Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bye bye

My blog has moved. Actually, I've moved maybe three or four of what I thought were the better entries over to it, but from now on you can find me at Life Together, which is a joint project from me and my husband. It will contain observations about life in general, but also recipes, and updates on new features in our other websites.

Basically, our little home on the web. I think it will be fun! Tata for now, Blogger. It's been fun.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I've never heard a valedictory address include "Thanks to my parents for starting me on solids at 6 months instead of 4."

I've never heard an Oscar acceptance speech thank parents for avoiding all bottles and pacifiers when the speaker was a baby.

I've never heard a prison inmate say "If my parents had just used cloth diapers on me, I wouldn't be here."

I don't think I've ever cared to ask my parents whether they placed me to sleep on my stomach or my back as a baby.

Choices made during the baby years are important, but, I feel like too often, some things are presented and followed as "all or nothing" when they are not, or should not be. In the grand scheme of things, many of the parenting choices at this stage have a very temporary span of importance. I suppose this is true of every other stage in life as well.

And yet it is often these "externals" that receive so much of the focus. Of course, health and safety are important. But the deeper things - love, discipline, empathy, grace... they're so much harder to grasp sometimes - to view in terms of daily actions and reactions. I do try to learn as much as I can about the externals, but I have to remember that they are not a substitute for the deeper things. Following a bunch of rules can bring good results, but limited ones. When it's all said and done, a lot of the things that are touted as all-important probably will not matter so much.

That doesn't mean that what I'm doing doesn't matter. It does. But ultimately, reminding myself of this should be freeing. Since the incidentals, "methods," and "labels" should not be all-encompassing, then "doing what works" in many areas is not going to ruin a child. And if it isn't freeing, then maybe I should chill out a bit. Perspective: It's what I need!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

You could be living in someone else's paradise

While writing up a hike report for the launch of the new website D has been working on lately (, I was reminded of our honeymoon, since that's when the particular hike took place.

Personally, I think we spent a week in paradise. No, I wasn't laying on a tropical island beach sipping on pina coladas, and it may not be other people's idea of paradise, but there was a part of me that wishes I could just stay there forever.

We stayed in the little town of Stonehaven, on the Scottish coast. It is a small but robust town, with plenty of local shops, sandwich shops with real French bread, restaurants that serve delicious local seafood, including real Scottish fish 'n chips - a bit of nostalgia from my childhood. The town is bordered by a small harbor with several piers and boardwalks, and lots of boats. About a two-mile walk down the coast is the gorgeous ruins of Dunnottar Castle, surrounded by cliffs and breathtaking views.

Down the coast in the other direction is another walking trail that leads to the ruins of an old church.

There is also a woodland walking trail nearby, as well as a train station to allow easy travel to other parts of the country. History, nature, beauty, and culture (not to mention Scottish accents!), all contained in a tiny town surrounded by pasture lands that produce locally sourced meat and dairy products. In a word: paradise.

Thinking about this reminded me of a story one of my photography professors told in college. He was in a small European town photographing a very old cathedral. He had waited for the light to be just right, and was setting up the perfect shot of this beautiful relic. A woman walked by and saw him, and asked what he was doing. When he said he'd come to photograph the cathedral, she replied, "That old thing? What for?!" She had walked by it so many times that it was just another fixture in her town. She couldn't imagine why anyone would go out of their way to appreciate it or try to photograph it.

In the same way, I doubt any of the residents of Stonehaven know that they are all living in my idea of paradise on earth. But for many of them, it may not be. For the high school student stuck working weekends at the fish bar, they may be hoping to take off as soon as graduation comes, for a bigger and better city - they may feel stuck and cramped in a tiny town like that, and yearn for freedom.

And then I thought, you know, for all I know, I might be living in someone else's idea of paradise on earth! You probably are too. No matter where you are, there is probably someone who wishes they could be there. For people who feel stuck in the country, there is probably someone just waiting to save up money for some land so they can get out of the rat race of the city and have some peace and quiet. For anyone who feels stuck in a colder climate, there are people (though perhaps not as many) who find the heat oppressive and would actually prefer colder winters. And that's just scratching the surface when you consider people who would do anything to live in a first-world country at all - never mind the climate.

It's good to remember these things. There is nothing wrong with me appreciating the beauty and uniqueness of Stonehaven. It, and other Scottish places will always have a place in my heart. But if I keep yearning after them, not only will I stray into idealization, but I will miss the beauty of where I am, right here, right now. Yes, there will be frustrations here. But that will be true wherever I am. If I moved to Stonehaven right now, it probably wouldn't be long before I discovered things about the town, or government, or weather, (or even residents!) that I really didn't like.

