Thursday, September 26, 2013

the shoes don't make the man {or woman}

Be a red boot in a world of sequins and feathers and tulle

Today is Western Day at my kid's elementary school.  They're allowed to wear 'western-esque' attire in celebration of our county fair, which not only opens tomorrow, but is acknowledged as such with a day off from school.  Apparently these Texans take 'the fair' seriously.  I love a good funnel cake as much as the next girl, but I'm still slowly absorbing the rodeo/livestock/mutton bustin' surroundings of a good ole' county fair {I can't help but hear the distinct sound of a tobacco-laden loogie hitting a spitoon}.

So, anyway.  Western Day.  An unfamiliar concept to someone who grew up on the outskirts of a big city. But I just so happened to marry a guy with a bit of a 'country kick' in his upbringing.   Throughout our years together, I've been exposed to some cliche 'country things' by way of pick-up truck drives through big open soybean fields, hunting 'trophies' hanging on the walls of my home, recipes that begin with the words "a scoop of shortenin'", and boots.  Cowboy{girl} boots.

Two things.
1.) I know that 'country' isn't just defined by those stereotypical 'things', but for all purposes of my point {and I swear I have one}, the cowboy boot is one of those unavoidable images that comes to mind when you think country or western.
2.) I don't actually own my own boots...not because I boycott the transition into a Southern gal, but because the styles I tend to gravitate toward happen to put my grocery budget for the next three month's at risk.  And, as much as I love a cute pair of boots, I love making sure my family is fed and happy and healthy just a wee bit more.

But there are some cowgirl boots that have found their place within the brick walls of our suburban home.  Both Brynn and Raegan own adorable cowgirl boots--red and pink, respectively--courtesy of my dad and the grand-parental desire to appease and spoil the offspring of their offspring.

So Brynn has these boots.  Darling, sassy, stylish red boots, the likes of which have clicked their way across our kitchen floor countless times, stomped their way throughout the living room to the tune of a Taylor Swift song, and been kicked off in angry fits after being told to stop using them as defense mechanisms against a hair-pulling toddler sister.

And, according to Brynn, these boots are an absolute *must* for Western Day.  My kid's school has a dress code, so they love those rare days when they get to alter their attire and add a bigger splash of their own individuality.  Brynn, being a creative and artistic soul, is no exception to the rule.  So her boots, her lionhearted display of vermilion pride, the very item upon which her entire attitude for the day would be based...were missing.  Well, not missing so much as misplaced.

I told you she was creative, right?  Well, that concept carries over into the way in which she 'cleans' her bedroom.  Without going into specifics, let's just say that the likes of her personal bedroom space are pretty reminiscent to my own childhood digs.  Those who knew me as a kid, you get it.  I've already begun mentally preparing for the disdain our neighbors will have for me as I throw her items out of her window and onto the publicly visible lawn below.  I'm even considering taking up donations for the fines I'm certain we'll accrue from our homeowner's association for the atrocity that will surely unfold as I enter into the depths of her generously-sized walk-in closet during the pre-teen years.

So yeah.  The boots are somewhere in the depths of that closet.  Actually, just one boot is, because I managed to unearth the other from a random assortment of clothing that had at one point transformed Brynn into an ornately dressed ballerina-fairy-cowgirl-princess, but after no longer serving its purpose, was discarded in a mishmosh pile of stuff.

However, with a limited time frame for our morning routine, locating her rogue boot had to become an item that fell off the URGENT agenda, despite her moody display of annoyance and foot-stomping frustration.  Shoveling Cheerios into mouths, taming a mangled pile of sleep-filled curls, packing fruit and cheese filled lunches, and filling tall water bottles took precedence and at 7:15, we were backing out of the driveway with a pouty Brynn donning her 'mommy, I've gotta have these golden sandals' sandals.  On any other day, these are perfectly appropriate and lovingly welcomed foot attire.

But not today.

Gavin, being a kind and sensitive soul, sensed that it was in his best interest to focus his attentions out the window, after an unsuccessful attempt at lightening the mood with a funny joke involving pea soup.  Silence beckoned from the backseat, and I am not a mommy who enjoys sending her kids off to school for the day in a mood that's anything less than 'moderately happy'.

So, I began a conversation.  I asked Brynn if she understood why I was frustrated with her.  I explained to her that when I ask her to keep her room clean and put things back where they belong it is not in fact because I have nothing better to do than make her life miserable, it's because I actually want her to learn to be a responsible and caring person who respects and acknowledges the many blessings bestowed upon her.  I told her that we would find the awol boot after school and while we were at it, would probably discover a lot of other items she had assumed vanished into the dark abyss of her closet.  I clarified that while I love her more than words could ever explain, I was not a fan of the way in which she let her carelessness overtake her ability to be caring.  She had spent the morning brooding and grumpy and angry at me, when in fact I discovered {upon what turned out to be the only time she spoke during my conversation lecture}, that she was disappointed in herself.  Hmm.  Not that I was happy she was feeling down on herself...but inside I was giving myself a high-five for having some of my words actually burrow their way through the mass of curls and permeate into her brain.  Maybe she does take ownership and responsibility for her actions {or inactions} more than I give her credit for.

