family, women

Having it All

As women, I think we feel this pressure to “have it it all” or at least have what we do have all together. We want to be content and competent and loved and valued. These are all good things. They are not, however, easy to achieve. We talk about the elusive work life balance. We talk about “having it all, but maybe just not all at the same time.” What does that mean even?

Here is what I have all of:

All the exhaustion:

I am tired ALL THE TIME. I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t tired. It was before having kids for sure. I thought once they slept through the night, I’d be rested again, but nope. And bonus, everyone keeps telling me that once menopause starts I’m going to start having insomnia. Seriously? What a genetic load of garbage. So basically, by the time I’m actually able to relax again with my kids out of the house, my body will actually reject sleep. I can’t not tell you how I really feel about this because I’m a good Christian girl.

All the confliction:

If I am at work, I am thinking about what I should be doing for my husband or kids. When I am at home, I am thinking about what I should be doing for work. I am always thinking about how I should be serving more (in my church, my community, my world). I am thinking about how the time and expense of my writing “career” is taking away time and financial resources from my family. I am confident that I am missing out on my kids lives in ways that will irreparably damage them. I don’t even use Pintrest, because I already have enough guilt in my life. Thank you, unrealistic expectations.

family wall

All the feels:

I occasionally see this phrase and think this describes me exactly. I feel things so deeply. I cry just about everyday. Not in a bad way, but in the maybe I’m not completely emotionally stable way. I tear up reading novels to my students in class. Novels I have ready half a dozen times by now. I get choked up during movies I am only half paying attention to. I think about my son at college and I get choked up thinking about the man he has become. I cry in grief, in joy, in pretty much any context. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I feel all the feels.

flaming grill

All the chaos:

I dreamed of having a lovely family life where my children were polite and calm and we took walks in the woods and always helped each other. We’d be those people at all those town fairs or the ones taking day trips on the weekends. I should have known better. I came from an eccentric, crazy (read: AWESOME) home, and about the only thing I was able to bring to my new home was the crazy part. We are more of a “watch movies in our PJs” than “stroll through a quaint Christmas village” family . We are more loud voices and bickering than homemade Valentines and family service projects. Our separate lives mingle together more like a Jackson Pollack than Seurat.

This is my family <or life>. I found it all on my own.
It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah – still good.
– Stitch from Lilo and Stitch

So, no, I don’t really have it all. I don’t want it all. I’m still trying to juggle the plates I’m already spinning.  I’d rather drop a few of the less important ones, than keep going at this pace. I want less rather than more. I want less commitments, less stress, less frantic, less inches in my waistline. (But more doughnuts!)

 

donuts

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book review, elder care, women

Life with Extra Cheese: A Book Review

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Many of you know that I’m working on my own book about caring for my mother through her illness and death. And because you know me, you also know that this is a dark comedy. Well, as part of the market research for my book proposal, I began looking for books that would be similar to my own. That’s when I found Heather Davis’ book Life with Extra Cheese. It was HYSTERICAL!
I picked this book up on Amazon and began reading it slowly as I fumbled my way through writing a book proposal and beginning the first weeks of school. The last thing I had time for was pleasure reading, and yet I couldn’t help but grab it any chance I got. I even read several passages aloud to my husband, who is used to being the target of the overflow of my excitement.

The Sandwich Generation: (n) A group of people, typically in their 30’s and 40’s, who are raising their own children while also caring for aging parents.

Heather Davis really nailed life in the sandwich generation. From her opening passage when her sister calls to say her mother is on her way to the hospital, to her daughter’s desire to use the shower chair, to getting frisky with your husband while your mother in the house, everything was spot on. This book really nailed the crazy moments, the hard moments, and the beautiful moments. I loved that she understood the struggle of the working mother torn between so many responsibilities, motivated by love and family, and just plain tired. This is the sandwich generation struggle in a nutshell, a hilarious nutshell.

cheese 1

In short, buy this book! You’ll love it.

 

You can find more by Heather Davis here.

