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”

 

 

 

 

How much food do you have available?

My hubby and I are embroiled in a “discussion”. ūüėČ Yep, discussion. On how much food I like to keep available at any one time vs the available space in the kitchen. The food has rather taken over the kitchen, and even taken over part of the garage. I’m not one of those end-of-the-world preppers! But I do believe in buying things when they’re on sale so that I don’t have to pay full price later. But there have been some good sales lately, so everything is rather overflowing with food.

Full Pantry

No, this isn’t my pantry.
But it’s pretty close!
Image from torchlakeviews.wordpress.com.

I have probably 20 lbs of pasta – purchased at approximately 50 cents per pound.
A dozen cans of green beans, a dozen of corn, and 6 of baked beans – purchased at 33 cents apiece.
About 15 cans of tunafish – purchased at less than 75 cents apiece.
Three loaves of bread – free because of a deal with a local restaurant.
About six pounds of fish – purchased at about $1.50 per pound.
Boxes and boxes of couscous, rice, and similar starchy sides – purchased at less than 75 cents each.
About two dozen cans of diced tomatoes – purchased at approximately 25 cents each.
About 20 home-canned cans of pinto beans and black beans – purchased dry at less than 50 cents a pound.

And that’s just an example. I have more food than that. ūüôā And a garden. Plus the eggs from the laying hens. Plus the chickens we butchered last year that we haven’t finished eating yet. So a lot of food.

But that’s how we handle living on a grad student’s living. I don’t know how I’d handle living in a place where the culture said you go to the market each day to purchase just what you will cook for that day. I would HATE paying the going price for everything, all the time.

Also, it’s great to have this much food available for when life happens. If I don’t get to the grocery store when I expect to, it’s no big deal. I can be sick, or have a flat tire, or get a last-minute invitation to do something, and it’s OK. I can run by the store for milk and forget the rest until the next day or so, because I know I have plenty for dinner that night – and the next. I can invite people to dinner with no advance planning. I can attend a last-minute potluck without stressing (and without buying chips or a veggie platter!).

But – storage has become an issue. My idea¬†of clean is – organized, knowing where everything is, and nothing is dusty. Hubby’s idea of clean is – empty. Quite a difference there! So I need to either curtail the sale-shopping, or build some shelves in the garage where out of sight is out of mind.

So what’s in your pantry? How much food do you have available? Could your local grocery store workers go on strike for a week without bothering you much? Where do you store food that you aren’t going to eat right away?

Or in other words – just how far out of the norm am I?

Edited to add – hubby just posted his version on his own blog. You can read it here: http://ishism.com/2013/04/05/my-wife-and-i-are-having-a-discussion-about-f-o-o-d/¬†Come on, readers, read them both then come tell me I’m right! The inches of storage space may be on his side, but the dollars in the grocery budget are on mine! *grin*

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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?

Things I took for granted in the USA

This is meant to be an amusing post about things that I personally have dealt with while living in the Philippines.

1. When is the last time you looked at the ceiling in your bathroom in the United States? Yeah, me neither.¬†I, and most of the rest of the people¬†in the USA, take for granted that we don’t need to. But the last time I looked at the bathroom ceiling¬†in here in the Philippines? Just a few minutes ago, and every time before that when I walked into it. I have become quite conscious of the liklihood of something alive dropping down on my body from the ceiling, and the bathroom is where I’m usually in a most precarious and vulnerable state. And after seeing the size of the spiders here, and their propensity for hanging out upside down, I now very carefully look for them before entering. And¬†when (that is WHEN, not IF) there is a spider on the bathroom ceiling, it needs to be¬†shooed out the window before I make use of those facilities. I wonder how often I’ll check the ceiling when I get back to the USA before getting out of that habit?

