How about a resolution to Be Yourself? (a.k.a. – a Proverbs 31 post)

You are more precious than rubies.

You are more precious than rubies

I am reading a new book that I’ve wanted to read for awhile now: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I am enjoying it immensely. I avoided it for a while after hearing about it, because I expected a self-righteous written lecture about how to obey all the Old Testament legalities that most of today’s Christians consider unimportant. But it isn’t that at all.

Consider her “Proverbs 31” chapter, where she studies the chapter of Proverbs that begins “A wife of noble character who can find?” and continues with a long (looooong) list of all the things this exemplified woman does in her role of virtuous woman. I expected this chapter to make me feel “UGH”, but to my complete surprise, that isn’t how this author writes at all.

In this time of New Year’s Resolutions, I simply adore how Rachel Held Evans addresses the Proverbs 31 woman. First, she points out that no such woman ever existed. The chapter is not about someone who did in fact “do it all”. Also, in Jewish circles, it is not considered to be a list of things that all women should strive to master. In fact, the only instruction in that passage is given to other people – they are instructed to “honor her for all her hands have done”. Simply put, it is not a to-do list!

You are not blocked from being a valorous woman if you can not sew. You are not blocked from being a virtuous woman if you can not cook. You are not blocked from being a woman of noble character if you are not married. Not at all.

So what if you work, and purchase the clothing you wear from another person? The Proverbs 31 woman had servants, surely she didn’t sew every single item she wore, so if you work honestly and spend your money honestly, you are still clothing yourself and are a valorous woman.
It doesn’t matter if your method of cooking is opening a can of soup or ordering pizza. The point is that neither yourself nor your family is going hungry because you ignore them. So you are still a virtuous woman.
And since our society today does not require a male person to be the sole representative for his family in matters of law or policy, so if you are a single or widowed or divorced woman, you can still can be a woman of noble character without a husband today.

It’s not a to-do list, folks. You can use the strengths God already gave you, to be the best you can be, without trying to copy anyone else. You don’t even have to copy the non-existent Proverbs 31 woman.

So enough with the resolutions to change. Enough with the resolutions to be “good enough”. Enough with the resolutions to be more like someone else – whether that person have a model’s figure, an Olympian’s strength, or the homemaking instincts of Martha Stewart. Enough.

God made you who you are. How about a resolution to Be Yourself this year?

For my part, I ordered a unicycle. Yep. A unicycle. If I were to rewrite Proverbs 31 for myself today, “makes others laugh” would be part of it, I’m sure.

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Movie recommendation: Boxtrolls

I have a new favorite movie: Boxtrolls! It has everything – cute characters, awesome scenery, witty dialogue, good music, good lessons that aren’t preachy, and a happy ending. And cheese – lots of cheese! The after-credit scene is awesome. I took our 3 year old to see Boxtrolls four times, and even got my husband to join us for one of them.

It even inspired my 3 year old’s favorite costume:

boxtroll girl

Yep, she’s a Boxtroll. ūüôā

Like all movies, it has triggers for some people. It touches on adoption, open adoption, what makes a family, being chased/caught, and fire. (But everything works out in the end. The only one who gets his comeuppance is the main bad guy.)

Keeping in the spirit of this blog, one of the reasons I love this movie is its theme song. It’s Little Boxes by Loch Lomond and you can listen to it here:¬† https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJEemRtEFjo.

“Little boxes on the hillside / Little boxes made of ticky-tacky / Little boxes on the hillside / Little boxes all the same…”

"Little Boxes" - satirized image

An example of the middle-class housing satirized in “Little Boxes”: Levittown, Pennsylvania, one of the first major post-World War II housing developments in the United States.
(photo and caption credit to Wikipedia)

The original to that song was written by Malvina Reynolds, at age 62.¬† (Talk about being outside the box! She didn’t even begin composing until her late 40s.) You can listen to her version here:¬† https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_2lGkEU4Xs.¬† You can learn more about Malvina Reynolds on her Wikipedia page.

But back to Boxtrolls. It’s great. Hand drawn backgrounds depicting Victorian England. Stop-motion filmed characters. Witty and satirical dialogue. Good triumphs over evil. And cheese.

Interested in buying any of these for Christmas? Here are links to these products on Amazon:

Boxtrolls Movie

Boxtrolls Soundtrack

Malvina Reynolds’ CD containing “Little Boxes”

 

 

 

 

You have a child – you will never sleep again!

I know that children, eventually, grow out of a need to know exactly where their mother is at all times of the day and night. Eventually. But mine aren’t there yet.

It’s 3:13 in the morning, and I am just now able to leave their room without one of them shrieking.

