Real Women Aren’t Perfect

I have written my second article for a local women’s magazine entitled “5ive for Women”. It is a Christian magazine with tips and articles about and for women. Although the below copy of the article I submitted is not directly about stepmoms or stepfamilies, it does concern women and stepmoms are women! We are involved in many aspects with younger women, including our stepchildren. I hope you enjoy the article, reaffirm belief in who you are in your little world, and begin to assert your beliefs so that others know you have an opinion and want the best for yourself and your family.

Mail Order Bride…Not What It Used To Be!

Remember the good ole days when men out West would order up a bride to share the new frontier? Back then, a man would take a good hardy woman for his wife who was ready for cooking, cleaning, and birthing. Neither men nor women were concerned about flat tummies, perky breasts, age-defying makeup, and thin thighs. Although women had rougher lives, they just seemed to be more honest lives in many ways. However, nothing stays the same; the lives of women have been changing regularly since the beginning of time. 

In biblical days, some women were considered property, while others were tough and courageous. Queen Esther was noted for her beauty and bravery. The Renaissance brought us famous artists who drew and painted voluptuous images of women—and fleshy women at that. The late nineteenth century provided us with the men and women who fought for the right of women to vote! The election year in 1920 was the FIRST time women were allowed to vote throughout the entire United States. The twentieth century came along, and we were introduced to Rosie the Riveter during World War II. Women entered the work force while running their entire households while their husbands were at war. The fifties brought us images of women working in their kitchens with the newest mixers, toasters, ovens, and refrigerators. The sixties and seventies rolled out, revolutionizing a woman’s place in the world. No longer were we property or written off as hysterical, silly, mindless, baby-producing cooks. We grew into responsible roles in the job market, we began to have our own cars and take our own trips, and our family lives changed when divorce became “no fault.”

There is so much more that has happened to women and so much that will continue. (I will save my soapbox voice—on things like including girls in sports and clubs that traditionally belonged to boys or men—for another time.) The point is that women have a beautiful and specific role. We are the womb of the world. We originated from Adam’s side; but from that moment forward, women brought forth life. We are incredible creatures, God’s daughters. So, why do we allow our femaleness and form to be distorted, graphically manipulated, or publicly exposed in disrespectful ways? We have come so far from being mail-order property, yet…

I don’t watch much TV; but one day as I was watching an afternoon program, a Hanes commercial came on, marketing their colorful panties on real live women: close-ups right to the…yeah…well you know, a television screen full of bellybutton, hip, and pantie. I found myself shaking my head and thinking, “Nooooo!” I was thoroughly upset and went right to the Hanes Facebook page, posting my disgust of their commercial. What possible marketing reason did they have to promote their newest style of Hanes panties with that type of imagery? I scrolled the Hanes Facebook page and was disappointed that I did not see more voices of outcry. I wondered, “Why not?”

To be aware of what today’s young people are exposed to, I have watched both of The Hunger Games movies. And, although I feel disappointment that Hollywood is making films wherein young people must kill each other to survive and provide food for their villages, I do admire Jennifer Lawrence. Clearly, she is currently a popular commodity because of The Hunger Games series. Jennifer is such a beautiful example of a young woman. She looks healthy, her skin radiant, her body toned, her hair shimmers. Nope, not good enough. Recently, I read that Flair magazine chose to tweak Jennifer’s body for their cover. I guess someone felt her natural body wasn’t “optimum.” They slimmed her down, gave her hair more volume, heightened her cheekbones, and Photoshopped her fingers. Are you kidding me? Why? Even she has made it known that she does not agree with these “fix up” tactics.

And seriously! The first time I watched a news report of Miley Cyrus dancing onstage with Robin Thicke (someone else’s husband AND dad) at the MTV Music Awards, I sat there with my mouth hanging open. “Whaaaaaaat???” Why would we allow such things on public media? Young girls (including my granddaughter) used to idolize Hannah Montana, a sweet teen girl. As I watched, I was praying these girls no longer find Miley appealing in any way. Where is her father, is he not in disagreement with her lewd behavior? Do I identify with this 30-year-old woman? No. I am disturbed and offended. I have nothing in common with her except that we are both females. Actually, I resent and feel embarrassed that she is using our beautiful womanly image to entice, excite, and tease. What possible reason is she flaunting herself to this degree? Have women submitted to extreme sensationalism in order to be noticed, to be wanted and popular, to be on the front page? It has been creeping up on us…Cher, Madonna….

