Thanks for Giving

Thanks for Giving

Hearty thanks to our Permission Slips readers for your support over this past year. We are happy that we have been able to touch your lives through our posts. Your feedback — through comments on our site, on Facebook, in emails and during “live” conversations — has impacted our lives, too. To those of you readers who are personal friends and family, I am very grateful for all that you have done for me and my loved ones during the past year’s ups and downs. Enjoy your time together today, and stay safe during the Black Friday sales tomorrow.

The Black Lash Backlash

My boys’ battle to keep their little sister from growing up continues its tireless and frustrating path.

With the two oldest off at college, Bodie now soldiers on alone, at home. However, it turns out his cause may yet take on a national scope.

Consider this recent scenario. During dinner, Bodie glances at Pea and notices her long, full lashes. “Pea, are you wearing MAKEUP?” he asks, not so gingerly.

photoHe reaches over, pinches her lashes between his thumb and forefinger, gives a good yank and examines the residue. “See? My fingers are BLACK! That means you’re wearing mascara,” he shouts.

“I just wear a little bit,” my eighth-grade girls replies.

“You shouldn’t be wearing ANY makeup,” Bodie advises. “You’re too young.”

Pea takes another bite of pasta to avoid a reply. So, I come to her rescue, more or less. “Bodie, what are you going to do next year, when Pea is with you in high school?” I ask. “Do you expect her to go make-up free then?”

Yes,” he says. “And when I drive her to school, I’m going to keep a sponge in the car so I can wipe her makeup off.”

“You know, Bodie, lots of girls who are forbidden to wear makeup just put it on in the school bathroom,” I suggest.

“Okay, so I’ll get Pea’s class schedule and follow her around school with my sponge,” he asserts.

Glad he has that one figured out. And, fortunately, Bodie may find support in his make-up free crusade.

Although check-out line tabloids routinely splash “shocking” “stars without makeup” photos across their pages, in an effort to debase the celebrities’ beauty-queen status, some models have begun championing the natural look.

In fact, last week the New York Times Style Magazine ran an article subtitled, in part, “A face without makeup looks wholesome and shows confidence.”

Rachel R. White’s article mentions that at the recent 2014 collection runway shows, “There was little or no makeup… with models channeling the confident girl who’s too cool to care.”

White quotes Tatcha skin-care founder Victoria Tsai, who notes that models have realized, “When you step out from that veil of makeup, you are inviting people to look at you as a person.”

I think we all should give ourselves permission to do that — at least from time to time.

However, the article cautions, the look only works for those who have taken great care of their skin, with sunscreens and expensive lotions. I guess it’s too late for those of us who slathered on baby oil and sunned ourselves with aluminum-foil-covered record albums.

Tsai points out that in Asia, where the “no-makeup trend” has existed for quite a while, “They spend more money on skin care and less on makeup.”

I definitely fall into that camp (witness my recent Orogold bill), and hopefully my daughter has grown up believing, as I do, that “less is more” when it comes to face paint. Thankfully, my husband agrees.

The general public may have started to climb on board. Last week, my kids’ former nanny Sara Bradley-King Compaglia  posted a Facebook link to Karen Alpert’s Baby Sideburns blog, which advocated attempting makeup-free week. Alpert was inspired by her young daughter, who asked for lip gloss because “I want to be pretty!”

Alpert wrote, “I know that one day she’ll want to wear lipstick and eyeliner and glitter eye shadow and all other s&#@ that’s going to drive me up an F’ing wall, but I don’t want her to think she HAS TO wear it to be beautiful.”

So, Alpert decided to go makeup free for a week, and cover up every single mirror in her home during that period.

Compaglia decided to join in after seeing her own 19-month-old daughter attempt to apply blush. “NOT what I had in mind for her!” she noted.

As for Pea, while she definitely prefers a “natural” look, she won’t forego the foundation that covers the red spots that are the bane of many teenagers’ existence. And, having honed her makeup artistry through dance and choir performances, she loves helping me “doll up” for big nights out.