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Adulting, women

Housekeeping Made Simple

People are always saying to me, “Your house feels so lived in.” You know why that is?  We live here. We don’t have a separate breakfast parlor for company, or a media and game room in the basement for the teens to congregate. We have basically one living area in which we all share. All 5 of us. You might think that this means that our little space is neat and tidy, but you’d be wrong. It is a magnet for everyone’s everything. So here are a few tips that have helped us maintain that “lived in” look without crossing the line into Hoarders.

carpet

Carpet

Get rid of carpet. If you must have carpet, limit it to small area rugs or mats. Anywhere you can have hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum the better. Outside of the occasional spot cleaning, you can go a very long time without cleaning these floors. Hair, lint, dust, even dried leaves and dirt will be blown across these surfaces and collect at the edge of the room and even more specifically, corners. Grabbing a few of these dust bunnies occasionally, can give you home a lovely fresh look with almost no effort. I use my vacuum cleaner so infrequently; I would need to think about how to turn it on.

vacuumChild labor

There is no reason to do a chore that your spawn is capable of doing. The earlier you train them up the better for everyone. They are learning important life skills. Who cares how sloppy they put away their clothes, you didn’t have to do it. Laundry, dishes, scrubbing toilets, whatever. I’m not saying they need to work like little Orphan Annie, but they can be responsible for themselves and contribute to the family. They should be doing all their own laundry, cleaning their room, clearing their place, putting away their things, and doing one or more chores that contribute to family life. What that means in a practical sense? I don’t wash dishes anymore. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking, along with the vast majority of cleaning, so unless they would prefer to do the grocery shopping and cooking every night, they can do the dishes. Oh, kiddo, you missed a spot.

hoopla

Multi-task

There are only so many hours in a day. I barely have enough time to get the most crucial things done, like feeding all the humans I am responsible for. So, I scrub the bathtub while I’m in it taking a shower. This gives the conditioner a little longer to work while I wipe crud from tiles. This is a quick spot clean process done without the benefit of corrective lenses. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better then it was yesterday. Occasionally, I wipe down the microwave after I pull out that cup of tea I made and forgot and had to reheat now for the third time. Also, I listen to audio books on my phone while I grocery shop.

bed

Don’t Do It

There are certain chores that are just not that important and, bonus, not doing those chores makes your life easier. Take linens for instance. Sure, it’s nice to climb into a bed made with crisp new sheets, but not only does it take time to change those sheets, but it takes time to wash those sheets, dry those sheets, fold those sheets, and put away those sheets. So don’t.  Put those kind of chores off as long as possible. Win-win.

It won’t look like a Better Homes and Garden Magazine spread, but whatever, I’ve got better things to do.

car freshener

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Adulting, women

A Night Owl’s Guide to the Day Job: 7 Tips

Nothing should ever begin before the clock reads 8 am. This should go without saying, but is seems this world is populated by less spiritual people who do not appreciated God’s glorious creation of sleep. Genesis 1 tells us that in the perfect order of things, “There was evening and there was morning the first day.” Evidently, even God didn’t want to start the day off with a morning. I have no idea why these morning people want to mess with the natural order of creation, but as long as we live in this fallen world, we must learn to be in but not of this world. So here are a few tips to help you survive getting up for your day job.

Showers

The only thing worse than getting up on a dark, cold winter morning, is getting up and getting in a shower that will alter my body temperature half a dozen times before I have fully comprehended where my own feet are. I cannot handle it. Shower at night. And by night, I mean after work. I have been known to come home from my job at 4:00 and already be showered by 4:30. If I can shower while dinner is cooking, I do. Earlier showers mean plenty of time for your hair to dry naturally and avoid all that wasted time with the blowdryer. Win-Win.

Clothes

Plan your wardrobe. After your shower, pull out your outfit for tomorrow. I am a huge fan of skirts and leggings. Match a pair. Put your leggings on now. Add a comfy shirt and an oversized sweatshirt and life is good, even if you still need to drive your kids around to scouts or a fancy dinner parties at the country club. You are already halfway dressed for tomorrow morning, and you haven’t even eaten dinner. BAM!

collared button down

Husband: Are you in your pajamas already?  Me: Um, no! This is a collared, button down shirt.

Food

I am an equally big fan of food as I am of sleeping in. “Skipping meals” is a concept I assume was invented by the same people that schedule meetings for 7:30 in the morning. I want my breakfast, but I can’t deal with pondering my options that early in the morning. While you are cleaning up dinner, pack your lunch. Use leftovers whenever possible. And when you’re done, pack your breakfast. You are fully functional and conscious now, so use this to your advantage. It also has the bonus advantage of allowing you to snatch up the last chocolate chip muffin for your breakfast to eat in the car tomorrow. Sorry kids, you snooze, you lose.

muffin remains

Alarms

Setting the proper series of alarms is crucial in the actually waking up process. The appropriate timing of these must be backtracked from the necessary leave time and the number of snoozes needed to move from sleep to semi-conscious. Give your alarms funny names that you are never going to read because your eyes aren’t open. Mine include: “Time to make the doughnuts”, “Open your eyes” (for the ironic factor), and “Big Girl Pants Time.”

