Small Town Night Owl

I stay up late every night and realize it’s a bad idea every morning.  —unknown

As I near 40, I’m almost ashamed to admit it.  Almost.  But here’s my confession:  When it comes to sleep I am my own worst enemy.  I think I might have jinxed myself as a kid when I muttered that both food and sleep were overrated.  While I still hold these tenets to be true, I have come to discover that sleep is pretty vital (I’m sure food is, too…I just don’t want to admit it or PREPARE it.)

sleepIt’s not that I don’t need sleep.  Trust me, I NEED it!  It’s just that my clock is “off.”  I could try blaming age, but my real trouble with sleep began way before that.  It seems that at bedtime…I’m just not tired.  As a child I remember sharing a room with my little sister and after lights out, we would simply stay up and talk…or sing.  (We had these singing contests where we tried to win the other person over to our song.  Popular catchy songs work well, but if I remember right, annoying brain worm songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” worked much better!)  I also loved to tell stories and like an old woman I could spin a yarn that would go on for days.  My poor sister!  On more than one occasion I’d tell a story that would go on so long that she would fall asleep before it ended 🙂  It was slightly embarrassing….  Only slightly.

In junior high and especially high school, I continued my night owl ways.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t tired.  I really, really was!  But afterschool activities, a social life and school work kept me up ’til the wee hours of the morning.  (Before you jump to any conclusions let it be known that I stayed up way later for school work than for anything else! I know–I’m a NERD 🙂 ) For some reason, I always felt like I had more energy at night.  11pm seems to be peak time for me.  To be fair, I have to admit that I am not a morning person.  Not at all.  Maybe that’s part of why I’m a night owl.

During my college years, being a night owl just went with the territory.  We were all night owls…burning the candle at both ends.  It wasn’t that big of a deal–nothing ever is at that age.  Wake up early, stay up late…some nights sleep was more of a good idea than a reality.  I can remember going to a Poe concert the night before a final, closing down the club, going out to breakfast, drinking my weight in coffee, studying for an hour and arriving on campus just in time to take a 7am final–and acing it.  (Good genetics, I can thank my Mom for my test taking abilities!)  This was the way life rolled and I loved it!  Yes, sleep was overrated indeed.  We are so invincible in our 20s….

One might think that motherhood would change everything.  No.  Now I had an excuse to be awake at all hours of the night.  Pregnancy, middle of the night feedings, a colicky baby, illness of one kind or another, bad dreams, etc.  All this and so much more just pushed my night owl tendencies to the next level because a sleeping child meant that I could have a moment to do what I wanted to do.  You know, like watch a sitcom from beginning to end (forget movies…that’s asking for too much time,) have a snack and not have to share, catch up on correspondence, READ, and have a continuous thought (crazy, right?)  Let me be clear, my late night tendencies have never had anything to do with insomnia (which sounds horrible!)  It really is LIGHTS OUT once my head hits the pillow.  It’s just that I can find a million and one things to do before going to sleep.  Did I mention that I drink ALOT of coffee?

I’ve given my night owl tendencies a lot of thought lately.  For the past few weeks I’ve noticed several news articles and studies that cite the need for better sleep habits…specifically MORE sleep and an earlier bedtime.  At first I sort of brushed it off, but I’m starting to think that maybe I should take these things more seriously.  These same studies say that a lack of sleep leads to poor memory, an inability to focus, impaired immunity, sluggish metabolism and WRINKLES.  (Look, I claim not to be vain, but I don’t know a woman on the planet who’s “okay” with wrinkles!)  So, what’s a girl to do? Change seems practically impossible.  And let me just state for the record, this wouldn’t even be an issue if I could find a school district where classes didn’t start until 10am (that’s what I call a reasonable morning hour.)

My best friend recently told me that she has successfully made “the transition,” moving from night owl (she was my social counterpart in my early years) to morning person.  I know–it just doesn’t seem possible!  No longer does she fritter away the late night hours or need to set several alarm clocks to wake up in the morning.  Instead she’s up with the sun and happy about it.  So what’s her secret?  She tells me that through prayer and discipline she has made a change for the better.  Wouldn’t you just know it?  Jesus is the answer (again!) I have to tell you that I’m not optimistic.  It’s not that I don’t have faith…it’s more that I don’t know if I’m ready.  Because you see EVERY part of me LIKES staying up late.  It’s my chance to breathe, to sit without interruption, to find peace, READ and have a continuous thought all my own! (Notice a theme here?)  I like being the only person awake in the quiet of our little home.  Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but nighttime is MY TIME!

Okay, so someday (soon) I plan to grow up and get serious about sleep and taking care of myself.  And when I do, I know (without a doubt) that Jesus will see me through.  That and the threat of WRINKLES….

Night, night.

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

 

Thank God for the Gift of Fear (with Nods to Gavin de Becker and Oprah)

giftoffearIntuition is God whispering.  –author unknown

It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly scared. You know–hands trembling, what in the world should I do next, I just might throw up…kind of scared. And yet that’s exactly where I found myself this week and I’d do just about anything NOT to feel that way ever again. That’s why I’m writing this…to help me process what happened, but also to remind each one of us (and women in particular) to mind that little voice–it’s our God-given intuition…the gift of fear.