We don’t do “cry it out” here. Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. These kids have had everything taken away from them, literally. I am not going to make them cry their grief, disappointment, anger, whatever it is they’re feeling, alone. Sometimes I have to leave the room to refill cups, dispose of dirty diapers, wash my hands, get spitup rags, use the bathroom, or even take a sanity break… but I always come back. I rock them, rub tummies, pat backs, or sometimes just sit there if that’s what they need. When I think they’re asleep, I leave. And then sometimes I have to come back because one wasn’t really asleep – either that, or they have baby radar that says I’m not close enough – and their fear returns and the crying begins again.

Sure I’m tired. But it’s helping them adjust. And that’s what they need right now – help. Help from an adult who is trustworthy. Help from an adult who won’t get angry at the crying and hit them. Help from an adult who says “I love you” and who sings in a quiet voice, the same songs over and over, until the very consistency of it allows them to relax enough to sleep.

Sometimes one wakes the other up with his crying. And those times I wish I had separate rooms for them. But other times they’re both upset for their own reasons, and I can haul one crib over toward the other, and sit in the middle with one hand patting each little boy. And those are the times I’m glad they sleep together.

I’m sure I’ll catch up on my sleep some time. Like maybe when they’re in college.

 

When it rains, it pours (aka: the week of teething, and chickenpox, and several other things)

Being a mom is lovely, absolutely lovely. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Keep your corporate job, keep your million dollars, I’ll keep my stay at home with two toddlers life. Seriously. I waited so long to be able to rock children to sleep that I’ll keep it and love it¬† even during the phases everyone dreads.

Have I mentioned on here that we have two toddlers now? Two boys, 17 days apart in age but worlds apart in development. One walks, runs, and climbs. The other is still cruising the furniture. One is trying out sign language and is very close to talking. The other has the Early Childhood Intervention people visiting because he is not making any strides toward communicating at all. One is 2’8″ and 30 lbs. The other is 2’3″ and 23 lbs. But both have light brown hair and blue eyes, and the most charming smiles!

If you know anything about adoption, you know that artificially twinning children is a bad idea. I would not have done it if this second child were not a short term placement. But he is – he has an adoptive family already identified! They just haven’t finished their training yet, but everyone is waiting for them because they already adopted two of this toddler’s siblings a couple years ago. So adopting him will bring the family of children¬†together again. And that is worth a lot of waiting and a lot of bother. And because he has delays, having a same age sibling to identify with and to copy for a couple months¬†just might help him out. So we agreed to do it.

The good news is the copying theory seems to be working out just fine. Our first child, DittoChild (DC), does something like take a toy and walk off with it, and our second child, Chipmunk, gets upset and starts cruising the furniture even faster in an attempt to catch up to DC and take the toy from him. Good workout for him.

The downside is really just about me. Because having two children the same age means two children going through things at the same time – like teething. Oi! I hate teething. With a passion. One question I’ll definitely have for God when I get to heaven is why he invented it! I mean, our head produces strands of hair without pain, why can’t our gums produce teeth without pain??? I’m sure he has a reason, but¬†sheesh –¬†I do not know what it is! My mom laughs and says I get to experience all the typical parenting headaches on fast forward because of the ages of these two children.

And now it looks like I get to experience a child with chickenpox. It might be hand/foot/mouth, or some other blister-causing virus… but chickenpox is the leading theory. We’ll know more Monday, 3 days after the first of the high fever and spots. So far just two blisters, and a bunch of red pinpoint sized dots. You know, the doctor at Urgent Care hasn’t seen a case of chickenpox in YEARS – all because most children are vaccinated for it nowadays. We went to Urgent Care because Chipmunk got a fever that spiked very quickly to 105.5 degrees. Noticing the blisters was just icing on that cake. At least I left with doctor’s prescription for how to administer tylenol to a child too small for the smallest dosage on the package – stuff like that gets really sticky when dealing with foster children. It’s always best to just have a doctor write it down and then it’s suddenly OK to give it. A recommendation over the phone is not nearly as official.

So by Monday we’ll know for sure, supposedly. Which means Monday I get to call all the professionals we saw on Friday and tell them what they were exposed to – because Fridays around here are “professionals” days. This week we had the Early Childhood Intervention people out, and the CASA rep. I’m sure I’m not the only person to tell them they’ve been exposed to something, though! It’s probably a professional risk they know about all too well.

So Monday’s schedule includes:
calling for a doctor’s appointment,
going to the doctor’s appointment,
emailing Chipmunk’s worker to say what he has,
griping to Chipmunk’s worker about being told he was up to date on vaccinations when I was told at Urgent Care that he’s 6 months behind,
emailing DC’s worker to tell her what he’s been exposed to,
talking to the medical transportation reimbursement people,
calling the ECI and CASA to tell them what they were exposed to on Friday.
And oh yeah – calling my brother to tell him¬†we probably won’t make it to HIS WEDDING this week. (Oi, that one’s gonna hurt. But if Chipmunk has chickenpox, then we can’t bring him and doubt we could find a babysitter OK with it. So it is what it is.)

