Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Public Service Announcement

Just looked it up and wanted to pass this along, Easter is April 16 this year! Start smockin' or sewin' or shoppin' or whatever it is you need to do. And remember, I work cheap :) Well, some might say... cheaper than what you can find new in the store, anyway. I love making dresses and am happy to do custom orders, or even teach you- I'm not bragging; it really is easy, but time consuming, so also not really worth it if you don't really enjoy it. I think I may even dare to smock for August this year (as opposed to my usual basic jon jon -it is likely his last Easter in the baby stage :( ). I know that sounds ambituous (well, it is for me), but I've been doing a lot of laying low with the fatigue that comes with growing a human child within me. It will be good to keep my hands busy while the rest of me takes a break- I've been dreaming about Sudoku so I need another quiet occupation! Wow, two posts in 0ne day! Perhaps that makes up for all the days I've written nothing?

the old and lonely

I am very wary of the author that "toots its own horn" (or the woman or the man or the blog or whatever). I am kind of an impressionable person. If someone says "you should be this way" or "you should do this," I think "OK! I'm gonna do that!" And it ends with so much frustration. Because I can't be perfect. And why do I care what someone else says? Usually it is because I respect the source and I want to be respectable as well. But shouldn't I, shouldn't we all, trust the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart and life to convict me where I am blind or stubborn? It seems like saying "we should all do this, like I do," is just sort of unmerciful. We don't all feel we have to homeschool our children or birth them at home or not shop at Walmart (see, that's a shot at myself) or handmake all their food or clothes or soap or whatever it may be. On the other hand, it is helpful to be challenged or to be given a new perspective on something we might not have thought of before. And sometimes, no one is saying "you do this," they are simply saying "I do this because ___." Besides that, aren't there some things we should be doing? Aren't there some things that are not a matter of good versus better (like buying healthy foods versus handmaking them from all organic substances or something) but a matter of right versus wrong? I think this post will be about one of those things. On the other hand, if you find me to be "tooting my own horn" or placing a right or wrong emphasis on something that is just not that black and white, I want to know. I am so tired of Christians beating each other down over things that are not worth discension or the harm that they cause.

I am very concerned about care for the elderly. For several years, I have been kind of sitting on the sidelines watching people I know deal with family members with declining health, and feeling like something is terribly wrong. I have read that in some Asian cultures where the elderly are the most valued members of society, it is common for the children to fight over who gets to care for their aging parents. I seem to be constantly witnessing the opposite of that, everyone is arguing over who has to step up.

I heard a guy in Michael's the other day just going off to his coworkers about how his elderly father is such a nuisance and how the son keeps taking his keys away, but then his dad bothers him so much that he gives them back, even though he shouldn't be driving. I was reminded of another man I know who has taken his father's keys away, and the father is so absent minded that he doesn't seem to realize it. The son has to call him to take his medicine, and if the father puts the phone down to go take the medicine (or check whether he did or not already), he forgets he was on the phone and leaves it off the hook. The son has meals on wheels sent to the father, but as the son has no wife or children and works from home, I am not sure why he doesn't just bring him a meal or really, live with him! George says meals on wheels could be a great help and we can't just say you shouldn't use it. I agree that it could be helpful to have it a couple of times a week. My point is more that we sooner hire out the help of strangers than take on the burdens of our own family members.

My aunt has stage four ovarian cancer. She only has one child and is divorced. And my mother is her only sister; both of their parents have died years ago. My mother has cared for my aunt in several instances in the past, but she feels my cousin should do more for her mother, and that my mother has a responsibility to her own girls (my sisters and I-my younger sister is fixing to have a baby). So for the cancer treatment process, my mother took herself out of the running and my cousin, who works fulltime (but has a stay-at-home husband), stepped in. So my aunt moved up to St. Louis and in with my cousin and her family. (I don't know who I would say rightfully owns the responsiblity; I just feel sad that that is the arguement.) Though I too live in St. Louis, I did not step up like I should've and say "what can I do to help?" And honestly, it was because I assumed that my aunt would be all taken care of. But when I found out that my aunt had had to take a cab home from the hospital, I felt so sorry. I asked my mother why no one called me. And in the end, it is that the sick and aging already feel they are a burden and do not ask for help; and when everyone else more or less says "yeah you are a burden," we end up with cancer patients paying $50 to take a thirty minute cab ride alone(I can think of nothing more depressing).

My mom said that the American Cancer Society has volunteers that give people rides so they are going to try to work with them. I could not believe that they would sooner call strangers who volunteer or hire someone out than call me. And I feel so ashamed that I did not make it more clear how willing I am to help. But I am also really disgusted, to use a strong but accurate word, that that was an acceptable course of action to my mother, that she thought I had no responsiblity at all. Not that it is my mother that is disgusting! I think my mother is just an average American on that issue (in fact, some friends gave her the idea). Somehow we think our lives and schedules are too important to be thrown off. The big argument against me helping was "Well, you'll have to get the kids up early" and "It's such a long drive" (my cousin lives about 40 minutes from me- yeah St. Louis is that annoyingly big) and "well, I don't want you to be inconvienced." Why is inconveniecing someone forbidden? Of course it's inconvenient; that's not what this is about. It's about me taking on some of her burden so she doesn't have to bear it! But somehow that is a foreign concept unless we just adore the person- like our children.

I know old people are difficult. I know sick people are demanding. It isn't about how they make us feel though. Everyone justifies keeping them at a distance because of "boundaries." There seem to be widely accepted ideas like :"This elderly person can't come live with us because it would infringe on our family time." and "I can help you, but I can't ignore any of my regular activities." (so basically, if you don't disrupt my eating, sleeping, working, and recreation, any time in the remaining 10 minutes of my day, I'm available) or even the "for their sake" argument- "They'll just be more comfortable in a home."(lonely, in an unfamiliar environment). I also know that home care isn't possible for every case. And I know that every meeting or event isn't reschedulable so there may be some outside help required.

