Wednesday, May 26, 2010

8 Reasons to Bump Conventional Wisdom...

These days, I am loving Rachelle's Magpie Girl blog. Reading articles in the archives. Laughing. Groaning. Feeling challenged and inspired. Printing out lots of stuff and gluing it into my journal. A few weeks ago, she wrote about the potential dangers of listening to conventional wisdom. She wrote: One of the things we’ve been talking about in our Standing in Your Own Power series is the difference between external sources of authority (institutions, cultural messages, etc) and internal sources of authority (The Muse, intuition, etc.) External sources often come cloaked in the guise of “conventional wisdom.” There are of course, good examples of conventional wisdom. “Look both ways before crossing the street” comes immediately to mind. But there are plenty of dubious CW soundbites as well.

So below, I have listed a few tidbits of conventional wisdom that I have heard in recent years - along with a few reason why I am saying "bump your conventional wisdom."

1. All of life is a competition, so give your kids real grades and a real transcript. Otherwise, how will they get into college? WHAT? What on earth does a transcript with class names and random numbers tell about a young man or a young woman? What can a college counselor know about someone based on several pages with numbers? What about a portfolio of photographs taken along with essays written, field trips described, family events and trips documented, and prose descriptions of life here at The Silvermine Academy? Don't those count for something???

2. Homeschooling provides a false sense of security; you can't protect your kids from the real world. WHAT? I'm not trying to protect my children from the real world; I just want to delay their entrance into it. Here's the way I see it: if my children live to be 80 years old and spend the first 18 years at home with me, they will be blessed to have had such a great, family-centered start to life. If, for some tragic reason, my children only live to be 18, they will have spent their entire lives hanging out with and learning from their family members. How can either of those scenarios be bad?

3. Your kids are probably smarter than everybody else; homeschoolers are usually so smart. WHAT? My children are as smart as they are supposed to be at this point in their lives. Far more important than any column of numbers or capital letters on any single sheet of paper is the fact that they are loving siblings and fearless travelers and loyal friends and respectful grandchildren and funny, moody, insightful, curious, stubborn, caring, emotional, multi-layered people who bring oodles of joy and creativity and humor and kindness everywhere they go.

4. You have to join a church in order to participate in the activities of the church. And once you are a member of a church, you have to commit to attend every service and event the church puts on. WHAT? Recently, I was accused of not being in church enough, of not showing up at enough of the Sunday morning services. Is someone really looking out into the sanctuary and taking note that I am NOT in attendance? Since I heard that report (which I hope was merely a rumor) I have made the decision to never attend that service again. I have broken that promise to myself only once - because my daughter was singing with the youth choir. Soon after her choir sat down, I walked out.

5. Family togetherness is crucial, especially in the evening. Having each person go to a separate space in the house is not a healthy way to live. WHAT? See the earlier points in this list - I am a homeschooling mother. I spend all day with my children. So when evening rolls around, if they want to watch American Idol, Ten Things I Hate About You, Glee, or whatever the heck else they want to watch in the family room with their father, I race to my bedroom or my study and hide away for as long as possible. No questions asked. And nowadays I head over to the local community college campus two nights a week for Beginners Italian. By the way, the professor's name is Valentino. But do I really have to call him "Professor" if I am old enough to be his mother - (if I had been a 19-year-old mom)???

6. The number on the bathroom scale or on the label at the back of a garment is a measure of your worth or strength or value or beauty or age or self-control. WHAT? I am 44 years old. Most of my friends are in their 30s or older. When am I going to stop measuring myself by those ridiculous numbers? Not that I should have paid attention to those numbers when I was in my teens or 20s either.

Someone I love dearly has struggled in the past 18 months with her weight - which has risen due to medication she takes. I know it's tough for her to see the number on the scale not go in the direction she wants it to go at the speed she wants it to change. I wish I could throw that darn scale out the window of her bathroom. I wish she would trust her body and herself to learn how to make good choices for food and movement and rest - and love herself every step of the way. Every single step.

I wish "society" didn't plant so many seeds of self-loathing and self-doubt in the fertile soil of our minds and souls with regard to our bodies. Our bodies carry us thru so many challenging situations and into so many victorious ones. Our bodies lift us and move us and hold us. Yet we torture them and starve them and hate them and punish them and never allow them to just be - and love them as they are, no matter what they weigh. Plus whatever odd rules and feelings we have about our own bodies, we often try to foist onto others. We try to tell each other what we are supposed to look like or weigh at a certain height and age. We tell each other what to eat and what not eat, whether or not to cut our hair, what vitamins and supplements and minerals to add or subtract from our regimens, and a whole host of other things. I am preaching to myself here, folks. I include myself in all of this --> I do this same kind of judging and belittling and advising of the people around me. Why can't we all just get along?