Have we allowed what used to be an acceptance of our natural bodies—whether fleshy, plump, thin, short, tall, or pear-shaped—to now be a male order? My intent here is not to single out or bash men. I am asking for whose benefit or amusement are women being “distorted”, especially at a time when anorexia and bulimia are prevalent among our young girls? And can someone please tell me why mannequins in retail stores have obvious “breast petals” protruding from beneath the fabric? Why are we allowing such infractions on our beautiful selves? We cannot compete with computer graphics, airbrushing, and modifications. Those images are not real…we are. What messages are women sending out who dress half naked or with explicitly sensual clothing for public display? I encourage you to take the time to voice your compliments for well-deserved attention and respect of women; and I strongly encourage you to take a stand—let magazines, retailers, and internet companies know how you feel about the negative attention, display, and disrespect of women. Silence is often taken as agreement. Let’s just be us, ladies. Let it be ok to be a good, hardy, beautiful, natural woman or bride.

Valentine’s Day is coming up. Love who you are. Spend time with someone who loves you for who you are. Love others, spread it around! We needn’t fall victim to the “be perfect” marketing scams and computer “Barbies.” Let us be more honest with each other, accepting our unique and precious selves. Guard your heart; place it where it can swell with happiness and delight. Eat chocolate, put on your favorite outfit, know God made you just the way you are, take care of the temple He gave you, and give thanks for His Son that loved us so much He went to the cross.

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We survive divorce, but the broken pieces remain.

I’ve had the great opportunity to be a part of a radio program (WWIB.com) involving weekly segments of Divorce Care. I will be facilitating our church’s program in just a couple of weeks. My next Stepfamily Rx conference is set for April. I’ve been doing articles for a women’s magazine, and recently was asked to be a keynote speaker at a Christian women’s conference. My book is being edited and we plan to have it launched by the end of April. Divorce, remarriage, families, and kids have been swirling in my world for the past couple of months within the scope of coaching and helping those divorced or in stepfamilies. I believe it is God’s plan for me to do these things.

Maybe I’m feeling overwhelmed. Maybe that is why this year felt more bittersweet than other years when it came to our family’s inability to get together in one place at one time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Or maybe it was simply that although we survive divorce, the broken pieces healed, they still remain and affect our lives. I’ve been remarried now for over 15 years and divorced from my sons’ father since 1991….it shouldn’t be such a big deal anymore right?

I was going through my paternal gramma’s recipes the other week, preparing for some holiday baking. Some of them were in her own handwriting. A flood of memories began to wash over me and the way life was. Her handwritten words caused me to feel she was standing right next to me. Life used to feel simpler, more grounded, more “together”. I was very close to my grammas and my family had established routines with my grandparents for visiting and for holidays. It seemed a bit of a clash of memories regarding my “undivorced” childhood family life to now…which includes divorced family lives. I read and hear of families fighting during the holidays, stepfamilies trying to get schedules down, bitter emails and texts between ex-spouses.

I needed to vent today, release the sadness in my heart and share with you that if you are not divorced….please don’t. I know…I’m divorced and divorced twice. With that said, that doesn’t make me an advocate of divorce. It’s nasty business. Unless there is harmful or biblical reasons, which separation should first be pursued, please try to work things out. Kids can deal with fighting parents because they are still their family. Kids feel sad and unstable when one of the two people they love the most leave the family. Kids can go to school and roll their eyes and sigh….”they’re fighting again”, but they are despondent and torn to admit their family is broken and doesn’t exist anymore as it used to.

Marriage is work, marriage is not easy. Marriage is God and both husband and wife. We can survive, stepfamilies can find harmony and happiness in their newly formed nucleus, but we cannot imagine how the future events will change. We have no control over them and have to accept situations that are difficult and cause interruptions in past traditions. I am happily married today and thank God for who and what I am and all that He has blessed me with. But in pursuing my divorce, I did not envision the brokenness that would spread, the melancholy that I would feel as my life and the lives of my sons unfolded. I am sure my husband did not either in his divorce. I was struck this year with my husband’s daughter not with us for either holiday, and both of my sons had other plans for Thanksgiving; one son and his family not with us for Christmas and the other son and his family were able to be with us a few days after Christmas. It used to be a lot simpler….

I pray for all of us separated, divorced, remarried…..and I pray most of all for the kids of divorce. Love each other, forgive often, laugh when you don’t feel like it. Respect marriage and all that God intended it to be.

May your New Year be the happiest ever. God bless you.