Let me start at the beginning…the very beginning (bear with me here.)  While Oprah Winfrey and I have been on the outs for several years (LOL), I was at one time a huge fan and watched her show as regularly as any college aged kid could without purposefully arranging their class schedule.  One day I happened to catch an episode that honestly changed that way I live my life.  Oprah was featuring an author and security issues specialist named Gavin de Becker.  You may recall that many of the show’s episodes centered around empowering women and his book titled “The Gift of Fear” focused on the importance of trusting your gut because so often intuition is our best guide (and sometimes our only hope) in alarming situations!  This isn’t a religious or faith-based book, but I read it as further confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in our everyday lives.  I took his advice and suggestions to heart for a number of reasons…1) I am a small person, young (at the time) and female…all of which could make me an easy mark, 2) the advice was practical and empowering, and 3) I felt like intuition was a God-given gift that had served me well in the past.  I believe this book crossed my path for a reason and since 1997 it has never been far from my mind.

Having lived in small and large communities, frequenting cities and as a traveler in general, I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings.  Being a news junkie doesn’t hurt (it’s a crazy world out there, right?)  I will admit…I may be a little high-strung when it comes to personal safety, but like I mentioned before I think the advice in this book (the validation that comes from trusting your gut) has proven itself on at least a handful of occasions in my life.  I can immediately recall a few scary situations where I put the tools from the book into practice…like while viewing an apartment with a questionable potential landlord, parking on a side street with my infant son and walking at night in the Bay Area, and being approached by an overly aggressive woman asking for money in a Dillon’s parking lot in Wichita.  In each of these scenarios that little voice spoke and the advice from the book came back into focus.

woman being followed DSThis isn’t a fun subject.  As women, this is a weight that we carry.  Men don’t fear for their personal safety like we do.  For years I dwelt on the fact that this just didn’t seem fair.  It affects my life everyday.  I’m careful about where I park, I’m overprotective of my kids, I try to assess every situation.  But I must confess:  I do get lazy.  I’m guilty of letting my guard down and it frustrates me.  This is part of the reason for this blog post.

Yesterday, while making a stop at a local store in my small town I was followed into the building by a strange man.  I noticed him immediately.  His demeanor seemed shifty and he was with a woman who did not enter the store, but instead waited just outside the main entrance.  The guy followed me as I went searching for two unrelated items on opposite ends of the store.  My antenna went up.  I thought it was odd that he turned down the same wrong aisle I turned into.  He made his way into the cleaning supplies aisle where I was and never looked at anything or picked anything up.  When I zig-zagged through the store in a an attempt to lose him he continued to follow, my mind was racing.  Imagine my surprise when this guy appeared to be looking directly at me from the jewelry section.  I again changed course immediately.  I needed to get out of this store!  I purchased my one item (having abandoned the need for the other item) and made my way to the exit…with him about 10 steps behind.  He had purchased nothing in the store.  Even as I type this my mind is trying to rationalize his behavior.  The urge to be “nice,” to not be so suspicious,  and to dismiss my uneasiness keeps creeping into my thoughts even at this very moment.  “Oh, he probably just needed some help.  You’re overreacting.  He wasn’t trying to scare you.  You let your imagination run wild.”  NO.  I heard God’s voice whisper to me.  I have no doubt about that.  I make no apologies for responding to my intuition.

The thing that gets me, though, is that the little flutter in my stomach first occurred before I entered the parking lot that day.  As I crossed the intersection to get to the store I clearly heard a whisper that said, “You don’t want to go there.”  But I didn’t listen.  I just wanted to pick up two items and go.  “What’s the big deal?” I told myself.  When I parked the car, I noticed that things didn’t feel right.  I still went in.  I want to be the kind of person who believe in the goodness of mankind, but I have to remember that this is a broken world.  I have to remember to trust the voice.

As I scrambled to get out of the store, I called my husband and let him know what was going on.  I had my keys ready.  My gut tried to soothe my panic by telling me that I was doing everything right.  I couldn’t get to the car fast enough.  As I pulled away, I saw the guy standing outside the store scanning the parking lot.  Look, I live in a small, safe community.  My intention here is NOT to scare anyone, but I will not discount what I felt.  I refuse to disqualify that voice.

Ladies, if you have not heard of this book…please consider getting your hands on a copy.  We need to know that it’s okay (in fact, it’s wise) to listen to our intuition.  It doesn’t make us unkind, not nice or even hateful to look after yourself or your loved ones.  I’m not saying we should walk around on edge all the time or believe that at any moment something horrific could happen to us.  I just want to remind myself and others to trust God more fully and to be open to his nudging in all that we do and everywhere that we go.

When I finally calmed down (several minutes and miles later),  I said a prayer.  I apologized for not responding to the Holy Spirit while I crossed the intersection.  I apologized for not leaving the parking lot when that bad feeling first came over me.  And at the same time, I thanked God for prompting me into a state of awareness and for giving me the ability to see the situation clearly.  The gift of fear…that Divine presence and the book again coming into focus all at once.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Psalm 46:1  

Excerpt from The Gift of Fear