I can’t find out until Monday whether DC is vaccinated for chickenpox. He should be, but then again Chipmunk should have been, too. I’m not a proponent of the chickenpox vaccine, in my opinion it is still too new to have documented all side effects so parents can make truly educated decisions for their children. But being in foster care, I am not given a choice about vaccines. I must have them done on schedule. MUST. So now we have to deal with a catch-up schedule for Chipmunk as soon as he’s over this illness.

So: Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
may my kids sleep through the night,
and wake up with fevers LIGHT.

Bless mommy, daddy, Chipmunk and DC.
May all involved adults make the decisions for these children that are in their best interests. And may they wake up healthier and happier than they went to sleep.

Amen

Defining success

I found this image the other day, and was struck by how true it is.

define success

Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.  So in addition to having to decide if you have accomplished your aim or purpose Рyou have to know exactly what that aim or purpose is!

In my old rectangular life, I was a business analyst. We did all the paperwork, tables, lists, and graphs that would show what was needed in order to accomplish our client’s goals. Then we tracked what was done, compared it to what should have been done, and ultimately decided whether what we had done was good enough to present to the client. And of course in order to even START any of that we had to understand, in detail, to the n-th degree, what it was that our customer was actually trying to accomplish.

Defining what they wanted done often took WAY more time than the client expected. For instance, a client might want to sell more widgets. (It’s always widgets, isn’t it?) That sounds great! So how many do you sell now? They often didn’t know. Too many would be in production, or ready to ship but not sold, or out on consignment, or purchased on credit, or something else not cut and dried. And that makes it complicated to even try to figure out how many they sell now. But you have to know what TODAY is like, and have a way to MEASURE today, before you can begin to figure out how to make it better.

And once the client figured out how many widgets they are selling currently, we’d ask how many more they wanted to sell. They often didn’t know. So we’d say – is selling one more per month enough? Of course the answer is NO. If they’re paying for experts to help them sell more, they want to sell significantly more. But they don’t know what that means to them. Some have a nice, round number in their head, like 20% more. OK – can your manufacturing facilities handle producing 20% more? Do you have enough space? Do you have enough employees? Do you have enough raw materials?

Just the path to figure out what someone wants to accomplish is harder than it seems. Even when that “someone” is you.

And so it is with self-sufficiency. Or homesteading. Or farming. Or whatever it is you call what you are doing that makes reading this blog interesting to you.

What is it you want to accomplish? I wanted to spend less money, use and eat healthier things, and be less dependent on mass consumer products. But have I accomplished that? I certainly hope so! But I have no facts or figures to back that up Рyet.

The path to success isn’t linear. My rabbits did well for a while, then didn’t. I feel I have learned all I can from rabbits, and will be dissolving¬†my rabbitry. Is learning all I can a success? Or is¬†choosing to stop a failure? That depends on how I define my goal, doesn’t it?¬†I started a large garden last year with high hopes, but then ended up in the Philippines with my husband instead. My garden died, except for the swiss chard and brussels sprouts. I love swiss chard and brussels sprouts, and got them with no work whatsoever, so is that a success? Or because all the other veggies died, is that a failure? Or maybe my family is my largest goal and so spending 5 weeks with my hubby instead of being separated from him was the largest success possible? This year’s garden is going to be huge, and I might literally run out of room before I run out of seedlings to transplant – again, is that a success because of the size or a failure because I may have¬†overbought?

It all depends on your goals. And an acceptance that the path to ultimate success in anything – farming, self-sufficiency, and even family – is not a linear progression. Ups and downs are to be expected. Shooting off the graph into 3D land¬†can happen at a moment’s notice. Your path won’t look like anyone else’s. It will be unique to you, your current state, your goals, and your road to getting there – and will depend completely on how you personally define each of them.

It never hurts to ask

I saved 12 cents today off my grocery bill! And all because I asked if I could.

That’s a good lesson for me to remember. When asked, many people are willing to help you out. In my experience, it happens more often than not. All I have to do is get over my embarassment at asking.

Where does that embarassment come from? I have no idea. But it’s there all the same!

What sorts of things do I ask for? Well, the 12 cents today happened because I forgot my reusable grocery bags in the car. At my store, each reusable bag you bring and use (instead of a store-provided bag) discounts your bill by 6 cents. I didn’t remember the reusable bags until my stuff was on the conveyor belt to be checked out. So I asked the cashier – Can I be credited the money for bringing my own reusable bags if I just don’t use your bags? She thought for a moment and said “Sure, it sounds like the same point to me.” And of course it was. As long as I don’t use the store bags, it shouldn’t matter to them whether I use my own or whether I use none. So she credited me for two bags and I¬†used none. I put the groceries straight into my cart and took them out to the car, and loaded them into the reusable bags there. Twelve cents saved.

