The Sum of A Woman

Have you’ve all heard about the viewer who wrote into a station in his local area (La Crosse, WI) to express his shock at the body size of a news anchor. No?

Please watch.

After the first view, I didn’t think it sounded like bullying. I was ready to say she was overreacting.

After losing 40+ lbs I have carried similar feelings – I want to demonstrate health and strength for my children, I don’t care about being “thin” necessarily, though I will congratulate myself on a smaller jean size. As a medical professional I see the effects of obesity on a daily basis. People don’t call the ambulance because they are obese … but their obesity causes so many issues that leave them unhealthy. (This doesn’t touch on medical conditions that cause obesity, of course.)

Then I put myself in her shoes. She was the one speaking up to say that she was bullied – so I considered how I would feel if that email were directed to me.

And then I got it.

The line in which he becomes a bully is “Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”

The writer was seeking to demean and humiliate her. Imagine if you saw a child struggling to read and said “surely you don’t think you are reading” or a person with a disability and said “surely you don’t think you are just like everyone else” … or an overweight teen … “surely you don’t think you are good enough to be ask out” or a fellow blogger or Facebooker, “surely you don’t think we care about your opinion”. The phrase “surely you don’t” seeks to turn an individual’s own positive reinforcement upside down …

Each day we put ourselves out into the world, and unless you are 100% confident in yourself, 100% of the time … we all have a little bit of “I got this” and “I can do this” self-talk going on.

His words, while not necessarily the low-hanging, vile fruit of bullies we see on Twitter, are from a place where he feels that:

a) he is superior, and therefore better able to inform her of her position as NOT A ROLE MODEL, and

b) her physical appearance is the sum total of what a role model is to others, (apparently) particularly to young women.

A successful working woman (college graduate and anchor for 11 years at the same station), mother to three girls (one is a toddler), who is good at her job, supportive of her children, and who was a self-proclaimed “jock” for many years who still plays volleyball, softball, and tennis … and yet the number on the scale negates anything else she’s done in her life?

Using his logic – where he places a value on her size and disregards any unknown facts about her as a person – she could in fact be a vile, murderous, child-molesting freak … but if she was a healthy weight, she would qualify as a role model.

No thank you, sir.

My value is not defined by the size of my ass or the perkiness of my breasts.

The true sum of who I am, is not found on the scale.

In fact, it can’t be found anywhere outside of my body. Because I – like the writer of that email – may be at a healthy weight. And he and I may puff out our chests and say Oh How Great Are The Number of Push-Ups I Can Do!

But what good is that?

Unless you are lighting the path for someone else rather than pointing out their dark corner, unless you are reaching out to LOVE someone and not SHAME them, unless you are lifting someone up and not pushing them under … Just keep your commentary to yourself.

It’s not that I WOULD… but I COULD.

I once read a blog post that started with the statement,”I am an extreme mom”, and it took me a few paragraphs in before I realized she meant “I’m a better mom than you”. The gist of her point was that because she spent almost every waking minute with her baby and enjoyed each moment, she was a better mom, a more extreme mom… like, Ultra Mom. Or Mega Mom. She’s the Venti Mom to my Grande Mom.

I think my response was something along the lines of “um… you have a baby. Sooooo come back when your kid actually, you know, acts like a kid”.

Because at some point, your kid is going to misbehave and actually make you kind of angry.

How extreme is it to be screaming into a pillow and locking yourself in the bathroom for a little r&r?

I think maybe your extreme and mine? They aren’t really the same.

Many people have seen the “creative” way one dad punished his daughter for her disrespectful Facebook post. Here’s the Cole’s Note’s version: he said if she ever repeated a previous egregious Facebook posting error of criticizing her parents … he would put a bullet through her computer. She did. So he did.

His logic was that he was following through with what he said he would do.

Some say he’s being a bully, some say he’s hilarious. Some wish they had the cojones, some think the girl should be taken away from the crazy gun-totin’ Republican. (Cause he has to be a Republican to own a gun, right? And have a drawl. And be an anal disciplinarian. Right? I mean why couldn’t some really cool Canadian do this, eh?)

