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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Post - On Stoking Passion


I can honestly say that to get what you want in life, you don’t need money. And I know that for a fact…

Hi, I’m Shaunna from over at Mist and Lilies. When I was asked to write about passion, the passions one has in life—things they want to accomplish someday, remaining true to them—I was honored that someone actually NOTICED that I have followed my heart and accomplished much because of that.
If you do not follow my blog, Captivus Living, or have not heard of me (which I would not be surprised. I keep a low profile in the blogosphere, lol), let me explain some things that I do:

-I’m a history major
-Photographer
-Cinematographer
-Graphic designer
-Blog template (maker?) lol
-Author
-Composer
-Pianist
-Quilt maker lol
-Traveler
-Maintenance Woman
-Hairstylist
-Dog Groomer
-Dog trainer
-Mac computer nerd
-Multi-tasking mother
-Spontaneous friend
-Military wife
-SAHM to our little girl

First tip for following your passions and making them happen: Never get bored. There is always something to do. I never let myself get in that mind-dumbing state. I either read or I pick up a new trade. 

I was bored one time so I learned how to cut hair (Google is awesome). 

I was bored so I wrote a sucky book. 

I was bored, so I taught myself how to quilt and gave the horrible first sample to my papa.

You’ll be amazed at what you can do if you give it a random try.

As a family we move A LOT around the world, which gives me even more opportunities and inspiration, but how did I get here?  I loved myself…

I love myself. I'm confident, talented, accomplished, correctable, spontaneous, and happily contented. It is NOT A BAD THING to love yourself this much. This problem now a days is that people DON'T love themselves. Oh, they think they are confident, but most are covering up their insecurity. How do you tell the difference between the two? Count your number of friends. Depressed people cannot last long with happy people. Fake people are never friends for very long; eventually their true colors come through. Therefore, the smaller the number the more chance that you ARE real, and love yourself. First comes insecurity. Next comes pride, which is followed by a humbled fall. Next comes healing. Lastly comes the accepting of yourself. When you love yourself, you become less sensitive, you let go of yourself, you give more because you are already full.

Another tip? Expect the hard times so that you will not be surprised emotionally, spiritually or physically when they do hit. As young as the age of fourteen, I went down to the rural jungles of Mexico to help in a village with my family. By nineteen I had gone to Thailand after the tsunami to help, to teach, to encourage. I have been traveling the world before I could remember. I have done photoshoots for German senators in Heidelberg, Germany; photographed symphonies in amazing historical buildings, and shot images all over Europe and Asia. I was forced to stay in piano class through my teens. That ended up becoming an outlet to express myself when I felt down. I have written and composed twelve songs. I have seen death, witnessed the sorrows of those poor and in the streets. I have been abused, challenged, betrayed, and belittled; however, I never let that control where I was going or how much I loved myself.

I cannot go into my whole life’s story, but I can share what I have learned that has produced my ultimate current happiness and contentment in life. If one were to look at me they would think that I was raised beautifully, with no problems. I would seem untouched by the hardness that many experience from life. I have money, I have a wonderful marriage to an amazing man, I have a beautiful daughter, I have a strong relationship with my family, I do everything that I love doing, on my own time. 

The final four tips I will give are basic and simple and then I will end my overlong post….

(1) Selflessness. That is the first key to my current bliss. I had to let go from what I wanted. I had to let go of my dreams. I had to live as if each day was my last…..in order to have all my dreams delivered to me. Moreover, I also had to learn to let things go and be humbled by the fact that not every dream you THINK you want is what you SHOULD get. For example, I dreamed of a beautiful wedding, with family there who supported me and loved me. Instead I got dressed by myself in a small bathroom, adorned my own wedding gown, alone because my family did not approve of the man I loved. I walked down a tiny church aisle towards the most perfect man for me, but yet I did not have my dream wedding, BUT I had my dream man. Which dream was more important? Dream wedding or dream man? Life made me have to give up one of those dreams. Most would be bitter, angry and depressed, but which is more important: one day with white whimsicalness or a lifetime with the right man? Both, but rarely will you find someone that has both of those dreams completed. Therefore, like I said, I gave up one of those dreams and moved onward. 