It's the same even with "where I am" in the non-geographical sense. No matter what stage of life I'm in, there will be things I don't like. But there are still people who wish they could be where I am, and it's something I need to keep in mind. I don't mean in a sense of "cherish every moment" idealism, because there will always be frustrations and they shouldn't be minimized or negated or swept under the rug. But it's not wise to yearn too much for the future, or idealize the past, or "what might have been." Instead, I should remember how much good there is in where I am, right NOW. Sometimes a fresh perspective makes a lot of difference in remembering how blessed I am.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You surpass them all

Several years ago, my husband introduced me to the book "The Little Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is an odd story upon first reading, but it has a lot of layers to it - aspects of the story function as parables or fables, communicating something much deeper than what may appear to be on the surface.

One story involves the Prince describing "his" rose, to his friend the fox:

But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

Though presented in a rather unconventional manner, his relationship to the rose is a representation of true love, and the bond that forms between two people who are truly in love. The prince loves his rose, not because she is the only rose out there. And yet, as he mentions in another part of the book, she is "unique in all the world" to him.

I was reminded of that while talking with D this morning, and as we talked, a verse from Proverbs 31 (29) came to mind:

"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

Unfortunately, I think it's too easy to read this as an objective statement. That there is a certain hierarchy or ranking of women, and this woman just happens to be on top because of all the good things she does. No doubt her character and deeds are admirable, but this statement is something that her husband has said of her.

I thought about that in terms of my own husband. There are many reasons why I love him. He is kind and loving, he is hard working, he loves people and serves them with a true servant's heart, and he is generous and protective of his family. I could go on and on. And while I love him for all those things, I also love him because he is my husband. My love for him does not depend on some kind of "ranking" of his traits or qualities against other men. There are many other men who are good too (and a lot who are worse), but he is unique in all the world to me, and I love him for that. And I know he sees me the same way.

This kind of idea isn't always encouraged. I'm reminded of a dating site I've seen ads for, called "plenty of fish." It goes with the idea that is often spoken, especially after a break-up: "There are plenty of fish in the sea." It doesn't sound like a heinous idea on the surface, but I really think it contributes to a de-valuing mindset in regards to people. They're just fish. There are lots of them out there, and available to sift through or peruse at your leisure. By the basic principles of mathematics, you will find another one soon that might be acceptable, so don't worry.

There are indeed plenty of people out there. Many of them have very good qualities. Just like the prince knows there are millions of other roses besides his rose. So if you or I were to say that our spouse "surpasses them all," it is not meant as an insult to anyone else's spouse, because it's not a competition or hierarchy, and it would be silly and wrong to portray it that way - it's about loving the person for who they are, learning about them, investing time and energy into being with them even during mundane times that no one else would pay attention to - even, as the prince says, when they say nothing.

There are many who do noble things, but my husband is unique in all the world to me. When I say he surpasses them all, I am not putting anyone else down, because I simply am not looking at anyone else that way. He is mine and I am his. And if you are married, the same is true of your spouse too. Let them know it. :-)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Motherhood: the best job you could ever have?

I am blessed to have grown up in an environment that encouraged and affirmed family relationships: marriage, parenting, siblings, etc. I firmly believe that families are the building blocks of society, and therefore healthy family life is essential to good communities.

So let that be the backdrop for the rest of this post. With that in mind, I also understand that it is so necessary and important to continue to affirm and encourage parents as they (we) raise the future leaders, workers, and parents of the world.

But, despite my admiration for parenthood even while single, there were times when I felt like the adulation of its virtues went almost too far - to the point of disparaging other roles. I know I have heard this line, or variations of it before, and while I can't actually pinpoint any particular book, speech, or sermon as a source, it goes something like this:

"Motherhood is the best job you could ever have."

Hearing that made me cringe internally. Not because motherhood isn't extremely important, or because I didn't want to be a mother someday, but the word that struck me was "best." I didn't have a baby until I was 26, and so I spent a fair amount of time as a single and child-free adult (though still not as much as many of my friends have), but I have to admit, it would probably still make me cringe even now.

Why? Because by saying that motherhood is the best job that a woman can have, you are therefore saying that any woman who is not a mother, no matter what else she does, is doing something that is less than best. And that's a lie. "If motherhood is the best job I could ever have," I would think, "Does that mean I'm failing now?" I didn't feel like I was. At least not all the time.

Honestly, I don't think that most people who say/type lines like that really mean it that way. I think what they're mostly trying to say is that if you're a mother, motherhood is the most important of all your jobs. But there are ways to communicate that without making it sound like you're minimizing the jobs and roles of child-free people, or negating their importance. (Or minimizing the importance of other jobs that mothers may have.)