Warning: Some people will try to shame you into one single alarm with false logic about how you’d get up quickly if there was a fire alarm. This is categorically false, proven by several vacation incidents and an entire year in college during which drunken students, who seemingly had made a pact with the devil, set off alarms at 2 am every single Wednesday morning. I might get out of bed, but I will wander around in dazed confusion unable to find the exit without assistance. Even if it were true, adrenaline is responsible for such actions. If an ax murderer was coming after me I would run, but that doesn’t mean I should run absent of that kind of motivation.

hotel fire

The 20 Minute Rule

I once read a devotional that said I should always spend the first 20 minutes of my day with God. I tried it. It turns out that I don’t like anyone, including God, during the first 20 minutes of my day. I have since matured in my faith and now give Jesus some prime real estate. He gets some time post dinner, and Bible study is a whole lot less hostile now. So who gets the first 20 minutes of the day? Facebook. Judge all you want, but as I am trying to will my eyelids open, I scroll through my FB feed. All the research about cell phones keeping people awake at night does not seem to apply to helping people wake up, but spending those first few moments in my bed, delirious with exhaustion, in utter silence (minus the few moments I accidentally play a video when I fall asleep and turn the phone on its side) is just about all my brain can muster up while there is a 6 looking back at me from my clock. No one speaks to me; no one gets hurt. The system works, so leave well enough alone.

Getting ready

Sometime around the time that your 8th alarm has rung, and you’ve scrolled past the same kitten video 16 times, your bladder will give you the only true motivation to get out of bed. Congratulations! The worst part of your day is over; you’re up. If you can manage to not fall asleep again on the toilet, which I’ve heard has happened to some people, then you’re gold. You’re already half way dressed. Throw on your top and that “eat-as-much-as-you-want” wrap skirt and you’re practically done. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, apply deodorant, and grab your shoes. Don’t wear makeup. This new natural look requires zero minutes to apply and bonus, zero minutes to wash off. I just saved you time this afternoon. You’re welcome.

Routine

Falling into rote patterns allows muscle memory and your subconscious brain to do the work that a conscious brain would override if you had a conscious brain at 6-something in the morning. Efficiency in these routines is the key to staying in bed longer. Start brewing your piping hot, caffeinated beverage and then put on your shoes. Do everything in the same order so you don’t forget your lunch or shoes. Yes, it can happen. Don’t break this routine. If you absolutely must do something out of the ordinary in the morning, set a reminder on your phone. I have set alarms that said, “Don’t forget the kids!”

forgot the tea

Sometimes I forget the details, like putting tea in the tea ball.

Total time from feet on the floor to bottom in the car, 16.5 – 17.5 minutes depending on level of delirium.

Warning: Not taking adequate time to work through these steps might lead to unfortunate driving issues such as mistaking the tachometer for the speedometer, or driving past your exit. Do not operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery until legitimately conscious. 

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book review, loss, women, writing

The Polygamist’s Daughter By Anna LeBaron: A Book Review

 

Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.                                           –Birdee Pruitt from Hope Floats

I had a great childhood. It wasn’t Beaver Cleaver, but it was idyllic in the crazy, eccentric, lower middle class, country hick sort of way. I think back on family camping trips and Christmas cookie making with a homesick nostalgia that sometimes aches even now in my mid forties.

Anna Lebaron’s childhood, going on at roughly the same time but on the other side of the country, was nothing like mine. Quite frankly, there aren’t very many people in the world who could say they had a similar childhood. I can’t say no one, because as she begins her memoir, “At age nine, I had 49 siblings.” Anna was not alone in this world, but her childhood was far from safe and secure. Growing up the daughter of notorious polygamist Ervil LeBaron, she lived a life that was marked by regularly moving to avoid the authorities, often leaving behind her few possessions, and being reared by various family members that rarely included her own parents. In her memoir, Anna shares about going hungry, being forced to work long hours at family owned businesses, and even being promised in marriage as a young child to an adult member of the cult.

As I read The Polygamist’s Daughter, I found myself drawn into this world of violence and twisted faith that I could not comprehend. Through each move and struggle Anna experienced, I found myself in shock and disbelief. I kept stopping to look something up on the Internet in order to learn more about her father, the cult, or the events mentioned in the book, such as the 4:00 murders.

Anna’s gripping story is far more than a tale about a broken childhood. Anna’s story is a tale of courage and faith. She tells of her escape from the polygamist cult and her coming to a true faith in Jesus Christ. She shares about her journey of healing and the hope we can all find in Christ.