So, I decided to speak with Bodie privately about his ongoing concerns. “Why are you so worried about Pea wearing a little makeup?” I ask. “She’s a good girl, she’s really balanced and grounded, and she isn’t boy-crazy yet.”

“I just don’t want her to think she’s older than she is,” he replied. “Girls who wear a lot of makeup are trying to look too grown up.”

I can’t argue with his desire to preserve her innocence a little longer. At least, he suggests, until he departs for college.

–  Linda Williams Rorem, 25 November 2013
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Family Time Out: A Gap Year – Part II

Family life rarely affords the time and money it takes for meaningful down time. Yet, we know the importance of family time outs whether it is for a day, a week or a whole year. Read part two about how the Sharples family of seven gave themselves permission to step out of the fast lane and take a family gap year to travel around the world.

Once you decide to put your life on hold and travel the world for a year, it feels like you could go anywhere… But in reality, the world is a REALLY big place, and a year is only 365 days. In addition, we had to factor in the kids’ educations, and how their curriculum would fit with the overall itinerary and flow of the trip. A gap year is not considered a vacation, and indeed, we do not perceive our journey as a vacation. Rather, it is an opportunity to live abroad in multiple cultures and geographies, experiencing and connecting with the world together as a family, while also moving forward education and career.Sharples family

The original concept for our gap year was to select four locations that we would live in for three months each. Colored by our extraordinary experience living in an apartment in the old quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam for several months in 2009 when we adopted our twins, Tuck and Jones, we thought it would be great to absorb a smaller set of destinations and live as dedicated tourists, if not locals. It seemed good on paper, but once we started horse-trading on a minuscule four locations, and looked at all the enticing, exotic destinations that surrounded each of them, we realized we were going to have to broaden the list.

We landed, at least at this point, on 14 countries, averaging about a month in most of the countries, with the shortest stay being a little over a week (Portugal) to the longest stay lasting two months (Bali). Several factors went into the decision process such as: each family member was given a say in their number one choice; there were mandated sacred cows (Oia, Greece and Ubud, Bali); we all wanted to return to our family’s other “home” cultures of China and Vietnam; countries we had visited in the past also went into the mix. Sequencing, optimizing for weather and finding the best times to visit given the chosen places helped the rubrik’s cube fall into place. You can view the itinerary as it stands today here.lichtenstein

As for the curriculum and education for the kids, I could go on and on. Each grade level is different. For our eldest son Wescott, missing sophomore year of high school is a pretty big deal, so ensuring that he not only continues with his subjects, but also gets the proper credit, is essential. We chose the University of Nebraska’s virtual high school program because of its reputation, course alignment with Mercer Island High School, and a track record of MIHS taking the credits so he will have a graded transcript. For our middle school kids Yve (seventh grade) and Otto (sixth grade), the school recommended following the math curriculum with the textbooks as really the only required work. English would be more than covered by our family blog posts, of which everyone in the family has their day of the week to publish, a family requirement of writing a book over the course of the year that will be published on Amazon’s digital Kindle platform upon return to the United States, and our family book club, where we read selected titles together and then discuss over a meal. World history and science are also more than covered, as we take experiential learning to a whole new level! For our two would-be first graders, homeschooling from the five if us seems to be sufficing!sharples restaurant

As I write this, we are two and a half months into our adventure, and it’s simply amazing. We’re well into our European tour, a week away from hopping over to Africa. We’ve learned to cook a mean ravioli and perfectly stuffed grape leaves together, surfed in Greece and Spain, met several European entrepreneurs, painted graffiti with a Spanish urban street artist, seen heart-stopping architecture, enjoyed the sublime Mediterranean and connected with some amazing people so far. We invite you to come along on our blog – ProjectEquator: A Family Gap Year – where all of us give our own take on the experiences, sites and places we travel to.

Cliff Sharples

November 21, 2013   permissionslips1@gmail.com

Project Equator: A Family Gap Year – Part I

Project Equator: A Family Gap Year – Part I.