Motherhood is SO important. It's already the hardest job I've ever had, and I've only just started! But it is also a great job, and I'm so glad I have the privilege of being one. It is a role in which you are closely bonded with one or more brand new little people, and you become one of (and at times THE) chief influence to shepherd them through their early years, and beyond. That is a huge responsibility, with so much involvement and potential, and it can be pretty scary sometimes. Affirmation and support are so important. And yes, there may be people who feel as though they wasted portions of their lives, or at least did not use their time wisely, and thought they "grew up" a lot by becoming parents. There's nothing wrong with being honest about those feelings.

But that doesn't mean that having a child is the only way to shepherd and influence the next generation. Many people do that without taking on the role of parenthood. What's truly important is that every person realizes the importance and value in relationships. While immediate family relationships are the obvious ones, they don't have to be the only ones. There are many people in many different stages of life who will either never be parents, or are simply child-free for a season, and to say or imply that the work they're currently doing is good but still lacking without children is wrong and hurtful - especially since, like me at the time, it's not always something that's a current option for them. Child-free people have the freedom and ability to develop relationships outside their nuclear families that parents don't always have.

Again, I think very few people would actually say that line above. Most churches and communities I have been in have done a great job of affirming people in whatever their current stages of life are. But I still think it's worth keeping in mind. The importance of motherhood/parenthood does not mean that the time spent before it is of less importance, for me or anyone else.

That's why it's so important to make sure that in encouraging and building up parents, it is not done in a way that downplays anyone else's role or job, but rather affirms the importance of every role and stage of life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I found out a couple days ago that my cat has diabetes.

In one sense I'm glad because it's an answer to what has been troubling him lately, but in another I feel distressed because I know the treatments are more than we can afford or feasibly handle right now.

We live in a time and country where some people will spend a fortune on pets even when they're not chronically ill. It's a sad fact of life that in some areas of the world, pets get better medical treatment than people in other areas of the world.

So yes, he's not a person, he's a cat, and we know his lifespan is short to begin with. But that doesn't change the fact that he's important to me. Obviously our time and long-term financial health are important too, but still, this cat was my friend before I had a family of my own. Clearly I'm torn.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that to a cat, the methods used to control this illness (needles, daily injections and monitoring, more vet visits, etc.) are rather contrary to his desired mode of living, and he would never understand them. He wouldn't know why I was constantly having to hurt him and not letting him go outside. He might even come to fear me because of all the needles. I suppose some other things in this house are contrary to his desires, but that's beside the point.

The point is, for an animal, he has had a good life. And I want him to continue having a good life, which in this case, I believe, means comfort care. I want him to fully enjoy whatever time he has left, and when it comes to the point where he can't do that anymore, I don't want him to suffer. I really don't think that months and possibly years full of needles and medication are the right choice for us.

He's at least eight years old... I knew it had to happen eventually, and I guess I'd rather have warning. Still, it's a sad thing. He's been with me for five years. I hope he can stay around a lot longer, but if he doesn't, I want to make his last months as loving as possible.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Do I have to start a mommy blog now?

Wow, much has changed since I last updated. I'm married and I have a son - two major life-altering experiences right there, and I suppose a pretty decent excuse for letting my poor blog languish.

I need to get back into the habit of writing though, and while typing one-handed is harder, I can't let that be my excuse because I need to write. It's healthy, cathartic, and therapeutic. Writing is to my brain what a brisk walk is to my muscular and circulatory systems.

But there's a part of me that groans inwardly at the idea of a "mommy blog." Even if I don't try to make my writing all about my role as a mother, I can't help the fact that it is a very significant part of my life and it will undoubtedly sneak into my inspiration, which I don't mind, because to keep it out entirely would be a bit of a loss.

I really can't be down on "mommy blogs" though - I have come across some wonderful blogs out there, written by women who are mothers, that provide timely insights, and truly helpful ideas and practical solutions without judgment or condescension. I would have a long way to go to develop the experience needed to write a truly helpful parenting blog.

Then on the other end of the spectrum, are some blogs that, sometimes under the guise of "sharing information," proceed to regale the reader with opinions on their favorite hot-button issues, and whatever parenting labels they have chosen to align their choices with, subtly (or not-so-subtly) implying that their way is "best," even though they're "totally not judging you." And unfortunately, I know how easy it is to fall into that trap.

Right now, raising a child is a HUGE part of my life. There is no way around that. But something tells me that someday, the issues that seem oh-so-important to me right now (mode of diapering, method of feeding, the extent to which a routine is kept or not kept, etc. etc.) will pale in comparison to the big picture: raising a child to become an adult, with love, discipline, and compassion, and hoping that will come to pass despite all of our mistakes. I don't want to get lost in, or overly committed to the details along the way.

That's what I'm going for anyway. We'll see what happens.