  Okay, you’re thinking…”Well, your kids weren’t toddlers forever, right?  Eventually you went back to carrying around a plain old purse.”  Well, yes AND no.  Now that I was a mom I discovered this unwritten rule where you are forced to carry things for your kiddos.  This form of servanthood is sneaky, even to the most savvy mother.  So many times I have told my children that if they brought it, they had to carry it…only to find my purse a little heavier and their book, toy, or gadget safety tucked inside while my child proceeded to run and do hand stands all over the place with their newfound freedom.

My migration to the extra-large purse didn’t end with just the kids’ stuff.  My purse also doubles as a medicine cabinet.  Bandages, Neosporin, allergy medicine, etc.  all make their home here as well.  I am the keeper of Kleenex, keys and bubble gum (of various flavors nonetheless.)  My purse houses accessories for cleaning glasses, and extra contact lenses as well as a portable hair salon equipped with fashionable hair-ties for my daughter.  Need to write something down?  I have pencils, pens and SHARPIES (assorted colors) in my bag!  Not to mention lotion, hand sanitizer, post-its and a small magnifying glass (BTW I’m aging and my eyes were the first things to go.)  I have ear buds, sunglasses and occasionally pizza crumbs (don’t ask.)  These are just the staples, I could go on (and on….)

So why am I telling you all this?  Because I want it to stop.  REALLY.  I am over the purse thing.  I want to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow (sans the “luggage.”)  The kind of person who doesn’t need a million accessories just to go to the grocery store or to watch my kiddos play ball. I want to go back to the days when everything I NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  I am craving simplicity and I think the reason all of this has to come to a head is because physically AND spiritually the purse is weighing me down.  Stop.  I know that’s a pretty big leap, but hear me out.  I finally understand the reason I carry around the equivalent of  a briefcase everywhere I go, 365 days a year.  It’s because of fear and control.  Every time a situation has come up in the last 20+ years and I DIDN’T have the tools I needed to handle it, another “something” was added to the purse.  This is a pretty big revelation for me.  While feigning having it all together, what was really going on was a lack of trust.  I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust life and in someway I was also saying that I didn’t trust God (at least not completely.)

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My new wristlet…smaller than a paperback book!

After so many years, it’s going to be hard to change this pattern…to fight the urge to cover all the bases, at all times–EVERY time.  The desire to be superwoman, superwife, supermom, etc.  is so very strong.  Listen, I know this isn’t the biggest problem on the planet, but I feel convicted to make a change.  I want to trust more…to put myself out there.  In some suburban-housewife-kind-of-way…this is my next faith test.  So here’s where I am–I purchased a wristlet (which just may be the grown-up version of the wallet-keychain that I loved so much in college.)  Full disclosure–right now the wristlet resides in my purse (along side a million other items,) but I am making a plan to downsize to this little dandy.  Just the NECESSITIES!  Those of you who know me, know that this is a tall order!  I think I’m up to the challenge.  Don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey…I will still have a large bag (NOT a purse) for sporting events, kid-related activities and church projects.  So what if I don’t have a bandage for every boo-boo or a just the right flavor of gum for my kiddos?  I have a funny feeling (and a whole lot of FAITH) that we will survive…and it just might save my shoulders, too!

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”  “Nothing,” they answered.  Luke 22:35

 

 

 

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Desperately Seeking Female Role Models (Celebrities Need Not Apply)

Like a gold ring in a pig’s nose is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.  Proverbs 11:22

I’m not the first mother to wonder about my kid’s choices in role models.  And I’m not writing this because my daughter has suddenly gone all Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus or (insert your favorite female celebrity villain here.)  Still, it has come to my attention recently that being a lady isn’t really high on anyone’s priority list anymore.  So much so that recently when I told my daughter that a certain behavior was not “lady like,”  she looked at me with a puzzled expression.  Mom fail 😦

The era of fairy tales:  My sweet princess at age 4.

The era of fairy tales: My sweet princess at age 4.

Here’s the problem:  I’m her mother.  And one of the things I pride myself on is being a lady.  Yet my daughter seems pretty unaffected, confused, (and quite possibly) doesn’t care about what that means.  I’ve been told that as a mother, I am my daughter’s primary influence and still, I’m not seeing the fruit of my labor.  I feel like I’m losing the battle in a war where I thought we were all on the same side.  And by we, I mean women.  Turns out the rules of engagement have changed–BIG TIME.  So maybe I need to come up with a new strategy…and I need YOUR help.

