Monday, April 7, 2014

Moody Monday

I wasn't ready for Monday to arrive this week.  We had a fantastic, but very full weekend (the past several weekends actually) and I just feel like I need some time to organize my closets, spend unhurried time with my children, putter around the kitchen, spray weeds on the back porch, etc.  There is nothing so pressing that it cannot wait, but there are things I just feel I cannot get to right now.  I'm sure I'm not the only one!

Today the rain was falling steadily and I enjoyed the last few minutes of a quiet house snuggled with my husband.  He says that I can be a grumpy sleeper who doesn't like to cuddle ... but when I'm awake and aware, I love to cozy up to him.  I admit that it is wonderful.  Thankfully, my children aren't difficult in the mornings (ususally) and we went through our routine with ease.

My job is great because it is generally low stress and fairly non-demanding. But that also makes it somewhat boring and un-challenging - hard to get motivated when I'd rather be elsewhere.  I'm sure the same is true of many positions in the workforce.  But this rainy, Monday, I wish I could have a day to myself in my space doing my own thing.

When is the last time you had the chance to do that?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Update and Call to Action

I chose to give up all retail shopping for the month of March and in doing so learned a few things:

  • I spend more time online shopping than I thought...and I like to fill the virtual carts and baskets!  This can create discontentment and I don't need to look for things that I never knew I needed.
  • Denying myself isn't that difficult.  Not making purchases for my children is challenging.  But I told them my plan was to not buy anything extra for this month, and they learned the answer would be no.
  • I wasn't sure if it was cheating to use 'reward' dollars that cost me nothing, but now I feel like it was.  It still fueled the habit of wanting, searching and receiving something.
  • I wasn't sure if it was cheating to allow my husband to buy me things, but now I feel like it was not!  The act of being spoiled was sweet and fun and totally his idea, uncoerced by myself.  How could that be a negative?  I'm thankful for a husband who notices what I enjoy and takes good care of me.
  • Buying a spring bouquet is just as invigorating as a spring blouse.
  • March is little too early to get a garden going because we are still having freezing nights!  
  • Waiting to make a purchase helped me realize that most purchases weren't actual needs.  I was able to be more discerning than just pulling the trigger for things I wanted.  I got more comfortable with feeling empty or living with want.
It's an older photo, but
I was having trouble
with a new one today
It was also my goal to get rid of something every single day this month and I loved it! I posted most of my purging on Instagram and while I didn't actually photograph every day or every item, I let go of way more than 31 things.  My children and my husband even got in on the act and I made a trip to Goodwill or the Habitat Home Donation each week.  I've got another box filling up now and will constantly keep a box handy for things we're ready to pass to someone else.  I sold some things, also, and added some cash to my "New Sofa Fund."

Now, I notice that I'm still getting readers each day, but people are just not commenting on blogs these days.  So, if we're not already friends on Facebook, please find me there.  I'm loving Instagram and would welcome any followers.  Pinterest is more fun than ever with friends. So don't be a stranger and connect so we can share.  As always, I welcome your thoughts and support here.  Have a fabulous week!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Being Me is Best for Them

As a follow up to my last post where I was remembering my childhood view of my own mother, I am thinking about how being my best self is the way I want my children to remember me.  I have a friend, who is a mother of three children, almost the exact ages as my own, and she is often complaining, worried, frustrated, critical and generally seems unhappy.  I hope that is not the message I project to the world, but especially to my children.

Basic mom responsibilities include a whole lot of cooking, dishes, laundry, wash, rinse, repeat.  Some days feel discouraging as the cycle repeats and it feels like a futile, endless process.  To keep my sanity, I incorporate some things just for ME in my day - exercise, reading, a few minutes of quiet alone time after work.

But I also try to add make our home more than a place to crash by cutting spring blooms and arranging them by the fireplace.  I enjoy setting the table for meals and eating by candlelight.  We do seasonal 'crafts' and I add holiday items to our mantle or table.  I want my children and teen daughters to see that life at home is fulfilling, rewarding, inviting and fun.