Maybe it's easier for me to be emphatic about responsiblity here because I am in the midst of fulltime care of children and I would not have to drop too much to bring an aging person into my home. Or maybe I am just simplifying a really big and complicated problem. I would love to hear what y'all have to say. I know people read who don't comment because they are too hurried or shy, but if this is close to your heart, even if you beg to differ, I think it could be a good discussion. I also don't mean to badmouth or judge anyone who is in the middle of the struggle. The guy at Michael's, the man I know, my cousin, are all guessing at a really tough situation with their own parents. I just think there are better choices to be made, and I am willing to get in there and do what I can.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Good for what ails ya

Last time I mentioned something I liked (Joe Muggs chocolate chip cookies), I ended up with 12 of them (Hurray! thanks Rebekah!). I thought I'd try my luck again, and since there is no one slated to visit us in St. Louis, I am confident that this will not be taken as dropping a hint!

Nausea has been not too bad this go 'round. And let me just be merciful to all you poor mommas who feel awful for months; mine is never very bad, and I am blessed. Being expectant in Birmingham the last two times has put me in the way of a fabulous little product, Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. It is said to have been concocted for the very purpose of relieving stomach ailments, and I, myself, find it highly effective . It has a kick of ginger like you would not believe and makes other ginger ales taste like Sprite. I fear I am going to miss it this time. I didn't know what else to do, so I bought myself some Schwepps yesterday. But if anyone does end up heading my way, grab me some of that magic coke (conveniently available in a 12 can package)!

Wait, I have just found that I can order 24 for $10!(that's little hint for Georgie- there's a link if you click on "order"!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Providence from Providence

I am having one of those unusually good days today where good friends seem very near. We went to meet the elders last night to join Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church- kind of a mouthful! I was kind of nervous because I guessed they would probably want to hear my testimony which is increasingly muddled and problematic as I learn more about myself and the false gospels I was taught while growing up.

The Session was very warm and most of them knew George as he is a seminary student and our church is really warm and supportive toward the guys at Covenant. So he had everyone laughing and identifying with him as he shared his history of faith. I find he grows more and more "cool" (at least to me) the longer I know him; and it seems to me that others recognize it too. Anyway, it is always a good feeling to see people enjoy and admire my husband in some of the same ways I do. But then it got to me, and I had the laborious task of explaining that I do love and serve God and trust Jesus as my Savior, apart from whom I have no hope, while still truthfully acknowledging that I am going through a bit of a "Where are You, God?" sort of stage. I found my lip quiverring more than once and felt that, at best, I had a very disorganized and somewhat choppy rendering of God's graces in my life and my relationship with Him. Our pastor was very helpful in some of these patches, kind of stearing me and encouraging me. And in the end, I was being encouraged and thanked for my honesty, welcomed into the church, and hugged by everyone present.

It was a wonderful experience, but it was more honest than I have been maybe ever, especially to people I don't know. I felt pretty exposed and unsure, "Maybe I want to pull all of that back inside me and just keep skirting around it like I always do." There is a reason people don't just go around announcing their struggles and being open about their hopelessness (well, we are never hopeless, but you know what I mean). But it would seem God has been gracious to me today to give me exactly what I needed in warmth from friends. I usually imagine everyone having the worst possible view of me (does anyone else do that?). And on a day where I found myself having the worst possible view of myself, I got phone calls and emails from people I haven't heard from in weeks or months and even some unusually encouraging messages from people I talk to every day (thanks Elizabeth and Rebekah- you are each a treasure). No one knew how I was feeling- except God. It's almost like right after I said "I'm not quite sure where He is," He just wanted to let me know He is still here.

While I have been in the midst of lament (see post entitled "I guess you're Just what I needed"), George has often told me that God just wants us to be honest before Him- kind of combatting the idea that we have to pull ourselves together before approaching God. Well, I guess that must be true. I know it's true of our sin- obviously we can't become sinless before approaching God. But it is hard for me with doubt and fear. I feel like I am expected to trust and to know. If I have to be confident and sure before I can walk closer with the Lord, I may never get there. But when I admit that my knees are a little wobbly, that I may just be fixin' to fall, He will "strengthen [me], help [me] and cause [me] to stand upheld by [His] righteous omnipotent hand." (from "How Firm A Foundation").

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Boo Narnia!

Every morning I wake up feeling more tired than when I went to sleep. I feel like I haven't slept in weeks. And three times this weekend I laid down in silence and comfort for a nap and could not fall asleep. So it goes without saying that I am cranky and groggy. That being said, I hesitate to write anything because my whole world is colored by my sleeplessness. I will try to be mild.

We took Amabel to see Narnia today. We recently read the book to her for the second time in her short little life, and she seemed to really enjoy it. So we decided the movie would be a great first movie for her. We told her all about the movie theater and the popcorn and the big screen. She did not seem to look forward to it until today, but we did not have the day set until last night- so like us! She sat in George's lap for most of the film (which resulted in both of their legs being completely smeared with red goo- courtesy of Valentine's Junior Mints) so I did not really feel like much of the experience. That left me to myself to be the overly critical viewer that I so easily fall into being- especially when I have read the book six times and know the plot and even most of the details quite well. I think if you are that guy- the guy that knows the story backward and forward- you probably wouldn't care much to see the movie, which is exactly where I found myself.

Was it that bad compared to most literature that Hollywood butchers on the bigscreen? No, but everyone has praised it for being done SO well, that I was not at all prepared for the random scenes that were added in, and the others that were left out. And that is what is weird. I am used to a book being shortened for film because of time constraints. It just seemed so odd that there were added scenes. The first was an added bit about Edmund and Mr. Tumnus(who is given a lot of extra attention throughout) meeting in the Witch's palace, and then an even more odd one about the river and waterfall melting while the children were crossing whilst also being confronted by the Witch's wolves resulting in the near drowning of Lucy. What in the world? Also, there was a whole weird added struggle for Peter where he learns to accept responsibility and be the future king. I felt this was inconsistent with his personality even in the rest of the movie because he always takes charge, but George said he was learning the difference between being in charge of his siblings and in charge of a nation. Well, inconsistent or not (it was), it was extra.