One thing I have less trouble with is asking if they offer a cash discount. This works well with service industries, like car repairs. I hear the total bill amount, and ask if they give a cash discount. Most places do, because if I give them cash, they don’t have to take a check to the bank and they don’t have to pay service fees on credit cards. So they’re often willing to give at least a 5% discount. Plus, with checks¬†there is always the concern that the person might not be able to cover the amount. And with credit cards the concern that the customer will later dispute the charge.

Of course this works best if the person you are speaking with is allowed to make those kinds of deals. Owners, for instance. It’s yet another reason to deal with small mom-and-pop type stores rather than large chains. Yes, WalMart in some areas offers car repairs, and offers them cheaper than the one-man store down the street. But the one-man store down the street is where the owner greets you when you walk in, works on your car, tallies your bill, AND gives you the cash discount which means his final bill is cheaper than WalMart’s.¬† I saved $20 off a $400 car repair bill last time I took my car in. And I saved $15 off a $115 gas fireplace repair bill just a few weeks ago. It never hurts to ask.

Discounted merchandise is possible, too. I love asking if the store would sell me the floor model of whatever it is I’m looking at. A dishwasher, a treadmill, etc. One can often get 10% or more off the asking price just for taking one that is already out of the box. That discount can be even better if the floor model has something cosmetic wrong with it. A dishwasher might have a paint scratch on the side – it would be invisible once installed, but can be an extra 10% to 20% off the price. I once got 25% off a treadmill. It was the floor model, it had some wear and tear, it had some advertising stickers on it. As the title of the post says, it never hurts to ask.

Sometimes I just have to get over myself. My nervousness, my embarassment. So what if they think I’m a penny-pincher – I am! I don’t want to conform to the societal norm of just paying what’s on the sticker or the bill just because it’s typically done. Asking for a lower price doesn’t hurt, especially because most of the time the answer is “yes”.

Ranting about conformity

Conformity.

Noun
  1. Compliance with standards, rules, or laws.
  2. Behavior in accordance with socially accepted conventions or standards.

Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? A society filled with people who obey the laws, who behave in the way that makes others comfortable, who say “please” and “thank you” and who cross on the green light. Utopia.

But it doesn’t mean just that. It also means a society filled with people who obey the letter of the law instead of the spirit of it. Who don’t worry about others’ feelings or comfort because they are doing what everybody else is doing.

We tend to praise conformity in our society. We teach youngsters to stand in line and to take turns. We look askance at teens who dress in clothing we can not define. We tell each other what they “should” and “should not” do. Give to this charity. Smile more. Don’t eat at that restaurant. Walk during your work break to keep in shape. Spend quality time with your kids. Wear a scarf this season even though they were “out” last season. Hate this group of people. Love that group of people. Support the troops. Support the protesters. Support your government. Put a ribbon magnet on your car. Adopt a dog. Get married. Don’t get married yet. Join the military. Go to college. Get a job. Change your hairstyle.

It’s easy to conform. It’s easy to hide while you conform. People pick on you less when you’re conforming. People notice you less when you’re conforming.

But is that really who you are? If nobody told you to act that way or believe that way, what would you do? If everyone around you suddenly decided to act and believe differently, what would you do? Are those actions what you really wish to do? Are those beliefs really ones you hold?

There are always other people who believe the way you truly believe. And others who act the way you wish you had the courage to act. It just takes work to find them. And they’re usually called nasty names. Like “dissidents”. Or “heretics”. Or “stupid”. Or “ugly”.

Let’s take a major example – the Declaration of Independence. It contains the line “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” At one time, most people believed that line applied only to men, and specifically only to white men. Those who believed black men were also created equal were called abolitionists. They were white men themselves, in many cases. They¬†were looked down upon, even cursed at and beaten. At another time, those who believed women were also created equal were called suffragettes. They were often women. They also were looked down upon, cursed at, and imprisoned. Yet today we look back and realize that the abolitionists and suffragettes had it correct.¬†Those who conformed to what society considered acceptable were in the wrong.

Each of those people who helped shape today’s public opinion decided not to conform to majority opinion any more. They stood up. They became visible. They got picked on. They were noticed. But they turned off that never-ending voice in their head that kept telling them to be quiet and go with the flow. They thought their own thoughts. They believed a different truth. And they chose¬†to no longer conform. And they were right.

My example was a very serious one. But conformity pops its head up in all sorts of situations.

Have you ever stood up against socially acceptable behavior, that wasn’t acceptable to you? Would you do it again?