My face is falling.

When my daughter was about four years old, she looked at me very seriously, tapped my cheek and said in the saddest voice, “Oh, mommy. Your face is falling.” I don’t know if I had frowned or if she noticed the fine wrinkles that had started to show up around my eyes and cheeks. Whatever the case, at that time I thought what she said was funny! Aw! So cute. After all, I wasn’t “old”! And pshaw! I certainly wasn’t vain.

But she’s twelve now, and her prophetic words have started to come true. My. Face. Is. Falling. I have to admit, for years I felt kind of…hopeful. Smug, even. That maybe I’d age astoundingly better than other women of my age. Oh, it was all a delightful fantasy! One day about eight months ago…I woke up and shuffled down the hallway to get my morning coffee and thought…what’s up with my eyes? They feel so weird. My eyelids were smushing my eyelashes. Were my eyes just swollen from a bad case of allergies?

No, my friends. At some point in the night, just like that (**snap!**) my upper eyelids had done a little landslide down the mountain and now rested against my lower eyelids. Worse yet, they STAYED there. It’s changed the way I look, even causing a little crease at the corner of my eyes. This change, added to my neck, that’s decided to start doing the limbo (LOWER!) and my hair that is now (Boing! Boing! Boing! turning gray and wiry, has forced me to face reality and acknowledge that yes—apparently I’m at least a little vain, because these changes, if I have to be completely honest, bother me.

Mind you, when I talk about vanity, I don’t mean I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror admiring myself and obsessing over my appearance, I just mean the idea of saying goodbye to my younger self is a little unsettling. It means…changes. A graduation of sorts, to “the next part” of life. It’s normal to feel this way, isn’t it?
I’ve always been determined to age gracefully. So…how to do that. I’m not sure, I’m still working through that part. Here are some of my current strategies:

1. I wear sunscreen. Sun damage is the cause of a lot of my aging issues. I’ve got sunspots and wrinkles from spending days at the lake and several years living in Panama, before anyone cared about sunscreen. I used to have the best tan. Now I’m paying for it. No need to compound the damage with more.
2. Makeup. I’ve realized: LESS IS BETTER! And that frosty, shimmery eye shadow is NOT my friend.
3. I indulge in skin care/cosmetic products that work for me. For example, I love products with argan oil in them.
4. I’m more careful of my diet. I’ve gone really heavy on the veggies, and have started working more organic, clean foods into my diet. It’s not about counting calories or losing weight, but about feeling better.
5. I drink a lot of water. I’ve also replaced diet sodas with LaCroix sparkling water.
6. I’ve become more active. I just FEEL better when I’m outside and moving and doing something.
7. Most importantly, I look at the beautiful women I admire so much. My mom, my grandmother, my aunt and mother-in-law, and so many other lovely women who are part of my life every day. They are gorgeous and smart, and have shown that age is something to be proud of—not concealed or ashamed of. Each year of our lives is a blessing. It’s important to measure them by the meaningful relationships we enjoy with the people we love, and our accomplishments, big and small. Not by the lines on our faces.

How about you? Do you have any strategies to share for aging gracefully? Is it something that troubles you—or not at all?

Oh, the Things You Can Do

“Hi, this is Danger*. He has autism.”

This is becoming a common introduction in my day. And while ago it’s one I couldn’t have managed to make so easily. But as time and acceptance have gone on its become easier to simply say the words that will help other people relate to my son.

When I think back on the journey I can see how far I’ve come. How far we have all come. For some reason I was always afraid I would have a child with autism. It was the thing I didn’t want to deal with. The thing I prayed I would be spared. I don’t know why, I only know that the idea of it terrified me. That the thought of raising a child with those particular special needs seemed bleak.

The diagnosis came slowly, starting with an evaluation when he was not quite two that left us with the evaluator saying: he shows characteristics in keeping with other children who have mild to moderate autism.

I remember sitting on the floor and holding him, crying. Because I knew then. I knew that this was the path we would walk no matter how much it scared me. No matter how much I had hoped, even before having children, that this would not be my life.

