Just Look...

Just Look...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Later, January!

This update is honestly just for me, to keep me accountable. I know that no one cares, but I like knowing there is record somewhere of 2013. At the end of each month I want to take stock and see where I am in regard to my goals. January, you've been awfully good to me. I can stand to improve, but it hasn't been bad at all.

1. A Healthier Lifestyle
Oddly enough, this is likely my area of most success in January. Yes, that shocks me as much as the next guy. ;) We have done really well with the smoothie'ing (although I still worry about burning out on them) and I have cooked every night that we have been home (including weekends-- and we have been home WAY more this semester!). An unexpected advantage of the smoothie'ing is that I never think about Smoothie King anymore, which is saving me LOTS of money!  The food/drink part has been easiest of all. The exercise is still a chore and a hassle. I really am just resigned to the fact that I will never be a person who enjoys it. I think that it bores me. If I can't write or talk or read or interact, I'm not interested. I do enjoy thinking, but my mind doesn't work so well when my body is screaming. I've met my weekly goal of three times/week or more (except one week), but I have HATED it. 

{Although, I have to admit... Today was so beautiful and it has been so gross outside that I took the girls after school and we walked on the track at church. I got more distance in better time than I have EVER done on a treadmill. I guess it's true that being outside is better. And it was somewhat enjoyable.... but only because of the girls... and the sunshine.}

2. A More Intentional Spiritual Life
Ughhhhh..... I stink. We stink. This is going to be my February focus because I was very bad at it in January as far as the girls are concerned. That being said, though, there are THINGS happening in my spiritual walk-- things that I haven't had happen much-- things like God pretty clearly showing me things and defining my purpose and path-- cool things. :)

3. To Become More Globally Aware
I've done sensationally well this month at not spending, which is not exactly this one but a natural outgrowth of it. Other than one Target trip, I have literally not spent a dime since Christmas on anything other than food. (OK, and materials for a Valentine and bday craft...) Still need to learn more about fair trade and composting and gardening, but there's time. As far as mission-minded, it's a work in progress, but progressing it is.

4. Maintaining a Sense of Order and Purpose
YES. And for this one, I am convinced it is partially happening supernaturally. I have so much to get done in the next four months and somehow, God is stretching my days. Seriously. Sun standing still kind of stretching. The weekends last forever and I am getting more done in the shortest amount of time than I should ever get done. I don't get it, but I'll take it!!!

5. Be There
This goal is truly moment by moment. And some moments I succeed, and some I don't. But all I try.
Value the People in Life
Meh... In some cases, with some people, I'm doing well. In others, not as much. This too is very day to day, so I can keep working and focusing on it and not feel guilty for what isn't done.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

For Some a Burning Bush... I Got a Pipecleaner.

This is probably going to be Part 1 of about a 100 part blogginess, but I feel like I have to start writing tonight or I'm going to burst with all of it.

I've realized something. I'm devil-bait on Sunday mornings. Seriously. I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It's one of those things that has sort of ebbed and flowed over my life... I'll go through seasons where it is almost unbearable and then I'll have a time when I do really well with it. I think that in the past 3-4 years, though, I've really started to learn how to cope. Part of that is due to a brief period of counseling I got (and kept TOP SECRET at the time, like it was some giant deal... that me would have croaked if she knew I was going to mention it on the world wide web one day!) and part seems to just be due to life and maturity. But for some reason, Sunday morning is when the devil works his way back into those parts of my mind. Maybe it's because that's the only time my mind is actually still?

I have had three major anxiety episodes since December, all on Sunday mornings. And this past Sunday, the strategy of attack was the trip I am planning to take in July to Cambodia. I'll go into more detail later about the complete working together of God's plan for me to be on this trip, but let's just say it cannot be denied in any way that I am meant to go. On Sunday as I sat in church, the doubts started to creep in....
"You don't even DO kids' ministry!" 
"You would probably DIE before
you'd do any sort of drama!"
 "You can't sing a BIT!"
 "You haven't done puppets since
you were in middle school."
 "You would be way better suited for a trip
to actually WORK on something or a
trip you could just photograph or write about..."
 "You need to go on a trip in which they are giving
things out or something more humanitarian... the last
kind of trip you would be effective on is one to do
 "This was a terrible idea."
 "Lance probably doesn't want you to
go but feels bad telling you."
  and maybe the hardest to bear, "You can't go to 
Cambodia because you will starve to death and you 
love Coke too much." 