What makes the added parts so odd is that so much of the richness of the story was left out. Father Christmas was cool, but he just sort of stopped and gave the children their gifts, almost out of necesity to the story so we didn't wonder where they got those things. He explains his coming by saying that the children have brought hope to Narnia and that is why winter is almost over. However, the real reason is because Aslan is coming. Obviously, the two things relate, but that just brings us to how poorly Aslan was done. But first, let me just say that Father Christmas brings gifts to all of Narnia in the book and there is much merry making, and this was left out. So Aslan was not that bad. He just wasn't Aslan enough. When he roars at the Witch in the book, she runs for her life. In the movie, it wasn't even very loud, and she just looks at him and waits to be carried away by her servants(it is in the part where she challenges him- asks how she can trust what he vowed to do is true). Later, the girls touch his coat instead of him asking them to (which is said to have been something they wanted to do, but never dared do until he suggested it). And when he comes back to life, he doesn't play with them, they just go straight to the Witch's house to get the statues. There is no real rejoicing- there is no emotion. That is the sad thing, I haven't slept in weeks, I am hanging on by a thread, and I felt no emotion as I watched what I normally can't help but cry over when I read- even the fifth and sixth times!

When Susan and Lucy realize Aslan is dead, they send word to Peter and Edmund through the trees. I thought that added detail was bizarre, random and unnecessary if they had just dealt with the parts of the book where Aslan is giving Peter instructions for the battle. Then there is nothing about the characters that Aslan rescues from the castle to come fight in the battle, but there is much detail given to the actual battle and one centaur general guy who was never singled out in the book. It's just weird what they chose to do- make up new characters, ignore existing characters, downplay some, embellish others. And I don't think that they were trying to water down the parallells to the Gospel by making the choices they made, because at the end of the battle when Aslan kills the Witch, he looks at Peter and says "It is finished!" That is pretty obviously a allusion to Scripture- and one that CS Lewis didn't even make.

Well, I suppose this has not been mild criticism. I think I just wasn't prepared for it to be so different because of all the praise it has received. Usually I don't expect much from Hollywood and am not surprised at the things they do. But I was surprised because there is so much to the story that they left out; and there is no need to fabricate things to steer the story another way when a wonderful story already exists. In short, if you are going to see the movie, please read the book! It makes me sad- mad even- that so many people are seeing this and not getting the depth of the real story. I know that is sort of unfair because I never read Lord of the Rings and I saw those movies, but I never felt like they were hyped by Christians and critics as being the real essence of the story; I recognize that I don't really get what those books are about from the movies. Plus, those books are SO long. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a children's book that an adult could easily read in a weekend in time to see the Saturday evening show. Unfortunately these have been talked about in such a way that no one thinks the book would be any different. That is just not true. And the book is far far better. Boo!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Watching what I Eat. Watching what I Watch.

We got to participate in the Nielsen ratings this past week. It was good to be conscientious about what we were watching (Don't watch Days of Our Lives, 'cause that's just embarrassing to report! Don't watch Oprah because that's one less viewer inflating her ego). I couldn't believe all the things I might have watched but decided it wasn't worth logging and turned it off. It reminded me of how people always say that a key to weight loss is writing down everything you eat. My problem with that is that it would look something like this:

3 cups of coffee
2.5 sections of an orange that I cut for the children
a piece of crust from Aug's cinammon toast
bite of strawberry yogurt
4 grapes
crust from peanut butter and jelly sandwich
12 goldfish
3 more grapes
8 more goldfish
half a string cheese
2 chocolate chip cookies

And that's just up to 11:30. It's just too many little scraps to write down. But note the cookies. I ate nothing whole all day, and then two whole cookies. Exactly! That's me. That's the trouble. I decided that logging sweets only- especially during pregnancy when my body loves to store up that fat- would be the best thing. And if it turns out to be 6 Milano cookies (like it was on Monday) too much more, we'll be rolling me into the hospital. But if I hadn't started logging it, I never would've realized I ate six in one day!

Well, like with television, awareness is the first part. Now I just have to deem some claories not worth logging, and cut some sweet treats out!

I was glad to be more aware of what I was watching before. In just a week of being deliberate, we have cut out a lot of mindless TV watching at night. We don't have but a few shows that we really enjoy. We just really enjoy putting the kids to bed and vegging out. Well, I reckon that's why we have a kazillion magazine subscriptions! I hope we will be doing a lot more reading in the future; and game playing- we always go through spurts where we play tons of cards or Scrabble or Clue. There's really no reason to watch shows we don't care about. And there's NO reason to consume 6 cookies in an afternoon without even realizing it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This is Probably About You

For some reason, I have had birth order on the brain. From browsing through the topic on the internet, I can see that some people put absolutely no stock in it, while others seems to think it is completely definitive to who a person is. I'm going to go ahead and say that it isn't something we can't escape if we want to, and that it is nothing to blame for our faults or sins. But it does seem like there is something to it. It stands to reason that there would be some general characteristics that might commonly be found in oldest, middles, youngests, or onlies just because of their shared experiences.

There was a girl in highschool who absolutely drove me crazy and my mom told me I needed to learn how to get along with her. She said it had been her experience that God keeps bringing the same personality back in your life until you can learn to be a friend to it! Well, I guess I learned how to get along with that girl okay; I have never met anyone else like her. But my sister, who I also wasn't getting along with, keeps reappearing over and over again in different people in my life!

You never know who's peeking in on this, and I don't want to badmouth anyone. I have just noticed that I have a rough time with the oldest girl. Now, that's funny too, because most of my very best friends in life- Sara Camp, Jennie Ray, Rebekah Wright, Amanda Sims, Jane Knox, Blair Geer, even Rebekah Fitts (although not the oldest child, just oldest girl in a series of girls four years younger than the oldest child)- have been oldest girls. Sort of weird; I have no problems with them. Is it when the oldest girl is a family member? I don't know. Of course, my daughter is the oldest girl. And I fear daily that we will butt heads for her entire life. In my amateur research, I have found a few general traits of oldests: leader, nurturer, high achiever, in control (but can be controlling), can be a "know-it-all." I also wonder if there is a child who is not the oldest that acts like the oldest because the child that is the oldest doesn't step up. Hmmm....