But then I realized that he was still the same child I had held in my arms only two hours before. Before those words were spoken. Before any diagnosis was made. A lot of the fear that I had felt, a lot of the crushing worry over the realization that I did have a child with autism was eased. Because I knew this child. And I already loved him.

I think it’s easy to look around at the hardships other people face and think that we could never endure that. That they must be particularly strong, or brave. But I think what it comes down to is that those of us who can face our fears and come out the other side not only surviving, but thriving do so because of love.

I think of myself as a normal parent. I am a normal parent. A normal person.

I’m stumbling through the same as anyone else, making mistakes, sometimes feeling sorry for myself, readjusting my expectations, readjusting my perspective.

But we aren’t just surviving, we are thriving. Autism isn’t something I have to endure. It isn’t something that has come into my life to steal the joy, as I imagined it would be. I didn’t think I would be up to this challenge, but my perspective on it was all wrong. Like all parenting, like all of life, it is a daily challenge. Sometimes we get knocked down by it, but then we get back up and keep going because it’s all anyone can do.

I look back on the frightened mother that I was, holding her child, feeling like the weight of all her deepest fears was resting on her and I can only be happy that I was wrong about my future. Because it was not something to be endured, but something to be embraced.

I’ve learned that when love crashes into a challenge, that challenge doesn’t stand a chance. Love makes so many hard things easy. It makes walking into the frightening things possible. I suppose this is why the greatest is love.

You all know from previous blog posts that this isn’t always easy, but nothing is. We all have challenges whether they’re small ones on any given day, or marathon challenges the stretch on for months, years. But it is amazing what we can do. It is amazing what we can do with a smile on our faces.

I know I’m amazed at how something that terrified me so much, something I was afraid would destroy everything I had, has become a part of our lives in such a way that I can’t even imagine it lifting out. It’s a part of what makes the shape of our family. A family that is imperfect, but held together by love.

Life presents us with so many unexpected challenges, and it’s tempting to sit down sometimes and cry. That’s what I did. But in the end I got back up. And that’s the important part.

Whatever your challenges, keep moving. Keep going. Keep loving. You are stronger than you think you are.

*the names of the Dangerous have been changed

Taking Care of You

Hi I’m Maisey, and I don’t excel at taking care of me.

I’m currently in wrist braces and battling wicked tendonitis/RSI after having finished another book. The pain was bad enough that I ended up spending the past few days resting. And when I couldn’t take that anymore…experimenting with dictation software and finally coughing up the money to get a new keyboard that will hopefully help my existence be more ergonomic.

I’ve been sort of facing the fact that I don’t take very good care of me.

I mean, I do in some ways, I don’t lie. I cater highly to my vanity. Hair appointments and eyebrow waxing is a big thing for me. And it gets done. Though, it took me a few years and actually having to face the idea of going to conferences to get there.

I’m vain (not detrimentally so…but you know a bit. Just being honest) so I actually do okay with hair, makeup, maintaining my weight, etc. But what *I* tend to ignore are the things that people can’t see.

My stress. The muscles in my neck and back. My tendons. The fact that I’m eating CRAPPY food.

So back to my tendons. The thing is, no one can take care of this for me. No one can monitor this but me. I think we all have those **things** in our lives. For me, it’s my wrists and hands. For me it’s heaping on high levels of stress that I simply don’t deal with (complete with hives!) or let anyone else know I’m dealing with.

These things affect my quality of life, they affect my ability to do my job. But I tend to operate in a manner that shoves my concerns for those things aside.

Why? In part to avoid worrying the people in my life. In part to avoid worrying me. In part because ALL OF ME doesn’t want to do less because I love to do EVERYTHING and I fear missing out on anything that might be important.

But I realize that I can’t keep ignoring this stuff. I’ve been realizing it for a while. I’ve been slowly changing my work space. I bought a better chair for my desk. We bought a massage chair. Now the keyboard and the wrist braces. And the voice recognition which, let me tell you I was dragged to kicking and screaming because nothing about it is natural to me as a writer. BUT the fact remained that I needed to pause and reevaluate the level I put my own health on.