I think he’s just another example of extreme parenting. And at some point in our parenting career we all have moments of extreme parenting.

“If you ever…”

“I will never…”

“.. grounded until college!”

“… over my dead body!”

“… it will be taken away forever!”

I am pretty sure more than one of these has left my lips over my 10+ year parenting marathon. In fact just this morning I wa threatening to withhold something from my son that I really, really didn’t want to take away from him. As soon as the words were spoken I cringed. I did NOT want to follow through. And that’s the thing with using threats to elicit compliance from your kids. Either they will work or you will have to follow through. And they won’t always work.

In fact, if you were ever a kid like me growing up, you would have pushed past any limit your parents set down just to prove that you knew exactly how to play brinksmanship and you were going to WIN. Yes, it was about WINNING.

I was like the Charlie Sheen of teenagers. Without the drugs.

Or the hookers.

Or, really, the illegal behaviour.

But I had extra helpings of attitude and stubbornness.

Anyway, I am certain my children are my mother’s payback. And the proper discipline of said children is something that I may never, ever WIN at. Because it’s damn hard and frustrating and there are days when I could go off the deep end and shoot a computer. Or hockey bag. Or beloved stuffie.

But we do have a few rules regarding discipline in our house:

1. No punishment is valid if handed out in anger.

2. Parents should apologize when wrong.

It would be wonderful if these two rules prevented poor parenting behaviour, but they don’t. Just like rules for behaviour don’t prevent misbehaviour. They just help get back on track when things have gone off the rails. Before these two rules were in place, I felt like such a parenting failure when I’d have to half-heartedly enforce some punishment I felt bad for doling out in the first place. Because if I’d been calm and had my wits about me, I would have done something a little smarter and more effective.

The epilogue of the gun-toting father is kind of a funny one.

Truthfully though the social attention has helped her and I both deal with it. We had our discussion about it after she returned home from school. We set the ground rules for her punishment, and then I let her read some of the comments on Facebook with me at my computer. At first it was upsetting. Then as we read it became less so, eventually funny to both of us.

At the end, she was amazed that other people had such amazingly strong reactions. Some said she’d grow up to be a stripper. Others that she’d get pregnant and become drug addicted because of the emotional damage. She actually asked me to go on Facebook and ask if there was anything else the victim of a laptop-homicide could do besides stripping because all the posts seem to mention that particular job and she wasn’t so keen on that one.

The fact that they were able to sit down and have a conversation and deal with the aftermath of misbehaviour-punishment-reaction is very hopeful. It’s hard to judge a parent-child relationship from a brief moment in time when you see it in real life, nevermind out there on the interwebs.

But when you think about it, the dad went out into a field and shot (oh, bad pun) a video to show her (and the world, apparently) of the punishment. Can you imagine the reaction if he’d drug his daughter out there with him… and the laptop… and the gun… and let this all play out in real time? With emotions high and possible anger waiting to erupt?

That would have been a recipe for disaster. And the more I think about this dad’s response, the more I see it as calm and calculating.

I’m still not employing the use of any type of firearm in my parenting arsenal.

And I’m trained on the C-7, so let’s be clear that I could handle one.

And it would have been a whole lot more impressive than an ittybitty handgun.

gun-totin' mama

gun-totin' mamawww.


“I Hate You” and Other Freedoms

This has become the default response from my daughter whenever she doesn’t like something I’ve said or done. Usually it’s preceded by some action or event that’s required me to correct her. MY default is “if you don’t stop X, you are going to go to your room”.

I hate you!

I don’t know if it’s a good parenting technique or not… but I ignore it. I turn away and continue on my merry way and if she continues the behaviour that was the problem in the first place, I follow through and put her in her room. But the words I HATE YOU are just words.

But I’m starting to wonder if I’m wrong. If I should be teaching her something different.

Usually I’m a rah! rah! freedom of expression person. Words are just words, hateful talk is just hateful talk. They are not sticks and stones. Yes, I know words can hurt our feelings. But I believe that happens *only when we let them*. There’s a case in Saskatchewan (that’s up here in Canada for my American friends) where a man distributed flyers and pamphlets with very hateful words written on them regarding homosexuality. I find it hard to wrap my head around this case. The man used to work as a gay prostitute and is now called an “anti-gay proselytizer”.