2. I took for granted the fact that I knew what was in the food I ate. I could tell by looking, because there are certain foods that are prepared certain ways, and I am familiar with many of them. Here,¬†I can point to a dish on a buffet and ask “what is it?” Sometimes I’ll be told the proper name in the local dialect (“pancit” is one example). Sometimes I’ll be told the main ingredient (“chicken” in the case of most pancit). Other times I’ll be told something they find interesting about the dish. (“It uses Chinese noodles” is what I hear about pancit.) Other times they think I want to know what creates the spice flavor (I can’t spell the names of the pancit spices, so I won’t even try). And sometimes I can get one person pinned down enough to hear a list of all the ingredients (“It’s called pancit, it’s a noodle dish, it has pork and chicken and sometimes fish boiled with the noodles and the spices.”) BUT the kicker here is that with the prevalence of maids who do the household cooking, and the popularity of simply buying a ready-made dish from a street vendor to serve with dinner, nobody really knows what is in that specific¬†dish, since the cook makes whatever alterations to the standard recipie that seem best to her at the time. Which has resulted in my shellfish-allergic husband eating shrimp. Twice. I’m glad we brought plenty of Benedryl, so far that is all that has been needed.

3. And speaking of eating things that shouldn’t be – we in America take for granted that we can drink any water that is put in front of us. Sure, in some areas it might not taste good. And sure, sometimes it has contaminants that we choose to filter out. But in almost every home and restaurant in America you can fill a glass with tap water and drink it. You do not have to think ahead every day to ensure that there is enough drinking water in the house. People in the USA don’t run out of money and have to go without water until the next payday. But they do here. None of the homes we have visited had clean water piped in to them. Every single one of them has had to purchase drinking water, or drink from a community well that is known to have impure water. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. From the houses of the high-up city officials who have drinking water delivered in systems that look like an office water cooler, to the houses of the middle class where they buy water in huge square containers with spigots. To the houses of the poor who have one-liter bottles of purchased water lined up against a wall. To the houses of the completely destitute who drink from the community well – and suffer problems like parasites and¬†typhoid as a result. (Isn’t it ironic that the class least able to pay for medical help is the class that must most often¬†need it?) The Philippine government is aware of the problem, and is taking slow steps to rectify it. But in the meantime, always ask before drinking any water in the Philippines.

4. Back to the funny stuff. In the USA we take for granted that trees are safe. That the worst that typically happens from trees is that your car gets bird poop on it if you sit under one too long. But in the Philippines, trees have FRUIT on them!¬†Often heavy fruit. Fruit that falls from the tree when it gets ripe. Ever had your car windshield get broken by a coconut? The roof or hood can get a pretty good dent in one from them, too. So in spite of the heat, Filipinos fortunate enough to have cars do NOT park them in the shade¬†under trees. People don’t sit under trees much, either. The shade of a wall is much safer.

5. Mosquitoes. I really am starting to find them more than just annoying. In the USA, we take more precautions against our dogs getting heartworm from mosquitoes than we take against mosquitoes biting us. I take for granted that mosquitoes can’t really hurt me. And because of where we are in the Philippines, I took no more precautions against mosquitoes than the normal expedient of bringing mosquito repellant. After all, this island does not have malaria, and that’s all that the travel sites told me to take caution against. But then we get here, and I learned about Dengue fever. It’s mosquito-borne, but it does not show up on any travel preparation sites because there is no vaccine against it! It causes high fever, high amounts of pain, vomiting, dehydration. In a more serious case, internal bleeding. Less than one percent of cases end in death. But in a population of over 100 million people, even 1% is too high.¬† I think when I return to the USA, I will see future mosquito bites on my skin and take a moment to be grateful about where I live, and that I will have no symptoms from that bite other than itching.

We return to the USA fairly soon. While I will be relieved to experience things I expect again (and not be surprised by a spider or coconut dropping down on my head), I will sincerely miss many things I have experienced here in the Philippines.

Lots of service, no amenities

Life in the Philippines is much different from life in the United States. I’ve known this the whole time I’ve been here, but it seemed just a collection of “different” things. I did not realize there was a theme behind the differences until just last night.