If you want to accomplish your dreams and achieve the things your heart desires, (2) take it slow and be patient. It took me over ten years of pain and suffering to get my dreams moving. I had to wait that long, but during those years I stayed true to who I am. I did not let those things bring me down. I let go of what I wanted and just focused on each day. Eventually the opportunities came flowing in, but they were hard to recognize! Some seemed not exactly what I had in mind; others looked so small that I thought it might not be worth it. Small things grow—whether physically or mentally—they all grow. 

I also (3) accepted criticism because it made me wiser. Do not be afraid or angered when someone corrects you. It may be because they want to belittle you so they look better and bigger. If that is the case, you can thank them for making you even smarter and wiser. They will be taken aback by that kind of response. Maybe next time they won’t correct, so that they can remain the smart one. Regardless, I love correction. I take it—whether wrong or right for my unique self—and I use it. I do not turn that correction into drama. 

(4) I pick my battles wisely. Most things are not worth our time. Many conversations are a waste of precious minutes in your day and life; and that was the next thing I had to instill in my mind—the fact that I (5) always have time. So many people claim to be so busy. I have to shop, clean, take the kids to practice, cook, do laundry, run here, run there, etc. etc. I thought all that too, but sometimes it is just nice to stay busy. It is a comfort because when you get alone with yourself sometimes you get uncomfortable. You don’t know what to do, where to start, how to begin, so you do the mundane and the obvious, and continue on with your “busy” day. That is a sign that you’re losing yourself and forgetting who YOU are. Your identity becomes your family instead of what it should be, you, beautiful you. I DEMAND my time. Demand yours. I take time out of every single day for myself. Whether is pampering myself with the proper skin care and physical fitness, or taking a walk to practice photography at different times of the day—these times are important! They are a way of rejuvenating yourself to keep you going. Those are moments of invisible inspiration that strengthens you without you realizing it.

If you want to hear more of my rambles of “inspiration” I learn along the way, PLEASE come stop by over in my part of the world. I would LOVE to meet you!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Switch - Another Twin Phenomenon?

I have one good child and one bad child. Almost always. One is good. One is bad.

If you've been following along for any length of time, you'll think, 'Oh, I've got this. Natalina is the bad twin, and Dulce is the good twin.'

And you'd be wrong.

Natalina, modeling sadface
Natalina had been the "bad" twin for at least six months running, where as Dulce was the "good" twin for that time. Just when my husband and I had resigned ourselves to our toddlers' personalities, "the switch" happened. This is not the first time we've come across the switch. It's just the first time a phase has lasted so long before the switch occurs.

First, let's define good and bad, since both of my girls are pretty much good (in my opinion) always.

Dulce, modeling happyface
The "good" twin will go out of her way to make herself understood. She will calmly address problems and requests, waiting for you to catch up, giving you slack when you need it, and understanding your other obligations. She will smile and laugh easily. She will be very affectionate. She will listen well, obeying commands and arguing in a reasonable way when she does not care to obey. Her memory is short, and she doesn't hold grudges. The good twin's resting mental state is happy. It is a glorious thing, and it makes us feel like amazing parents.

Dulce, trying to be sad, but cracking up.
The "bad" twin will find reasons to cry. If she cannot find a reason, she will make one up. She will ask you questions with the sole purpose of getting to the point where she breaks down into a tantrum. Everything needs to be just so for the bad twin to keep her perilous grip on calm. A wrinkle in a bed sheet can send her over the edge. She makes up demands upon demands every moment and if each is not given instantaneously, she will dissolve into a fury of tears. She remembers all past transgressions and bases her actions on previous shortcomings of the adults in her life. She works on a system of passive resistance. The bad twin's resting mental state is disgruntled. It is a maddening thing, and it makes us feel like horrible parents.

When the girls were younger, these polar phases lasted just hours, maybe a day or two. We used to joke that the 'spirit' moved between them. As they age, these phases are lasting longer and longer. We had all but given up hope on Natalina ever coming around again.

The switch is quick. It takes a day, at most three days before the dust settles. Dulce has had the 'spirit' now for going on two months, and my husband and I are still surprised by her behavior, so used to her happy self we had become.

