Feel free to judge me.

Am I the only one appalled by how many times I read the words “Don’t judge me” in social media each day?

How sad.

We are judged so often by our “friends” that we automatically preface what we say by begging for forgiveness or at the very least asking them to pretend to be okay with it or to withhold their comments.

Even on a good day, I’m an all-you-can-judge buffet. And I am not without judgmental moments of my own, of course – I’m human and have opinions. I’m not perfect, but whatever. I try not to be judgmental, but it would be absurd to pretend I’m without opinions. However, understanding that doesn’t make it any less infuriating that judginess has become the most popular online sport of our time.

I refuse to say, “Don’t judge me” anymore. If you want to critique me, go ahead. In fact, if you are among the judgmental hordes, I’ll give you some chicken soup for your crabby little, disapproving soul.

Feast on this:

I was married at 22. Seventeen months later, the ink was dry on the divorce papers. Even now, I don’t regret it. We had some good times alongside the bad, and I grew up a lot. It was a long time ago, and I don’t hold any ill will toward him or how things ended.

And while I’m speaking of this man and the many mistakes for which people may judge me, let me say that I am friends with him on Facebook and have no intention of changing that. Who I was at 23 is not who I am at nearly 40. Time has passed.

Two years later, I married a military man who was shipping off to Korea for a year. We were dating and didn’t want to break up, so we got engaged. We stayed married for five years, ended our relationship much to the surprise of just about everyone and didn’t offer explanations to most of the people who wondered why.

And I’m not going to offer them now.

It was what it was. Judge the ease with which we divorced if you will. We got into the marriage easily. We got out of it easily. Many people disagreed, and there were times we weren’t sure it was the right thing to do. But we did it. It was a long time ago, and I don’t regret it or apologize for it. I could easily say, “Please don’t judge me,” but I really don’t care. People are going to judge no matter what, so go ahead.

Marriage is a subject easily judged by outsiders peeping through your Life’s smudgy window. I could go on about it endlessly, but I’ll just wrap up this subject by saying the number one thing for which I will probably be judged – if you want to preserve the sanctity of marriage, worry less about gay people’s desire to make a beautifully heartfelt pledge of their love for one another and make it harder for people like me to get married. Maybe if we made it harder to get into marriage, people might not want to get out of it so easily.

So there it is. Judge me. And while you’re at it, feel free to judge me for having a child out of wedlock with my 10-years-younger rebound guy after my second divorce. He was pretty. He didn’t challenge me mentally or emotionally. When I hugged him, he picked me up and carried me through the house. He made me laugh.

No, he wasn’t Mr. Right. He was Mr. Right Now, and it was fun.

I never married him, and my “bastard” child, as she has been called in my presence at least once that I recall, is perfectly who she is meant to be. My second ex-husband and I tried desperately to have a baby and never could. No amount of unprotected tempting of the Fates produced a child at any point in my Life, so I ended up having a baby with someone I wouldn’t have willingly combined my DNA with had I known it was possible.

I married Randall when Sarah was just over a year and a half old, and a permanent, 500-yard restraining order helped us terminate “Donor’s” parental rights. Commence the happy beginning where the unnecessarily sad ending left off. I have seen people’s pity over the whole thing, their air-sucking judgments when I so nonchalantly tell the story, their oh-mys and bless-your-hearts and so much more. I have been endlessly judged and could not possibly care less if I wholeheartedly tried.

So let’s see. What else is there? I covered divorce, gay marriage, rebound flings and bastard babies. I suppose I could go into my unpopular opinion that it’s funny that so many people bashed Phil Robertson for stating his beliefs about homosexuality, which really only highlighted their own agree-with-me-or-you’re wrong philosophy that they were supposedly fighting. Judgment at its most ironic, huh?

I could also easily rile up the judges for how ridiculous I think it is when people badmouth our steadfastly married president who is the father of two seemingly well adjusted daughters but is somehow reviled as a festering disfigurement on the porcelain-perceived exterior of traditional marriage. Like his politics or not. You’re free to judge, just as we all are.