If you have a daughter or know and love a young girl or look for glimpses of your younger self when you peer into the mirror, tell her (and yourself) she is beautiful and strong and perfect just as she is right now. I need to do that next time I'm in front of the mirror and the next time I see my daughter. We both need to hear that simple and profound truth over and over again.

By the way, you are beautiful and perfect and strong just as you are right now.

7. Starve a cold; feed a fever. Or is it feed a cold and starve a fever. (This one was suggested by my husband.) WHAT? I try to eat when I'm  hungry - and when I'm not hungry too. After all, I don't want to take any chances on being underfed. I try to drink lots of water - but not wait until I am thirsty because by the time I feel thirsty, I'm most likely dehydrated already. And I try really hard not to get sick.

8. Eat your dinner/lunch first. Then have dessert. WHAT? One of the best lunches I have ever had was at a local restaurant called 131 Main. It consisted of key lime pie and a lemon drop martini. Yes, folks - a martini lunch - with pie. Yum, yum! I am planning to die with dessert in my stomach. But since I have no idea of when I'm going to die, I always try to have dessert on hand for spontaneous, "this might be the end of the world" consumption.

Care to share any of your favorite tidbits of conventional wisdom? Especially the ones you have rejected...

Monday, May 24, 2010

What the funk?

Andre Hairston has his own army. Loyal followers who attend his exercise classes all over the city of Charlotte. We, I mean they, join the Y or Sports Connection or simply cough up cold hard cash in order to be in his presence for an hour at a time, several times per week, in order to get our funk on, Cardio Funk that is. It's the real deal. Dancing and jumping and singing and doing jumping jacks and laughing and gulping down swigs of water between songs and hoping he'll come dance next to us, I mean them, and sweating, so much sweating. It is the toughest workout I've ever done - and also the most fun.

My daughter and I went to Funkytown last night. As I danced and shook my groove thang, I found myself getting annoyed. The woman in front of me was consistently off beat. Doing it all wrong. Why the heck did she have to be in front of me? And the woman in front of her was even worse.

So I told myself to keep my eyes on the floor. Just do my own thing. I know how to do the workout. I know what the moves are, so just do it. Keep my eyes on Andre or at least on somebody else who knows what the funk they are doing.

During the class, Andre makes us turn and face all four walls in the gym. He moves from place to place in the room and we, his loyal followers, follow him with our eyes and our bodies. When he's in the back of the room, we are all facing the back of the room. When he's at one side wall, we face that wall. Last night, I was all the way on the right side of the room - and at various points, when he would come over to my side of the room, I was aware that everyone in the room was behind me, facing me, but watching him. At those moments, I wondered if I was on beat, leading the processional well or leading others astray. How did my butt look in my shorts? Was my shirt covering everything that needed to be covered or was I displaying more than anyone in the room needed or wished to see? I was glad every time he moved on from my side of the gym. I was far more comfortable criticizing others for their faulty moves than I was with the thought that they might be criticizing me.

Care to take a listen to my inner dialogue during last night's class? Here goes:

Can these people even hear the music? Their moves are so wrong that maybe they can't hear it at all. Nobody can be this confused if they can actually hear the music.

But if they can't hear the music, then it is all the more impressive that they are here and moving their bodies and getting their sweat on anyway.

What is she doing here? She's already in great shape. Why doesn't she stay home and leave space for others who need this class?

What is he doing here? Since when do guys take workout classes like this? That's some outfit, dude. You don't look too crazy. Not at all.

It's too late for her; she will never catch on to the cardio funk craze. She may as well go get on a treadmill; she is a lost cause here.

Who am I kidding? It's too late for me too; I'm 44 years old. If I'm not in good shape at this point, it's never going to happen. I may as well stop now and head over to Fresh Market for cannoli and plum wine.

Gail, what are you doing thinking about this crap? Just move your body. Take care of your own business and stop judging everybody. What the funk are you thinking about all this stuff for?

Oh, shoot. There I go, losing the beat again. Keep your eyes on the prize, G. Keep moving.

