Saturday, August 20, 2011

On beyond colors

Not that I've figured out the color thing.  Au contraire.  But I have made a good deal of progress in otherwise defining my style.   (In reality, I've made good progress in figuring out color too, I'm just still a good ways away....)  And I wanted to take the time to share with you a checklist that I found really helpful.

She does a terrific job in the video and in the post (which is long), defining style with eight parameters (none of which are colors, though one is number-of-colors).  I'm not going to re-iterate her definitions, as I think hers are clearer than I could write them.

But I've been thinking about them, and I think they've really helped me define "my" style.  Or at least some idea of what I'm comfortable in.  It's also helped me identify ways to push the envelope style-wise, if I choose to do so.

Please, read the article and let me know what your style choices are in these categories!
(And if you opt not to read the article, the rest of this post probably won't make much sense to you, because I'm just responding to her material).

Silhouette:  I like my shoulders to fit at the shoulders, and my tops to be somewhat fitted on top (i.e. not too baggy around my bust, but not tight either).  I like extra room around my flabby tummy, but not so much at my hips.  I like my pants to not be too slim at the bottom (to balance out my larger top).  I often like my tops long (tunics, almost).  But I've found that I like a short cardigan really well, at least sometimes -- something that hits just at the bottom of my rib cage, where I'm actually slim.  I like puffy shoulders, but it's not a "must", and I don't know why I like them, since I'm already top-heavy. 

Color: I usually wear solids.  I feel the most sophisticated in a monochromatic outfit with an accent.  My favorite outfits are same (or similar) color top and pants with a second color (maybe even a print) accent.  I also like two solid colors with a print accent.  I like my colors quite warm, or very saturated if they're cool (navy blue, aqua and even some purples).  I find that my usual colors (when I feel sophisticated anyway), are near each other on the color wheel, but if I wear a print as an accent, then it must have my monochrome color in it, and usually has the opposite color in it too.

Prints:  I like small to mid scale prints for accents.  I don't think I own a single large scale print, but I don't know why.  Maybe I should try some?

I do like detail: interesting drapes, pleats, a few ruffles, pin tucks.  For me, these really jazz up a solid color. 

Drape:  I generally like my clothes drapey best.  But I don't mind crisp clothes if they don't wrinkle easily.  All the crisp clothes I have do, and I go out feeling all spiffy and professional in them.  But when I catch a mirror later, I'm just a big sloppy mess of wrinkles.  I haven't found a way to do fitted, crisp and not-wrinkly.  Am I missing something?  Anyway, because of the wrinkles, I think I prefer drapey.  I'm a little worried that it adds pounds though.  I'm not sure.  I really do wish I knew how to do crisp without wrinkling.

Texture:  I really am attracted to rough textures (tweeds, knobby, chunky knits).  To me, these are almost a "detail", and I like to only wear one interesting texture, having the rest be rather smooth and matte.

Style References:  Hmm... In the past, I often made Indian or African style references.  Now I almost never do.  My current mental style icon is Kate Middleton.  Elegant and Classic.  I think I probably reference French style a bit.

Accessories: I rarely accessorize, though I dream of one day wearing funky necklaces and/or gorgeous scarves.  I would start, but it's intimidating to me.  My shoes are very functional, hardly interesting in the least.  I would wear a bracelet, maybe, but not big rings.

Since this is already long, I'm saving my "How this all plays out" for another post, on another day.

For the one or two of you that read my musings here, how does your style fit in these categories?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Question of the Day

Do browns look professional?  Can a brown suit, for example have the same impact as a black one, or a charcoal gray one?  How about a Little-Brown-Dress?  Do you have any pictures or links to places that this color really works in a professions type dress?

Just curious.  If I find some, I'll post them here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I found this old photo of myself a few days ago.

I love this photo. It makes me nostalgic.  And it reminds me to pray for this dear dear group of friends in New Jersey, (almost all of whom tried to marry me off to their grown sons, ha!).  And it makes me want to go shopping in an Indian market again!