Of course, never mind that the ever-revered Kennedy wooed Marilyn while Jackie waited fabulously in the wifely wings, Clinton’s potentially historic presidency was derailed by scandal that cut the impression of interns to knee level, and the once-maligned-now-sugarcoated younger Bush paid journalists to write articles favoring the Federal Marriage Amendment but declined to make an official White House stance in favor of it. Clearly, we belly up to the ammunition buffet and a la carte our judgments based on any moment’s whim.

I’m pretty sure that’s plenty of sparks to light the Olympic Torch on the 2014 games broadcasting live from RebeccaLand, but oh no. There is always more.

My house is a wreck 75.285% of the time.

I have a potty mouth. In front of the kids? Of course not. In front of my parents? Not often. But it’s there, and I am 100% unapologetic. It’s just a series of letters strung together. Judge me if you will.

I had gastric bypass because I couldn’t make myself stop binge eating. I had no will power to make permanent change and needed help to make it happen. Ten years later, I am still happy someone was there to take away my choices, and I am not at all bothered by the armies of people who judge that.

My hair is colored, and if my employer didn’t outlaw it in the company’s behavioral standards, I would have electric blue, pink or purple hiding among the existing stripes. Maybe all three. Maybe more. And I would not hesitate to thumb my nose at the “She needs to act her age” comments that would surely ensue.

Judge on…

I’m a speeder.

Our bed is never made.

I sleep with a wall of pillows between me and my husband. Sure, I love him and enjoy being close to him. But I also enjoy being comfortable and am not going to allow pillow placement to define our relationship status.

I do not talk about my faith in a Higher Power in social media. This isn’t because of lack of it, uncertainty about it or wavering feelings about it. It’s personal, and there is no big book in the sky tallying how many times I “Like” something or repost it. My walk in the Light has not always taken a very direct path, and there are many people who would question my sincerity if I were to beat the Godly drum too overtly. That’s not where my reluctance to preach online comes from, though. It’s just personal and quiet and in me and not for public consumption. However judgment-inducing it may be, it’s my chosen path.

Sarah understands how babies get out of the mommy, what a protective order is, the fact that people die and what that means, why we can’t afford for her to take tumbling classes, who Santa really is and much more. She asks, and I answer her clearly and unpatronizingly. Aubrey knows nothing of any of this, and if she asked, my answer might be hedged a bit more. She is a different child, and she will understand things when it’s her time. Yes, I treat them differently. They are different. It’s not our job to treat them identically. It’s our job to do the best we can by each of them, and while we may be judged for that, we define it in our own way.

I’m overweight.

I’m a little paranoid. The curtains in every room in the house have to be pulled completely together before I can go to bed. Heaven forbid some wandering kidnapper peeks through and sees one of my babies. Yes, I actually think about people seeing my kids through their windows at night. Judge me if you will, but Elizabeth Smart probably wishes her window had been locked a little more tightly, and Jon Benet’s parents never slept the same again.

My favorite show redefines the TV-MA rating with unprecedented violence and bad guy winningness each week. “Sons of Anarchy” is beautifully ugly and frame-by-frame extraordinary.

I am chronically late. If it’s possible to be late to my own funeral, I will be. And, even then, prompt people will judge.

Our kids are growing up on Instagram and Facebook. A printout of status updates and photo albums would create a flip book the likes of which might only be matched by a live feed from cameras that Trumanned behind them 24 hours a day. I regularly hear comments about how often their faces grace the world’s small screens, and there is nearly always a hint of judginess hidden in the tone.

Judge me for it if you will. I’m okay with it. Really. I am. There was a time when I wouldn’t have been, but when I stand back now and see how judgmental we are of each other for every little nitpicking thing, it makes me sick.

I will no longer ask people not to judge me.

  1. What good would it do if I did?
  2. Saying, “Don’t judge me but…” only spotlights the fact that there might be fodder ahead for hungry little judgerpillars.
  3. I am not all that concerned if people judge me.

After all this, I suppose I have made my point. Or perhaps I have only needlessly rambled about personal things which mean nothing to anyone but me.

But that sort of is the point.