I did finally recognize the situation for what it was (an effort to prevent me from obeying the Lord and going), but the concerns remained for this entire week.

We had our first meeting tonight and I was really nervous. However, as we talked with the personnel from Cambodia and PCL about our time with the kids, one word came up more often than any others:


And let me tell you, if there is ONE thing I CAN do for Jesus, it's lead people in crafting activities. ;)

The first mention of it was "pipecleaners". The whole thing almost made me giddy--

How like my God is it to use a piece of wire with fuzzies attached to it to ease my troubled mind and gently remind me that being His hands is the same, no matter where you are or what you are doing? He doesn't need me to be a children's ministry professional... He only needs me to be available. 

As they talked about the kids and how thrilled they will be just to have us there, that they will gather around the windows and watch once we reach capacity and they can no longer fit inside, that they love anything "from America"... I just felt excitement welling up inside me, alongside tears. 

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God is allowing me this opportunity. Me and my pipecleaners.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remembering the Past by Changing the Future

International Holocaust Remembrance Day... I don't think I can let this one pass without a post, albeit a short one.  I've studied the Holocaust in depth for the past eleven years.  I am sometimes a little taken aback at how much study of this event has shaped the person I am... But then I wonder how much the person I am has been the root of my interest. The old chicken before the egg question, if you will. I had a conversation with a few fellow Holocaust teachers once about the fact that so many of us are very deeply religious Evangelical Christians. We discussed the fact that our interest in the Holocaust probably springs from our faith. I think that is very likely. 

However, I feel like my years of Holocaust study have made me into a better person than I was before or would be without it. It is not exactly a pleasurable change, but I'm not sure the best changes ever are. I certainly am more aware of those around me and more sensitive to those who have been marginalized or discriminated against. I think my parenting has been shaped by this, as I often hear myself say to the girls when they criticize someone, "You don't know what he/she deals with at home." I believe that my connection to Royal Family is heavily impacted by my Holocaust knowledge and study... it is a concrete opportunity to influence lives that have been damaged but not destroyed by evil and sin. 

I have heard a quote several times recently and I'm not sure where it originated, but I love it. 
Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But I'm afraid He would ask me the same question.

My faith and my passion for the Holocaust are inextricably linked. I don't think a Christian could study the events of the 1930's and 40's in Europe and not question what his/her own action would have been. The connection between that time in history and the treatment of humanity to today is obvious to anyone, from a child reading Terrible Things to a teenager in my Holocaust Lit class to a senior adult in the elective I taught at my church. 

In regard to Holocaust remembrance and education, I think it's essential. I hope to always teach this class to teens and always create situations in which people memorialize the victims of the Holocaust. However, it didn't end in 1945... genocide didn't end, prejudice didn't end, and ill treatment of human beings one to another didn't end. As the years have gone by, my class has expanded more and more to include the study of other genocides and real life application of the lessons learned from the Holocaust. 

I've come around in recent years to the belief that the best form of remembrance is changing the future. To the six million Jews and five million others who died... We looked away... the world, so wrapped up in itself in the mid-twentieth century, forgot to care about you.  We forgot to speak up for you. And unfortunately, we have looked away so many times since... been too busy with our own lives to care about others. We are still silent far too often. 