Frankly, it wasn’t that high. And that’s not good.

I’m not big on extremes. For me, everything is about moderation. (FINE except for how much I write in a year. But everything else!) So my goals are to eat more vegetables (I’ve been replacing my cookie calories with salad ones…and yes, I do feel better) pay attention to my aches and pains and address them. Switch to voice recognition when I have tendon pain (because for me, not writing at all just won’t work). Walking every day again to get my muscle tone back. And to be honest with my husband and TALK about things when I’m stressed, rather than shoving it all down.

In my head, I often imagine that making changes requires extreme measures. ALL paleo or running miles every day, taking weeks off of writing to heal up my wrists, etc. But I’ve found that when I look at incremental changes, I’m much more likely to improve things for myself, than when I’m staring down whole lifestyle changes.

So this is me trying to take better care of me. I’ve only got one body and I need to be kind to it! And the same goes for all of you. Take care of you, because you’re the only one who can evaluate some of these things, and you’re the only one who can make the proper changes for you. Change, positive steps don’t have to be drastic, they don’t have to be all or nothing. Even small changes can make a big impact.

A Letter to My Sons

First of all, pull up your pants. No one wants to see your underwear. Okay, now we can get started.

Boys, there are a lot of messages out there about what being a man means. Or at least about what being cool is, I’m not sure anyone’s as concerned with being a man in popular culture as they are with fitting in with the most desirable crowd. Which seems to often have something to do with bad posture and disrespecting women or authority, but I guess that’s nothing new.

Belittling others to elevate yourself, calling attention to anything different and mocking it, seems to have become part of the definition of masculinity. Using your strength to overpower others and to push them down seems to have become part of the Be A Man mantra. That isn’t what your strength is meant for. Your strength is a gift, and you can use it to build. You can use it to lift up. Be a man who creates. A man who empowers and emboldens others. That’s a man with true strength. A man who doesn’t fear difference, but learns from it. A man who is so strong, he’s happy to celebrate the strength of other people.

Sometimes I think society seeks to absolve you of any wrongdoing, and that does you no favors. So I’ll tell you right now: You’re responsible for your actions. You’re responsible for how you treat others.

I don’t care what a woman wears, what it covers or what it doesn’t. What rumors you’ve heard about her. What she does or what she doesn’t do, you will treat her with respect. You will treat her like a human being. And please, please don’t let your friends do differently.

If you treat a person with disrespect, it’s not because of what they’re wearing or how they talk or who they love. It’s because of something in you. You have to take the responsibility for the way you treat people, and for the consequences of that treatment. So treat everyone with kindness, with love, don’t be afraid to put others before you. Because love is the greatest, so act with love.

If you see someone, a girl or a boy, in a situation where they might be hurt, help them. If you can’t help, call the police. Call me. I don’t care if you’re somewhere you weren’t supposed to be. I don’t care if people are drinking. Too many people stand by and watch as someone is assaulted or raped, and that has to change. It has to start somewhere.

That’s where you can use your strength. That’s where you should use your strength. To protect. To stand up for what’s right.

It’s good to be smart. Don’t let anyone make you feel badly about that. Study and learn, and never stop learning.

Women aren’t accessories, they aren’t objects to use as a right of passage. You will treat women with respect. All women. See above.

Sex doesn’t make you a man. Respect yourself. Yeah, you heard me. Don’t do anything just because someone tells you to. Sometimes things feel good, but it doesn’t mean they’re right. Very often the right thing, isn’t the easy thing.

Stand firm in your convictions and don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with. Be a leader even if it means walking away from your friends.

There’s no shame in emotion. There’s no shame in being who you are. That’s the strength we were talking about before. That pack mentality, the idea that you have to conform yourself to fit a societal idea of what being a man is, comes from weakness and insecurity. Don’t reshape yourself to look like everyone else. Not when you were born to stand out. Not when you were born to be more.