I still have this sari, by the way.  The bodice doesn't fit any more (twelve years and five kids have changed my figure somewhat).  But I love the color, and I think it looks okay on me.  I'm thinking that I want to cut it up and make a floaty top or two from it.  But I haven't bit that bullet yet.

Some style-blogging type observations, since I'm still in style-blogging mode:
  • The color of the sari is not far at all from the color of my veins in my wrist. 
  • I'm wearing lipstick.  Since when have I ever worn lipstick?  
  • The lipstick doesn't look super awful.  Maybe I should consider wearing it occasionally?  
  • Nah.  
  • Maybe tinted lip balm though.
  • I have henna in my hair in this photo too.  And it looks sorta fake, just like my henna now does.  I guess not much has changed.  I used to think it looked so real.  I still like the color though - maybe looking sorta fake isn't all bad?
  • Rebecca says here and here that we should wear colors close to our face that have a similar value to our hair.  (That is, if you imagine the color in a grey-scale photo, they would look the same color)  So, I (and you) look better in colors that are about the same darkness value as my (your) hair, because they provide the same level of contrast from the skin.  I hope that's not as confusing as it sounds!  I have dark hair and light skin, so to frame my face well, I should wear darker colors - similar in darkness to my hair.  This particular sari meets such criteria, I think.
How's that for blogging three times in one week?  I don't blame you if you don't bother to read because I'm chattering so much.  It's the Anne of Green Gables influence, I think.  (It's so delightful to listen to that audiobook in the car, but my, she's long-winded!).  Yeah, I'll blame it on her :)

Oh, and color-style-skilled friends with good visual abilities:  Do I look like an autumn?  Or a winter?  Oh, never mind.  I may as well give up fitting into that box.  I don't mind being an out-of-the-box girl in yet another way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to find colors that look good on you (style blogging continued)

If you read Pioneer Woman, you know that occasionally she goes through phases where the blogs on a topic, or in a particular style for a few weeks, just to get it out of her system.

I think that's what style blogging is for me. So bear with me while I indulge and get it out of my system. So here goes.

The Color me Beautiful system, like a personality survey, works because many people do in fact, fit into broad categories. Many, but not all. I have always been one who doesn't quite fit into categories on coloring, Either that, or I don't recognize that I do. I'm not sure which. (Incidentally, on personality surveys with only four categories, I also don't fit. But if you expand to 16 categories, I fit rather nicely as an INTJ).

Several years ago now, I asked my husband to teach me how to draw. He set out first to teach me how to see. If you can see something that you want to draw, not as a 3D object, but as a pattern of colors, you can draw it. I think that learning what I look like, and what looks good on me, must be a similar discipline.

Word Lily has a naturally great visual and artistic sense, and in the comments pointed out that all of her natural coloring (the colors in her eyes, hair, skin and such) were present in her seasonal colors from the "Color Me Beautiful" system. My jealous side wishes that I not only fit into a season nicely, but that I could actually recognize what colors look good on me! But, I'm, slowly learning to see, and perhaps eventually I'll recognize a color that looks good on me without having to ask my poor husband (who has a much better developed visual sense than I do).

Rebecca, in response to my comment asking about how to find my "green", suggested that I take paint chips in my natural coloring colors, and then look through greens to find one that looks good with them. I'm sure that would work splendidly if I had much of a sense of what colors look good together. But Word Lily, pointed out a perhaps easier method.

I'm still thinking about this. :D It's interesting to me that:

a) the colors I get when I use this system are basically all part of what I get when I follow the Color Me Beautiful system/theory. Have you tried that one? I found a quick online quiz earlier this week ...

b) My most favoritest colors to wear all show up when I follow these rules

c) I already wear almost all of these (still not sure how to best determine the "red," though)

For her all of her natural colors were already present in her seasonal category. Someone else had done the work of figuring out what other colors and color groups fit with those natural colors. My guess is that her Zyla colors are the super best on her, and the remainder of the ones in her season also look terrific on her, but are a half-step down from the super best ones. But since they coordinate well with her super best colors (are you tired of super best as an adjective? I am. Sorry), they'll look great in her outfits.