My Life should mean something to me, but evidently it means something to that person over there as well. And that one. Don’t forget her. Oh, and that guy and his cousin’s wife’s neighbor’s dog groomer’s nephew’s ex-girlfriend.

Mind your own business, folks. But if you can’t, feel free to nose around in mine. And while you’re there, feel free to judge me. At least someone else will be getting a break.

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Why am I so unhealthy?

NOTE: The Health Equity Task Force is a local group in which I participate. We are newly formed with the purpose of addressing health disparities in this area (if you would like to join in the fun, message me for details.) The following blog grew from a “homework” assignment made after our last meeting. As we began looking at the barriers to healthy living for people in this region, the topic of obesity kept coming up, so we were challenged to examine what keeps each of us from making healthy choices. These are my random thoughts, but I would pose the same question to you – what keeps you from making healthy choices?

That is such a tough question. Not tough in the sense that I don’t know how to answer it but tough because I don’t want to admit the answer. The thing that keeps me from being healthier is simple.

Excuses.

I have plenty of them. My job keeps me busy. I am a mother of three small kids. Being a Girl Scout troop leader requires a good measure of my time. The girls have cheer practice, church choir, birthday parties and a million other social things that create far-too-busy calendars for a six-year-old and a three-year-old. Our budget is tight so it’s tough to always buy fresh fruits and vegetables and make sure everything is organically grown. If I try to quit drinking Cokes, I’ll have a caffeine-withdrawal headache, and I don’t have time to be slowed down.

Geez, Louise. Excuses, excuses.

The reality is that if I don’t start making time for healthier lifestyle choices and begin making a concerted effort to get myself in order, I may not be here to deal with any of those things that keep me so busy.

My uncle was relatively healthy – reasonable weight, active lifestyle, etc. – and dropped dead at age 42 of heart disease, which he didn’t even know he had. I made changes in my life when that happened. I lost a lot of weight and joined a gym, which I went to at least three days a week for two or more hours. I purged unhealthy foods from my life, gave up soft drinks and parked further from the door at stores so I had to take extra steps. I was the healthiest I have ever been in my adult life and was able to stop taking six medications a day for various, obesity-related problems.

But then my oldest daughter came along, and I let my standards drop. I told myself fast food was easier. I didn’t have extra money for a gym membership, and who had time to go there anyway? As a single mom to a high-maintenance little princess and as someone who was spending quite a bit of time in the court system fighting the biological donor of said princess, I turned to comfort eating as a coping mechanism and started choosing the easy way out. When everything in life feels hard, food can feel easy, and easy feels good. I won’t deny it.

Food makes me feel good.

It does. I can’t help that. People who say, “No food tastes as good as skinny feels” have obviously never had such a horrible day that the only thing that goes right in the whole day is that bite of French fries you ate in the car on the way home after picking up your daughter because you knew when you got home there wouldn’t be a chance to eat until much, much later, and once you finally got her to sleep you were going to have to fight with her father who is banging on your door at 3 a.m. or deal with her night terrors brought on by his constant harassment and scare tactics or…well…anyway…maybe that’s just me.

But it’s not just me.

There are many people in situations that make them feel out of control. Whether it’s financial or emotional stress or pressure from work or a bad family situation, there is always something that makes you feel like taking the easy way out in other parts of your Life. Often, that means taking care of everyone and everything else and neglecting to take care of yourself. It means eating fattening foods because in a world where you have no control over anything else, eating makes you feel good and is something you can do to entertain yourself and feel soothed.

It sounds ridiculous. I know it does. There are many other ways to combat depression and anxiety. Pray. Talk to friends. Get out of the house and get active. Find a charitable group with which you can volunteer. Take your kids to the park. Sit on your back porch and enjoy a quiet moment. Do yoga. Meditate. Go to a walking track and go around and around until you walk away the stress.

I know that. Of course I do. I am a relatively intelligent, clear-thinking person. And yet there I sat so many nights with my pint of ice cream or my fast food or my bag of chips.