The whole dilemma requires a little sorting out.  When I think about what it means to be a lady, I will admit that the first couple of things that come to mind are superficial, you know, surface stuff.  Good manners, age appropriate dress, polite disposition…you get the drift.  I can hear the groans now–THIS ISN’T 1950.  To which I have to say, I know and I’m not trying to make a case for going back to that decade (and for your information I wasn’t even alive then, either.)  But I think there is something to be said for these external characteristics, because like it or not they demonstrate the heart and spirit of a person.  For example, good manners are the outward expression of one who puts others above themselves and exhibits generosity and kindness.  This person is not a pushover, soft or a “goody goody” as my daughter might call them.  (BTW, in kid speak a “goody goody” is a derogative term and means that someone is only pretending to be proper.)  Good manners reflect a common courtesy, demonstrate a love for one’s neighbor, and reflect a sense of personal pride.  I hold these things in high regard and I don’t often see them in young people.  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see young girls swearing, name calling, belching, lying, dressing provocatively and flat-out acting anything but lady like!  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Sure, females can do anything that males can do, but I still think an argument can be made for being the “fairer” sex.  (And that doesn’t mean letting the guys of the hook for their lack of decorum, but that’s another post.)

I want my daughter to say please and thank you, to acknowledge someone when they walk into or exit a room, to know how to sit in a dress, to make eye contact with adults, to speak and not yell, to chew her food without putting it on display for the world, to treat others justly and with respect all while having combed (tangle free) hair and a good attitude (no white pearls required.)  Instead, I see her influenced by her rough and tumble brother, her peers, music that glamorizes booty shaking and countless television shows where kids make the rules and adults are portrayed as irrelevant idiots.  Girls are depicted as shallow, devious, backbiters who will stop at nothing to get ahead and put others down in the process.  If we reap what we sow, what exactly are we setting our children up for?  In no way, shape or form, will I give up on my little girl or the girls of the world for that matter.  I refuse to rely on the school, church, social clubs, media, or society to raise my kids…but I’m not above asking for their help or support.  We are in this together.

I know this won’t be wildly popular.  Accountability never is.  But holding our young girls to something better is important.  I want my daughter (and yours) to be confident, caring, strong, and intelligent all while being afforded every good opportunity that the world has to offer.  I want our little girls to be taken seriously and to know their worth isn’t based on how pretty or thin society judges them to be.  I don’t want our girls to derive their power from sex and provocativeness in the way that so many of today’s celebrities do.  Similarly, girls do not need to tear down other girls to make themselves standout.  Our girls are worth so much more than that.  At the same time, I want them to take pride in who they are on the inside and outside without feeling like they have to act like males to get ahead in this world.  If we can live in a culture that claims to celebrate diversity, then why can’t we live in a world where acting like a lady isn’t a negative or a slam against women?

A lady exudes grace.  A lady stands out in a room for all the right reasons.  Her life and the way she carries herself speak to her great character.  A lady is powerful and others are drawn to her strength. I feel like the lines were so much clearer 20 years ago.  Somewhere we have blurred the boundaries and gotten off track.  My little girl is special (and so is yours!)  I want her to grow up in a society where men hold the doors open for women, swearing like a sailor is actually left to the sailors, gentlemen who wish to court my daughter come to the door to meet her parents, and she is valued for the jewel that she is.  I pray she is not influenced by cleavage and short shorts at every turn, feels that she has to keep up with the boys to be taken seriously, yell or be rude to voice her opinions or settle for anything less than a gentlemen.

I need your help.  Please be the tasteful, responsible, smart and beautiful women that I know you can be.  Hold yourself accountable for all the little ones out there.  They are so easily influenced and if you sell yourself short, you are not only letting yourself down, but you’re providing a disservice to little girls everywhere.  I remember when my daughter was tiny and she dressed as a princess and believed she was really something special.  Some days that tiara never came off!  She even went through a spell where she wore a white pearl necklace (a la June Cleaver) with every outfit, everyday.  She was royalty and not the diva-like, spotlight seeking, entitled, stop at nothing to get ahead females we see today.  Just a precious child who believed she could do and be anything.  Somewhere along the way she realized that real princesses don’t exist and was left to settle for the ways of the world.  And so today, I’m desperately seeking female role models who will represent women in a positive light.  Women who will be real, authentic, elegant, modest, smart, athletic, and all around awesome!  I want my daughter to see these women at the grocery store, at school, at the ballpark, in politics, on television…basically everywhere.  And I want her to want to be a lady, not because her mother told her to, but because as the quote goes, “being a female is a matter of birth, being a woman is a matter of age, but being a lady is a matter of choice.”

http://www.playbuzz.com/katelynw11/how-ladylike-are-you