Project Equator: A Family Gap Year – Part I

As a pre-Thanksgiving special we share the story of a family traveling around the world with their five school-age children. We often joke about “living the dream” in reference to some of the more mundane aspects of life such as scrubbing the floors or waiting in a parking lot for soccer practice to end. Cliff and Lisa Sharples are living the real dream. Here is Cliff’s account of their family adventure. The ultimate permission slip.

One wintery day in 2012 at Crystal Mountain, WA, while the kids searched for powder, Lisa and I found ourselves more inspired by hot toddies than cold moguls; beckoned with a warm embrace of the upstairs base lodge bar. It had been a long week, a long month and a long year of stressful work, too much business travel and an endless calendar of games, events and to-dos for all of us. Reminding ourselves of the catch-phrase mantra “be a problem solver, not a problem alerter” we embarked on a decidedly MBAish exercise of writing our Family Mission Statement and Core Values. Both of us are serial entrepreneurs and hopeless MBAs who innately write mission statements, corporate core values and business plans as often as grocery lists. So, why not do that for our most important venture – our family?Sharples family

When we met, Lisa and I just knew our children would be waiting for us in unexpected places. Through the miracle of childbirth, the magic of international adoption and travels across the globe, all five of them found us; forming our unconventional family. As we listed values and beliefs we felt important to imbue in our children, a theme of connection began to emerge: connection with each other; connection with family and friends; connection to community and environment; connection with new ways of learning; connection with the world.

The more we talked, the more we realized that rather than remodeling our circa-1961 vintage kitchen, maybe it was time to invest in our family venture and explore the theme of connection as a family. Realizing that our window of opportunity to have a shared experience with all of our kids, with our oldest son half way through his freshman year in high school, we decided that it was now or never to embark on a project we’d dreamt about for many years. Ever the disrupters, we decided to embark on a global adventure – a gap year for the family, if you will.

After that cozy afternoon, and many hot toddies, life changed pretty dramatically for us. Like any startup, this venture had innumerable tasks and parallel strategies to execute to ultimately be viable. We had to creatively navigate our careers and achieve budget targets. The kids needed a plan for school so they could each drop back into the requisite grade upon our return. We needed a plan for our house, three dogs and two parakeets. An itinerary needed to be agreed upon, and then planned out. Reservations of many types needed to be completed. Medical and dental appointments had to be lined up, including 50 shots between us to inoculate us from the world’s ills… the list went on and on! barcelona

On September 9, 2013, exhausted from an amazingly wonderful and crazy 18 months of planning, saving and scheming, the seven of us boarded a plane for Europe. Now in the heart of Seville, Spain, it’s hard to believe we are almost two and a half months into our adventure. In my next post, I’ll tell you about where we’re headed and how it’s going!

Permission Slips will post part two on Thursday.

Cliff Sharples 

November 18, 2013 permissionslips1@gmail.com

Surviving the Awkward Teen Years

Many of you found that this week’s post (click here if you missed it) revived memories of those awkward middle school years. A loyal Permission Slips reader tipped us off to a fabulous website (featured on Oprah!) in which adults write about how they maneuvered the awkward teen years and blossomed into their current selves. Participants in this “Awkward Years Project” post photos of their confident adult selves holding portraits from their glasses-, braces-, acne- and/or bad hair-riddled middle school years. It’s definitely worth a look; click here or follow this link: http://awkwardyearsproject.com/

By the way, here’s a lovely shot of me and my very cool older sister, when I was about 12 (note the braces, flip-up sunglasses and certainly dirty hair):

JodLindaFlorida 1971

Pitching Perfection

Most of us remember seventh grade, and few of us remember it fondly.

For me, it involved glasses and braces, two broken arms (within five months), and stringy long hair that suddenly needed more than one wash per week.

Jan Brady, of TV’s “The Brady Bunch,” was my idol, and even she felt awkward about wearing glasses. (She resented her “perfect” older sister, lamenting the attention going towards “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”)

For others, seventh grade comprised acne, weight gain, lower grades (often due to distraction), clumsiness, social exclusion and even bullying.