What if it's okay for some people to never be on the beat? What if "being on beat" is simply another category that I have defined in order to judge others and try to make myself look or feel better? How many other such categories have I created?

You don't know anybody else's story, so you have no idea what it took to get each of these people here tonight. Nobody here knows your story either, so don't worry about what other people think of you. (Turns out that for the woman in front of the woman in front of me last night was her first time in the class. Once I found that out, my thoughts changed completely. For a first-timer, she had done quite well.)

Don't you remember? Everybody is so busy worrying about how they look and how they're doing that they have no time to think about what you're doing or how you look. People spend so much time thinking about themselves that they barely notice anyone else. Just like you, Gail. Just like you.

It is okay to close your eyes and do your own thing. You don't have to watch what anybody else is doing. You don't have to follow anybody else. And you can be wrong, too. You will frequently be wrong, in fact. Right now, you are wrong in how judgmental you are being. But sometimes being wrong is the right thing to be. Just don't stop moving. Don't stop dancing. Don't stop thinking or challenging yourself to think better and more clearly either.

Not even Andre gets it right every single time. But he sure does look like he's having fun every single time. And he is in fantastic shape.

Just shut up and dance. Or don't shut up - sing along with the songs. Laugh. Smile at other people. We are all in this sweat box together. Working hard. Making the most of a very difficult situation.

In spite of all that hyperdramatic psychobabble, I managed to get a great workout. And I recalled the time I took that class at a different Y and we steamed up the mirrors so much that, by the end of the hour, we couldn't see ourselves or each other at all. That was a fabulous moment for me: I can't see them. They can't see me. Freedom!

And absolutely no thing about that class made me think about my spiritual life.
Or my life with my husband and children.
Or my tattered and battered and delicately repaired friendships.
Or making the decision to leave our church.
Nothing at all.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I spend most of my day, most of my life, surrounded by family and friends.
Creating art, reading stories, taking and teaching classes.
Talking, laughing, listening to and telling stories.

Singing, dancing, exercising and watching television.
Driving, shopping, eating salad and drinking coffee.

But at the same time, I feel contentedly, happily, joyfully all alone.
At home in my inner solitude. At peace with my inner silence.
Ever aware that my heart and soul are mine to tend and nurture and protect.

Surrounded on all sides. Under observation. Close scrutiny.

Seen, but unseen.

Noticed, but unnoticed.

Known, but profoundly unknown.


Anonymity has its advantages.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The End of the Road

This week is a week of farewells. Not mine, fortunately.

My niece, Clare, has spent this academic year in Madrid, and will be making her way back to the States very soon. A dear friend, Judy, has spent this year teaching in Infantes, a tiny town a couple of hours outside of Madrid, and she too will be making her way across the ocean in the coming few days.

To say that I have been jealous of the time Clare and Judy have spent in Spain, traveling, learning, growing, changing, being transformed beyond all they could have hoped for or imagined, is to put it exceedingly mildly.

And, last but by no means least, Launa and her family, who have spent this year in a tiny town in France, are coming back to the States this weekend. Launa is someone I taught with for two years ages ago, but I feel like I have gotten to know her far better this year thru emails and blogs and facebook chats than I did in two years of living on the same boarding school campus and teaching the same students up in Connecticut.

As their sojourn there is drawing to a close, Launa has been writing some beautiful pieces on mystery and love and family and fear and lust and home (wherever that is...) and the wonder of her life journey - and by extension, our collective life journey.

Here's a bit of useless but tangentially relevant trivia - if you have seen or ever get the chance to see the movie, Away We Go, the scene in that movie where that young couple visits the wacky family at the University of Wisconsin - that scene was filmed at the school where Launa and I taught together: The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. The classroom they enter where they first meet up with their friend - I taught in the room next door to that one!!! More useless trivia - but totally irrelevant: that entire movie was filmed in Connecticut, every scene.

Traveling mercies to all three of you: Clare, Judy, and Launa. Not one of you has any idea how important you are in my life, how often I think of you and pray for you, and how much of an idol of mine you are.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dreaming in Spanish, dreaming of Spain

This evening at Barnes and Noble, I came across a book entitled Dreaming in Hindi, written by Katherine Russell Rich. It is the memoir of a woman who spent a year in India studying the Hindi language. After telling a funny story in the introduction of wrapping herself in a sari incorrectly and having it fall to the floor in front of several people in a temple in her adopted home city, the author wrote: "This book is about what happens if you allow yourself to get swept up by a passion. The short answer is this: inevitably, at some point, you come unwrapped."