But to the eleven million, I make this vow on this day: I will stare into the face of injustice and human rights violations... I will purposely make time in my life to reach out and work. I will remember you by helping them. And I will speak... as often and to as many as will listen. And the beauty of my situation is that I know for a fact that I am not standing alone because the future is sitting in front of me every day. And they, too, are ready. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Free Tidbits in Honor of the Sleet Day Off

Let me first say that working a five day week this semester is going to feel like quite the shock-- if ever it happens. :) We have our second Friday in a row off today due to ice and sleet. (Wait-- isn't sleet ice? So was that redundant?) Whatever the case, we have loved it and it has been an unexpected blessing. I truly love every moment of my job (as much this semester as ever!), but days I can spend nestled in my house, listening to the girls play with their dolls while I organize and work, snuggled on the couch with them as we read, watching tv in bed... These days just add so much fuel to my tank. (Which reminds me that I came home last night with my gas light on... I hope I remember as soon as I leave the house to stop at a gas station. Kraig asked me once if I was aware of the fact that you can put gas in the car without the light being on. I am. I just choose not to.)

(Do you think there is some sort of rehab for parenthetical comment use? Because I really need it. Sometimes I try to break myself of it but then I just overuse ellipses in order to get off of parentheses. I'm afraid of what grammatical addiction I might develop in trying to get off of ellipses!)

Anyway, since I am still avoiding the serious blog post I need to write about the ways God is pushing me this year, let me just mention a few cool things that might be of interest to the two of you who might be reading.

If either of my extensive readership are runners/walkers/creepers/crawlers, let me tell you about two awesome 5K's that are coming up in April. My preference would be that you participated in both. Just let one serve as a warmup for the other. Because you know what? BOTH go for an incredible cause. The first is Run for Cover, which is a 5K hosted by a group from my Holocaust Lit class. Their memorial project is to coordinate this 5K to raise money for an incredible local organization (with global effect!), People for Care and Learning, and their Build a City project. I am just so taken with PCL and this project and I think the best thing you can do is go to both links (and especially watch the Build a City video). I am so proud of my kids for wanting to take on a project this large (the CHS Sports Marketing class will be working with us) and it would mean so much to me and them to have an incredible turnout at this event. I want them to see that 18 year old kids in little Cleveland, TN, can change the lives of people who literally live halfway around the world. (I know this is true because I checked the globe a minute ago. Since I am planning to travel to Cambodia this summer, I was a little ashamed that I wasn't completely certain of its whereabouts. So now I know.) You can register on active.com for this event. Or contact me if you want to be a corporate sponsor. The event takes place on April 6 at the former Rolling Hills golf course (Westmore COG property).
The second 5K is in its third year (this boggles my mind when I remember that first year and how terrified I was that it was going to completely fail!) and includes a 1 mile FunRun as well. It will take place on April 20 at the CHS track/Greenway. This event raises funds for Royal Family Ministries, SCCOG's ministry to children in the foster care program. It helps fund our summer camp for elementary kids, our weekend retreat for middle schoolers, and our mentoring/club program. I have a previous post about Royal Family and will soon do an entire post about it. This ministry is absolutely the dearest to my heart and has changed and shaped every aspect of my life. Here is a link to a video of some shots from the past four years. (Many children cannot have their faces shown which is why many of the pictures are from the back or in shadow.) The RF5KC has grown each year and we are expecting this year to be the biggest and best ever! Be sure and register on active.com for this special event! This is a link to Royal Family, Inc, if you want to learn more about the national parent organization.

Aside from these two events that you need to register for, I also wanted to mention a really cool app that my girls have worn out on these past two ice days. It's called Stop Motion and it creates a stop animation film out of photo projects. It's very user friendly to create and if I can figure out how, I'll link two of the ones Emma and Kelsey have done here. It has kept them very busy.

If you decorate for Valentine's Day, this is a cute (and very simple!) little garland you might want to make. All you need is a ribbon or twine and some cards. I advise buying the cards for $1 at Dollar Tree or Dollar General instead of $2.89 at Target like I did. I tied fabric scraps in between the cards on this one but I did not do that on the one I used Valentine ribbon with that I made for a friend. The canvas with book pages heart is something I did last year, also very easy.