Those of us who have experienced tragedy or loss, whether from childhood wounds or in our adulthood, will appreciate the hope that Anna offers. My favorite line from her book is, “But sorrow always accompanied the joy, inseparable twins at every event.” Recovering from the pain that life can bring often means that we live in a place where the joys and sorrows of life often collide. Anna allows us to walk with her on her own healing journey, and we can all find hope along the way.

I truly enjoyed reading this memoir. I read it more quickly than a typical book as it was difficult to put down. While not the most polished of writing, and a couple of times the timeline seemed a little disjointed, the story read like a suspense novel. I was engaged and emotionally drawn into the story from the start. Anna skillfully shares her story and invites us into her healing journey. I recommend this book to anyone who love stories of faith and courage.

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron releases March 21st and is available for pre-order at http://annalebaron.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Tyndale.

I received an advanced reader’s copy for my honest review.

 

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Christian, ministry, women

Inclusion in the Church Age

The entire story of the Bible, for all nations and all people, heads toward an invitation to inclusion, not exclusion. – Sara Gaston Barton

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Separation

We don’t know how long it took for paradise to be ruined, but it happened with a single incident.  Between “It was very good” and “The Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden”, we find Adam and Eve eating from the only tree they were told to avoid. The intimate relationship that humanity had with God was broken. Separation occurred. The spoiled garden, filled with thorns, would ultimately spread its way across the globe. Our sin nature would come to taint every relationship and all things. Man and women, both created in the image of God, would now be mortal beings.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

Romans 5:12-14

Exclusion

And so from Adam to Moses, humanity existed on the spoken promise of God that redemption would come. Moses would literally set in stone God’s plan for the forgiveness of sins. One man chosen from the nation of Israel, the Tribe of Levi, the Family of Aaron, would be given the opportunity to enter into the Holy of Holies on a single day of the year, and offer sacrifices on behalf of the entire nation. Forgiveness was available, but the nation would be dependent on a single man to act on their behalf. It was systemic exclusion established by God for a period of time.

 

The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die.

Leviticus 16:2

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Redemption

The plan laid out by Moses was an incomplete foreshadowing of God’s perfect plan. Just as humanity experienced separation from God as the result of a single incident, so would God’s plan for redemption be fulfilled in one lavish act of love.  Christ would sacrifice himself in an act of total selfless obedience in order to break the bond of sin. What was broken in the Garden was made right on the cross. The second Adam restoring all that was lost by the first. Jesus would be the perfect high priest and the spotless sacrificial lamb. He would be the mediator between God and all people. (1 Tim. 2:5)

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.”  1 Corinthians 15:21

Inclusion

It was finished. The earth shook, and the curtain tore from top to bottom. The barrier that had kept the people out was no more. No longer would the people need to wait for that one day of the year to have their sins forgiven. It was finished, complete. No more would people need to go through a priest to speak with God. Everyone was welcome: Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old. It is the very nature of God that all may come. This is the New Covenant, an age of inclusion which demonstrates the heart of God. It is a foreshadowing of still another age to come.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

The Church Age

Since the dawn of the church age, Christians have been breaking down the barriers that excluded people. Throughout scripture we see numerous examples of Godly women in leadership positions. Jesus stirred things up when he ate with tax collectors and sinners. He elevated the status of women and children. The early church continued living out Jesus’ teaching with the inclusion of Gentiles and female leaders. It seems that everywhere the church spread, the status of women would be elevated from their current situation. Unfortunately, our modern society is unlikely to use the word inclusion to describe today’s Christian church. While some of the criticism of the church is the result of a culture that stands morally opposed to the teachings of scripture, we should take some time to reflect on areas where that is not the case. Are our churches welcoming places for everyone, where everyone has the opportunity to grow and serve within the church community equally? Have we imposed restrictions on half the body of Christ in an attempt to meet the letter of the law but have missed the nature of God found within the larger story of redemption? It’s important to consider the impact of implementing unnecessary limitations on not only girls and women, but on boys and men. Are we displaying a false picture of the gospel to the world? How much greater could our impact on the world be if we fully engaged the entirety of the body of Christ?

It’s time for all of us to do better.

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IN READING A WOMAN CALLED: PIECING TOGETHER THE MINISTRY PUZZLE BY SARA GASTON BARTON, I WRESTLED THROUGH MY OWN QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN CHURCH LEADERSHIP. HER INSIGHTS, PARTICULARLY FOUND IN CHAPTER 5, “PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER”, WITH ITS ILLUSTRATION OF THE TEARING OF THE TEMPLE CURTAIN WAS A TURNING POINT FOR ME.  
SARA, THANK YOU FOR THE COURAGE TO NOT ONLY LIVE YOUR STORY, BUT TO SHARE IT WITH OTHERS.

