Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Domestic Abuse, Adrian Peterson, and Ray Rice

Last week, I was onLocal 4 Live in the D, and one of the topics was corporal punishment since Adrian Peterson has been in the news defending his child abuse allegations as corporal punishment.

When asked what I think about corporal punishment, I said that I do not agree with it; violence equals power.

As a mom, corporal punishment has never been an option for me.  I made a conscious decision to never use physical force to “teach” my child .  And I say “teach” becauseI think hitting only teaches kids to be afraid, and I do not want to use fear as a motivator.  Living in fear kind of does something detrimental to the human spirit, especially when the abuse happens with the very people who are supposed to protect you.  Self-esteem starts to chip away when you deal with issues of submission and trust.

Or the victims become the aggressors and the cycle continues.

The rebels who are able to find a thread of self-worth and build on it enough to exit the cycle are the lucky ones, but anyone who advocates for change has her own unique set of struggles.

My kids have pushed me to the edge of my frustration, but the dissonance of telling Nathan not to hit his sister as I am spanking him makes no sense.  I’m pretty sure that kind of mixed message will end up in thousands of dollars worth of therapy.

In the end, if I want to raise independent thinkers who practice impulse control and kindness, I have to set the example.  I am the adult. 

Rice and Peterson might have different views on domestic violence than I do, but then again, I am not part of NFL’s culture of infallible athletes.  I think when you have a culture that celebrates your abilities without making you accountable, very bad things can happen.  Obviously.

But it doesn’t just start when these men play professional ball.  I can remember in high school how some teachers tailored their tests so athletes could pass and play ball.

When I went to U of M Ann Arbor for my freshman year, young women doted on the football players.  I clearly remember these young women ironing the football players’ clothes while they played video games on their big screen TVs in their ginormous dorm rooms (which was kind of weird because I don’t ever being shown this deluxe dorm room on my student tour).

When I taught junior high, I remember athletes given preferential treatment and the unspoken pressure to make sure athletes had good enough grades to play.

So from a very early age, these athletes have an acute sense that the rules do not apply to them. 

These athletes have a golden ticket to a free (or deeply discounted) education.  They are given a chance to learn a new way of life, yet some still the buy into their infallibility

In a way, I guess these men are still victims.  I think the NFL exploits these men for what they bringing – money and lots of it – and do not care about making sure they are well-rounded, healthy individuals.  I mean, the NFL let them play even though they knew about the abuse . . .until social media made so much noise and Budweiser and other sponsors decided to publicly declare that the NFL needs to get a handle on this situation. 

Please do not misinterpret that I do not hold Rice and Peterson accountable for their actions; I most certainly do. It angers me to my core that someone thinks they are entitled to violate another human being, especially repeat offenders likePeterson

This system is broken, and the people who let this happen, like the NFL, are just as guilty for looking the other way.

Originally, I felt hopeless by reading all the media surrounding these cases, wondering if it could ever change. I mean, the NFL money is HUGE.

But then I would see hashtags pop up like #WhyIStayed and women talking about the deep, specific details of domestic abuse, things that were not often discussed publicly.  And I felt a glimmer of hope that maybe through these conversations, real change has a chance of happening.

What do you think about Rice, Peterson, and domestic abuse?  What do you think the role of the NFL should be?

Erin Janda Rawlings Mommy on the Spot On Domestic Abuse, Adrian Peterson, and Ray Rice

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Life You Want Weekend with Oprah

 This weekend I went to the Life You Want Weekend presented by Oprah Winfrey.  It was ah-mazing. Not like this pistachio froyo is amazing. Amazing as in empowering and validating.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings life you want tour detroit aubrun hills

To be truthful, I really wanted to go because I wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. I said in my last blog post that I have been reading (and rereading) a lot self-discovery journey stories.

I have been dawn to them probably because I, myself, have been on my own journey of self -discovery, or as Elizabeth Gilbert called it, The Quest.  She detailed how there are certain elements that everyone will experience when she can no longer ignore her destiny.  First of all, there is The Threshold. Once one crosses over The Threshold, she can never go back to the way life was before.  Once the journey begins, it is not smooth sailing.  The person on the quest faces all kinds of hurdles: Self-doubt, doubt in faith, tricksters, enemies that are really friends.  It can be confusing and unsettling, but in the end, you get to live life as you were truly meant to live it.  That is a pretty amazing accomplishment.

I really needed to hear this.  My quest has been full of bumps and pitfalls, some of my own doing, some just collateral damage of going on a quest.  Thankfully, Elizabeth addressed this saying that she used to pray for her life to change, yet without making a mess.  She stated that this is pretty impossible, and I felt grateful for that bit of knowledge about The Quest.

But as Iyanla Vanzant said, "If you made it through the past, you passed. You don't need to pass with an A." She said that sometimes you pass with an F for faith.  I'll take it.

She also said, "Do not be loyal to things that are not good for you."  I needed to hear this because if you are going to commit to The Quest, you can’t hold on to your negative baggage.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings life you want tour detroit auburn hills iyanla vanzant
Such a simply concept to understand, but super hard to actually do.

Between what Iyanla and Elizabeth, I was overcome by sense of validation.  The Quest is not easy.  Letting go of drama and not being loyal to things that no longer serve you is not easy.

And that is OK.

I also walked away with the urge to practice mediation on a regular basis.  It seems that each of Oprah's trailblazers meditate.  It is hard to listen to the universe if you can't quiet the mind. So as of Monday, I will be meditating everyday.  I will tell you this; the first day was hard. So very hard. Hard as in I don't want to do it ever again.  Because I hate doing things that I'm not good at.  Oprah said that these icky feelings should not be viewed as negative; it should be viewed as information.  The information I gathered has led me to believe that I really need to practice meditation more often.