Here’s a quick round-up (hat-tip PWAC) of some news coverage:

Globe & Mail
National Post
Toronto Sun

Now I’m a Christian, so some may assume I have a dim view on homosexuality. But if God wanted me to worry so much about homosexuality, he would have put it in the top 10. He didn’t. He did call me to love my neighbour and treat others the way I want to be treated. I haven’t always done that, but I try to.

I think this guy says very hateful, hurtful things. I think he goes out of his way to make sure people see these things. I don’t see a good thing in anything he does.

But unfortunately, I support his freedom of expression. Even when it makes me gag.

We don’t have “free speech” in Canada, we have “freedom of expression”.

Section 2(b) of the Charter states that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” University of Ottawa

But still, I’m torn. Because where do you draw the line? Some lines are clear. You can’t vandalize or do anything illegal with your words and claim freedom of expression. But you can say almost anything you want and still be protected. You can’t have a “call to action” like kill the Christians. You can say you think homosexuals should be locked up.

(Unless it’s libel, which is another post for another day … all about Canada’s crappy libel laws where the person accused has to prove it’s true rather than the person claiming libel proving it’s false.)

You shouldn’t be allowed to accost people in some of the ways that this individual, William Whatcott, has and he should be prosecuted for those acts. He has stormed to the front of a gay pride parade, harassed people going to abortion clinics, etc… Your right to opine should go as far as my right to turn away. Once you remove my choice to turn away (or crumple up your pamphlet), your rights have infringed upon mine.

But I worry about what happens when we start to try classify hate speech because it leaves it up to almost any definition. It’s like the pornography “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it” definition that allows so much disgusting filth to fall through the cracks.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on any of this when it comes down to the specifics of the case. But I do believe that freedom of expression should be protected even when what is said is completely unreasonable to normal society.

Because at one point society said women couldn’t vote because they couldn’t grasp the concepts.

At one point, society said black people were practically inhuman.

At one point, women and children were merely property, to be treated as such.

But someone spoke up. Someone started it. Someone expressed themselves in a way that was completely unreasonable to normal society.

I don’t want that freedom to be limited.

I'm more of a short stretch reader myself…

Michael Hyatt is the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He writes a blog called From Where I Sit. Back in June he wrote a post called What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. In it he disects an article in Atlantic Monthly where writer Nicholas Carr asks, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

There’s one quote in particular that Hyatt pulls from the article:

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I read this and thought… whiskey tango foxtrot … are you kidding me? That’s what reading is like for most mothers. (she said, noting that the writer and the blogger are both male)

I think he lost me where he said he’d “spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose”. I have not had long stretches of anything remotely close to reading since early 2001.

Someone pat me on the back… please?

I came across a blog today written by a very rich mommy and detailing her trials and tribulations of motherhood. Like, flying first class without a change table in the first class bathroom.

And I came THIS CLOSE to leaving a troll-ish comment. THIS CLOSE people. I was so very irritated.

But I backed away slowly, reminded myself that it would be WRONG to do that and now I’m going to put my head down and work while the baby FINALLY naps.

I just had to confess it out here so that I can feel a bit more accountable.

Schooools Out For the… oh nevermind…

In honour of The Last Day of School for Army Boy, I bring you:

Emily Dickinson’s Kids Are Home For The Summer by Wendi Aarons.

And as a bonus, Wendi pointed us in the direction from some other verra, verra funny ladeeees:

Christy the Writer

Something to distract you from something else.

I’m at critical mass at the moment. Even my boss is telling me “you need to slow down” when he’s usually saying “Pile on more! You can do it!” And his way of telling me this is to tell me a big story about a woman who had kids and worked really hard and then had some kind of breakdown and now she looks old and really skinny.

Wait, skinny would be cool…

Anyways. Here are some nifty sites to peruse:

To freelance for trade magazines, be a team player over at Word Count by Michelle Vranizan Rafter.

