The Three Coats of Benny Bunny

I’m again the first one awake, and I’m drinking coffee, browsing favorite blogs and sites, and thinking.

We want to give JJ driving opportunities so he can get more experience, and our insurance company will give us a slightly reduced rate on our car insurance if JJ drives a required number of hours without an “incident.” So yesterday I gave him a mission: drop off some unwanted items at Goodwill and refill some of our empty water jugs. He invited a friend to go with him to make it more fun, and we gave him a few dollars so they could stop at Burger King.

Afterwards he dropped his friend off at this grandparents home. It required him going down a not-really-plowed country road that was sort of slick. He slid a bit, he said, but he was able to correct. I would have preferred him not attempting a drive down such a road in the winter,  but I know JJ is a cautious driver, and he will never gain experience if he doesn’t have any experiences. It’s not like it was an ice storm or anything. I want JJ to have courage to face life instead of being afraid of new experiences. Part of parenting, I think, is being able to let go.

JJ came home filled with happiness. He had had a lot of fun with his friend, and he said it felt really good to pay for things himself. You know, to have more of an adult role.

A Hamburger, fries, and a coke from a fast-foo...

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JJ also came home with his Burger King meal. I haven’t been to a Burger King or McDonald’s in YEARS. When we stop at a fast food restaurant, it’s always something like Subway. The sandwiches are delicious and much healthier than a burger. However, when I smelled JJ’s Whopper and fries, I wanted to attack him and steal his burger, it smelled so good. I almost suggested to EJ that we go out to BK, but EJ fell asleep in his chair. He had gotten home from work at 6 a.m. after a 12 hour shift, and except for a small nap, he had had no sleep. It’s just as well. I have been trying to get on the elliptical machine every day to lose weight so my jeans fit better and fast food is FATTENING. A Whopper has 670 calories, 40g of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 75mg of cholesterol, 11g of sugar, 51g carbs, and 980 mg of sodium. I DO NOT NEED IT, I try to convince myself. But, oh, it’s a good thing JJ did not leave his burger unattended because I really craved it.

A friend and I once questioned (and lamented) why delicious food is always so unhealthy. Why can’t the food we crave actually be GOOD for us? We surmised that perhaps it’s because it’s always easy to give in to cravings, but we have to have self-control, self-denial, determination, and fortitude to make GOOD choices–whether it’s food, exercise, or any other choice.

I was visiting other blogs this morning and enjoying reading about their thoughts and lives. I thought “Oh, wow, everyone writes so well! My writing pales in comparison. Why would anyone read about my little life?” I got an attack of insecurity, which I occasionally have. One of my favorite quotes about writing is by Patrick McManus:

“The Fear in writing comes from exposing your thoughts, your emotions, your experiences, your ideas, your talent, your intelligence, and ultimately yourself to public scrutiny and possible scorn.”

I also like a quote that says that “Writing is like prostitution: first you write for yourself, then you write for others, and then you write for money.” Ha, ha.

I regularly read–and utterly enjoy–the blog, I Want a Square Piece, which is written by the daughter of one of my Facebook friends. The writer writes about small details of her life, but in such a way that she has me rolling in laughter. However, what I love most about her blog is the way her mother supports her writing and cheers her on. I hope she realizes the gift she has in her mother. It appears that she does.

Sometimes I have craved motherly affirmation more than my son’s BK Whopper. I grew up with a family who loved only when one was doing exactly what they wanted. I was very compliant and eager to please, so I received praise. However, it wasn’t true affirmation. It was praise with a price. Unconsciously there was the awareness of needing to please for love, and when I tried to do something that wasn’t “approved,” there was subtle attempts to take away self-esteem. It was like the reverse of Benny Bunny’s mother’s encouragement: Instead of “You don’t need to be afraid, you were designed to face the world, you can do it,” it was “You are selfish if you do this, you can’t do this, you’d never survive.” When I got engaged and resisted the pressure of my family to let them have control of my marriage, I was disowned and constantly criticized: “You are handling your finances wrong, You shouldn’t take day trips to small town festivals  (life isn’t all fun and games, you know), Why do you insist on putting your TV in THAT place? Your painted brick house will peel in a few years…” I have not heard an encouraging word from my family in more than 20 years. When my family found a blog I wrote a couple of years ago, they despised it (“it is sickening and disgusting….”) and they never forgave me for it. Some found fault with small details and tried to tell me what to write and what not to write and how to write it…so I shut down the blog, struggled with discouragement, and then, because I can’t seem to stop writing, I began another blog and hoped (and still hope) that my family would never find it.