We were getting close to the school, so I wanted to shift the topic off the 'blame game'.  It would have been a perfect chance for a normal mommy to discuss ANYTHING else--planning activities for the day off school, a funny story about Raegan, the weather even.  But no-oooo.  I continued picking at it, like an itchy scab left behind from a mosquito bite.  I dug in my heels and set out to investigate why she felt she needed to wear the boots.  Her response?  "Because everyone else will be wearing western stuff, too."

Why does she feel as though she has to conform to the masses, shroud herself with something that makes her 'fit in', base the self confidence she carries with her today solely in the red leather that's formed around her splayed-toed feet?  In her five year old mind, the people who are wearing western attire today at school happen to take a bit of preference to those who are not.  Conformity.  Discrimination.  Counterfeit popularity based upon the outward appearance.  Defining value and worth and identity from synthetic and tangible items.

Oh, Humanity.  This facet of your complex display of colors is not the most inspiring.  It's scratched and ugly and marred by the falsehoods of a misguided and imperfect collection of souls.

Yesterday, I began a women's bible study.  As I settled in to my space, nibbling the streusel topping from a slice of coffee cake, I perused the notes that had been placed atop my binder.  An overwhelming feeling of joy rushed over me {and not just from the buttery, sweet, crunchy streusel} as I read the boldfaced header for the study guide.


An angelic little flutter caused a tear or two to prick the corner of my eye, and I silently thanked God for the circumstances which allowed me to sign up for a class that, up until that point, I knew nothing about aside from the rave reviews of the exceptional leader.  

As the class continued yesterday, two other questions were posed, the likes of which were not so rhetorical as the overarching question at the opening of our time together.  What two single words would you use to describe your life right now?  What one single word would you use to describe you right now?

Responses to these questions were requested--and not only that--they were shared and discussed.  Talk about barging through the doorway and tearing through the curtain of vulnerability from the get-go.  That is, if one felt so inclined to really, truly hone in on what descriptors could be placed upon their sleeve, bold and bright and in perfect view for others to see.

I didn't hesitate for a moment as I scrawled these three words: confused, halted, scattered.  As we went around our table, it didn't take me long to realize that my responses were farrrrr from the 'norm'.  While I don't at all discount the lives and daily struggles of those wonderful women with whom I look forward to spending many more weeks together, I took note of the way in which I was able to honestly and transparently describe the personal struggles I am currently facing, and what's more to share aloud things that I felt might put me in the minority.  I was about the eighth woman of ten to share, so I could have easily scratched out my words and put something broader, something ambiguous or vague that describes only the visible part of me {not at all to say that's what I believe others did}.  I could have hidden behind a screen, jumped on board with my table and said words that sounded more like theirs, felt more like theirs, connected more with what they were sharing.  I could have taken the easy road, conformed to the feelings and thoughts and struggles of another women so I didn't feel so exposed and vulnerable and naked.  And while I'm sure every.single.woman. experienced fears such as mine, I was viewing this experience through my own lens, using an ultra-sensitive scope that I tend to use when I feel that trembling sense of fear brewing up in the depths of my belly.  

The take away I had from yesterday, aside from an overwhelming excitement for the path on which I'm traveling in terms of this course, is that perhaps I'm not giving myself enough credit.  Perhaps in some ways I can actually step outside of my box of comfort, step away from the trend or popular response or style or behavior and actually make a bit of personal gain in my confidence.  Perhaps I am able to actually instill this sense of confidence into my daughter now.  Even in the midst of my confused life with my scattered self, I can teach her to begin to recognize and acknowledge who she is.  I can give her comfort in knowing that even if every single person in the whole entire school were wearing western attire today {based on my observation in the drop-off line today, is definitely not the case}, she has the strength and courage and bravado to stand alone.  To be a little unique.  To wear her 'gotta have 'em' golden sandals alongside a slew of cowgirl boots with the same confident stature she would have wearing her red cowgirl boots in a mass of Velcro-ed sneakers and Mary Janes.  To be who she really is, no matter who or what says is 'cool'.

And now...because I'm a momma who loves to see huge, amazing smiles upon my kids' faces...I'm off to find that rogue boot.  Don't worry.  I'll wear gloves, glasses, and a mask.  And, I've got a guide rope tied around my waist and secured to her doorknob for my escape from the piles.  {Go ahead mom, you deserve to enjoy this repetition of history with a good ole' chuckle.  I was a slob as a kid.}

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