Saturday, June 30, 2012

inDEBTed


It is easy for me, an avid reader and literature professor, to reference Shakespeare, who was obviously aware of the Proverbs, as he echoes Proverbs 22:7 and 26-27 in Polonius’ advice to his son in Hamlet: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” These verses explain the risks of debt: you become a servant to the one you are indebted to (22:7). And then Solomon counsels us not to purchase things we aren’t able to pay for in the first place. When we do, those things don’t really belong to us, and the actual owner could come and take them away (22:26-27).


Debt is a bit of a dirty word in my house, but I realize that I live in a culture that embraces the convenience and instant gratification of borrowing. I’d like to focus here on the wisdom and satisfaction that can come from saving before spending. Perhaps one of the reasons debt is mentioned harshly by Solomon is because it can counteract other important characteristics and life skills the author says wise people have. Debt is often the temptation of the immediate or the perceived salvation for the ill-planned.

I’m not saying we’ve never had to borrow before. My parents have helped us out of a few scrapes. Throughout Jay’s graduate degree, we didn’t take out a single student loan. We lived carefully from paycheck to paycheck, but that meant little went into savings. Soon after Jay graduated, we found a house that my eight-month-pregnant brain and heart said we needed to own. My parents helped us with the down payment, and we knew we’d get a tax refund back within two months that would allow us to repay the loan. In my normal state, I had always wanted to save up a healthy down payment before purchasing our first home, but it was hard to argue with my hormonal soon-to-be-a-mom’s imposing need for more space for her coming child.

Many months later, when part of my logical brain re-engaged, I would think about the rushed decision to buy, and how perhaps we could have gotten a better deal on the house in general if we had waited until we saved up our own down payment. (Also, perhaps we would have been stuck for several months in a cramped apartment with a nursery that smelled like cat urine, so it’s hard to consider all the what if’s.)

When Jonas arrived, our car was too small. This time, though, we thought and acted differently. Jay worked a second job for a couple of months, and we are put away money to pay cash for a mini-van.

The lessons of patience, of working ahead instead of getting behind, of thinking about owning instead of owing: these are at the heart of the avoidance of debt. 

 Hard to believe it was over eight months ago when Jonas came into our lives, cramping our car and filling our hearts.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Musings on Body Image Stats


According to a video on “Body Image Statistics” posted on Weighingthefacts.blogspot.com, a blog voted the Top Eating Disorder Blog of 2010,

  80% of children are afraid of being fat.
  More than 50% of 10 year old girls wish they were thinner.
  Americans spend more than 40 billion a year on diet and beauty products.
  The average American woman is 5'4" and 140 pounds.
  The average American model is 5' 11" and 117 pounds.
  The current media ideal of thinness is achieved by less than 5% of the female population.

Though each one is disturbing to me, I think the first two are the most. Why is a ten-year-old girl thinking about being thin? Isn’t she supposed to be wrapped up in the world of long division and spelling tests, best friends, pleasing her parents, practicing piano, playing sports, and lip-syncing to Journey. (What? Ten-year-old girls today aren’t into Journey? I was!)

I remember thinking I had a belly pooch from late middle school—college. (Looking back with my post-baby-having body…I didn’t.) But all my slight insecurities brought me was modesty. I wore a one piece, for example. That’s not the worst effect I can think of.

And the flip side is…try finding a one piece for any age these days. Somehow girls feel fat, but they are wearing bikinis and booty shorts.

I just don’t get it.

The obsession is to show more skin, but to be uncomfortable with the skin you’re in.

How can this be?

My grandmother used to say she was thin as a rail when it was popular to be pleasingly plump, and then she gained weight when it became popular to be scrawny. I know that trends change, but it sure feels like we’ve been in this “thin is in” trend for an awfully long time. (Perhaps because that’s what I’ve seen during my lifetime?)

I worry for my daughter(s?). What will the world tell them is beautiful? Will they believe it? Will it change what they see in the mirror?

I worry for my sons. How will they see women? Will they hope for a woman who is less than 5% of the population?

I cannot change the world, but I can change my home.