It makes me wonder if I can find a season that incorporates all of my natural colors, and then just use their analysis to do the work of finding my perfect green, and other coordinating colors.

Of course, if we all embraced Rebecca's wear-mainly-one-color theory, we may not have to worry about finding so many coordinating colors. Maybe just accents?

I love the wear-mainly-one-color theory, by the way. I haven't decided what color I would choose if I implement it. No doubt, one of my Zyla 8. Four of which are brown. Could I really always wear brown? Maybe I should go for my "red".

Which, brings me to the question of determining my "red". Zyla covers it reasonably well here. I don't think it's super clear (probably because I can't quite tell what my "red" is either), but I don't have a better or more clear method yet.

I do wonder, could the color of your lips be your red? What do you think. Is your finger the same color as your lips when you pinch it? (I haven't tried this in a mirror yet, but I kind of doubt it -- otherwise, why wouldn't he just say to use the color of your lips?)

Update: I figured out why lips are a bad choice. They're too many colors. In my bathroom mirror, I can see at least four rather distinct shades of red in my lips -- then if I press them, or smile, many more. My finger, when pinched, is pretty much one color. It's in between all the shades of my lips.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In which I pretend to be a style blogger

Since this site has been sorely neglected for over two years now, I figure you won't mind if I update with random things.  It's never really had a theme anyway, it's just more of a journal.  (And I apologize for the blabbery style tonight -- we've been listening to Anne of Green Gables audiobook, and I'm in blabber mode, I guess.)

A little history:  Almost two years ago, in a bout of insanity, I entered a contest.  It was a contest to design and sew a dress with shirring.  Nothing too difficult or too fancy.  I didn't win or anything, but somehow got hooked on the process.  Before long, I remade that gown into a skirt and entered another contest, and more and more.  And my favorite. I even placed in one.  In retrospect, I probably got carried away.

About that time, I decided that designing and sewing clothes was so much fun that I should really start sewing some for myself.  Of course that included designing clothes for myself too.  Which got me started thinking about what in the world looked good on me, and how I could design clothes that flattered me, and such.

I don't remember ever thinking about fashion, what colors and styles suited me, and designing for my body before recently.  But I started up the learning curve.  I learned that my body type is an inverted triangle, even though I always thought I had narrow shoulders (turns out that I have a big bust - never thought that either - and it's mostly bust that makes me the inverted triangle).  I have a full tummy, no surprise there - I've had five kids.  I thought I was probably a "fall" as far as colors, but never could really figure that out.

About a year ago, I picked up came across this book at Barnes and Noble while browsing.  I perused it, and liked it.  Zyla makes the claim that colors which look best on a person are the exact ones found in their coloring.  Essentially, each person has eight best colors:
  • The color of the ring around their eye, 
  • the color of their blush (or their finger when pinched), 
  • the color of their darkest vein in their wrist, 
  • the color of their darkest hair, 
  • the color of their lightest hair, 
  • the darkest color in their eyes (not counting the ring), 
  • the lightest color in their eyes, 
  • and a skin-tone type color that blends their skin tones
Using these colors, and some personality traits, he gives you a season (I think he would probably place me as a "antique winter", if I remember the name of it right), and recommends even styles for you to wear.

Rebecca recently read his book, and reviewed it, then responded to questions here.  I really liked her review, and am giving more consideration to his idea that all your best colors are found in your natural coloring.

But, here's the problem.  Most of my colors are brown.  Now don't get me wrong, I like brown.  And I like the way that I look in brown.  But it doesn't feel very professional, for one, and well, I like more variety than just brown brown brown.