No matter how we managed or suffered through that age, most of us recall it as a time where we started comparing ourselves to others, and started setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. (Note: If you have a child close to that age, consider these great tips from wikihow.com.)

House drawingI love the advice from Ask.com: No one is perfect. If you try to be perfect, there will always be someone who thinks otherwise and will always be disappointed that you are not living up to their expectations. Just be yourself.

At the same time, our children receive mixed messages about perfection from their parents, teachers, coaches, piano teachers and peers. We celebrate their coloring within the lines, dressing themselves without mixing stripes and plaids, scoring goals in micro-soccer and memorizing all their spelling words.

From the get-go, our children feel pressured to work hard in school, excel on the field, dress appropriately – or even fashionably – bathe regularly, avoid cavities and act kindly towards others.

The reality is that few kids will earn 100 percent on every homework assignment and test, bat over .500 or lead the conference in touchdowns, wear wrinkle- and stain-free clothes each day, wake up in time to shower and straighten or braid hair every morning, regularly reply appropriately to nagging teachers, parents or coaches and resist the temptation to snap at friends making mean comments.

As a parent, I want my kids to know that perfection is overrated, and that while it’s important to set high goals for ourselves, “flawless” should stay off the list. I wish they could truly understand that they are “perfect” exactly as created, whether or not that involves near-sightedness, crooked teeth, acne, hyper-activity, math challenges, hand-eye coordination issues, skinny legs (as a boy) or muscular thighs (as a girl).

I want my daughter to know that she is wonderful exactly as-is, and doesn’t need to spend hours each morning straightening her already-curl-free hair, covering up blemishes and wondering if her thighs are too bulky (not at all; she’s a dancer).

I wish my oldest son, who struggled more than a little this past year, could believe that we never asked for perfection, and we didn’t – and still don’t – expect him to act exactly like his siblings or friends.

I wish I had worked harder, when my kids were little, to discuss and celebrate my own flaws and, therefore, give permission for imperfection.

To be clear, I did try to highlight my mistakes when the kids were younger; I would laugh and say, “Oops, Mommy goofed!” or, “I guess they’ll haul me off to BMJ (Bad Mommy Jail) for that one!” However, I’m not convinced that I, or my kids, ever believed I was absolutely at peace with my own imperfections.

I do set high standards for myself and others. I want to appear to have everything under control at all times. I don’t lash out at my friends. My flaws  scream at me from the mirror. I try to hide my hurt and my self-doubt.

Fortunately, I recently happened upon a fascinating book by Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010). (I missed the boat, but apparently Oprah offered a six-week eCourse related to the book, promising to help participants “move from how you think you’re supposed to be…and embrace who you ARE.”)

In her book, Brown suggests that many of us, subconsciously, set prerequisites for our own happiness and self-worth, with hurdles such as, “I’ll be worthy when I lose twenty pounds…if everyone thinks I’m a good parent…when I make partner…when I can do it all and look like I’m not even trying.”

Brown stresses that we must convince ourselves that we are “Worthy now. Not if. Not when…Right this minute. As is.”

The downside of believing otherwise is, according to Brown, shame. She notes that “shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring.”

Brown states that this resulting shame “is related to violence, aggression, depression, addiction, eating disorders and bullying.”

Perhaps that’s why so many superstars and celebrities who appear “perfect” are hiding cracks beneath the surface. For example, the gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who at age 14 made history earning not just one, but seven perfect 10s in the 1976 Summer Olympics, didn’t think her routines were flawless.  Several decades later, when asked about her winning performances, she noted:  “I never felt they were perfect. They were very good, but I still could have been better.”

Even Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) struggled with high ideals for herself. A 2008 article related to the release of McCormick’s memoir, “Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice,” states that after the show ended, she “spiraled downward into substance abuse and depression as she struggled to reconcile her Marcia Brady image of the girl next door with her private pain.”