In fact, as I type this, I am relishing every sip of my $1.08 large Coke from Sonic. It has cherry flavoring and a handful of real cherries added. I rationalize it by saying I can’t quit caffeine cold turkey because I can’t afford to slow down long enough to have a headache. I tell myself there are real cherries in there, so that’s a serving of fruit, right?

Ugh. I’m so ridiculous.

I can tell others what to do, and I know what I need to do. I just need to do it. But taking the easier path seems so great in the short-term. I talk about “if” I decide to lose weight and “when” I am going to return to a healthier Life. I grimace at myself in the mirror and complain that they don’t make attractive, stylish clothes for people my size. But I don’t want to be this size. So what do I do?

Nothing.

I stop at Sweet Frog and load up on Pistachio and Cake Batter frozen yogurt, top it off with Teddy Grahams and pecans and let my spoon soothe me into complacency once again.

I know I need to make a change, but there are so many obstacles in the way. Unfortunately, my main obstacle is the hardest one to overcome and it is the same one that has plagued me for nearly 39 years.

It’s me.

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For my girls (and a little bit for me), PART 30

30. List 10 things for which you would like to be remembered.

I want to be remembered for being a rock star ballerina who was the first female president of the United States.

It would be a tasty little treat to be remembered as the creator of the World’s Greatest Salsa. Yes, those words are capitalized. I want the official title based on a worldwide survey and a unanimous vote. 

And wouldn’t it be nice to be remembered as the most perfectly beautiful woman the world has ever known? The one who caused People to stop naming the most beautiful woman in the world each year because they choose me as the most amazingly gorgeous woman the world could ever know?

Ha.

None of those things will ever come true. Clearly. But maybe there are a few things I can be remembered for that are a little more likely.

Please remember me as someone who spoke up against the world’s wrongs, no matter how small or great they might’ve been. Maybe I was able to affect change, and maybe I wasn’t, but I would like to be remembered as someone who was never afraid to speak up.

I want to be remembered as someone who offered good advice and also took it when needed.

Is it possible you can remember me for my love of cooking and of feeding people and forget my dislike of cleaning the kitchen?

Long after I am gone, remember that I loved people for who they were on the inside and not the outside and who they were in Life and not in relationships.

Red is my favorite color. Try to remember that when you plan my funeral and everyone wants to wear black. No. Red. Lots of it.

It would be nice if my friends would remember me as someone they trusted and enjoyed knowing.

I would like for you to remember my sense of humor and know that it came directly from my Daddy. Yes, it is sarcasm-based and a little offbeat, but I like to think my friends find it at least a little endearing.

Remember that I loved to write. I am not the world’s greatest writer, and it’s highly unlikely I will ever publish anything other than self-publishing three copies of this blog series for you girls. Don’t remember what I did or did not accomplish through writing. Just remember that it was important to me.

It would be a nice compliment to be remembered as someone who was helpful and courteous to everyone I met, regardless of their ability or desire to return the favor. That is not always the case, but I try.

And finally, to my Sarah, to my Aubrey, and to my Zoey, let me say, “Thank you.” Thank you for listening to my ramblings through all these pages and not judging me for my less-than-perfect answers. Thank you for the cherished opportunity to be your mother and to share your journey through Life.

More than anything, please remember me as someone who loved you. I always have, and I always will.

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For my girls (and a little bit for me), PART 29

29. Do you have any regrets?

It is so easy to say, “I have no regrets. Every part of my Life is part of the greater picture of who I am today.” As much as I would like to say that is true for me and as much as I might’ve actually thought it to be true at some point in my Life, it’s not.

If given the opportunity to start over, I would talk to my grandparents more and get to know who they were when they were younger.

I would exercise more and eat less.

Not a single drop of any type of soft drink would ever cross my lips. Ever.

My appreciation of music would be more than listening enjoyment and would include the ability to play a variety of instruments. I took piano lessons for three years and played the flute for six years. There was also that brief, never-intended-for-greatness foray into bells and chimes. Can I play any of them now? Nope.

I would end things on a better note with a certain young man who thought I hung the moon and did not receive the same respect from me in return.

