Thursday, March 22, 2012

A whole new world...of disappointment

The Disney princesses get a bad rap for promising little girls happily ever after with their Prince Charming (that happened to rescue her poor, helpless little self). And while I can pick apart any Disney movie with ease, I'm more concerned about the expectations of young women due to the recent rise of the heroine of the young adult novel.

Enter Bella and Katniss.

Think about this with me a second. If you haven't read the Twilight Sage or Hunger Games, you'll most likely be lost, so my apologies. But think about them, their biggest trait is their apparently bewitching beauty and appeal to the opposite sex. So much so that both attract two, read it TWO, would be suitors that for some reason become so enamored by their beauty that they are willing to do about anything to keep their gal safe. Yet in the same breath (in both cases) her admirers could at any moment cause her death. The gentlemen have become so enthralled that they go to heroic measures to keep her alive. Ah! What a story.

Let me take an unofficial poll. How many of you in your teen years had two devilishly handsome young men fighting for your affections, yet also willing to put their rivalry aside to keep you alive? It was not my experience. And I would say most of my gal friends would say they were lucky to catch the eye of a mediocre male during their teen years (of course many of them-myself included-later met their own devilishly attractive partner that would die for them, but we're talking acne years here people).

Imagine reading these books and seeing yourself in the role of Katniss, only to discover that your Peeta picks his nose in math class and Gale doesn't bathe on a regular basis. And they are mildly interested in you at best. Sigh. Disappointment city.

I will say that the one guy I "dated" in high school said some similar things to me that Edward said to Bella before he revealed his vampire status. I can't remember exactly the things he said, but when I was reading Twilight I was thinking "whoa, maybe I dated a vampire." In retrospect, that would make a lot of sense.

So let's give our Disney princesses a little pass on the eve of the opening of the Hunger Games movie.

And to those of you hoping to see the Hunger Games this weekend...may the odds EVER be in your favor.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The trappings of Target

"To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world." -Charles Warner

Staying on the theme of "what I learned during my weekend at Hearts at Home" is one of my favorite topics: finances. My first workshop was about getting a grip on your finances. Marianne Miller (presenter) spent much of the time talking about budget (check!), but I wrote down several questions that hit home for me, and maybe they will for you too.

"Am I spending money because of a cultural norm?" Are we spending money on X, Y, or Z because it is what everyone else does? If this doesn't sock you in the gut at least a little bit, you aren't being honest with yourself (or you are truly awesome and financially counter cultural, and I salute you). One of the things she talked about was going to Disney (I get the two places confused, so we'll just call it Disney). After 4 hours at the amusement park her boys started asking when they were going to get to go back to the campground. It was then she realized that for her family, the joy was in the camping. She had a few other examples, but it made me think about the things I start to think I need just because of what other people think I should a newer vehicle or a house in another part of town. One audience member with whom this obviously struck a cord because I couldn't tell if she was angry or sad, but she said it with a lot of passion in her voice: "Aren't you afraid your kids are going to miss something?" I thought to myself "REALLY? We REALLY believe we need Disney or a car to have a full life? Did people not have a full life 100 years ago?" But then I started considering the things I think I "need", but when I really look at my motives, it is a result of marketing or peer pressure or the heat (right now it's 86 in our house and we have one working fan. I COULD turn on the air, but it's March...but I've been looking at really neat looking ceiling fans for about an hour online...)

Before anyone gets defensive I do want to say that nothing in itself is bad...Disney, a newer car, a nicer neighborhood, a ceiling fan (especially a ceiling fan), but it's the WHY of why we think we need those things. Is the culture driving us? 

"How much is enough?" If you don't define it and put self-imposed boundaries, there will never be "enough." She even suggested putting boundaries on what you are willing to spend on something. Meals. Clothing. Lodging. A ceiling fan.

We use a budget (or spending plan) to put those boundaries on ourselves. We allocate so much for clothing each month. It gives us enormous freedom to spend what we have budgeted, but it also helps reign us in from going crazy just because LOFT keeps telling me their already reduced sweaters are an additional 50% off. In the same way, many of us need the boundaries of a healthy eating plan. Even if we don't need to lose weight, we need that boundary to have the freedom to eat what we need (and not feel guilty), but to also keep us from buying a box of Little Debbie tulip cakes everytime we go to the store...and eating them before we get home (I have not done this, but without my eating plan I totally would).

Look back at the quote. Sitting around a simple campfire is about the most satisfying thing in the world for me (add in s'mores and my cup runneth over). I have to remember that when the sale ads invade my inbox and I'm NEEDING _________________. The simple things in life satisfy.

I love the song "This World" by Caedmon's Call

"This world has nothing for me, and this world has everything. All that I could want and nothing that I need."

I think they were also describing Target.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Encountering the Duggars

Well, kinda.

This past weekend was the Hearts at Home National Convention. The "big name" speaker was Michelle Duggar (who happened to be accompanied by her husband Jim Bob). I had mixed feelings going into the event. I'll admit I've only seen about 1.5 episodes of their reality show, and that was back when they were at 17 kids. But my perception was that they were steeped in legalism, and I'm much more of a "Saved by Grace through Faith alone" kinda girl. So as Michelle and Jim Bob took the stage (she's much shorter than I anticipated), I held my breath, waiting for a diatribe on why I too should have an abundance of children.

But they were a breath of fresh air. Really. They shared about how their faith has shaped their family. They were honest about events that caused them to put their family size in God's hands. They didn't say it in a way that made me feel condemned by our decision to only have two biological children, but made me appreciate them and the beliefs that they have. It all comes down to how God convicts each of us in certain areas. For some, the passage that children are a blessing may mean that we don't limit our family size. For others it may mean that we put our careers on the back burner for a time to be sure we have time and energy to invest in the children God has entrusted to us. Similarly, the Bible tells us to care for widows and orphans. For some that may mean supporting individual families or organizations that help widows and orphans. For others it may mean welcoming the orphan as part of our families.