Had we just had a single child, we'd think these were just typical phases. But the timing, the fact that they are always alternating, it throws us for a loop. We're constantly checking and rechecking our behavior, making sure we react consistently to the twins, regardless of who is acting like what at the time. We don't want them to assume we favor one over the other. And everything is a competitive checklist with them. Who got her face washed first? Who got dressed first? Who went potty first? It's an endless list of achievements and failures. We must be very careful.

Nataline, happy

And the change has nothing to do with us, so far as we can tell. We do the same things, they react differently. It's a pit of snakes, this parenting business.

We wonder in this endless spinning of personality, where the needle will finally stop. It's up to us to make it stop on happy. But how?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Recipe Monday - Italian Wine Cookies



These are an old family recipe, passed down from my grandmother. They are my favorite cookie of all time.


6 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups sugar
1 grated lemon and
1/3 cup lemon or orange juice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 glass (6 oz) white wine or rose
add chocolate chips (as many as you like!)

Mix flour sugar and baking powder; make a hole in the dry ingredients and put the wet ones in it. 
Mix well - Knead until it doesn't stick to your hands.  
Take a small amount and roll long then twist into a circle cookie.
Dip into granulated sugar.
Bake at 375* for 10 minutes
Add flour to make the dough less sticky, but not too much. Otherwise these will weigh down in your stomach. Trust me, I know. Hah. I halved the recipe. My family doesn't need more than two dozen large cookies at a time!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 69: Don't Break Christmas

Problem: It's time to break out the holiday spirit, by which I mean decorations, but your young children will obviously break every single item that can be broken. And this will take just minutes, not weeks. Christmas is a dangerous holiday. Trust me, I know. Pine needles prick, glass bulbs shatter, and that creche your grandmother handed down to you that's been in the family for ages is missing the Baby Jesus. Dear God, why, Christmas, why?

Solution: Lots of them. First, fake tree. Seriously. No eyes being poked out is key this holiday season. No crying toddlers with needles sticking out of their curious palms is important to everyone's sanity. Second, and most importantly, plastic bulbs. Keep everything that is glass packed up. Seriously, don't even take them out. Don't do it. I know your hands are itching. I can just put this way up here, you think. Surely nothing will happen to it, and it's tradition. Fight the urge, it will only end in tears. Plastic everything. I know from experience. My first Christmas with the kids, I thought the few glass bulbs I had from family would be okay. Three shattered bulbs and two babies with (thankfully) no cuts or glass swallowed later, I took them off. Don't be like me. You can even use string instead of hooks if you're super worried. I just used the hooks. They're covered in that green rubbery stuff these days, so I figure they're safe enough for three year olds. If yours are two, you might want to consider string.

Now, have the kids help. Have them hang up some of the safest ornaments while you go through and baby check everything else. Of course, at the end of that phase, the tree will look like this:


But you can easily rehang. By the end, you'll have a good-looking tree that's toddler safe. And don't worry. You'll get your Christmas back. Just wait a few years.


Of course, the next morning, my kids woke me up utterly ticked that there were no presents under there, even though I thought I thoroughly explained it to them last night. Be prepared for a few days of that, too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Morning After

Well, I finally did it. With the stores moving up Black Friday from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. to finally midnight, I can actually go. And I did.

I skipped WalMart. It was my first year. I didn't need to be trampled. Plus, I didn't do this right. I was just going to see what I could see. I didn't have any pamphlets, or a schedule, or a store map. I was just looking. Hah.

So, I went to Target. And, you know, it wasn't bad. Okay, first I had to park a million miles away. I got there at midnight exactly, but apparently people don't celebrate Thanksgiving anymore. They just line up and camp outside of stores. How American.

Then I stood in what I thought was the line. About fifty of us did this for about 20 minutes. Surely, we thought, Target would not have us line up around the building standing in a dark alley. But, that's exactly what they were doing. I decided to go check it out, and took my place in the murky depths of the unlit alleyway.

The line was moving fast. Know why? Apparently they were selling TVs for, like, a penny. Everyone who was in there early was coming out with a 42" TV, and only that. I saw only one brand. Then that one sold out and I saw only another brand. These people are pros. They know what they're doing. When I made it into the store, Target had signs saying "TVs this way." Swear to God.