Oh, the joy and danger and beauty and nakedness of  being swept up in a passion.
And there are so many passions to get swept into.

Here are a few of my personal favorites.

* journaling - with scissors and stickers and magazines and glue sticks and markers nearby

* Spain - the language, the food, the art, the architecture, the people, the land itself

* travel - packing, the airport, flying, arriving, discovering new vistas, adventures of all kinds

* reading - non-fiction, mostly. Art and artists. Travel. Journaling. Making travel sacred.

* love - doesn't love, in all its forms, sweep us up and away? The love of spouses and lovers. The love of family members. The love of friends. The love of the ones who defy explanation and definition, the ones who live across the country or across the ocean and carry with them a significant chunk of your soul grafted onto their own.

Picking up that book tonight reminded me of that fateful morning in the fall of 1986 when I awoke from a night of deep sleep in Madrid and realized that I had dreamt in Spanish. In another language. I think that was the same day that I realized that my soul had found its resting place right there on the Calle Irati.

When I was in Spain this past September, I walked back to that tiny street, only one block long, and stood across the street from that house, staring, smiling, remembering, feeling very much at home. Again.

I remembered walking to school many mornings because I didn't have enough money to take the bus, but I loved every minute of it, every step. I remembered sitting on park benches early that semester, watching children play, running, shouting to one another in a language I had yet to understand, nevermind master. I remembered that as the semester drew to a close, I had the thrill of being able to give directions to passersby, some tourists and some locals, who were lost. I remember one person asking me if I'd been born in Spain. Who, me?

September 2009 - Gazing into the eyes of my young Spanish soul -
embodied in the infant daughter of the boyfriend I had in 1986...
that story deserves a-whole-nother blog.

Now that I think about it, I was born in Spain. Born again. Born anew. It was in Madrid that I came unwrapped. My identity as an American, as a New Yorker who happened to attend college in Massachusetts and happened to have chosen to spend a semester in Spain, was pulled off and thrown away. What I saw when I looked beneath the wrapping, what I saw when I looked in the mirror, when I looked at the pages of my journal, and when I looked deep into my soul, was the truth that I am a Madrilena, a Spaniard, who happened to be born in Brooklyn and to have spent most of my life in the United States.

That's what I look like in Madrid, 
a portrait of contentment.

It was in Madrid that I began to dream in the language my mouth, heart, and soul still turn to whenever I am angry and in love and most happy and most sad. It was in Madrid that I recognized that I am most happy when I am alone. Alone walking. Alone eating. Along looking at art. Alone looking at people. Alone - knowing that no one who knows me knows where I am or what I'm doing. Alone - and at peace. My soul came unwrapped.

A horrible Madrid sunrise last September-
it was the morning of the day I left Spain to return to the States

It was there in Madrid in the fall of 1986  that I granted every single one of my passions space to grow - travel, journaling, reading, walking, solitude, and love. That fateful, life-changing, soul-awakening fall. And it is to Madrid that I return as often as possible - which has added up to more than 20 trips since that first one. When I cannot return there physically, I pull out photos and journals and momentos of other kinds and I remember who I am and where I belong - and for just a few moments, I go home.

I dreamt in Spanish for the first time nearly 24 years ago.
I have dreamt of Spain nearly every night since.

And all it took to bring all that back to mind was the title of a book on the Memoirs table at a local bookstore: Dreaming in Hindi.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

8 Things - Small Gratitudes

Magpie Girl has a wonderful little thing she does every week called 8* Things. I love her lists. And this week, I decided to imitate her and make a list of eight things I am grateful for tonite.

1. Breaking and entering into my mother's apartment with a dear friend - and sipping rose brut while laughing and crying and eating red velvet cupcakes and planning our own private prison break

2. Prismacolor markers in a rainbow of colors

3. cardio funk class - breaking a serious sweat

4. the impending visit of Lisa!!!

5. the season's first sweet, seedless watermelon

6. getting our shower fixed - no more dripping

7. Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap

8. you tube videos on art journaling, especially this one and this one.
I actually made a journal for myself based on that first video. Yay!!!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Feeling like an imposter...