Yes, other people might not understand. They might not like it. But it takes people who are bold enough to be different to change the world. And in the end, you’ll be better off being you.

The world will be better for having you in it. Mine already is.

This letter sounds like a challenge, and that’s because it is. Life is a challenge, but I know you’re up to it. I’m not saying these things to you because I believe you would ever be terrible to anyone – I don’t. I think you’re perfect. I think you’re wonderful. But these are things that have to be said. They have to be, because bad things keep happening. And if no one acknowledges it, how will they get better? If no one asks their boys to stand up and be men, and change some of the idea of what that means, then how will it change?

I’m only asking you to change the world, that’s not so hard, right?

But it’s only because I know you’re that extra sort of special.  Only because you’ve already changed me. Because having you both has made me better. Stronger.

And I love you. Always.

Mom

The Modesty Fashion Trend: What Do YOU Think of It?

Is modesty about being ashamed of your body? Does modesty mean hiding yourself away and looking like a grandma at age 16 or 25? Or is modesty about revealing your dignity? Letting your true feminine beauty shine?

Those are the questions posed by this articulate young woman in the video below. She used her MBA to create a bathing suit line with Audrey Hepburn as her inspiration.

I think moms everywhere eventually grapple with this issue when it comes to clothing their daughters. How much is too much when it comes to sexy outfits? Should Little Suzy wear that leopard-spotted underwear set when she’s five or six? I remember how hard it was to find my daughter dresses with hemlines below her thighs when she was 13 and I just wanted to get her something I thought would be appropriate for church or a wedding.

All over the internet modesty fashion sites are popping up not just for kids but for adult women, too. Some reference the Bible as their inspiration, but not everyone is into modesty based on religious principle. Some people are simply shy. Or not interested in sexualizing themselves for public consumption.

I myself have the goal of getting back into a bikini. Why? It will be my reward for exercising and eating right. And I like feeling free to bask in the sun–as much of me as possible–when on the beach. If and when I wear that bikini again, it will be for me. I can’t imagine that I’ll be torturing any man, LOL!

But hey, getting serious again: Are we women to be responsible for men’s reactions to us in bikinis or any other skimpy outfits? Or should men work on that themselves? Can they? 

I offer this video, “The Evolution of the Bikini,” as a springboard for discussion. Go to it, ladies!

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead: The Documentary

fatsicknearlydeadOn Netflix I just watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, the documentary about the Australian man, Joe Cross, who had chronic hives and was overweight and got better by going on a 60-day juicing fast. I’ve heard so much about this film, and I’ve always rolled my eyes because of the title. It’s so melodramatic (the movie poster doesn’t win me over, either). I decided not to watch it. Almost nothing annoys me more than quick fix fad diets, general food quackery, and the people who try to sell you on these outrageous “nutrition plans.” It’s personal–when you have someone in your family who’s gone through an eating disorder, you get protective. I don’t like the word “fast.” I don’t like anything involving food that is extreme.

So anyway, I only watched the movie because yesterday, our youngest son Dragon, a teen, was diagnosed with hives that may or may not be recurrent. The whole idea scares me…he already has a dangerous tree nut allergy and mild asthma, and now, it seems, when Dragon’s core body temperature heats up, his brain gets his histamine levels going and he responds with hives. This is my beloved athlete son. I hate that health issues could stand between him and his soccer dreams in any way. Already his other dream of going to the Naval Academy, where his dad and grandfather went, has pretty much bitten the dust. They don’t let anyone in with asthma or food allergies (we’re still hoping he can get a medical waiver, but chances are slim to none).

When I got home from the allergist, I started reading about other people with this recurrent hive problem that Dragon may have, and it wasn’t pretty. It got me more and more worried. I have to stay grounded and believe that Dragon’s case won’t go that far. You know how the internet can scare you. But one thing leaped out at me in my research: someone recommended the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

It was a sign. I had to watch it, even though when my own beloved sister asked me to watch it last month, I said no. I had no idea that Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead had anything to do with hives until yesterday’s perusal of the internet after the allergy doctor visit. I thought it was only about weight loss. I downloaded it immediately and watched it avidly because let me tell you–it’s fascinating. It’s also uplifting and inspiring.