I sighed as I thought of the small Toshiba I paid $500 for a few years ago. Good thing I'm not in the market for a new one. I can only imagine the girls would break a bigger TV. I don't like them too big anyway.

So, I made my way to the toy section and got a few gifts for the girls. Drums for half price, Magnadoodles for half price, Cooties and Match for $3 a piece. I got my husband a...oh wait, he reads this blog. Well suffice to say it was, like, 70 percent off. I saved $120. Win.

I did not go into the electronics section. At all. I didn't even stray within 20 feet of it. One of the benefits of buying for toddlers. I got to skip that madness.

And I got some Christmas stuff. A new tree! Right now we have a tiny, tiny fake one. Perfect for little babies who would knock a tree down. Now that the girls are the sage old age of three, I went for it. I bought a 7-foot Christmas tree with lights attached. For $30. Score!

Then I waited in the checkout line that wound through every aisle of the store for about an hour. Store attendants flagged us through.

"Continue to B31. You in line? B 31."

"Okay, you're halfway through now. Continue to A 12."

Wow. But, still it wasn't bad.

I mean, we used to stand in line for rollercoasters for more time than that.

And a great perk of Black Friday is how alive everyone is. It might be 2 in the morning, but it feels like 3 in the afternoon.

All in all, I enjoyed myself. I've got more shopping to do, but I'm glad I went out.

It was my first time. If they keep the midnight thing (meaning I'm still up instead of having to wake up) I'll do it again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving for Being an Ordinary Mother

I'm going to make some changes around here presently, and in thinking about how to go about it, I had a conversation with a friend about how I am not an unlikely mother at all. What false branding.

Sure, the title seemed to make sense more than three years ago when I first had the twins. I felt like an unlikely mother. But even then I really wasn't. What makes an unlikely mother? I don't know. But I do know I don't have it. I'm a completely ordinary mother. And that's a good thing. At least it is for me.

To exemplify why I took this title, here are some thanksgivings of past:

2005: I was thankful to celebrate the holiday with a core group of people I considered my "urban family" if you will. The night crew from the television studio at which I was working at the time. I thought we'd all be best friends forever. I don't know where they stand as a group, but I grew apart from them soon after.

2007: I was thankful for having a few friends in San Diego where I'd moved to take an overnight television production job. They took me in for the holiday, fed me, and it was very nice overall. Of course, I was tired, achy and cranky. Pretty much how I felt for the entirety of my stint in San Diego.

2008: I was thankful for the television station in Boston that had such a lenient maternity leave. I got three months off at half-pay. I was just about going back to work as Thanksgiving rolled around, having been allowed to care for my tiny infants until then.

2009: I was thankful for my PR job at the Catholic Church. It was closer to home. Closer to my kids.

2011: I'm finally biting the bullet and making our first family Thanksgiving dinner. I'm a stay at home mom who cleans and freelances and plays with her kids every day. You do not get more ordinary than that. I'm cooking turkey, potatoes, beans, stuffing and cranberry sauce. I've made fudge and baked an apple pie. Some of this is boxed. Some is from scratch. You don't get any more ordinary. A typical mother making a typical meal for a typical loving husband and father and her typical three-year-old twins.

It's never felt so good to be ordinary.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post - Andouille Dirty Rice Dressing


I am so pleased to be here today and share one of my favorite Cajun recipes on my friend Darlena’s incredible blog, Tales of an Unlikely Mother. Please, let me introduce myself: I’m Jessica, the girl behind the Cajunlicious blog. When Darlena asked me if I would like to do a guest post on a Cajun twist to a Thanksgiving Day side I knew this would make the perfect side dish for anyone’s Thanksgiving menu.

If you are not familiar with Cajun food, here is a little history.

Cajun cuisine (in French: Cuisine Acadienne) An authentic Cajun meal is usually a three-pot event, with one pot devoted to the main dish, one dedicated to rice, cornbread, or another grain dish, and the third containing a vegetable. The food is regularly spicy and typically makes use of regionally abundant provisions such as seafood, wild game, and rice. Most Cajun dishes begin with trinity, which provides the distinctive flavoring of specific dishes.