Okay on to middles. That's me. And you know, I can't think of hardly any close friends that are middles- my college roommate, Katie Kincaid, and my brother-in-law, Rick, are middles. Oh, but that girl and another girl that I didn't get along with in highschool were middles. Some of the common traits make me laugh: calm, rolls with the punches, down to earth- none of that is anything like me or the other middles I know. All the middles I know seem to be the lively, gregarious ones and fairly emotionally charged (think Jan Brady). They say they are also usually peacemakers. I feel like I'm a fighter. But then again, sometimes you have to fight to arrive at peace and justice. The other peace maker traits included are: hates confrontation, people pleaser, relational, has trouble setting boundaries. All of those are me to a fault. Another big flaw was that they can be codependent.

Now to youngests. Dear, dear youngests. My sister Sarah is a youngest. Michelle is a youngest. Ali, Whitney, Evie, Amy, and my sister-in-law, Katie are youngests. My mom is a youngest. One source said that last borns were extroverts which is just ridiculous because every single one cannot be extroverted. But some common traits inlcude: cheerleader- not literally with pon poms, but that they are encouragers and sort of spunky in that right, good people skills, bored easily and ready to move on to the next big thing (not necessarily bad, but could lead to not keeping close friendships- Hey Jennie, we knew a youngest like that didn't we?!), can be demanding.

Let's not forget onlies. It looks like they kind of get strengths of oldests and weaknesses of youngests. Elizabeth is an only. Sorry to single you out man; I don't know any others. You can let us know if any of this rings true: task oriented, organized, dependable, responsible, conscientious, sensitive ( but can also be overly so), doesn't accept criticism well, can be demanding and unforgiving.

I guess all of these are a little like your horoscope or a fortune cookie- maybe they could be true of anyone. Well, feel free to call exception to, add to, or ridicule and mock anything on here. I got most of my info from just two or three websites. Everything else seemed more extensive than my casual curiosity was craving. Just thought it might be fun to think about.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A little "R and R"

Okay, so no one liked the inventions last week. It's alright, I just don't want to sell Real Simple short. I'm going to blame it on the February issue because it was less than half the length of their regular issues, so I had less to work with!

So back to the December/January issue and to a subject very close to my heart: napping! In the article, "How to Nap," the author first lists reasons for napping (like we need 'em). Evidently, napping can help us remember things more readily and produce less stress hormones (Hurray!). It can also help us to "perform better on tasks requiring creative insight, complex motor and perceptual skills, and muscular precision." And it can just help get us in a better mood.

If you're like me, you may think you are worse for a nap. But my problem is that I want to sleep for an hour or so. And when can you fit that in anyway? The napping suggested in the article is the 20 to 30 minute variety, just long enough to bring your heart rate down and calm your mind but not long enough to totally stop muscle and brain activity, so still easy to wake up from. Anything longer is long enough to put you into a real sleep that is hard to wake up from and may keep you from getting back to sleep at night. If you do have trouble getting up initially, the article suggests brushing your teeth or splashing water on your face to rouse yourself.

If you're like me, you have yet another problem: finding 20 minutes to nap during your day. Well, actually, I'm at home, so I can nap if both children do- Amabel has pretty much given up her nap, but she might benefit from a 20 minute rest too. Some moms napped while their kids watched a short video or waiting in the carpool line. Some who worked napped during lunchtime. Evidently, even just 10 minutes works too once you learn how to get calm quickly.

That was the other problem, settling down quickly to enjoy the full length or the naptime. They suggested various relaxation techniques for that, earplugs, and even the idea that you have allow yourself the "luxury" of getting rest- banish the idea that you have to be busy and cannot possibly afford to rest or that it would be lazy to do so. It stands to reason that just getting relaxed to where you could sleep might be a nice calming exercise to help you gear up for the rest of the day.

I hope that is more intriguing than the inventions. But if not, there was a fun article in the November issue about heirlooms for next week. There are always little beauty and fashion tips/picks, recipes, product tests (anything from elcetric counter top grills to cold medicines), and interesting biograpical articles in every issue. It's worth picking up next time you're at the library (or click on Real Simple for a link to their website- they'll send you a free preview issue). They also have a new TV series on PBS, but I haven't caught it to see if it's worth watching. Well, if no one likes napping or next week's heirlooms, I'll move on to Cook's Illustrated, another favorite that my sweet (well, sometimes) brother-in-law gets for me every year. Rebekah Fitts, I'm getting it for you this year ('cause I love ya!); it should be on its way to you shortly(4-6 weeks)!

Y'all try to get a nap sometime this week!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Oh yeah, we're expecting.

I didn't know my husband would post our news on his blog first! Sorry if you heard through the grapevine, it's a little understated the fourth time around. We tell early because we want people praying. I am not actually due until September 23 (Jennie's birthday! It's a Saturday though, and I'm guessing they won't schedule a c-section for a Saturday. Plus, gigantor me usually wants to get 'em out about a week early.). We were expecting about a year and a half ago and lost the baby at about eight weeks, so we would appreciate specific prayers for our new tiny baby's early development.

Also, everyone I have spoken to in person notes my sobriety. I would just appreciate prayers for me to have a total personality change! Ha! Really though. I am a horribly uptight person. I hate being so uptight. I hate always feeling on the verge of a breakdown. That is just sort of how I am- very easily stressed out, ALREADY stressed out. I just want to be a good mother. And I never feel like a good mother when I am wound up so tightly. I know I could be much better for my children if I could just chill out. (So, basically I need something as miraculous as anti-anxiety drugs or a good strong Long Island tea without the risk of dependecy or hangovers!) I am a little sober, just feeling unsure of my skill at handling two, much less three. But I am also very excited!