I want my children to see that I love the color purple and am excited when we find purple wildflower.  I hope that notice that certain songs elevate my spirit so that I can't help but turn up the sound as we commute to school together.  May my daughter realize that trips to the grocery store are opportunities to know our community and walks around the "block" are chances to meet to neighbors and admire their pets.

I know that my influence with the teenage girls in our home is limited - yet my heart wants them to notice that homekeeping can be a joyful and rewarding option.  I hope they remember our time together as warm, relaxed, cooperative and pleasant.  I hope that I will earn the respect of my life choices, even hope they may adopt a few for themselves.

I want to be my best self for my family because that makes their lives better - it just does!  So when I splurge on something for me, or spend extra time on my hair before going out with my husband, I hope the youngsters in our home notice more than the woman in granny shoes trying to keep up the house.  I hope they see that I love to laugh, get excited about just about any animal (expect snakes) and get giddy about things that are organized.  Will they remember that I trudged through evenings or that I couldn't wait till the dishes were done so we could get outdoors?  Will they think I obsessed over a clean house or that I was ready to put up the laundry so we were free to get dirty again?  I hope they notice me like I did my mother.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mother Matters

My mother is here this week, helping with spring break child care duties.  I love having her near!  I so dreadfully wish my parents hadn't moved away several years ago.  It's rewarding to be a woman and friend of my mother as a grown up.  But I can't forget the way I idealized her as a child.  Several times as I watched her with my own children, I've thought about the way little-girl-me saw my mother.

She was the most beautiful woman in the room.  I knew from an early age that my mother was gorgeous.  None of my friends' mothers wore makeup and sparkly jewelry.  I didn't notice any other dads bringing their wives flowers or taking them on dates.  Surely this woman was special.

Any ordinary day could become extraordinary because she would celebrate the little things.  Candles at dinner, sparklers on New Year's Eve, wake-up songs (NOT appreciated in the teen years), birthday parties that would be Pinterest-worthy today and always flowers growing somewhere. I can still smell her scent of choice and remember the way men would notice her while we were out together.  She has always known how to 'work it,' even when that wasn't a thing.

Everything could become something FUN with my mother - from pretending we were pioneers while raking leaves to racing to beat a clock while cleaning our rooms.

Part of the mystery of my mother when I was a child was that she wasn't all about me - she had her own agendas, meetings, lunches, friends, responsibilities and tasks.  I admired that she seemed so capable.

Of course, these observations were the inflated ideas of a little girl who idealized her mother.  Yet, as I've grown and even witnessed her interactions with my own children I appreciate more of who she is as a woman and mother/grandmother.  What an amazing thing it is to give of yourself to others!  Thank you, Mother!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oops, I Blundered (Again).

Growing into my role as a step mother is a challenge.  Dealing with teenage girls brings up the insecurities I had as a teenager, it reminds me of how easily girls can take up an offense and sometimes I just tip toe around things because I don't really know how to deal with it.  Other times it's immense fun when we get to giggle over girly issues, talk about which of the soccer guys is the best catch and enjoy chick flicks.

I'm lucky and grateful that Mr. Wonderful is supportive as my role in their lives.  He consults me about their schedules, he requires that they treat me with respect, he encourages that we bond and includes me in all the 'family' matters.  But, the truth is I am not the parent.  I am not the one who will shape their values and enforce boundaries.  It's easy to feel entitled to that because I'm there, and so I'm challenged to accept when my opinion is usurped by their mother or even by him.

Recently, I created a rift between one of my step daughters and me by being critical of a clothing choice.  She purchased something that I found to be less modest than I would accept.  I shared my concern with her and with dad, who then deferred to her mother, who approved.  I felt a bit sabotaged.  But I let it go and bit my tongue each time said garment was worn.

...Until a conversation about modesty in which I blurted out "You wear short stuff!"  I put my girl on the spot and embarrassed her, I made her feel less-than.  It had already been made clear that my opinion on the matter was moot, but I insisted on being heard and in the process hurt her.  I feel really badly.