So there ya go! Free information for you, from how to participate in changing the world to a cool app to some cute crafts. You're welcome. ;)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Always Last on the Bandwagon

Because I apparently love to be on the tail end of every fad and bandwagon, I finally went to see "Les Miserables" tonight. The thing about waiting till the waves of attention are nearly over is that you have heard so much about movies/books/etc that actually seeing/reading it is typically anticlimactic. That was not the case with this movie. I will say that I didn't cry but I think that was more due to the company I was in (our student/faculty book club). I am not a giant fan of doing the ugly cry around people whose essays I grade.

A couple of things I need to note about this movie:

1. Wow. What a beautiful story of redemption and forgiveness! I'm sure everyone else has already pummeled the religious metaphors from the movie so I'll leave it alone, but you can't miss the message in this movie. I loved it so much and want to watch it again soon.

2.  I am a fan of live theater. And I have not ever seen "Les Mis" performed. However, I feel like this is one production that likely is more powerful on the big screen than in the theater. It is just packed with visual punches and the actors and actresses just did a ridiculously phenomenal job.

3.  As further proof of my inability to divorce fact from fiction, when the grown up Cosette appeared on the screen the first time, I blurted, "She goes to our school!" to my friend, the librarian. As it turns out, the actress playing Cosette is from "Mean Girls" which, incidentally, is not even a true account from my school. That's just all kinds of twisted.

4.  I do not think there has ever been a movie with a more impacting closing scene. Every detail of those last few moments of that movie packed a punch.

5. This movie reminded me of a thought I have had in the past. I know that history is written by the winners and the difference in a rebel and a patriot is determined by what side you are on. However, I am always amazing at any sort of revolution or overthrow attempt because it is most often so undermanned and undergunned that it has to seem so hopeless to those involved... Yet they still try. Because they believe in a cause. I just don't see in myself that spirit of optimism and confidence that it takes to be part of something like that. I'm not sure my dreams for the general are as important to me as Brutus's were... or the early Americans... or the prisoners of the Warsaw ghetto... or the young kids represented in this movie. And that makes me sad.

I am a fan. Forever. Of the story, the songs, and the movie. If you want to buy me something sooner rather than later, I want the soundtrack. If you are looking more for a gift to present around six months from now, the DVD would be awesome. Thanks.

In other news, I had an epiphany this past Monday. We had a challenging and complicated weekend in which I had spent some time feeling sorry for myself, especially on Monday.  I finally realized that while I was bemoaning some pretty trivial circumstances, there are people around who are facing life and death experiences. People selecting coffins for those they love, people sitting in ICU waiting rooms, people adjusting to life alone, people awaiting massively important medical test results, people whose marriages are ending, people whose dreams have been crushed... It's hard to feel sad and irritable when you have some perspective. So instead of bellyaching, I decided that while I did my work, I would spend the time praying for people with actual problems. Perspective... GAINED.

Hey, see this?
I know it's hard to see, but it's kind of important. See, this afternoon I was walking though a parking lot and this dog, I promise you, honked the horn of this car at me TWICE. No kidding. And when I looked at him after the second one, he quickly looked away. And that's when I took his picture.  I have never had an animal honk at me. Until today.

And last of all and entirely unrelated except maybe not, tonight when I got home from the movie, I went to tuck the girls in. Kelsey sniffed a few times, then said, "Now where were you?" I told her a movie, then she said, "Are you sure you weren't, like, in Granna and Grandad's barn???" Mmmkay. My apologies to those who sat around me at the movie.

It seems that the honking dog likely smelled better than I did.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Which it Took 5 Paragraphs to Get to Anything of Substance

Confession: I was only 1/3 successful last week in my fitness goal.

I would, however, like to plead hazardous conditions. It monsooned the entire first part of the week, sleeted Thursday, we were out of school Friday (who would exercise on a free day off of school???), etc. And in the interest of full disclosure, due to the fact that our friends from ATL are staying with us this weekend, my eating endeavors are also likely going to be relaxed this long weekend. Half the fun with these people is our yummy dips and chips and late night ice cream, etc. I am excusing this departure from those goals in order to be a good hostess. I think we can all agree that's important, right? Hospitality is a virtue practiced by everyone from the New Testament church to the medieval knights.