I have some truly awesome friends who I love and appreciate deeply. However, I’ve also had many friends who are like my family in that they suck away confidence. Whenever my husband (and others) told me I should publish a book of my poetry, for example, a respected friend/mentor always countered with “We all like your poetry because we love you and know your heart…” There was a strong message that she liked it only because she loved me, like a parent who laughs at her small son’s attempt to tell his first (unfunny) jokes because it’s her son telling themI began to notice that in many ways, this friend discouraged my growth, outwardly being nice but underneath robbing me of confidence–much like the witch did to Repunzel in the movie “Tangled.” (I relate very deeply to that movie and Repunzel’s attempts to live free.) For example, I once did a church skit, which is WAY outside of my comfort zone, but I wanted to challenge myself and push myself to do something courageously new. It was fun and I thought of doing another UNTIL my friend subtly discouraged me from trying. I also didn’t join in a Jewish dance at a Passover meal that a group put on at the church because I was afraid the friend would think I was inept and silly. Now I wish I had done these things anyway because, really, who cares if I don’t do something perfectly or am a bit silly? Life ought to be ENJOYED.

One of the challenges of my life has been to be loving and sensitive toward others WHILE ALSO living in freedom. Not being unloving or selfish, but also not letting others control how I live. It is ok to make choices, to express myself, to be who I am, even if I don’t always please everyone. It’s ok to make mistakes and occasionally fail as I seek to grow. That includes writing. I write because it is my life, my expression, my voice, a pouring out of my heart…When I write, I am exploring and expressing who I am, but I also am resisting intense pressure to conform, to be silenced, to be what others say I should be…

I am so grateful to my husband. He is my best friend, my cheering section, my sounding board, my hero support. “You can do it…go for it…” What a gift he is to me! He is like the mother in The Three Coats of Benny Bunny. The Three Coats of Benny Bunny is a children’s story that I’ve loved since my  childhood. It is about a snowshoe rabbit who was scared of change. His mother kept encouraging him that he was perfectly design for the world in which he lived, and to not be afraid to go out and ENJOY it. The Three Coats of Benny Bunny (as well as The Velveteen Rabbit–I guess I love rabbit stories) is on the bookcase that holds my most treasured and theological books because it has taught me so much about facing the world. Here are excerpts from throughout the book.

Benny Bunny

Benny Bunny was little, and he liked to run and play. But he had to watch out–all the time. He had to watch out for Old Owl. He had to watch out for Fox. And he had to watch out for Big Bear. They all wanted to catch a fat little snowshoe rabbit. Benny Bunny was not afraid. He could run fast. He could hide in a little brown bush. No one could see a little brown rabbit in a little brown bush…

…But one day his mother said, “Soon the summer will be over, Benny Bunny, and you will be getting a new coat. Just in time, too!”

Poor Benny Bunny. A new coat! “What will I do with a new coat?” he thought. “How will I hide from Owl and Fox and Bear?”

…Benny Bunny would not go out. Day after day, he stayed inside. “Come out with me,” said Mother Rabbit. “Not today,” said Benny Bunny.

…Then his mother said, “What is it, Benny Bunny? What is the matter?” And he told her.

“I’m afraid,” he said.

“I’m afraid of my new coat.”

…”Your new coat is white and pretty, too,” said his mother.

A white coat!

Benny Bunny began to cry.

“Don’t be afraid, Benny Bunny,” said his mother.

“You have a good coat. And look at your feet!”

Benny Bunny was surprised to see that he had big snowshoe feet.

“See!” said his mother. “You are ready now.”

“Ready?” said Benny Bunny. “Ready for what?”

“Come and see,” said his mother. “Look outside.”

Benny Bunny looked outside and cried, “OH!”

What a surprise! The world was white with snow. Everything was white, white as his new coat..

“See!” said his mother. “You have snowshoe feet. You are ready for the Northland winter.”

“Well, come on!” cried Benny Bunny. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” And he ran out into the snow-white world.

And she lived in freedom, and she loved her husband and son, and she wrote her blog, and risked learning new things like Hebrew, and she wasn’t afraid (so much) of Owl, and Fox, and Big Bear…

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