Friday, January 13, 2006

On the playground

It is snowing. That's nice. Yesterday it was warm enough to put the kids in the stroller with just sweaters on and walk them a mile and a half to the park and back. The weather is psycho. The other thing that was psycho was the junior high aged boys at the playground that were hurling dirt clods at the toddler playset. Fortunately, my toddlers were not on it at the time. We had been there for a while when the boys got there. My children greeted them and they said nothing and then proceeded to trash the play area- one seemed to be a little less sure of what they were up to than the other though.

I didn't want to be that mom that starts shouting at the teenage boys who then just make fun of her. Not that I care if they make fun of me, just that I knew they were those kind of kids and that my rebuke would mean nothing to them. Of course they already knew they were acting inappropriately; I couldn't have told them anything they didn't already know. I wondered if they were trying to get a rise out of me or if they might be trying to get us to leave. I decided they were not getting their way either way. They started off to the woods and creek behind the playground with their pants down around their ankles. I told my children to stay where they wouldn't be able to see them. We played on some of the taller slides, and I helped Amabel across the monkey bars. The boys came back with more "stuff" in their hands that they began rubbing all over the play area. It could've been mud from the creek bank... or not. What would you have done?

One other strange detail- at point an older man came out of the woods and walked toward the playground and threw something away in the trash can. He then walked to a motorcycle that had been parked on the sidewalk before we even got there and drove away. I wondered if I was busting up a drug deal. Or maybe he was just a woodsy kind of guy who parks far away from them, but right next to the playground. I don't think we'll be back to that park!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I guess you're just what I needed (more about mercy)

This insomnia thing is out of hand. It has been five days since I was able to sleep before one thirty (that's the earliest in the series) in the morning. About this, George just said "Oh man, you're totally pregnant." This has been a growing suspicion over the past couple of weeks, but negative pregnancy tests depress me so I am waiting it out. My friend Michelle says I have to call her as soon as I know, only after I tell George. So everyone else has to get in line!

Michelle will never read this blog because she never gets online. So I can embarrass her while I wait to get tired. When our family moved from Birmingham to St. Louis last year, Michelle and I wrote a series of letters back and forth that we all began to refer to as "love letters." Because I am critical and because I am generally insecure, I find a lot of things cheesey and I am not at all affectionate (poor George). But these really were love letters. But here is something I did not even say to her then.

When you have a baby at 23, just 14 months after you got married which was pretty early among your friends in the first place, you don't have a very big peer group. And (as Elizabeth and I were just discussing the other day) when you have a newborn, even someone with a baby ten months older than yours seems to be in a totally different stage in life! When my first was born, there was not a single child born within six months on either side of her. There was a church nursery just for her! So that's the setup, and that's kinda where I was for almost two years. People were great to invite me to things etc. but their kids were all running around while they chatted and I was helping my baby not fall off monkey bars or leaving to get home for a nap etc. George and I prayed that I would have a friend with a child the exact age as our daughter.

As an aside, let me say that I have only specifically prayed for two things in my life. I mean that I prayed in such a way that it felt really demanding and detailed, so I also asked for a submissive and humble heart to keep from straying that way. And as it turns out, God graciously blessed me with very generous answers to my (big whoppin' two- needless to say, prayer is not my spiritual gift) pleading prayers. Kinda makes me think I should "boldly approach the throne" more often.

Back to Michelle, yes you have guessed, she turned out to be that friend. She and her family moved to Birmingham right before my daughter and her son turned 2. I didn't know if I would like her because she is the sort of person that everyone loves, and self preservation dictates that I avoid those sorts of people lest I adore them and they put me at the bottom of their list of 92 best friends! I remember we had a church social and her son was scurrying off in the general direction of heavy traffic, and as she chased him for the eleventh time that night, she said "how will I ever get to know anyone when I am always running after him?" And I thought," Aha! Maybe our kids will run in the same direction."

It should also be noted that they do run very much in the same direction, but from opposite starting points so that it always ends up in a hug where one child is tackled to the ground. Oh man, it cracks me up!

Playdates are a beautiful thing to a momma stuck at home with a toddler. And Michelle found out about storytime at the library each week so we had a standing playdate on Tuesday mornings, followed by lunchtime at Chick-fil-A or Arby's. And that is how she became such a dear dear friend.

Make no mistake, I have other very dear friends. But this is Michelle's story. Besides, other dear friends, how embarrassed would you be if I wrote all about you in the middle of the night on my blog and you woke up to find it?

Anyway, one of the many things that has turned out to prove what a huge blessing she is, besides the ages of our children, is the pursuits of our husbands. Here we are, each with two kids, and our husbands each decide it's time to be a full-time seminary student (that means they have part-time jobs, folks) in pursuit of a full-time ministry position! So we have been through the crazies together while I have been homesick and angry and depressed and worried about paying bills and hating being a mom and all of the other stuff, and she has been going through the same stuff- only with a MUCH better attitude! So for my birthday this year, she sent me a little packet with some uplifting articles. Because she has been so approachable (meeting me where I am instead of waiting for me to get where I oughta be), I have been able to be honest; and because I have been able to be so open about my struggles and sorrows, she has been able to help me right where I need it.

So here's a little ( for the complete article, click here) from Michelle's packet by another favorite author, Dan Allender. Isn't it amazing when God gives us just what we needed in a friend? And isn't the friend priceless who gives us just what we needed in mercy and love? Here's to Michelle and to any sweet friend who takes the time to read the ramblings of a possibly pregnant and definitely sleep deprived looney tune like me!