·      I will not verbally assault my appearance in front of my children. They need to know that beauty is, in part, acceptance and confidence in what we have and diligence to change what we can.
·      I will keep some images and intentions away from my kids, and I will be clear, when those images and intentions come (which they will), about what real beauty is.
·      I will show love for my children as they are and encouragement for who they are growing to be.

Since my children are small, this is all my list is so far. If you have older children, I’d love to hear your perspective.

Here's what I know about myself:

I will always be short.
I will always have freckles.
I will always be wide-footed.
I will always have sensitive skin.
I will always be toe-thumbed.
I will always have to pluck a million eyebrows.
But, if I love others well and true, and have a heart for my Creator,
I will always be beautiful.

“Body Image Statistics.” Weighingthefacts.blogspot.com. n.p. Feb. 2010. Web. 23 June 2012.


some image updates from my self-challenge to dress and accessorize well twice a week:


These shoes were a gift from my parents during their travels in Ireland this summer.




I have little talent for hair, but I can twist.




I slept in the twisted hair and woke up with fun volume. My earrings were handmade by fashion designer Anastasia Morozova.



A black and white dress screams for colorful shoes. These are from Ireland as well. 






















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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Benefits of Long-Term Lovin


Sometimes I think back on the days of early romance and sigh. Wouldn’t it be great to capture that newness again? Sure, young love has its fun: when my accidental hand brushing up against his hand sent my spine into shivers. But there is something comforting in an old relationship, just like your favorite old jeans. They might not be as exciting or accentuate your curves quite as well as a brand new pair, but it doesn’t matter if you spill spaghetti sauce on them, and they fit even after you eat too much ice cream.

Speaking of spaghetti, you can eat it on a date with the one you’ve loved for ten years. You can order whatever you want to on the menu, in fact, without worrying that it will be too messy to eat or make you seem weight conscious. There’s no mixed message in you ordering the meatloaf or silent signals in your getting a salad.

One of my favorite bands, Fleming and John, have a song about this very topic called “Comfortable:”

I gotta to tell you how I’m feeling—I hope you don’t take it wrong: You know that I love you, and I’m not giving up. I gotta tell you how I’m feeling, in case you haven’t noticed. The mystery is gone; infatuation’s wearing off. I gotta tell you how I’m feeling—I think that you’ll agree: we’ve become predictable, but I really don’t mind being this comfortable.

This band has several songs on real love: the dreams and hopes, the longevity, the faith, the acknowledgment of what could go wrong. The best part? Fleming and John are husband and wife.

Every stable relationship has its positives and negatives. Sometimes we are pulled towards the negatives. I’m trying my best to spend more time in happiness and in the positive side of life, of seeing the benefits of being comfortable and the joys of when something out of the ordinary (flowers, a present for no reason, and extra hug, a surprise compliment) is given. If you are in a new relationship, relish it. And if you’ve been together for a while, relish it.


my paternal grandparents 60 years ago and today



Fleming and John. “Comfortable.” The Way We Are. Universal Records, 1999.  CD.
You can hear the song here. 




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Friday, June 22, 2012

Nice But Houses and Humility

Last night I was complaining to my mom about how the house I really wanted for our family just sold. If you’ve ever been on the house hunt, you’ve probably seen some Nice Buts: “It’s nice, but….” Several houses we’ve looked at before have some flaw, such as the yard being too little or the kitchen needing redone or the fourth bedroom being non-existent. But, this house that just sold…it had no buts. It was perfect. I saw us living there forever.

So last night I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself. And then I thought of a friend who was struggling with a horrible family crisis. And then I thought of my grandmother who is having health issues. And then I thought of another friend who is battling breast cancer she thought was in remission. The sufferings of people I love all swarmed into my heart.
I’m not usually one who dwells on the “count yourself blessed by looking at all those hurting around you” ideology, but one person after another came into my mind, and I started crying.

I was humbled. Immensely humbled.