It's Mother's Day. I awoke to coffee made by my hubby. Then a gift bag full of goodies. A magnificent lunch a few hours later. Time with a new and dear friend while sipping smoothies on a gorgeous afternoon. Now I'm back at home. Reading. Eating key lime pie. Sipping ice water. It has been a fantastic day.

So why do I feel like an imposter?

From the moment I left the hospital with Kristiana and the birthing center with Daniel nearly three years later, I have felt like an imposter as a mother. Who me? Fully responsible for raising these kids? Then making the insane decision to homeschool them? When "the parenting police" find out about me, how disorganized I am, how infrequently I actually make lesson plans, how haphazardly I clean and cook and do laundry, then "they" will intervene and send "a real mom" to take care of these kids. And when these children, now teenagers, wake up and discover how deeply flawed and insecure and imperfect and downright selfish I am, they will contact "the parenting police," request reassignment, and kick my sorry self to the curb.

And not only that - what about this marriage thing? Who me? Spend the rest of my life with one man? Submit to him? Watch sports with him forever? Cook for, clean up after, and be responsible and accountable to one man forever? Endure the sounds and smells and needsand demands of one man? Forever?

Let me reiterate here - and not only because Steve occasionally reads my blog, but also because it is absolute truth - my husband is the most generous, kind, gentle man I have ever known, other than my father. He doesn't "allow" me to travel alone and take classes and go out with my friends and buy books and journals and art supplies whenever I want to. He ENCOURAGES me to do all of the above - often. But the dichotomy between what I think about marriage and the reality of my marriage is exactly the point: I often feel like an imposter in my own life. When he figures out how selfish and mean-spirited and ungrateful and resentful I am most of the time, he too will request reassignment and send me packing.

And don't let me get started on how much of an imposter I KNOW that I am every time I set foot into church. Who me? Obey all those rules? Be perfect? Love with unconditional love? Sing every verse of every song in tune? Attend all those classes and studies and live them out in daily life? Pretend I don't notice the imbalance of power and unbalanced leaders? Translate from one language to another in front of 350+ people on a weekly basis - when I'm not off playing hooky with family or by myself?

If those people only knew the truth about what I think and feel and believe...
No, let me restate that - WHEN those people find out the truth...

I am becoming more and more convinced that when the wall around my soul finally comes down, as I choose to reveal more layers of myself to my husband, my children, my friends, my cotravelers on this faith journey I'm on, as we all do that, tell our stories, share our sadness and our joyfullness, as we ask for help when we need it and accept it when it is offered, we will all breathe several deep sighs of relief. We will all see how flawed and beautiful and fearful and whole and strong and overwhelmed we all are and feel at times - sometimes all at the same time.

Currently, I'm reading a book entitled: Beneath the Mask of Holiness: Thomas Merton and the Forbidden Love Affair that Set Him Free. That title alone is enough to prompt a long series of journal entries and potential blog posts... but I digress.

In the book, the author explains the background to and the actuality of a relationship Thomas Merton had with a student nurse in the mid-1960's. The section I'm in right now is focusing on Merton's deep discontent as a monk, as a man set apart from the world, and as a person who felt he'd never learned to love women selflessly before becoming a monk and was uncertain if he could ever love God selflessly as a monk. He felt like an imposter.

I get that. I sooooo get that.

On page 134 of the book, Merton is described this way: The catalyst for Merton's final steps to truly loving God, and God alone, was the gift of Margie, but before this could occur, Merton realized he needed to cast away the dark side that had been shadowing him before and, most surprisingly, during, his days as a monk. Few had any idea such a blemished, flawed Merton existed since, as biographer Michael Mott noted, "[Merton] had always kept, and was always to keep, his inner turmoil from others. At most, they would notice that he seemed preoccupied." Father Basil Pennington called Merton "a very private person," and fellow monk Father Timothy Kelly agreed. After reading portions of Merton's private journals, he noted "[I never knew] the amount of struggle he was going through... none of this came through in a personal relationship. I had no idea all that was going on."

That's what journals are for. That's what friends are for. That's what silence and solitude are for. To provide and hold space for our selves and each other to peel off the masks of holiness and perfection, to process the flaws and scars and blemishes, fears and doubts, the sorrows and tears, the love and lust, all of it. We can be preoccupied sometimes. Deeply private at others. We can struggle sometimes. And walk with our heads held high at others. All the while, we grow and thrive and are being transformed in a safe place where we learn to love our selves and each other as we really are. Naked and unafraid. Laid bare. Nestled in a cocoon of love and patience and tenderness as we await the growth of our new skin and our wings.