{It is exactly this sharply honed ability to justify my every every action and inaction that has gotten me to this place. And by "this place", I mean the one in which I pretty much detest everything about my physical condition and have been driven here out of desperation. It's a slippery slope, my friends, a slippery slope.}

Anyway, aside from some insane weather, it's been a blessedly joyous week. My three classes are just wonderful. I keep waiting on this crazy bubble I've been riding for years to pop (and thought sure it had a year and a half ago when I found that I would be teaching 12th graders instead of 10th), but I'm not sure it's going to. I just always seem to get so lucky with the best kids ever and have ended up loving and adoring seniors every bit as much as I loved and adored sophomores! I'm not sure why it surprises me, though, because I firmly believe that my occupation is right smack in the middle of God's will for me and there is no place I'd rather be. In addition, I think kids can sense when teachers love them and love what they do and that makes them respond accordingly. And when you get an early dismissal day AND the Friday before a long weekend off??? What could be better?!?!?! ;)

I'm in the midst of some of my very favorite activities, planning some special events for some special people (bdays, etc). The one downside of these upcoming activities (including prom, an elementary school yearbook, and two 5K's (5K's I am coordinating, not runningn!)) is the additional stress brought on by deadlines and work. March is going to bring two major trips (one of which I just found out about last Sunday!), the yearbook deadline, and a birthday party or two. April is both 5K's and prom. I'm just going to use every spare moment of January and February to stay on track and organized (going back to my intentional, purposeful, schedule goals) so that the stress doesn't eat me alive.

I'm sure I'll dedicate an entire post to this later, but I am just beside myself with excitement about tomorrow. Sunday is the kickoff to our 2013 Royal Family Ministries, which is also our FIFTEENTH YEAR! This ministry has had my heart from the first moment I learned of it. I will never forget that Sunday. Pastor Lance presented the ministry to our congregation and showed a video or two. Somehow I missed (or he didn't explicitly say) that he wanted US to do a camp and instead just thought that he was asking for financial support for another camp. All I could think the entire service (I was 19 at the time) was, "I have GOT to be part of this. I will go wherever I need to in order to work a camp." I told him that afterward and he explained that we were only a year away from OUR camp. I worked that first camp as a counselor and have worked every year since with the exception of the three when I had a major life event (wedding year and both summers I had a newborn baby-- '00, '03, '05). Since that first year of around twenty kids, we have expanded to 50+ kids at our summer camp, added a weekend retreat for middle schoolers, and this past year added a mentoring/club program.

I feel so blessed to serve in this ministry. I pray so hard that tomorrow will be a day of the kind of itchy discomfort that stirs the hearts of our church body.... a day when we have to really look at the beast of child abuse and neglect and really see the children in our society who are victimized... a day when our usual response of looking away from those things that make us feel uncomfortable and convicted won't cut it and we are instead forced to stare full on... but also a day when we celebrate a true Jesus-like response to the issue... a day when we don't have to feel that frustration of knowing there is a problem but not knowing what to do about it... a day when that desire to do more will have a concrete answer... a day when people will open their eyes and hearts and wallets and truly become the hands and feet and finances of Jesus. Grant it, Lord.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Spinach, a Crockpot, and Books

For a brief update on last week's post, progress has been made. Of the things I could see immediate results on, I have done well. I am going to say this, though, and perhaps save others some smoothie ingredients: The people who tell you that you can't taste spinach in a smoothie are LIARS!!! And the truth is, I LIKE spinach in a salad. I always put it in my salad. But spinach in a green salad where it is supposed to be and spinach in a yummy berry smoothie of goodness are NOT the same thing. Poured last Sunday's smoothie down the drain, then carried on. One major success of our breakfast smoothie'ing has been that I not only cannot taste the oatmeal or the flaxseed, I really like the consistency the oatmeal gives it.

And while we are on the food subject, let me just say-- crockpot cooking is likely going to be my success story of 2013. The idea of throwing ingredients in a pot (and not even precooking the chicken!!!) before I leave for school and coming home to a delicious smelling house and supper done??? It's like having your own chef! And you don't even have to interact with another living soul! Where has this process been my whole marriage??? And WHY did none of you people who call yourselves my friends TELL me about this??? I'm in love. I heart my crockpot.