To read more about Cajun Culture click here

So, without further ado, I give you my Andouille Dirty Rice Dressing

Traditional dirty rice is made from Boiled Cajun Rice cooked with small pieces of chicken giblets, which give it a “dirty” color and a distinctive flavor, but I love the flavor that Andouille sausage adds to any meal and this side is always on my table for all holidays.

You will need

1-cup long grain white basmati rice

Chicken stock

8 ounces of Andouille sausage, diced

1 & 1/2 cups trinity

3 white mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, pressed

Tabasco pepper vinegar, to taste

Crystal hot sauce, to taste

Cajun seasoning blend

To make the Cajun seasoning blend mix salt, pepper, parsley, granulated garlic, onion powder, cayenne powder, and a pinch of dried thyme. Mix well and adjust to your liking.

For the rice

Rinse rice 2 times with a strainer to remove extra starch. Place rice in a saucepan and add 1 ½ cups chicken stock, 2 bay leaves, 1-teaspoon olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Place saucepan (uncovered) over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let the stock reduce slightly below the rice. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

For the Dirty Part

Sauté the andouille on medium high heat to brown. Once browned and slightly crisp lower the heat to medium and render the fat.

Remove andouille with a slotted spoon into a bowl. Sauté the trinity in the rendered fat until soft and add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add the seasoning mixture and stir.

Add 2/3 cup chicken stock and 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco pepper vinegar and deglaze the pan scrapping up any brown bits. Add the amount of hot sauce you like to season while the cooking in finishing.

Add the andouille and rice. Cook until liquid is absorbed.

View my post about perfect Boiled Cajun Rice.

Thank you so much Darlena for inviting me to guest post with you today, it truly is an honor!


Have a happy, safe, and yummy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Santa's Hideout, the New Letter to Santa?

Well, the holidays are nearly upon us now, and as much as I'm dreading it, I'll not be able to put off my shopping much longer, I suppose. The twins being three, now, are all about Santa. They caught on last year. In fact, mom and dad apparently never get them anything. It's always Santa. Doesn't that figure?

As they scurry to make their lists, hoping they've been good enough this year not to get any coal, you have to wonder, in this age of technology, will pen and paper suffice anymore? It's easy for me. I've just got my two kids who are the exact same age and want the exact same things to deal with. But if you've got a larger family, or more adventurous little ones, you might want to check out Santa's Hideout.



It's like a large list that can be separated by child, put on by Conde Nast. Each of the kids can pick out things they'd like and add it to their specific list which all goes to your account in one easily accessible area. Then you can go in and add or delete items as you wish. Since it's mobile-compatible, you can grab it from your phone as you shop.

But you can do all that with a paper list, right? An added bonus to this program is that you can simply email the lists (or portions of the lists) to extended family and friends who are searching for a cute gift for your young ones. But then they'll all get the same thing, right? Nope! Once they purchase something, the site acts like a registry. They'll cross it off the list on their end, and you'll get a notification that the item has been bought. Then you delete it and the list updates to everyone automatically.

And if emailing the list individually is too much hassle, you can post your piece through any social media. Santa's Hideout has a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Google +.

Another great option is that you can reserve gifts listed by your children as "Santa Only" presents, so that your relatives won't step on Santa's toes!

Now, your kids are going to see a different website than you do when they go to update or view their lists. All they'll see is what they've asked for, no sections, no reserves, just their items.



Except one thing. Through this site, Santa can actually write them back. Whether it's just a nice note about holiday spirit, encouragement for an upcoming test or sporting event or a gentle reminder that those on the good list do their chores, you can type out little notes to your children for them to find on the site. Maybe a request for chocolate chip cookies this year instead of graham crackers... (two year olds are so stingy)

And you don't even have to go out to shop if you don't want to. The items can be purchased right from the list through Amazon.

All I can say is, I'm glad that now that I'm a parent, shopping is getting easier. I don't know how my mother did it with that pen-and-paper list. Phew.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What is Office Space Worth to You?


Office Space. You may think you don't need it, and even if you know you do, if it's in your home, are you really going to use it?

 









Do you see this immaculate room? The chic black desk in the corner, artwork and photography I enjoy, a cozy nook where I can while away the hours, freelancing and writing to my heart’s content?