How to get your clients to pay invoices promptly by WikiHow… which is really a weird web site because clicking the “Random Article” link in the right hand corner can take you in directions you don’t want to go… I got “how to form the word blood with your fingers” and then “how to panhandle online” and now I’m feeling so icky that I almost don’t want to link to them… except the paying invoices article is actually pretty good.

Harness the writing process to become more effective (and efficient) writer by Paul Lima who gives verra verra good advice.

Don’t quote the AP… or else? by Carolyn Erickson… who really does hit the flat bit with the hard thingy.

Back shortly after these messages.

Too True

Chicken Soup sold, new project on the go…

According to the recent Publishing Syndicates newsletter, the Chicken Soup anthologies have been sold to an East Coast publisher. Publishing Syndicate has always had a great reputation, they pay on time, they are good to their writers, they have been writers themselves.

Now they are getting set to announce a new anthology:

Publishing Syndicate is proud to announce a new anthology series. At this time, we
are discussing this series with several publishers and for this reason cannot release the name of the project just yet.

This book series is the brainchild of friend Kathleen Partak. With the changes in
Publishing Syndicate’s direction, Kathy’s idea for a book series is now becoming a
reality. Of course, Kathy will have top billing, followed by the two of us, and Publishing Syndicate will act as the managing entity.

Even though we can’t share the name of the series with you at this time, we can
give you a sneak peek at the structure: It will be an anthology series (with stories from you!) combined with interviews from experts, inspiration on par with that found in books such as The Secret, and how-to tips and advice, similar to the Dummies series. These books will allow our readers to “read, identify, and do” and become an active participant.

So make sure you have their web site bookmarked and stay tuned!

What The Heck Do You Want From Me???

I spoke with a few writers this past weekend about how to get into magazines. I spoke with one friend who has a great start on a writing career and just needs to up her game a bit, and another younger writer who is certain that This Is Her Career but needs to know how to get started.

I tried to give the best advice I could and thought I’d share some of it here, maybe a bit better written (I hope) than spoken.

You are a writer, but you are also a salesperson. You are selling a product that is part YOU and part WORDS. About 3/4 of your pitch is about the product. 1/4 is why you are the writer for the job. If you are less experienced, you may need a little less space for YOU, but don’t discredit what you have to offer: personal experience, schooling, work history, awards, accreditation, letters behind your name…

When you pitch a query, think of it as, well, a pitch. You are getting ready to throw a ball to a batter and that batter can hit it or not. You want the batter to hit it, so get ready. Perfect it, make it a nice round package, then lob it carefully. It may fall flat, it may get knocked out of the park.

You cannot control what the editor accepts, you can only control what you put out into the world. So work hard on developing your queries first in your niche area (whatever you decide that is) and then broadening out.

What the editor wants, is a great writer who pitches a great story with a unique angle and written in a compelling voice (one that compels the reader to continue reading), even if the topic is somewhat dry.

Here’s a great post (hat/tip WordCount/by Michelle Vranizan Rafter) on the topic of what editors want from freelancers. One of my favourite bits:

What’s The Value? Unfortunately, the law of supply and demand dictates the market for freelancers. There are tons of freelancers out there. (I didn’t say they were good, just that they’re out there.) Everyone wants to write and thinks they can write. So, how valuable are freelancers? Valuable if they deliver. That means they meet deadlines, the copy is tight and bright, they follow the assignment sheet, they keep you abreast of developments, especially problems, and they contact you early – not the day before – when a sticky point develops.

One of my freelancers should probably get more money from me. I don’t want to lose him, but there’s something called a budget. So I pay him within one week (or less) when he turns in the assignment. And I have only sent one assignment back for a minor touch-up in about five years. Any follow-up, I do. What I’m doing is keeping his workload to a minimum and paying faster than anyone in the freelance universe. He loves working with me, and I enjoy working with him. I’m also appalled that the freelance market doesn’t pay any better today (per word) than it did 25 years ago. Supply and demand. There will always be more supply than demand – and the wages reflect that reality.

Go and check it out and start pitching those editors!