The Duggars led a second session on practical parenting advice (they should have led one on keeping intimacy alive when you have children...just sayin'). I wasn't in that session, but one of the things they talked about that others came away with was the idea of being sure we train our children for what we expect of them, not just expecting them to perform. And sometimes that means "practicing" a task. I used this example today when I was trying to explain to Aaron that when he was outside and I called to him he needed to yell "here I am" and come running. So we practiced, and Aaron loved it. And when I really did have to yell for him "for real", he did what was expected of him...rather than what normally happens is me yelling and him thinking it would be funny to hide...causing some moments of panic all because he didn't really understand what was expected of him.

If I can say nothing else about the Duggars, they were genuine. They stayed most of the day at the conference. I happened to be sitting outside when they were trying to get into their car to leave. And I say trying because people kept coming up and wanting pictures, which they graciously agreed to although I could read fatigue on their faces. I didn't snap a picture. I didn't rush up for a last minute autograph or word with them. I figured the mama of so many children deserved to get a few quiet moments in the car.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cereal Sunday Night

The best tradition I have ever started in our house is "cereal Sunday night." Almost without fail, Sunday night is cereal. Period. (Milk optional). Why?

A. I just really need one meal a week that is totally simple and not messy in preparation or clean up.

B. If I get my kitchen really clean after lunch on Sunday, it can stay that way until Monday! (As an extra bonus today, my family ate their cereal outside. My kitchen is still sparkling...a record amount of time since having kids).

C. The family is always excited about it and always eats what is served (versus the meals when I take a long time preparing something my kids usually love only to hear "Yuk. I hate _____________).

D. We often have a big Sunday noon meal, so the Sunday evening meal doesn't really need to be as big.

E. Menu planning for Sunday nights...always done.

I know other families that do popcorn, leftovers, carry out pizza, or other breakfast foods on Sunday nights. Do yourself a favor. Make Sunday nights simple.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My first meal

Paralysis by analysis. I've been dragging my feet on what topic to hit on next and didn't feel moved by any one in particular, so thus I've been absent. So I'll talk about something recent, fresh, and maybe highly non-exciting.

My first meal.

Or more aptly put, my first "eat what I want, not what is planned" meal since November 1. I've been eating "normal" food all along my journey to eat healthy and reach a healthy weight, but my eating has been very structured. An egg, toast, cheese, milk, and apple for breakfast. Everyday. I can and sometimes do chose other options, but my list of options is purposely small to help keep my meals structured and consistent. And it has worked. Even now that I've been adding in more food, the additions are structured and consistent.

But Friday, oh glorious Friday. Andrew and I spent an overnight away to reconnect. The hotel had a free happy hour buffet of appetizers. I could have easily made a taco salad and stayed on my consistent plan. But for this night I decided to eat what I wanted...super nachos, baked potato, and a few bites of pizza. More than the food, I enjoyed the time with my husband. But I did enjoy the food. I had a great fear that the eating freedom would spark my old ways of eating unhealthy foods way too often or that I'd go on an all out weekend binge.

But neither happened. The next morning I was back on my consistent, structured eating plan. I didn't feel deprived going back to my healthy plan. I also didn't have any desire to eat all crazy-like my next meal. Big sigh of relief. I think I'm to the point where I am going to be able to handle the occasional, planned treat meal without it dragging me into my old habits.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Goal, goals, goals.

AKA Feb book report and date night.

So my 2 yearly goals this year are AWESOME goals. Goal 1: Read one fiction and one non-fiction book per month. Goal 2: A date night (or day) each month with the hubs.

So how did I do?

Books: I read Quitter: Bridging the Gap Between Your Dream Job and Your Day Job by Jon Acuff (review below) for my non-fiction book. On the fiction side, I got sucked into The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I actually waited until the last minute to read it, literally finishing it at 10:31 pm on 2-29 (thanks, leap year). I had my reservations before reading it. Just the description made me wary of the violence. But even dealing with the depravity we would see in the face of survival or death, I felt the violence was mostly alluded to and not so graphic (I don't know that the movie will be as kind in that department). So I was sucked into the world of Katniss and will be reading the next book in the trilogy for March.

Date night: Check. Although I made Andrew go clothes shopping for most of it (I promised not to do that again). Up for March: an overnight away to celebrate our 9th anniversary (which isn't until May, but you get away when you can get away).

So how about you? Did you set goals for the year? How are they going? Why not try setting a goal for March, like "I will walk 3 times a week" or "I will make my lunch at home to save money on eating out" or "I will write 5 encouragement cards this month"?

Review of Quitter
I needed this book. And unless you are endlessly, hopelessly in love with your job, you'd probably benefit from it too. If you've had a "dream job", say you've always wanted to open your own pottery shop, but have no idea how to get there, Jon's own experiences can guide you to that place without bankrupting your family and relationships. I have no grand aspirations for a pottery shop or to be a skydiving instructor, but I did need to get some direction on how I could like my current job more (he spends a whole chapter on that) and identify areas I need as part of any job I'm going to love, which for me is communicating through writing and speaking, mentoring, teaching, and variety. For me, that doesn't mean I have a specific "dream job" I'm working toward, but it will keep me in trying to do more of those things in my current positions and any future job or career changes I make need to have those aspects in it or I will be greatly dissatisfied. And maybe someday I'll see a "dream job", but I really see an unlimited number of options for how that could play out and how it will change and evolve over my lifetime.