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Further Reading:

A Woman Called: Piecing Together the Ministry Puzzle  Barton, Sara Gaston (2012) Leafwood Publishers

“Who’s Who Among Biblical Women Leaders” by Rachel Held Evans

“Christianity: The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Women” by Sue Bohlin

women church

 

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Christian, Proverbs 31, social justice, women

My Journey to Feminism

Growing up it was instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad did also inform me that men generally don’t like a woman that is more educated than they are, but that this shouldn’t impact my choices in life. My dad supported me in majoring in psychology and even in getting my masters in counseling despite his dislike for both fields. I recall my parents telling me that I wasn’t allowed to get, “a ring on my finger until I had a degree in my hand.” I figured that was no problem, I loved school and what better place to find a guy than college? I would kill too birds with on stone: find a husband and have a college degree that ideally I wouldn’t need, because I would get married right out of college and then have kids. I was becoming the opposite of a feminist. What I aspired to be was in fact a stay at home mom. I must not be a feminist. A feminist is a woman who wants a career, who is pro-abortion and who thinks the housewife is archaic. I took a women’s studies class in college and found myself quite in conflict with much of what the class promoted, reinforcing my feelings on the topic. It’s not like I was anti-women, I believe in equal pay for equal work (but is it really equal work?) and I believe a woman should be able to be anything she wants to be, but feminist I was definitely not.

wedding

Then I had children. Now, becoming a parent impacts a great deal of things. I recall my son playing t-ball at five and the boys in the dugout making fun of him.  I actually wanted to jump in there and handle those little bullies myself. It was a mix of heartbreak and rage. During soccer season my husband was preparing to teach our son to punch another bully on the team and I found myself agreeing.  My son was 6. It was the last time he played a sport for many years. Actually none of our kids played sports because it was such a negative experience, but I digress. We live in a gender segregated society, which honestly is probably more damaging for men than woman. If a little girl plays with toy cars she is a tom boy and is generally left alone, but a little boy dressing up in princess outfits and playing with dolls is stopped. (We actually let it play out in our boys for that exact reason.)  We refer to our girls with nice soft words and our boys with rough a tumble kind of words.  We generally sign our girls up for dance and our boys up for karate. (certainly not exclusively)  Job ambitions are impacted by gender.  Interested in medicine? Boys are told to be doctors and girls nurses.

rugby tooth

So what has made me start to think of myself as a feminist?  Well, part of it was how frustrated I became at the little things. It was the helpless princess in every story. It was the unrealistically proportioned Barbie doll and dolls completly imodest clothing.  It was the pushing of those same sexually implied clothes on a 2 year old. But it was also me.  I found myself saying things to my daugher that pigeon-holed her in certain ways.  I tried to be more carefult about what I said to them, how I related differently to them because of their gender and being all the more intentional to realize their natural inclinations and skills to help them realilze and develop them.  Last fall I signed my kids up for rugby, well flag rugby.  My daughter is the only girl on the team. She fell in love with the sport and is currently planning to make it a career. I don’t know how long this passion will last, but it has made me all the more determined to not crush that dream. A few weeks ago she told me that a boy on the team wouldn’t throw her the ball beacues she was a girl. (He said this.) The coach, whom I love, intervened on my daughter’s behalf. It turns out that it didn’t stop the problem, but at 11 she is dealing with her first blatant case of sexism. It made me, as a mother, very sad. Not so much angry as I felt with my son, but sad. She shouldn’t have had to deal with that, but she is strong and determined and I know she will prevail. And it’s rugby, so I also know when it goes to tackle that little boy should be afraid…very afraid if he’s going to keep this up.

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As a parent I have come to terms with my feminist side more over the past few years, but it goes beyond that.  I have begun reading a great deal on the issues of slavery in the world and the horrors of sex trafficking. I have read about the unfair treatment of women and children: honor killings and bride burnings and all sorts of things I was seriously unaware of. (I recommend the book Half the Sky, even though I didn’t agree with the authors on several topics). We live in America where our “persecution” and “oppression” are mostly limited to name calling or reduced pay.  Yet women in many countries are denied education, health care, employment, voting rights, freedom of choice in marriage and child bearing, and even the freedom to travel alone. It is a far cry from our world, but how can we sit back and allow it to go on? As a woman, I am appalled.  As a mother of a little girl, I am fearful. As a Christian, I am called to action. How can we allow such inequality to occur for half the population of the world?  I am a feminist: a pro-life, conservative, stay-at-home feminist.

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