Yeah, no.

Given thirty minutes during twin-awake time and that room is a mess, bombarded with popped balloons, old flashlights and rubber blocks. The neat stack of bills-to-be-paid strewn across the floor, some of them lost forever, I’m sure. Juice spills, pretzel droppings and accidental popsicle stains would tarnish the atmosphere, leaving it unrecognizable, turning my precious workspace into yet another toddler playroom.

My solution? I don’t go in there. The door remains shut, the desk sits unused. Meanwhile, I wonder why my back is always hurting, and I can’t pay attention to my work.

Perhaps it’s because you can usually find me typing away from my couch while the girls play. Even when they go down for a nap, I don’t venture up the stairs. I’d have to drag my laptop and charger up there, and there’s a good chance my footsteps creaking on the floorboards would wake them up. Not worth the risk.
My idyllic space, wasted. That’s the problem with most home offices. If you have young ones about, they make it theirs, and who can get anything done with a million demands lining up?

“Mama, get me my Bean.”

“Mama, I need Cheez Its.”

“Mama, SHE’S TOUCHING ME!”

Toddler wailing should not intrude upon your workspace. It’s too hard to deal with. When I walk into my office, first off, I want to use it. Secondly, I want to use it alone. It’s so important to have your own sectioned-off space, where you can muse and get your work done in peace. If left in blissful adult silence, you’ll be amazed at how much faster you can settle into task, and how much more quickly that work actually gets done.

The best way to go about it? Move the office out of the house. Seriously. Even in a remote upstairs room, I can still hear the dryer beep, I can still worry about dinner, and I find myself ever nervous as to what is going on in the other rooms. I am still involved in the home. With half of myself distracted like that, it’s no wonder I never finish anything.

My own office space. Hmm. I should look into that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Moment of the Week - 68: Reaction Video

Sometimes it's the little things...the girls react to a super-slow dinner-time bite. (Turn the volume down a bit. My girls are loud.)

video

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toddler Tricks - 68: Complain Loud and Clear

Problem: You've signed you child up for some activity. Whether it started out strong and slowly began to dwindle or it just wasn't what you expected from the start, both you and your child are disappointed in the program. Do you know how many people are quiet about this? I just found out. So, I have a solution.

Solution: Complain. No, seriously, complain. List up your problems, bring them to the directly, lay it out factually, and withdraw your participation. In my case, we're staying until December because I've paid up till then, and no refunds are given. But I still complained.

It took me three weeks. You see, we go to gym, art and music sessions every Saturday. The first few weeks, all sections were organized, in place and fun. Then it all fell apart. The first time they told me the woman who did the music had moved and they couldn't find a replacement quickly enough for the weekend. A bunch of parents stood around for a bit, then accepted the explanation and shoved off. The second week, most of the parents left right after art. I didn't. I asked about music.

"We don't do music on Saturdays," they said. "We never have."

For real? Because that's not what I experienced just two weeks ago. And at my insistence, the instructors put on an impromptu music class for the few of us that were left.

The next week, same thing.

With that and a few other disappointments in programming, I decided it was time to withdraw.

"Oh, why?" the director asked me.

And I told her, in list form, going through program by program what my issues were. I wasn't mad. This place houses a lot of kids; it's only natural that they would lose some oomph as time went on. There is only so much one could expect. I just calmly knew that this wasn't the place for us, and I calmly told them why when they asked.

The next weekend, we bumped into one of the instructors. I was surprised to find that my list had been taken somewhat seriously. At least, he knew about it. He apologized to me, and thanked me for the criticisms.

Today, they had gym, art and music. Granted, the music class was just a bunch of instruments thrown into a room with dance tunes playing in the background, but that's enough for me. That's all three year olds need, anyway.

So, moral is, complain if you aren't satisfied with what you're getting. Every once in a while, they actually listen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beauty is in the Eye of the Self

Two years ago, I had a slight moment of fame. I was driving to work (yeah, I used to work!) and on my 45-minute commute, I heard the morning DJ ask a question.

"If you could either be America's Next Top Model or a Nobel Prize winner, which would you pick?"