I actually had intended to write a serious post about the way the Lord has used multiple methods to speak to me about something and now that feels kind of wrong to include in a post about spinach in smoothies and crockpots. I guess I'll hold off on the serious for a day or two. After all, He might have more to say.

Since I now need to fill the space I had reserved for ... well, for the Lord... I usually write book reviews on my fb page. I thought I'd copy them onto this blog (and I still might), but for now, I'll abbreviate the six or so books I still need to review into a couple of sentences about each.

Over Christmas break, I caught up on my reading.

 Lead with LUV by Ken Blanchard
I had been reading this off and on for months. I don't know why I'm drawn to books about corporate management because heaven knows I have no desire to end up in management of any kind and especially not corporate. Even still, this book is a candid conversation with the lady who is behind Southwest Airlines (my favorite airline!) and it really was fascinating. I love the idea of this form of management (and customer relationship). It reminded me a lot of Whale Done, a book I read a while back about Sea World trainers.

Prison Nation by Jenni Merritt
The book club book for January, I got drawn in a lot faster than I had expected. It's about a future day when the number of Americans in prison is roughly equal (or maybe higher) to the number who aren't. Entire cities are turned into prisons. I can't say much without giving away the ending, but it did feel chillingly possible at times when descriptions were given of the America that gave way to this.

Let's Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
You might know her as The Bloggess. Or you might know her as incredibly crass and sometimes profane. Either way, it's a pretty interesting book. I will say that if you are easily offended, you might want to leave this one alone. The language is rough a lot of the time. I think what really interested me most about it is that she suffers terribly from anxiety and social disorders, and I really was drawn into the way her mind works. Her stories are WILD and mostly hilarious and she reminded me so much of a good friend of mine.

Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman
I feel kind of bad about this one because I totally stole it from my mother-in-law on the very night she received it as a Christmas gift. I started reading it on the couch in the middle of Kraig's family on Christmas night, only to realize very quickly as I tried to swipe away the tears that was a bad idea. This book, although from a writing perspective is probably not the best (you can tell she is a woman who wrote a book about her experience rather than a writer-- very repetitive in parts), is just absolutely amazing to me. This family is amazing to me. Again, I don't want to give away too much but the way they deal with loss and the family ties they hold to, not to mention their incredible faith is absolutely a blessing to read about. I highly recommend this book.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Boy oh boy, did this gal from little old Dayton, TN, get a lot of press over this book! Before I read it, I heard that from Christians (on social media and media, not in person) that it was against God, the Bible, the church, etc. I heard from non-Christians (again, not in person) that it was just another Christian stunt to try and get attention. It interested me that two groups on such opposing sides could both hate it. And yes, there was plenty of positive attention it gained as well. Soooo.... when two friends whom I greatly respect told me they read and loved it, I knew I had to read it. It was fabulous. Refreshing. Thought-provoking. Inspiring. I can't say enough good about it. I came away with a renewed interest in the Bible and a reignited passion for social justice. Do yourself a favor. Read it.

My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
I don't know what it is with me lately and books that involve year-long projects... first there was The Happiness Project, then Seven, then A Year of Biblical Womanhood, now this one. Anyway, this book (also a memoir) was a book that I picked mainly because I was interested in Eleanor Roosevelt and I don't know much about her other than that I really like her quotes. This author discovered several sayings that she liked, was forced to reassess her life due to the loss of her job, and set out to make a change before her 30th birthday, using Eleanor Roosevelt as her sort of guide. I liked it. I probably would have saved it for more of a summer read when I had more time, but it was good.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
THIS BOOK IS SO STINKING GOOD!!! It is epistolic, which took some getting used to, but I fell so in love with those characters that I did NOT want it to end. It was from my favorite period of history, WWII, and set in the Channel Islands during the Occupation and just after. I honestly can't say much about it because it is a book that develops and me saying much would ruin the magic of the book. I'll just say READ IT. And I'll give this excerpt from the acknowledgements:
"... they are joined by their love of books, of talking about books, and of their fellow readers. We are transformed-- magically-- into the literary society each time we pass a book along, each time we ask a question about it, each time we say, 'If you liked that, I bet you'd like this.' Whenever we are willing to be delighted and share our delights, as Mary Ann did, we are part of the ongoing story of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society."