I am feeling grateful for this bright spot of inspiration.

Have you felt validated about something you are working on? Has anything inspired you lately? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

On Reading, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah, and The Life You Want Weekend

I love social media.  Love. It.  By giving me a platform to write and connect, social media really has transformed my life.  I have a new career teaching social media, writing, and my newest venture, working on the Hay There Social Media team.  I do all of this from the safety of my keyboard in my home (which is ideal since I am accepting that I am pretty much an introvert).

But the thin line between love and obsession has been blurred.

Instead of making something creative with my hands, I have logged in way too many hours on Pinterest.

Instead of getting lost in a book, I am endlessly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Knowing that I was using social media escape as my escape instead reading was my most alarming observation. 

I realized this on my last birthday, almost a year ago.  I had been pining for Signature of All Things written by my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert.  I started reading, and couldn’t do it.  I felt overwhelmed with the fact that it was 499 pages long.

I’m not stranger to long books! Was the 140 character model of Twitter was melting my brain?!

I felt defeated and kind of out of sorts. Kind of like the time when I started the Couch to 5K program: I thought I was in awesome shape until Week 2.  I was out of breath running for five minutes. This spurred a minor identity crisis.

I was not comfortable with this choosing Facebook over actual books, especially at night, which, left me feeling not well rested at all.  So this summer, I tried reading Signature of All Things again.

I had to read slowly at first since the story took place in the 1800s.  The beautifully constructed sentences that created an intriguing plot, a vivid setting, and multidimensional characters were a far cry from the status updates I normally read.

I forgot how therapeutic it could be to become utterly lost in a story.  I loved how I could identify with a fictional character from a different time period, reminding me that we are all on a path of self-discovery.

As I muscled through the book, my love for reading was reignited.  I took that fire and read Poser by Claire Dederer.  As I read about how yoga helped her make sense of the seismic shift that takes place during motherhood, I felt comforted that I was not the only one who had found her long, lost breath in a dimly lit yoga studio.

And then started reading Eat Pray Love for the second time because this book will always be the mother of all self-discovery books.

Well, that and a little something called The Life You Want Tour, in which Oprah is technically the main attraction.  However, when I head that Elizabeth Gilbert was going to be there, I knew that I must go.

I missed an opportunity to see her at Wayne State College during her promotional tour for Signature of All Things.  Something was going on with the kids or Harrington was out of town.  I don’t remember.  The dread of missing my favorite author speak still gnaws at me, much like the time I decided to study for a test instead of going to see the Violent Femmes my senior year of high school.

I may have seats in the upper bowl and I may need a telescope to see the stage, but I am so excited to finally hear Elizabeth Gilbert, the author who has inspired me to find the courage to chase happiness, talk in person.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for reminding me how much I not only love reading, but that I need it in my life.

Do have an activity that you love that has been tossed to the wayside?  What was it?  Were you able to find it again?

Friday, September 5, 2014

To Thomas on Your First Day of Kindergarten

Thomas started Kindergarten this week.  Three years ago, I wrote Marie a letter on her first day of Kindergarten which Huffington Post Parents just picked up!  I would love it if you clicked on over and let me know what  you think.

Dear Thomas,

Today is your big day; today you start Kindergarten.  I feel excited for you because in my heart, I know that you are ready.  Your preschool teachers told me with full confidence that you are ready both socially and academically.

These observations delivered peace to me since I pretty much doubt every parenting choice I have ever made (except that time I bought you a bunch of mini maze books on Amazon to keep you entertained in restaurants and car rides.  You pretty much refuse to do anything that requires you to hold a crayon . . . except for those books.  So I felt pretty solid on that decision).

Your sister probably has very different memories of her time leading up to Kindergarten since she had me all to herself. 

You, my dear, did not get a lot of alone time with me.  This is the default of any child other than the firstborn.  But I also started to dabble in blogging, writing, and social media when you were a baby.  As a new career started to gain traction, my time was fractioned even more and my mom guilt began to grow.

When you stepped on that bus, I was not worried about whether you were going to make it in Kindergarten.  I was worried about if I did my best with you.

Will you look back and feel cheated during all the times we sat in front of the TV together, me on my computer and you on your iPad, while I graded assignments and squeezed in writing time?

Will you be sad when you think of all the times I phoned it in while playing Imaginext characters since I am the worst pretend play mom in the ever?

 Or will you remember the fun crafty things we did together like spell your name with Cheerios or the time you got to play with marshmallows while learning how to add?

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten

Or will you remember all the fun times we played I Spy when I took you out for macaroni and cheese with a yummy dessert at Panera every Thursday after gymnastics?

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten

I am not sure what memories will stick (or which ones you might share with your future therapist).  Sometimes I think back on the time we spent together, and I am proud of all we did.  Other times I look through the years leading up to your first day of Kindergarten with guilt-laden glasses and think I could have done more.

As you got on that bus, I prayed that the Universe will be kind with you.  Having been a member of the Universe for about 36 years and teaching in public schools for some of that time, I know that this might be too much to ask.  So I hope that I have filled your bucket enough that you feel loved and special regardless of any misfortune that may happen to you.

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten

As you depart for this new journey, know that I love you deeply and you can tell me anything, ANY.THING. (even that you decided to throw your lunch away because you were too busy talking to your new friends to eat peanut butter and celery).

mommy on the spot erin janda rawlings first day of kindergarten