As I thought about my own youth and remembered the times I pushed the boundaries of modesty and with what I was comfortable.  Truthfully, until I was married and learned more how men think, I didn't place as much value on modesty.  It's all part of maturing.  My step daughter is a classy, smart and darling young woman.  She's going to learn these things and I do trust her to get there in time.  I just hope I didn't damage our relationship in the process.

I later apologized, I reinforced that I loved and respected her and that I had done the same thing.  She says, "We're good" and I am hoping that's true.

In the complicated web of blended families, my dear husband was bothered that I upset his daughter.  I know we're good, but it just reminded me of how carefully one must step in this blended family dynamic.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Moody Monday.

It's spring break.  I'm staying put, but we have family visiting and the bonus daughters are coming and going to the beach (yes, I'm jealous) and visiting colleges.  I'm trying to focus on the vacation we finalized in just a couple of months! I can't wait!

I'm dreaming of a garden that will likely never happen.  But it's nice to know spring is almost here!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Didn't Want to Write this Post

I really didn't want to write this post, but it is something about which I feel so strongly.  Pornography has affected my life.  I've watched it myself out of curiosity and it deceives.  I've witnessed it warp a man's view of women so strongly that it seems irreversible.  My own sense of self is impacted by the sexualized way women are portrayed and deemed worthy or not by our very sensual society.  I am not an expert, but I have real-life experience and have felt like a victim because of porn's impact in my life.  I hate the pervasive nature and the availability that feeds the desire for more.

I recognize that my children will grow up in a culture where many accept porn as a form of entertainment and that our culture is highly desensitized to virtuous sexuality.  I can't think of a single cultural example of Biblical, healthy sex that is celebrated within the right boundaries.  That is scary.  And our children, our very young children are impacted.  What do you do when your very young child sees porn?

When I thought my phone was protected, I realized it was not because my son was stumbled upon, then looked for more post-plastic-surgery videos.  You can imagine what the images contained and I'm grateful there was enough protection to filter full nudity.  He was nine years old when this happened.  We had talked about the mechanics of sex and the value of girls and boys and their differences, but this experience has forced me to think about how to continue to conversation.

After I stopped my panic-attack and filtered my own response, it proved to be a good opportunity for open discussion.  Here's how I handled it:

  1. Assured my guy that he is not bad, but normal to be curious about women and about things he hasn't yet experienced. I asked him if he had seen images like this elsewhere?  school?  other parent's home?  I wanted to gauge his familiarity with explicit content.
  2. Explained to him that what he saw is not real.  What he looked at isn't what real women look like under their clothes (he saw extremely exaggerated augmentations).  We talked about a woman's body and it's purposes: feeding a baby, strength for daily tasks, beauty that reflects God's creativity.  We talked about what makes a woman beautiful being character, kindness and care.
  3. Enforced boundaries by removing all access to digital media until I could be confident in better monitoring and filtering controls.  I reminded him that I will always be aware of what he is doing online and what he sees because it is my job to protect him.  I tried to emphasize that this was for his protection not punishment...but it probably felt like punishment to him.
  4. Initiated self control and accountability.  I talked with my little man about how even now he needs to begin to guard his heart and his eyes.  We talked about how this kind of material is always available and if he looks for it, he will find it.  All his life he will need to learn that it won't satisfy and that it isn't good for his heart or eyes.  I talked about how looking at and longing for pretend things steals joy and pleasure from what is real.
  5. Prayed and prayed some more.  This is a battle for my boys' minds.  And my daughter's.  It's real and it can't be avoided (though I would prefer to stick my head in the ground).  I recognized that I must engage in this battle or I will be conceding territory.  I cannot be passive. 
Are you with me?  Have you confronted the reach of pornography into your family?  How are you preparing your children to deal with the barrage of sexual images they will confront in life?  I would love to hear practical ways to battle and resources to any tools you find effective.

Article Links

Your Children and Sex

Just One Click Away (This is graphic)

When Children See Porn

Freedom in the Fight

Beating Porn to the Punch

5 Surefire Ways to Train Your Kid to Use Porn