Our condo has been on the market for months now; we are tired of cleaning it last minute for potential buyers who never buy, and we are ready for a bigger home and a backyard with a swing for Jack. But, you know what? Our condo is beautiful. It is a wonderful home, and I have always loved it. We feel safe. We have good neighbors. I can walk to work. We keep saying it is too small for the plans we have to adopt, but even if we put three kids in one room, this place is not really that small. We are beyond blessed.

I used to think that Galatians read, “You will reap what you sow.” I remember the day I saw it actually says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

This verse makes me think of two things: in the proper time. If we are meant to have a bigger house in the neighborhood we drive through and dream of, it will come. But right now, I think He’s trying to teach me a lesson on contentment. He’s blessed us so much already. My first post on this blog was a promise to myself to remember to be here, and for months I’ve been dreaming of our life there.

So I will hop online and search for some sort of way to get Jack a swing on our back deck, and we will keep cleaning for pop-in-potentials, and I will thank God that we have a lovely home here.

 Jay unlocking the door to our condo for the first time after we bought it.

 Our first visitor at the new place about three years ago: we said this was a good sign as we pretended it was Norris, the same bunny from the apartments we lived in down the road before we bought our condo.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

White the Wrong


Who’s with me on this one? Wearing white is like asking Murphy’s Law to throw you in stain jail. My dad says it is a constant coincidence that he will always be wearing white when my mom makes spaghetti. Perhaps it is my love of spaghetti, and all things saucy, that keeps me from wearing white? Some say white is a sign of purity. I say it’s a sign of bad things waiting to happen.

And then you have kids. Really, I think kids are they greatest scapegoat known to man. I can blame my messes and clumsiness on them. Of course my iPhone case was field tested by parachute jumpers. You can drop it from any height, and it won’t break. You have to take such precautions when you have a toddler, I say as my hands forget how to grasp for the third time that day, and my iPhone simultaneously falls to the ground. But I cannot honestly blame the kids for my fear of white since it dates back before them.

Perhaps it is the commitment connection to the color. First, you have to care for it constantly. Watch what you eat, touch, drink, smell, sit in, sit on, look at….it’s just too much to think about. Also, a bride wears white on the day she devotes herself to her husband. Just like the white pile of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, white is important; it means something.

So, despite my fears, I've decided to wear some white—to own a white dress besides the one I said, “I do,” in (a decision pressured by an invitation to a beautiful, formal British dinner party, a photo from which is posted below). I even pulled out a white shirt I had bought pre-children and tried to give it a second life.

My husband said I looked hot.

I’ll be wearing white more often.

 with my parents at a quintessentially English dinner in our formal white

 Date night = a purse rather than a diaper bag.

 This one felt like a senior picture pose. 


 I need a pedicure, but look at the SHOES, not the feet.


Of course you can always take baby steps (har har) and pair white with one of your favorite colors, like my model friend Fiona does here with purple. 


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Monday, June 18, 2012

Purpose in an Enchanting Career

I have had the great fortune to grow up in a family where sowing talents and working for the Lord are two important mantras. Both of my grandfathers went back to school later in life because of their love of learning and growing. All of my grandparents have or had walls lined with shelves filled with books. We are a family that values education, reaching our full potential, and working at our talents for the Lord.

We are designed for specific tasks, the ultimate being to worship God with the talents He has blessed us with. “We are all God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). These words can seem a heavy burden, trying to figure out what God wants us to do with our lives—but I prefer to see it as uplifting: God has known our life’s purposes before we had life. He blessed us each with specific gifts, and we need to “live a life worthy of the calling” He has set up for us (Ephesians 4:1).  

I have many callings in life; one of those is to be an educator. Six years ago I was ready to give up the teaching profession entirely, but I starting working at O'More College of Design and have been captivated ever since: with being a professor, with sharing my love of literature and writing, and with the school herself. 

Below is a photographic tribute to my place of employment, a place that gives me more than a paycheck, but a sense of fulfillment and enchantment. As I walk the campus, enjoy book club with co-coworkers, plan each semester's syllabus, have tea with a student, and teach my courses, I do not forget that, as I am working towards living a life "worthy of the calling," God has blessed me immensely with this place and with these people.  




































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