"How much of the current counseling frenzy is due to the absence of opportunity to confess our hurt, anger, and confusion to God in the presence of others of like mind? In many ways, one role of counseling is to legitimize pain and struggle and focus the questions of the heart toward God. How much better it would be if in concert with others we passionatley cried out to God with the energy that is often expressed only in the privacy of the counseling office." - from "The Hidden Hope in Lament" in Mars Hill Review

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Good for your mind

My cutie sister-in-law introduced Sudoku to me when she was home for Christmas break. I was frustrated with my first puzzle and ended up just throwing it away, dubbing it "unsolvable." But my mother-in-law kept giving me the Sudoku from the newspaper. Now I am a Sudoku champ! It is super fun. Every time I type Sudoku or puzzle, there is a link to a different Sudoku sight. I have a Sudoku book myself. You can get them from the bookstore for cheap. I haven't tried any of these Sudoku sites, but it should provide you with plenty of puzzles (and rules if you have never solved a Sudoku puzzle). Sorry this sounds like a second grade composition, I just wanted to link you to lots of Sudoku sites! Don't cheat!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Very interesting...

I didn't realize until George showed me last night that there is a profile to fill out when you have a blog on here. One of the first things it asks you is what you're interested in, and once you fill out the whole questionnaire, it uses those interests etc. as links to hook people up to bloggers with the same interests. At first I put things like smocking and baking, but when will I ever actually write an entry about those things? I am interested in them, but I don't have a whole lot to say on a regular basis. Since I have been trying to combat writer's block, I have sort of been writing about anything that I found interesting from what I have seen or read or heard. But it is all turning out to be griping after all, which is something I wanted to avoid.

And I started to think about what I would want to link to and read about on someone else's blog. What am I REALLY interested in? The thing that keeps tugging at me is mercy. I think Christians have become afraid of mercy in a "do whatever you want" society. Everyone seems to think we are all running around doing whatever we want and that we need to be constantly chastised for this. We went to a church for years where the pastor spoke to us week after week as if we were all Pharisees, trying to humble us all and remind us how sinful and horrible we are. After a while, this really started dragging me down. I started realizing that a lot of our generation, the kids who grew up being nailed with this day in and day out, now feel so sinful and horrible that we are actually a big bunch of tax collectors. We know we're sinful! We know that we can't do anything on our own. And we start to feel worthless. I think this may be compounded in a lot of the lives of people our age because of the broken homes so many of us grew up in. We didn't all get the "you are a very special person that your parents and God love very much, no matter what" message that kids are supposed to get. People who grew up without that message are going to be broken by a message that is aimed to humble them without a counter message that is aimed at building them up.

The questionnaire also asked about our favorite movies, music, and books. I put that my favorite book is Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller. The book has a great counter message. It acknowledges the Gospel message, of course, but it is written with the idea that many of us don't understand Jesus. He came from another time and another culture. The very idea that someone thought this was a popular enough problem was such a relief to me. I often do have a hard time seeing Jesus as a merciful and loving figure. This book was priceless in that it showed me how to better interpret Jesus' words and actions that had seemed uncaring to me before. If you've had unmerciful or uninvolved (or whatever) pastors or parents or anyone else in a spiritual leadership position- which is probable as they are also sinners- it is easy to interpret Jesus as having some of their same attitudes and feel like he has their same shortcomings. I really liked how this author (Jack Miller's son for those who are familiar with him) understood that and helped me better understand what was really happening. What was Jesus like? How did he relate to sinful humans?

One thing that is emphasized is His Incarnation, the fact that He became a human and experienced the same things we do. I think that that idea is easy to gloss over because it is tricky- fully God/fully man, we don't get it. But don't you so often feel that people's lack of mercy is really a lack of understanding? Last fall I talked with an older mom about my frustrations with travelling through St. Louis rush hour traffic, trying to meet a deadline, with a chatty three year old (with a million questions) in tow. The other mother's very quick solution was that I should just say "You can talk, but Mommy just can't listen for a little while." This is a small thing, but it is an example of how easy it is to say something unmerciful when we just don't get it. The other mother had one child who was adopted at an older age; she had no idea what sensory overload is like for moms with small children! I didn't have a problem with saying things in a nice way, I had a problem with someone asking me a bunch of questions in heavy traffic in a foreign city! Thank goodness Jesus has been a living, breathing, feeling person. He doesn't just say "well, just ____" like our problems are trivial- that makes you feel like not only is it not REALLY a problem, but you are stupid because you didn't see the obvious answer.

It has been really helpful for me to be able to see Jesus look at a person with understanding and deal with them in a gentle way. He is actually only ever harsh with the proud and unrepentant. But we are harsh all the time. We have an easy answer for everything. I will admit to it. I am a '"rulesy" person by nature. I like to know the best way to do something and what not to do, etc. But the same formula doesn't work for every situation or even for the same situation involving different people. And mercy demands that we take people's specific feelings and situations into account. I can't tell you how long I have been a legalist because of advice that different pople have given me that was probably meant in the spirit of freedom. But for "rulesy" me, it just added insult to injury. Some people need advice, some people need "bless your heart," some people just need a listening ear, some people need a kick in the butt. Jesus knows us well enough to know which it is that we need.

Obviously, I am going to fall in the "bless your heart" bin; I'm real hard on myself and others, and anyone who says "Don't be so hard on yourself; it's alright" is a breath of fresh air. If you're not like me, you might think that would tempt you to slack off, to"sin so that grace may abound" and you would need something different. But any time we can meet someone where they are, incarnate with them and give them what would best meet their needs, we are being merciful. And I am very interested in that! Very far from actually doing it or even knowing how, but very interested.

Eureka!

Here's something light, to enjoy with your morning coffee (or what have you):

I really enjoy Real Simple magazine. My sweet friend, Jennie, gets it for me for my birthday every year- as I am writing this, I remember that I wrote her a thank you note last month and never mailed it because I was hoping to include it with an outfit that I was making for her son that I haven't actually even started yet! Sorry, Jennie (about the note AND the outfit). Anyway, I have ADD or something when it comes to reading long things like a book (I know, that is terrible to admit, especially for an English major!!!), but I read Real Simple cover to cover every month!