I was astounded at how many women called to say they'd rather be a model.  Really? Then I turned it in on myself, musing as I waited at one of the many red lights, listening to a bad local commercial since the station had gone to break.

Actually, I had wished many many times to be America's Next Top Model. In the "before time, in the long long ago," by which I mean before the girls came along, I had gone so far as to look up sign-up information. I really wanted to do it.

Then I saw that at 5'9" I was supposed to weigh 110-115 pounds. I shrugged my shoulders and ate a piece of cheese, to be honest. Screw that. I couldn't weigh 115 pounds if I never ate again. My bones weigh more than 115 pounds.

Anyway, thinking about this on my drive, I realized that all my life, I'd never once wished to win the Nobel Prize. So, really, I was no different from the women calling in. Except for one thing. The reason I'd never wanted to win the Prize is that it had never crossed my mind as a possibility.

So I called in and said that I'd rather win the Prize, and I thanked the host for posing the question because before the two were juxtaposed I had never realized how silly my goals could be, how low I was reaching.

Last week, I cam across this article about photoshopping and magazine covers.

Now, I've known forever, as most people do, that the images seen on magazines aren't real. That hasn't stopped me from wanting to look like those images without the aid of photoshop. Especially in my younger days. If I could eat healthily, work out, and wear the right clothing, surely I would soon look like that air-brushed image...naturally. I don't know why my brain worked like that, but it did. This coming from a woman who can't even put on makeup without looking like a clown. Who doesn't know how to match clothes to shoes. Yeah, right. Dream on, self.

And yet, that's the problem. These dreams aren't healthy. They aren't possible. And the images are so much more pervasive than we allow ourselves to realize. Yes, you assume that the high-fashion magazines smooth blemishes and erase a line here and there, but magazines like Shape reducing the size of women by a third? Check out the pic of Kelly Clarkson in there. Shape completely ruined her for their cover. Then they defended it, saying Kelly's inner beauty is what they showcased and you can't photoshop that. Well, no, you can't photoshop radiance, but by completely changing her shape, magically erasing 50 pounds, you are not touting a message of self-acceptance and inner beauty, no matter how you try to spin it. It's really sad.

Most of the time, image is about the other people. That's backwards. Image needs to be about the self.

About six months ago, I took a before / after shot on a rare occasion when my husband and I were going out. It's all about manipulation, even without photoshop.

Before:





The pulled back hair is my normal, resting state. I hardly wear it down due to the kids. Notice the arm, the waist area, the chest in proportion to it. Just a normal person taking a normal picture.

Now, let's add in some "MySpace-esque" angles and lighting. This photo was taken about 20 minutes later.

Bright light in the forground giving a tinted look to the picture? Check.
Head tilt and half-smirk? Check.
Knee bent in the front to give myself some semblance of a backside? Check.
Sucking it in? You betcha.

Turned slightly away from the camera so that it sees less of my body to trick the eye? Absolutely.
So what I actually look like is not what I want you to think I look like. Why is that? Why aren't I enough as is? Why aren't any of us? It's so important for us to love ourselves. Not just for the self-confidence and energy we need to make it through the day, but also so that we can move on with our lives. So we don't find ourselves glued to the mirror, or thinking about our looks / weight / skin / whatever. Those things, those thoughts, inhibit the real work we are here to do.

And if you ever need a refresher...look at your kids. Look at the love, respect and admiration in their eyes. To them, you are a beauty queen and a genius and the entire universe all rolled into one. Those are some big shoes. They don't belong stomping all over your self-esteem.

Beauty redefined. They're right.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Conversations with Ourselves

I mentioned a few months ago how my husband and I consistently ended up shouting at one another just to be heard over the din of "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!" that my toddlers put forth every time they see us attempting to converse.

We've moved on from that.

We no longer speak at all. It's too hard.

I've been solving this problem by holding conversations with my husband in my mind. I thought it was just me. Yesterday, though, I found out he does it, too.

There we were, seated across from one another at the breakfast table. I took a bite of my toast and glanced at my husband. At that exact moment, he gave an almost imperceptible nod to himself. I grinned.

"What are you thinking about?"

"What?"

"You're having a conversation with yourself. What's it about?"

And he proceeded to tell me what he was thinking about. Then he rushed off to work.