I hope today’s teenagers actually listen to the words of pop singer Pink’s  “F**kin’ Perfect” (2010), as she urges, “pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel, that you’re less than, less than perfect.” She adds, “Change the voices in your head. Let them like you instead.”

More than a few of us adults could learn from this wisdom, too. I also plan to heed the advice of the esteemed essayist Anna Quindlen, who noted in a commencement speech, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” 

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 11 Nov. 2013
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Marriage Isn’t For You

Love this very true advice from a young man’s father. Must read.

Marriage Isn’t For You.

Facebook Dos and Don’ts for Dads

Today’s guest blogger is Toby Suhm, a “super dad” with a super good sense of humor after his daughters tell him what he is allowed to post on Facebook.

Like many parents of teenagers, I struggle to balance my desire to stay relevant in the rapidly evolving world of social media with the feeling of a drowning man – I am having trouble keeping my head above water.  Instagram, Snapchat, Pintrest, Twitter, Viber, Vine… who can possibly keep up? Thankfully, MySpace has fallen by the wayside, so I don’t have to worry about that one anymore.

I recently shared one of my daughter’s athletic competition pictures on my Facebook page. In my comments I mentioned that I was probably violating Facebook Posting Rule #4 by posting the sports picture, but thought the risk was worth it. I got a number of queries –  what are the Facebook Posting Rules?  Simply stated, “The Rules” are  guidelines my daughters have given me to keep from embarrassing them or myself on Facebook. Bear in mind my daughters are 19 and 16 years old; virtually anything I do embarrasses them.suhm family

A year or so ago, they gave me this set of five rules – plus I’m pretty sure, the sixth one implied. The girls tell me they are for my own protection, so I won’t embarrass myself.  I think we all know the real reason for the rules…

  1. Is it longer than one sentence? If so, don’t post. Now I appreciate brevity as much as the next guy, but really, who can communicate anything meaningful in one sentence? Even in a speech renowned for its brevity, Abraham Lincoln needed 10 sentences to deliver the Gettysburg Address. How can I possibly communicate anything in Facebook in one sentence or less?
  2. Is it bragging? If so, don’t post. This one I actually sort of get. Who likes to constantly read posts from people strutting around on-line, thumping their chests and spouting off? On the other hand, isn’t that the whole reason behind Facebook? Look at what interesting things I’m doing! Look at my amazing kids. Isn’t my pet the cutest thing you have ever seen? How do you like these photos of our recent kitchen remodel?
  3. Is it political? If so, don’t post. I claim that I don’t post anything blatantly liberal or conservative, but, rather interesting, thought-provoking, middle-of-the-road essays and editorials that cause one to stop and ponder the issues. My daughters say that’s not possible. Anything remotely political is going to offend at least some of your friends.
  4. Is it about your daughters? If so, do you have their permission? If no, don’t post. Refer to #2 above. The whole reason for Facebook’s existence if you are a parent is to post pictures, newspaper articles, updates and “A” English essays from your kids. I don’t consider it bragging, just keeping family and friends updated on what they’re up to. Besides, if I had to get their permission, I’d never get to post anything.
  5. Are you using the Facebook “check-in” feature from a sporting event, movie theater, restaurant, activity, venue, roadside attraction, monument or anywhere else on planet Earth? If so, don’t check in. This one has always confused me because my daughters, and every person below the age of 30 I know, checks in on Facebook about 25 times a day. But for some reason, if I try to check in from the Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy soccer match of the year, I am violating rule #5 and am in the Facebook equivalent of a time-out.
  6. If in doubt, don’t post. It’s always good to a have a blanket, catch-all rule to fall back on.
    Italiano: versione ombreggiata e ingrandita de...

    Italiano: versione ombreggiata e ingrandita del simboletto “like” di FB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

Other than that, I have their approval to post pretty much anything I want on FB.

Toby Suhm November 4, 2013

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If you haven’t already seen this funny list, check out: 17 Reasons Why The Kids Don’t Like Facebook Anymore.

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