So I was up until 3:30 last night reading it, and watching reruns of SNL- who knew that is what's on in the middle of the night on the weekends? I was up because I had such a bad day yesterday that I foolishly took an hour nap at five o'clock and ruined myself for the night. And I have no idea why I was having such a bad day in the first place: the moon? hormones? crashing after all the holiday highs? But I felt it necessary to leave my family alone before I made them all feel like they were the problem. Anyway (again), I read a little article about the invention contest the magazine had held and got to see the four winners.

Winner number one was a guy who invented a jar that's bottom rises as you consume what's inside so that you never have to reach way down into the jar. This sort of reminded me of those measuring cups that have the rubber stopper that pushes up and gets all the sticky stuff out or even a cookie press. So nothing so very new, but still, pretty good idea.

Winner number two was a girl who invented pots with lids that had magnetic knobs which were removable so the lids can all be stacked and the knobs removed and stuck on a metal strip on the inside of the cabinet. Pretty handy, but I already have a great set of Caphalon pots and pans, so I reckon I will just have to keep stacking them all jumbledy. I guess it would bother me more if I didn't have enough space.

Winner number three was a guy who invented a computerized wall callendar that I was pretty surprised was not already invented. It was quite the swanky little device. I'm sure it will cost a million dollars if it is ever marketed.

Winner number four, I have to say, was kinda lame. It was a girl who invented a wrapping paper station that folded out from the wall and then closed to look like artwork hanging on the wall. Well, I suppose that would be handy, but it seems like Martha Stewart has already had that idea. No wait, Martha thinks we all have 18 armoires lying around to turn into wrapping paper stations, potting stations, craft cupboards, etc. Anyway, I don't know anyone who has money to invest in pretty wrapping paper hider thingys that they will only use eight times a year. And how big is the wrapping surface? It would have to ba a big old piece of artwork for me to be able to wrap a Little People Ramps Around Garage on top of it- that's the kind of stuff I'm wrapping. What's so bad about using the kitchen table or the floor anyway?

Well, too bad number four. Or not, she won $10,000! Not so bad after all! Anyone out there have any brilliant ideas? I had to invent something in the fourth grade... it was a "pinecone picker upper." Sure, you laugh, but another girl in my class invented the very same thing! Well, there are lots of pinecones to be picked up in Macon, Georgia!

Friday, January 06, 2006

The other store I refuse to shop at

Maybe I was treading on sacred ground with the Walmart thing (or maybe no one reads my blog). I realize that most who might stumble upon this are likely the sort of people who are picking up their cross: trying to live with one income in a two income society, giving (at least) ten percent- kind of a lot, really- to their church, and just regular people who live in America which is in a bad economic way. Telling people not to save money at a "family friendly store" may be a little too much for some. Besides, I hate it when people try to convict other people. I am not trying to do that. I am just presenting the facts, and then stating my problem with those facts. And in the case that you have the same problem I do, I'm giving you a solution. I make no apologies, but I don't expect anyone else to either- except Walmart, actually. That being said, allow me to tell you another store that the Edemas to not shop at.

Perhaps you have noticed the periodic primetime pornography show referred to as the Victoria's Secret "fashion show." And perhaps you have experienced what I have many times, that when you might be casually watching some little humorous program (The Office and Arrested Development are George's and my favorites) and it is interupted by a commercial, it is nearly naked women writhing in a box (or with wings- what was that about?) in the shadows making seductive glances in the way of your husband or (worse?) your children. Or if you are a t-totaler when it comes to television, perhaps you have been walking through the mall on your way to purchase a pair of shoes or whatnot and you pass by a poster, the size of a billiard table, of a near naked woman whose few garments are nearly falling off. We can thank Victoria's Secret for this obscenity. And frankly, this makes my blood boil. I am horrified this time of year when they have a gigantic sale and there are upwards of thirty women on a Saturday morning clambering for some of their merchandise.

Now I can't say that I have a particular problem with their merchandise (but I can't say I don't either- I just haven't been in in 5 years), just with their advertising. But I am pretty sure that advertising is put out there so that we will like the ad and the product it is promoting and go buy the product. That is why humor is often used. Is it a funny product? (Ha! Ha! That Capital One card is one funny Visa) No, but if we laugh at the commercial, we are more likely to remember the product positively. I went through this same frustration with Taco Bell and Pringles advertising in the 90's. Their commercials were SO loud, SO obnoxious that I refused to watch them or to buy the product they promoted. It was just horrible advertising. Here we have a similar situation, only much much worse. Victoria's Secret does use bad advertising. It is entirely inappropriate, even this day in age. We don't see women in almost nothing in person not even on TV shows, but it is completely okay to show whatever they like in an ad? They can't show people dressed (or undressed) like that anywhere else on TV except HBO (and the other obvious smut that we are, of course, not talking about)! That is good; we need to keep that off our sets and streets! But it isn't very well off our sets during the commercial break, nor is it off our streets when we happen by a Victoria's Secret.

I tend to think that if Ann Taylor and J. Crew and many other clothing retailers can get by without commercials, Victoria's Secret would do fine as well. I would say they should stick with print ads, but I don't want that catalogue coming to my house either! But when you get a flyer advertising a department store sale in "intimate apparel," they usually show the product only, or if they show the model's face, she is just a regular girl, standing still, in regular lighting, with regular makeup on. You don't get that depraved feel from the Target ad. Ya know?

I would also like to say, that beyond the horribly inappropriate quality to their advertising, there is the cultural influence it has -which is equally inappropriate. Eating disorders are on the rise! Women have a crazy view of what they are supposed to look like (and, incidentally, I think this may also contribute to why obesity is on the rise- there is an unachievable standard. so why even try?) Now where did we get the idea what we are supposed to look like beyond a pair of blue jeans? The female body is being exploited, objectified, and degraded, people! And women, particularly young women, are paying so dearly for it! Obviously, Victoria's Secret is not solely responsible for this, but at best, it is a major contributor to the problem. And it makes me sad that the same women who are feeling the cultural repercussions are the ones keeping the company in business!