The great thing is that as I take chances with telling the truth about what I need and want and dream and hope for, as I tell Steve, tell my children, tell my friends, and most importantly, as I tell myself the whole truth and nothing but the truth, gradually these feelings of being an imposter will fade. In actuality, they are already fading.

I am a wife. Restless and relentless.
I am a mother. Unprepared and unsure.
I am a daughter and a sister - and a whole lot of other things.
Complicated, contented, expectant, exhausted, hungry and hopeful - and whole lot of other things.
I am not an imposter.
I am the real thing.

PS. If you are interested in knowing more about Thomas Merton's forbidden love affair, read Learning to Love, the 6th volume of his journals. It is one of my favorite books.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

For strong women, women of strength, and those of us who wanna be both...

This was sent to me earlier this week from a dear friend... Thanks, Miakoda.
I send this out to you, some of the strongest women (and men) I know.

A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape ...
But a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape...

A strong woman isn't afraid of anything ..
But a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear...

A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her ...
But a woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone...

A strong woman makes mistakes and attempts to avoid making the same ones in the future...
A woman of strength realizes life's mistakes can also be God's blessings...

A strong woman walks sure footedly...
But a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls...

A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face ...
But a woman of strength wears grace...

A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey ...
But a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

He told the truth...where?

I"ll never forget the time I heard someone say: "I'm gonna be honest with you. There's a part of me that I'm saving, keeping for myself, in case this whole God thing doesn't work out."

It was a pastor, speaking from the pulpit one Sunday night.
It was the most honest, humble, risky thing I've ever heard in church.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Breaking out of prison...

There's a page in my most recent journal that has a magazine cut out at the top of a page. The cut out is the title of an article from a local newspaper I picked up back in December in North Myrtle Beach: "Leaving the Prison of Shoulds: A Journey into Authenticity."

I am doing just that: leaving the prison of shoulds. Digging a hole in the wall of my cell. Hiding the dirt in my pants pockets every time I go outside to walk the dog. Breaking free. One day at a time. One "should" at a time. Here are a few of the bars I'm slowly cutting my way through.

* I should get up at 6 am, before everyone else gets up, and do something profound and important.

* I should have a well-crafted plan for every day from breakfast until bedtime.

* I should be reading the classics with my children, teaching them both latin and classical music, and preparing them for an ivy league education that will be paid for with full academic scholarships.

* I should have done more research before choosing our many doctors, dentists, and, most recently, our orthodontist.

* I should not have given up my Jaguar and gone back to my minivan.

* I should go back to teaching after the kids are off to college.

* I should never invite internet friends home.

* I shouldn't buy so many pens, paints, markers, journals, or pads of watercolor paper.

* I should relax, loosen up, and be authentically me.

* I should answer the phone every time it rings.

* I should always say "yes" whenever anyone asks me to do something.

* I should be good and kind and polite and loving and patient all the time.

* I should understand my role as a wife and mother and daughter and daughter-in-law and and church member never question those roles. Ever.

* I should have nothing but great things to report when someone asks me how I'm doing.

* I should write a blog post two or three times each week. And what I write had better be of substance. Fluff, not allowed.

* I should read all of my friends' blogs religiously and leave comments on each one.

* I should not eat candy or meat or bread or blue corn chips or red australian licorice or anything with artificial flavors, colors, or any chemicals whatsoever.

* And I should definitely not eat anything, good for me or bad for me, after 7 pm.

* I should be available to anyone and everyone all the time.

* I should answer every question I'm asked and every email and text that I receive.

* I should go on Facebook more regularly, respond to status changes, photo uploads, and comments on my status.

* I should not have any secrets from anyone for any reason.

* I should talk about my faith all the time, after all, everything relates to faith somehow.

* I should go to church every time the doors open.
When I get there, I am should sit down and shut up - because, after all, I'm a woman.

* I should be more submissive, more quiet, more feminine, less opinionated, less outspoken, less aggressive.

* I should stop making lists of all the "shoulds" I need to break free from.

* I should stop blaming my ridiculous list of shoulds on anyone else and take full ownership of all the impossible rules I set for myself.

* I should expect other people to understand my faith~life journey and support me on it.

* After a very sweaty zumba workout at the Y this evening, I should go take a nice, hot shower.

Wait - I should hang onto those last few "shoulds" on the list.