Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lessons from My Dogs

I love my dogs. I am so happy to have two. They enrich my life, grow my capacity to look out for someone else, provide good company, listen to me, show unconditional positive regard, lower my blood pressure, release stress, make me laugh, show me sensitivity, and help me live longer. In addition to all that, here are the lessons I've learned and why I admire them and their authentic, honest lives:

10 Lessons My Dogs Taught Me
  1. Work hard to get things done.
  2. Know how to get what you need.
  3. Please the good people.
  4. Enjoy praise from good people.
  5. Drink enough water.
  6. Get enough exercise so you don't cause trouble.
  7. Exercise is fun.
  8. Get enough rest.
  9. Be intentional about hanging out with people you love while you can.
  10. Laugh with your tail. Well, maybe 'show it when you are happy' would be more suitable.
Oh, and they don't need to own much to be happy. I like that, too.

The Shower - Traditions of American Women

Let me just confess...I don't like going to showers -- wedding or baby. I usually do not like the games, though I'm a big fan of squishing a chunk of new bubble gum into a baby shape. I'm kind of a champion at that. Sitting around and watching someone open many gifts, passing them around a big circle, and small talk just feels like a waste of time when I could be reading outside at home. And picking out a gift -- that can be tough for me, too. We never seem to have enough money to spend $20 on gifts for these occasions, and $20 is not very generous as things go. That carries its own social pressures. Along with that, there are certain expectations on how to dress, maybe originating from my mother's proper training. Again, we have a very limited budget. I have very basic clothes and functional shoes. No frilly, feminine fun sun dresses and flirty sandals. I often feel slightly out of place. So, for the most part, I'd just prefer to be busy and skip the event.

My own wedding shower was awkward. I didn't like sitting in the central place, while everyone watched me open things and express thanks sincerely a million different ways, hoping --as the wrapping paper came off, hoping that it would truly be something for which I'd feel thankful for getting. It was fun in the end, once the presents part was over. We did not have kids, so I never had to endure a baby shower on my behalf. No regrets.

A few months ago, my perspective shifted. I said yes to attend a baby shower. I didn't really know the pregnant young woman. However, and here is where the shift began, I am friends with the soon-to-be-grandmother and great aunt. I was excited to be in on this life-changing time for my friends. Now my friends are no longer the ones having the babies, but the loved ones of the moms-to-be. It is a treasure to share in these meaningful moments and milestones of life. My perspective has shifted.

So, I went to this shower, not completely convinced it was my ideal way to spend an afternoon, but this host always throws a great party. I did have a good time. The home was crowded with all kinds of women. There was no shortage of conversation, hugs, and smiles.

Here are some highlights that were enjoyable to me:
  1. The power of traditions of women: With a bachelor's degree and a heart for sociology, I still relate to life from a sociological view. I enjoy observing people interacting in groups. We live in a fast-paced culture and have lost much of the values of living in small communities or tribes. A "shower" marks a milestone for the tribe, the community -- the multiple generations of women connected to the soon-to-arrive child. That impresses me and is touching. I watched several age layers of women interact and share stories and good wishes. An afternoon of generational generosity. A pause in busy lives to connect, and love, and pass along wisdom. Powerful. Rare.
  2. Women of history honored: The mom-to-be is expecting a girl. So, at each place setting, there was a brief bio of famous women in history with a photo of the woman. This tribute was printed on vellum and attached to colorful card stock with a gingham ribbon. Classy. I enjoyed reading about women in history who accomplished things that made life better. It lifted my thoughts and reminded me to encourage women to live lives of meaningful contribution. [No female entertainers were represented.]
  3. The mixer game: We were handed a piece of paper with random statements, each statement was true for someone in attendance. We walked around to discover who matched what statement, and that process triggered great little conversations. I had the chance to have a conversation with women who bring value because of what they know and their life's experiences. I want to seek out more of the stories of oldest generation next time I'm in a situation like this. I met some awesome women.
  4. Sharing the wisdom of women: We each got a white note card. We were invited to write out some wisdom and encouragement for the new mom. I've never been a mom, but that made no difference. I was a child and remember things my mom did that were meaningful. I have been a teacher for many children and know things that encourage security and value of learning. I am always learning lessons on caring for others, even if not as a mom. For instance, cleaning can wait -- time with loved ones does not. Also, read together frequently, if not every night at bedtime, and let your child see you reading, too.
  5. All the tiny pink stuff: Could it ever get any cuter? All those tiny little pink things for the new baby girl soon to join the world. Pink is one of my favorite colors. This was pink heaven.
  6. All the tools: How in the world did anyone in my generation survived childhood? No car seats. Being bathed in the sink. Our moms got by without the gadgets, tools, specialty items, and gimmicks. And consumed a lot less. I was struck at the volume of consumer products this precious event and raising children has "given birth to," another piece of how our nation's economy is supported by what we consume (and often do not need). Crazy stuff is now for sale to "help" you raise your baby. For instance, one gift was a cup designed to rinse a baby's head designed to prevents water from going in the baby's face. Really? Do you need a tool for this? Enough to spend money on it? And can the less fortunate (economically) raise their children right without owning all this stuff?
  7. The name tags: Each name tag stated how the person was connected to the mom-to-be. That was interesting and an easy way to know more about others, see how the group connected, and start conversations with strangers.
  8. The tablecloths and centerpieces: Each table had a square of fabric in baby prints and designs in the nursery theme the mom had planned. The centerpieces were potted flowers with items (tub toys, little decorative things, etc.) stuck in the pots for a little added design, theme, fun, and sparkle -- the mom could use those items later . The room looked so festive and nice!
I did have fun at the shower. I might go to the next one I'm invited to, also.