It’s not just hives that may get better when you consume a lot of micronutrients through juicing vegetables and fruits: many illnesses can essentially be cured or alleviated. Think diabetes, heart disease, chronic migraines, and a host of other health problems.

The content of this documentary is grounded in good science, too. Dr. Joel Fuhrman was on it–he’s the guy who wrote the national bestseller Eat To Live, which Elise has talked about before. I read that book a year ago and decided that I couldn’t go as far as what Dr. Fuhrman recommends, which is an all-plant diet, basically. But he’s right, and everyone in the medical world agrees: a plant-based diet is the healthiest diet. It’s just that many of us don’t want to commit to that lifestyle.

So, back to the movie, it’s really given me hope that maybe if we incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diet–in a major, semi-extreme way–that Dragon’s hive symptoms might be seriously alleviated. Plus, going from 5% of our diet being fruits and veggies to anything higher can only help. That statistic applies to almost every American: only 5% of what we consume is fruits and vegetables. Sixty percent of what we eat is processed foods.

I never realized it, but I am living an extreme life already–an unhealthy one. I want to flip flop those percentages. I want 60% of my diet to be fruits and vegetables and only 5% processed foods!

As I begin this journey, which will start with purchasing a juicer today–an inexpensive one under $100–I’m a little scared. It’s costly, juicing. But the farmers’ market opens this weekend. I should be able to buy huge bundles of kale and spinach at a reasonable price. And as the documentary points out, we spend much more money on prescription pills and getting better from horrible things like heart attacks than we would if we’d only try to prevent these diseases from happening. And I especially like that Mr. Cross makes very clear that we need to move our bodies. At the end of the movie, he says it’s about so much more than juicing and/or fasting–good health is about balance.

Watch the movie. I think you’ll enjoy it. One thing that struck me was how every single overweight person on it admitted that it’s his or her own fault that they keep choosing to eat fast food and chicken fried steak. Some wanted to change their habits but were afraid or didn’t know how. Others decided that they’d rather die young and happy, so they planned to keep eating themselves to an early grave, consuming truly unhealthy foods because it brought them pleasure. Everyone has to decided for themselves how they want to live. This documentary reminds us that it’s not about the food–it’s really about us, what we believe, and what we want from this one, precious life we’re given.

Do you juice? Have you seen this documentary? What percentage of your diet is fruits and vegetables?


Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 23 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job.

My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a junior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college sophomore; and my youngest, Dragon, is in ninth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

www.kierankramerbooks.com

20 Things More Beautiful Than Super Model Perfection

Your Sexiest Summer EVER! Crazy-Easy WEIGHT LOSS, Frizz-Free Hairstyles, 60 Products You’ll LOVE, and Summer Beauty 911!!!  Those are the headlines I found when sitting down with magazines tonight. I’ll confess. It’s a magazine I like to flip through. But I also like to flip through Yoga Journal, which greeted me with this: HOW TO FIND THE COURAGE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

I’ve been thinking a lot since last week’s blog on the Pursuit of Perfect, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got two or three more follow-ups in me, but this is something that’s been burning a hole in me: the truth about beauty. We, as a society, spend gobs of money and time and effort and frustration on the (never-ending) pursuit, but at the end of the day, that which is most beautiful,  sustaining, soul-nourishing, most capable of turning your life around,  will never come in a bottle….

Smiles

Laughter

Hugs

Holding hands

Love

Friendship

Grace

Faith

Hope

Imagination

Creativity

Passion

Inner-Peace

Confidence

Courage

Sense of self

Humility

Compassion

Acceptance

Forgiveness

If we spent as much (money and time and effort) on pursuing from this list…can you even imagine???

I can.