That evening, in a precious moment where the girls were distracted, he turned to me and said, "You know this morning, when you caught me thinking a conversation to myself?"

"Yeah."

"It's ironic because I was having a conversation with you."

I laughed. "I know."

"You know?"

"Yeah, I wouldn't have intruded on your personal thoughts. I could tell you were talking to me. I do it, too."

"You do?"

"Of course! How else am I going to talk to you?"

And we died laughing.

When you have toddler twins vying for your every attention, you do what you have to do. Talking is no longer an option, so we work around it.

The question that remains? How many of my husband's ideas has my imaginary self agreed to without my knowledge?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Blog - My Body as God's House

If you've been following along at all, you know we're not very religious around here. As such, I am always super interested in those that live their lives in accordance to some of those guidelines. Rebecca at "Blogging With Goodly Intentions" is one of those. Her blog is captivating to me. She's agreed to do this guest post for me, and I am forever grateful.

___


19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

--1 Corinthians 6:19-20 King James Version

It's simple, really.  God's word, which are the words in the Bible,  says that my body is a temple ( house) of the Lord.  God's house should not be filled with junk.  It should be holy ground.  With that in mind, I have to figure out what is okay to allow  into my body.

My mouth is a way into my body.  What am I putting into my body when I drink a bottle of soda?  What about carrots?  What about water?  Or the cupcake?

What is good for me?  What is bad for me?  Why does it matter?  Who does it matter to?  How does it affect me?

These are all questions to consider when thinking about what I should be eating.

First of all, why does it matter?  Well, my children and husband matter.  I want to be here for them.  I don't want to die before my time.  I want to be able to care for them and nurture them. 

Second, why does it matter what I eat?  Well, if I eat a nutritious meal, avoiding the junk food, I will have a better quality of life.  Please know that I am trying to convince myself of this because it is that important to me.  Having to detox from all the bad food's effects is difficult and painful.  Believe me, I've had to do this several times.

This topic of what I am putting into my body has permeated my life so much.  My children and husband have seen me in pain.  They've heard me cry out in pain.  They don't want to see me in pain any more than I want them to see me that way.  The last thing I want is their pity.

That's why we have discussions at the dinner table.  It means so much to me that my kids learn how food affects us.  Food should give us energy.  I shouldn't be sluggish after eating a meal.  Yet, how many times has that happened to many of us?

Am I over-bearing about this topic?  Probably...but I need for my kids to know that spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes are better than chocolate donuts and potato chips.  Am I being a good role model?  I hope I am.  I am showing them my daily struggle with junk food.

In teaching my children about the types of foods, I am not spending time creating lesson plans.  I can, though.  I could spend all the time creating an Ebook about all the healthy foods we  should be eating.  I can spend money buying the books that teach about proper lunches and dinners.  The best way, though, is to live out what I want my children to learn.

I am a work in progress.  Who isn't?  I'm still learning.  I never learned how to cook from my mother, and it wasn't her fault.  I just didn't take the time to learn from her.

Then, again, she didn't have time to explain about healthy foods.  As a widow, she was busy working to put food on our table.  I did have teachers who taught me about that stuff.  The problem was that I ate junk food, like soda and potato chips, without anyone policing me.

This is the reason why I am more of a hands on mother.  It is in the teachable moments that I get to show my kids the truth of food.  Not all food is good.  Eating in moderation is best.  Sometimes, good food will still make you sick.

Allergies, food-poisoning, and proper handling of raw foods are real-life.  Those things cannot be taught from a book.  I feel the responsibility to teach my kids to cook.  It's vital to wash our hands and keep raw meat away from vegetables and fruit.  The best way to teach my kids is to have them do it.

To conclude, I'll say again that God says my body belongs to Him.  He resides in me, but how welcomed does anyone feel in a dirty house?  Yeah, you get it.  I'd say God feels welcome when our houses (bodies) are clean.

____

Rebecca Garcia  is the mother of four children, which includes two teens.  She has been home schooling for about 11 years, has been married for 16 years to a devoted husband, and has been blogging everyday this year.  How she does it, is anyone's guess.  You can learn more about her family at: Blogging With Goodly Intentions.

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