Along those same lines, I would not have wasted six months of my Life trying to find out why someone dumped me without warning. He quit returning my calls even though we were supposedly engaged and in love against all odds. I realize now that was clearly his loss and not mine. I just wish I had seen that then and saved myself the agony of dragging my broken heart from one breath to the next for so long.

I regret not realizing earlier in Life that it is okay to be wrong.

It is my sincere regret that I hung on to Sarah’s biological donor as long as I did and held out hope that he would grow up and embrace fatherhood.  The first year of her Life might’ve been much less traumatic if I had cut those ties long before restraining orders were needed.

By this age, I should not be tackling debt and considering opening retirement accounts. Those things should already be well maintained.

Of course, it would’ve been nice not to have to go through the Hell that was my first marriage or the disappointing end to my second marriage. Ideally, I would’ve married your Daddy many years ago and started a family much sooner.

I can’t think about those things, though. Or rather, I won’t.

Regretsville is a tough place to live. There is far too much living left to do to be constantly looking back and thinking of the what-ifs and if-onlys. Life will hand you many chances to make choices, and you will not always choose wisely. You will have regrets. Of course you will. We aren’t meant to live a perfect Life. We all fall and get back up. It’s part of maturing and becoming adults.

It’s only what you do once you have fallen that matters. The rest is just a stumblingly imperfect choice in your journey. No matter how old or wise you become, you will still fall and have chances to correct your path. Personally, I choose not to spend too much time looking over my shoulder as I dust myself off and keep going.

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For my girls (and a little bit for me), PART 28

28. What’s your favorite quality in your spouse?

Randall Mixon is one of the good guys. In a world where people are more likely to bend the rules than live by them, your Daddy walks the line every day of his Life without fail. He is Vehemently Vanilla to my Ragin’ Rocky Road, and I like it that way.

Your Daddy drives the speed limit. He goes two miles out of his way to avoid a left-hand turn onto Cypress Street for fear of putting his girls in jeopardy. He won’t carry a gun without a concealed carry license, and when he goes fishing, he has his license up-to-date and ready to present if asked.

He believes in the sanctity of marriage but doesn’t seek to define that for anyone other than himself. He believes in sharing the word of God with his children but understands they cannot be forced to embrace it. He believes in loving all people regardless of who they are and does not pass judgment on those whose path through Life varies from his own. 

Your Daddy loves his family wholeheartedly and every-breathedly. There is nothing he wouldn’t do or willingly give up to make sure we are happy and safe. He is the proud father of three very special young ladies, and he is the faithful husband to a crazy woman who isn’t always easy to handle. He is a son who reveres his father and seeks his mother’s comforting words, and he is a brother who loves your Uncle Michael not only as his sibling but also as his friend.

Randall Mixon might as well ride a white horse and carry an iPod that blasts triumphant, here-to-save-the-day music behind him everywhere he goes. He isn’t perfect – no one is. But he is head and shoulders above 99.9% of the rest of the world, and that makes him imperfectly perfect for me.

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For my girls (and a little bit for me), PART 27

27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?

Your Daddy is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this question. He is surely thinking, “Getting her to pick a part of her body that she likes is impossible!”

He’s right. I’m notoriously negative about my body, but that is no one’s fault but my own. I wasted the one body I was given to get me through Life by loving food more than I loved myself. It’s not too late to change that, of course, but no amount of refocusing my energies on weight loss and fitness will make up for the fact that I didn’t take care of myself all along. No matter what I do at this stage, I will never have that big-screen-ready, model-perfect body everyone holds up as the gold standard of beauty.

However, if I absolutely had to pick which part of my body is my favorite, I would say my eyes. They’re brown and plain, but I like to think I speak with them more than I speak with words sometimes. My Grandma and my Mom were blessed with the same brown circles of twinkleyness, and I try to speak as loudly with just a look as those two important ladies in my Life have always done.

Sarah has brown eyes like mine, and she is known for her animated expressions and for reminding us of my Grandma when she cuts her eyes at you a certain way. Aubrey’s eyes are blue and are pretty high on the list of the most comically amusing parts of who she is. Zoey’s eyes appear to be hazel – one day they’re blue and then they’re brown but mostly they’re a beautiful gray. No matter what color they are, though, they light up as brightly as her face-cracking smile when she is amused. All three of my little princesses speak volumes with just their eyes, and they are one small part of what make you each so beautiful.