That's it for now. I'm in the middle of Brandon Hatmaker's (husband of Jen, who wrote Seven, the book I probably talk about more than Shakespeare or The Book Thief these days...) book, The Barefoot Church.  I'm anxious to finish it and share what I have gotten from it (which will likely go along with that message from the Lord part). :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

5 + 1

For all that I have said about trying to be more social and so on, I am wearing the same pair of footed Eeyore pajamas that I put on yesterday when I got home from work. I have not left this house since yesterday afternoon and truthfully, I wouldn't mind a massive snowstorm that kept me here another solid week. Kraig bought groceries last night, I have many books that I am dying to read, Downton Abbey Season 3 premieres tomorrow night, our house is clean (thanks, Amanda!), laundry is done, I have on my glasses, and these pajamas have a few more days of wear in them... BRING ON THE SNOW AND HERMIT LIFESTYLE! 

Since this is highly unlikely, I thought I'd put a few of my goals for the New Year out there (both to remind me as well as perhaps provide a bit of accountability)....

1. A Healthier Lifestyle
I know myself VERY well. There is absolutely no point in saying I am going to start eating vegetables or that I am going to start running or that I am going to lose 40 lbs or even that I am going to drink lots of water because I WON'T. However, I feel very strongly that we need to make an effort to be healthier, primarily to try and establish better habits for the girls than what we have. If a side effect of this is weight loss-- AWESOME. We are starting very small in the hopes that we can stick to it. For now, we hope to start smoothie'ing our breakfast (Kraig makes incredible smoothies and he now has a Ninja) and putting some healthy additives in them. We are going to exercise at least three times a week at Workout Anytime with a goal of doing more from home, and we are going to start cooking more. I can promise you that we won't be cooking especially healthy things but anything would be better than the fast food routine we fell into last semester (primarily because we were NEVER home). Cooking more will also provide leftovers for lunch which will hopefully cut down on those bad habits. I do hope to drink more water and less Coke but I'm not even making that part of this plan.

2. A More Intentional Spiritual Life
We have fallen out of our daily devotional/Bible reading habit with the girls and it has become a rushed prayer before bed and that's it. We have to do better at that. I plan to stick to my daily devotionals I have done for the past year and a half, but I would like to add a Bible STUDY at least a few days a week. 

3. To Become More Globally Aware
I have read so many books this year that have really pointed my attention to this. Several years ago we started recycling, and it has gone well, but I want to add other materials to our recycling and also learn more about composting and rain barrels. Kraig, for some odd reason, loves to grow things, so we plan to add to our little strawberry patch this year. I have always been a yard saler/flea marketer/thrift store buyer, so upcycling things comes naturally to me. I just want to try and decrease the number of things we are responsible for burdening the earth with. (I hate ending a sentence with a preposition.) (Hang on.) I just want to try and decrease the number of things with which we are responsible for burdening the earth. (YES!) I want to buy more that is handmade and local and pay more attention to where things come from and the condition of those creating them. Another new thing I want to learn more about is fair trade. Along with these, and related to a more intentional spiritual life, I just want our family to do anything and everything we can in becoming more mission-minded. I don't mean even evangelizing, just actually going where Jesus would go and doing what He would do. The old "being His hands and feet".

4. Maintaining a Sense of Order and Purpose
I know that I am way more relaxed when I am on a schedule and things are organized, from my house to my car to my classroom. And the fact is, if I am relaxed, everyone in this house is relaxed. :) I also have learned that I am raising one child who needs an itinerary constantly and another who needs time at home as a respite from our too much on the go lifestyle. I want to keep things organized in our house and make certain that we build in time to rest and relax together at home. This is where the idea of Sabbath appeals to me so very much... 