The company that owns Victoria's Secret also owns Limited, Limited Too, Express, Bath and Body Works, and White Barn Candle Company (usually inside or next to a Bath and Body). We have decided for the last six years, not to shop at any of these stores. I know that "boycotts" are pretty hackneyed and ineffective to boot. It's not that I think I am doing any real damage to Limited Brands (or to Walmart for that matter) by withholding my business, it's just the principle- I just don't support a company who is willfully a stumbling block (where each of the genders is most vulnerable, I might add) to the men and women of America!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Evil Empire

I watched an old Frontline (November 2004) on PBS a couple of nights ago. It was entitled "Is Walmart Good for America?" I am glad I watched it, and have been eager to share my findings with everyone- all 2 of you? For me, it firmed up some beliefs that were sort of going soft. I (gasp!) actually went to Walmart right before Christmas to find an item that was sold out at all three central St. Louis Target locations. Fortunately for me, Walmart doesn't carry the item, and fortunately for our economy, I bought it at a locally owned toy boutique.

Those who know me well will know that our family has not shopped at Walmart in over two years. It started when we lived in Alabaster, Alabama- just south of Birmingham- and Walmart was bullying its way onto people's property by illegal use of emenent domain. It goes a little something like this:
City- "Hey Walmart, we really want you to come to our city so that we will make oodles off all your taxes, and so that we will have jobs for our highschoolers and our underprivileged."
Walmart- "We will come to your city and you will have streets of gold by the time you collect all of our tax revenue, except we want a big tax break upfront. So, for the first five years, we will keep all of the taxes. And you know that other Walmart just outside the city limit of Alabster? We are going to close it and leave an ugly wart of an empty building right there on Highway 31 for all to see, and then just move all the workers from there to the new store. So, sorry, no new jobs. Also, you need to sell us the land really cheap. This is what we will pay___."
City- "Hey good residents of Alabaster, the city really needs your land so we are going to buy it from you. You have 30 days to get off it." (or whatever amount of time)

That is how they get through the loophole. The city buys it with the intent to sell it to Walmart who is not legally permitted to exercise eminent domain- for obvious reasons (what if any business could make you sell them your property?).

Now, maybe you're like I was. You think, "that stinks for those people, but they were paid for their land; they can just relocate." Fair enough (well, maybe. They are also forcing small local businesses off in many instances). But there is more. It was not until I listened to Matt Murphy , my favorite local talk radio host in Birmingham, give some of the facts about Walmart's "evil empire" that I realized what a monster we are dealing with. George was in the car with me that day and proclaimed, "That's it. We are NOT shopping at Walmart anymore." Although Matt's comments were a year before the Frontline story, the television program confirmed almost every one of his details. I have also found an article online from December 2003 that was possibly one of Matt's sources. So here's the rest of the story (some statistics copied from the article on fastcompany.com).

Walmart is not just the world's biggest retailer; it is the world's biggest company. It sells in three months what the number two retailer, Home Depot, sells all year! It does more business in one year than Target, Sears, JC Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined! MERCY! I'm feelin' a little nauseated. Here's one that I may have misquoted to some of you in the past, but it is still staggering: In 2002, 7.5 cents out of every dollar spent in any store in the United States (except auto parts stores) was spent at Walmart. Holy Cow!

So if you're a manufacturer, you really really want your goods on the shelves at Walmart. The problem is that Walmart tells manufacturers exactly what it will pay for the items. Their whole mission is to sell items at the lowest price. Their "negotiations" are essentially strongarming. In many cases, Walmart asks the manufacturer to lower the price from the year before ( we sold this for $9.00 last year, we want to sell it for $7.85 this year- and do the math when you are selling hundreds of thousands of items a year, you are also losing hundreds of thousands of dollars that year). If the manufacturer cannot afford to sell the item for such low prices, Walmart says it will just buy from somewhere else and drops the customer completely. The result is often that a company goes bankrupt or has to seriously downsize, either way. Either they sell their items for way less than they can afford and have to outsource and close down factories in America that are employing Americans, or they have to pull out of their deal with Walmart which causes them to lose a huge volume of customers- all still shopping at Walmart!

Here we come to what we have to thank President Clinton for. He signed the open trade agreement with China in 2000. It seems that all of the companies I read about or saw on Frontline fell apart a year or so later. The Chinese labor laws, or lack thereof, mean that Chinese workers get paid next to nothing. This enables companies in the US, like Walmart, to buy clothing, toys, shoes, and electronics for way cheaper than they can buy them in the US. So here comes 36 billion dollars worth of Chinese imports, while out goes only 3 billion dollars of American exports to China (mostly raw materials like cotton, leather, and scrap metal which gets sold back to us in the form of cheap clothes, shoes, and electronics!) Who is being served here?

So what do we do? Do we deliberately drive past a Walmart where we can get the best price and go to another more expensive store because it will generate more money into our economy? Do we deliberately buy the more expensive product that we know is keeping Americans in jobs when the other product may be almost as good? Yeah. We do. My husband is a fulltime student with a partime job. We have two kids. We could use some low prices. But we do NOT shop at Walmart. Is this convenient? No. Is this more expensive? Yes. When we first quit, I bought ALL of our groceries at Super Walmart. I took the grocery papers from the stores all over town and got the best prices from each store all at one store. I only had one stop. And we saved a lot. But in the end, when Walmart practically owns America and is indirectly selling it to China and Mexico, I have a problem! And I don't care what it costs, I am not going to support that.

I have a confession to make. In Birmingham, there are a few convenient Costco locations. In St. Louis, there are two on the very outskirts of the metropolis. There are Sam's abounding though. So when we moved here, we did not renew our Costco membership and purchased a Sam's membership. So I do shop at Sam's. Like I said, I had softened (or really, George had). But whenever our membership runs out, which is coming up soon, as great as the cheapest gas in town is, we will be buying from Costco- unless, of course, they are strongarming the American manufacturers into going toe up as well! Then again, anyone keeping some of that money on the dollar from going to Walmart, the biggest company in the world, has to be somewhat helpful.

Blog Archive