In the Philippines, you can get plenty of people to DO just about anything you could ever need or want (and some things you wish they wouldn’t!)
But you can not get many THINGS that you are accustomed to, or even some things you think are necessary.
So, lots of service, but no amenities pretty much sums up a lot of the differences I’m experiencing here.

For example, my husband and I entered the smallest Toys ‘R Us store I’ve ever seen. It was barely bigger than a gas station that sells snacks. But inside the doors there were at least 8 employees waiting to serve people. And three of them followed us around, offering us various toys. We’d take a look at a xylophone, put it back, and immediately have three similar items handed to us. (One toy piano for the same age as the xylophone, one xylophone of a different brand, and one xylophone for a younger age range.) It was wild. In the USA, you can often not even find one person to help you when you are LOOKING for someone.

And when we went with a local family to a hardware store in search of paint, we had five employees helping us. One was showing color cards of the different brands of paint they sold, the second was moving a display around so we could see it better, the third was climbing the shelves to get something from the top shelf for us to consider (and handing it down to the fourth employee on the ground), and the fifth was collecting the things we were selecting and making sure noone else touched them.

When we went to McDonald’s, the door was opened for us by the employee stationed beside it. Every register was open and had an employee behind it, even though most registers had no customers at them. Then after we ordered, there were more trays filled with food than the person who was still at the register could carry. So two employees came out to carry them for him. And when you are finished, you leave your tray and trash on the table, and a different employee would clear it and wipe the table. Oh, and if you ordered something additional in the middle of your meal, you just pointed out where you were sitting, and when it was ready it would be brought to your table.

But contrast that with the lack of amenities they have.

For instance, there is one mall close to the house that we have gone to several times. It has one bathroom. Just one, for the entire mall. (The ladies’ room has 7 stalls in it.) And in that bathroom, there is no toilet paper. (Toilet paper is a luxury item here, most people do not use it.) And no way to dry your hands after washing them. But back to service, it does have an attendant who mops the floor of the stall after each person leaves it. Most restaurants have facilities for washing your hands, but do not offer toilets. If they do offer toilets, there is no toilet paper.

The only thing you can get a free refill of is rice. No free soda refills, for instance. In many restaurants, there is no ice available so all drinks are room temperature (or cooler to start with, if they have a refrigerator the bottle came out of.) So even when you can drink the water, you pay for it, and pay again if you want another cup of it.

And at the paint store where we went with the local family, paint is sold already mixed. So either they have the color you want in stock that day, or they don’t. Period. There is no mixing it while you wait, the way it’s done in US stores. And the employee was climbing up the shelves to get the paint because all the ladders were intended to be sold, there was not one for the employees’ use. (Definately no OSHA regulations here!)

Stores also have¬†no additional stock in the back room. Heck, there is no back room. Every foot of floor space they have is dedicated to selling space. Even the employee “break room” is in public view, tucked in a corner behind a tall display of something. So either what you are hoping for is on the selling floor, or they don’t have it. There is no “do you have this shoe in a size 7?” or other hopeful questioning.

Along those same lines, my host family has a maid, and a washing machine. In the USA, the washing machine would do almost all the laundry, and the maid would wash out something that was too delicate for the machine. Here, it is the opposite. The maid washes all the clothing by hand except for a few items that are too hard to force the water through manually.

And if a person can possibly afford it, she doesn’t walk anywhere – she takes a tricycle, which is a form of public transportation. It is a rickety sidecar attached to either a motorcycle or bicycle driven by the owner, and it costs 6 pesos to ride. It is considered better to ride in a tricycle powered by a human than it is to wear out your own shoes.

So to sum it up, I have to provide my own toilet paper, I have to visit several stores to find the right color of paint in stock, but someone here will happily bicycle me to where I want to go and someone else will hand-wash my underwear. Quite the opposite of the way we have things in the United States!