5. Be There
This has been my mantra for between 2 1/2 to 3 years now. It's really a very simple concept-- be truly present in each and every moment. Sometimes they are big moments, like family cruises or birthday parties. Sometimes, they are tiny moments like unseasonably warm days spent riding bikes outside or afternoons in the basement helping Kraig build something. But whatever the moment is, I want to be acutely aware of it and present in it. 

I really want to leave it at five because if I keep going, I feel like I need to go to ten and I don't have that many. But there is one more that I really want to focus on... Shoot. Let's just call this an epilogue. 

Value the People in Life
Ignoring the entire first paragraph of this blog, I want to be sure and make a conscious effort to socialize with family, close friends, church family, coworkers, and acquaintances. We don't talk to or visit Kraig's family nearly enough because we get so wrapped up in things and before we know it, it's been forever since we have been to WV. I want to make sure we talk to them regularly, let the girls facetime with Nana and Popaw and their cousins and be sure to visit more. We want to spend more time with Grandmother and Grandaddy and have Mom and Dad and Natalie and Josh over here more often. I want to invite other couples over more and make more time for my girlfriends. Mostly, I want to do what the Emerson quote I pinned today on Pinterest says and work toward "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived-- that is to have succeeded." 

That's it! If I can pull off these 5+1 things, even to some degree, 2013 will be a success! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Don't Know What to Do With My Arms and Other Mental Issues

So this past week, I received a massage gift certificate from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. It was with a lady in WV who I obviously didn't know, so it actually should have been doubly relaxing because it removed any potential awkwardness. (And the fact that I even thought of awkwardness in reference to a relaxing massage is exactly the point of this blog post.)

Anyway, they even scheduled it for me (which is the main reason I let many gift certificates expire and let my gray hair grow way past its time to color-- I HATE CALLING TO MAKE APPOINTMENTS!), which was awesome. All I had to do was show up. Well, that's all I should have had to do. And that's all I hope my daughters WILL one day do.

I know that I am partially crazy. And I know that I am an incredibly anxious person and that my mind never slows down and that I stay insecure and worried about things. I have come to terms with all of this. However, I realized on Saturday that it is past the point of ridiculous. And truthfully, I'm not so certain that it is abnormal to females or that I am in the minority. And it worries me for the future of my daughters.

What is "it"? As the soft music played and the fireplace radiated heat and this lady with incredible hands worked tried to work the tension from my body on that snowy Saturday morning, my mind was SPINNING. It started from the first moment... "Are my arms supposed to go to my sides or by my face?" "Is my face right in this contraption?" "Did I miss any spots shaving my legs?" "Should I stay silent or talk to her?" And it continued in that vein for nearly the entire massage. Let me tell you, when you are worried that you aren't even RELAXING properly, there is a problem. And I wasn't because I spent the entire hour either thinking of things that I have coming up or things I needed to do or worrying that I was doing something wrong!

Again, I will accept that I am very abnormal in many ways. However, I think it's commonplace today in females to worry about doing things RIGHT.... to constantly be concerned with how others see us... to worry about the impression we are making... to stress over the details. (And I'm not trying to be sexist-- maybe just as many males worry about the same things, but I don't think I know any of them who do.)

Not only do I not want to be that way, though I am afraid at 35 I have to accept that I not only AM that way but always will be, but I don't want my daughters to be that way. And I don't know how to teach them otherwise, especially when I am so flawed in these ways. I do try very hard to not voice my concerns and thoughts around them, but rather keep that running inner dialogue mostly internal, but I know that they probably will pick up on it.

In fact, they were playing Just Dance this past week and as I watched the spectrum of ages (4-15), you could see the difference. The younger ones danced with reckless abandon while the older girls were obviously conscious of people watching. And sadly, I could already see the change in Emma, at NINE. NINE YEARS OLD and she was clearly aware of and inhibited by her family watching her.

I don't know. I don't know how to make it right or if maybe it is one of those innate self-protective instincts that we actually need. But I do know that it pains me to think that there is a future of never being able to fully relax in store for other females.

Because just once, I sure would like to get a massage without worrying about where my arms go.