My makeup has always centered on playing up my eyes. Sometimes it’s a smokey eyeshadow, and other times it’s sky-high lashes. My eyes aren’t particularly sexy or smoldering on their own, but with the right artistic touches, they can transform into the things that take your mind off the imperfection of the rest of me.

These plain, brown dots are windows to a side of me that doesn’t require rock-hard abs or long, silky hair to feel good. My eyes are the one body part that doesn’t need a treadmill or gallons of water to be maintained in a fashion that the world says reflects its idea of what a woman should be.

To top it all off, no matter how old and wrinkled I get, my eyes will always reflect the me that feels like a kid on the inside. And that, my dear daughters, is thankfully something that will keep me feeling young long beyond the point when age dictates otherwise.

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For my girls (and a little bit for me), PART 26

26. What notion do you think the world has most wrong?

The world says we deserve a trophy for showing up. We are all first place, no matter what the score of the game. We are equal players in the game of Life.

No.

That is simply not the case, and I fear for you girls as you mature into this we’re-all-winners world. I’ll agree that we’re all special. Every person in the history of the world brought something to this thing called Life that made them unique and perfectly as they should be. I get that, but we aren’t all “winners” just because we want to be.

Everyone should be encouraged to do their best. In each of us lies the potential to do something. It might not be that we are destined to be a professional football player, the first female president of the United States, a movie star or a neurosurgeon. Instead, you might be meant for the less-famous greatness of life as a teacher as you help people gain the skills and knowledge they need to survive in our world or as a hairdresser to make someone feel beautiful on the outside when they might not feel so attractive on the inside. Maybe you will be the trash collector who always has a friendly “hello” for people as he pulls their can to the street or maybe your greatness lies in creating a pleasant retail experience at the mall, spreading joy through courteous waiting of tables or serving as a public defender who is assigned cases no one else will take and still treats each client with respect and compassion.

Whatever your lot in Life, I hope you approach it with a wholehearted zeal and do the best you can at whatever it is you do.

But you aren’t a winner just because you wake up and breathe.

Life requires effort. The world has evolved to a reward-everyone-regardless-of-effort place, and that is (in my opinion) not a good thing. If no one is allowed to stand out from the crowd for fear of upsetting someone whose skills in a particular area might not be up to par, why should anyone go to the trouble of putting forth an effort? If you know you are going to be acknowledged equally with someone who is pitifully lacking in whatever it is you are doing, why would you continue to strive for improvement and success?

We have redefined success as simply showing up, but being a winner means working hard at something. It means being a team player when you need to support the greater good and taking your place in the spotlight when your star shines more brightly than the rest. It means understanding that there will be times when someone else or some other team is better than you at something and you have to accept second, third or fifteenth place.

Not everyone is a winner. Some people are miserable no matter what. They see only negativity and reasons to gripe. They choose not to be friendly and welcoming with their fellow travelers through Life’s journey. These are people who feel the world owes them something, whether it’s recognition, money, a better job or a free ride.

If you learn nothing else from this blog series or from me as your mother, learn this – nobody owes you a trophy unless you earn it. You are going to fail. You are not always going to be in first place. You may never be in first place.

Being a winner means earning your way to success, but it does not mean you have to be in first place to win. You may feel good that you were able to compete in a game in which you did not come in first place or that you were asked to apply for a job that you ultimately did not receive. It may mean that your team didn’t score the most homeruns, turn in the winning bid for a job or gain the recognition you sought from the boss, but you put forth a valuable effort and performed as well as you could.

You can be a winner without ever seeing the winner’s circle from the inside.

But you do not deserve to stand in the winner’s circle just because you showed up to the game and stood by while others did their best. Get busy and earn your chance to step across that perfectly rounded line into the circle of champions. Be the best you that you can be, and let the world know the Mixon girls are here to win. 

Just don’t expect a trophy simply for showing up.

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