Here's a couple of pictures.  My hair is brown, but has henna in it, making it sort of orange-y, purple-y brownish.  After it fades, it looks almost natural, and I like the color that it would be if it were naturally the color that henna sort of makes it.  (Wow, how's that for a confusing sentance!).  What I'm saying is, I like auburn hair, and henna makes my hair almost auburn.  And it's cheap.  So sometimes I henna my hair.  It's henna'd right now, so it looks like this:

The flower in my hair is about the color of my veins -- somewhere near navy and indigo, but muted and softer than both.  The flower is made out of sheer curtains, and I like it.  Isn't it cute?  (They're so easy to make!).

And here's my eye.  It's surprisingly difficult to get a good picture of an eye.  The colors in my eye range from orangy-brown to rich chocolate brown, and the ring around it is charcoal.

If it weren't bedtime, I'd post a table of my colors. Perhaps tomorrow.

My questions for the blogosphere, who is not nearly as obsessed with my colors as I am, I know, are first: do I look like a winter? I'm having a hard time being a winter - it seems so harsh - yet when I read that section of the book, I was really convinced of it. And my colors are pretty much all dark. Hmm....

And secondly, I really like to wear green. I'm hoping to find a green that will go will with my colors, and if I post my colors (in html), perhaps it'll be easy to see what greens go with them, or perhaps you can make suggestions.

So that's it for tonight.

I have things I've made, by the way, to post. I just gotta get some pictures taken. And I want to tell you about my new working out thing. It's nice, and I'm getting stronger. I can even do push ups now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mulberries are ripe!

Can you guess what we did this morning?

Friday, March 11, 2011

The great closet declutter

I was reading Simple Mom this week (wow, I need to read her more often), and noticed that she's running a Spring decluttering series.  It took me about .03 seconds to decide that I really should join in.

This week's assignment was the closet.  I haven't really done anything in my closet for about 1.5 years.  So I knew it would be a big job.  Here's the before:

There's a chair in there, that I put there to rock sick babies.  Only I never use it.  Instead, I sleep on the couch with them.  My sewing stuff is in a huge pile beside it.  There's sewing machines strewn about, and the baskets on the shelf are overflowing.

I started with the clothes.  That took a whole evening, and I stuffed two medium-sized boxes with stuff for a friend's garage sale. 

Then I tackled the sewing stuff.  I decided to get rid of one serger that never worked right, and to put all the sewing machines together on the floor.  And that's really as far as I got.  Here's the after.

No chair, sewing machines all together, only about 1/2 of the clothes, and a nice space over on the right for my wonderful husband to add a couple of hooks for my clothes that I've worn but aren't dirty enough to be washed yet.

A few things that I noticed:
  •  Almost everything that I have is either dark red or dark blue.  I'll have to keep my eyes open for other colors.  (I have one light green cardigan, which I recently rescued from my "sweaters to cut up" bin and started wearing. 
  • I have a lot of cardigans (I wear them all the time), but none in chocolate brown, which would be a very useful color for a cardigan.
  • I need to figure out which brighter and lighter colors look good on me.
And that's it for now.  Next up:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crazy easy Felt slippers

This winter, my trusty hand-knitted and felted wool slippers finally wore through (after four years of use).  So I've been thinking for a while that I should make myself a replacement pair.

Yesterday I finally got the motivation (thanks Mom!), and dug up some felted sweaters to use.

These couldn't be easier.

I used this pattern. Since the heel calls for elastic, (and felted sweaters are stretchy already), I cut the back of it at an angle -- One inch shorter at the top, slanting down to the pattern at the bottom.   I also made the toe much thicker (that is, the resulting hole for your foot is much smaller) because I wanted them to cover more of my foot.

I only cut one layer --  no lining.  I sewed up the back of the slipper, then the top to the bottom, turned them right side out and put them on.  I didn't even finish the foot opening, since felted sweaters don't really ravel. 

I love instant gratification.  And they're comfy!

(As a side note, these are not actually sewn, I needle felted them with my super cool needle felting machine -- even more fun!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The cure for a Bad Attitude

Today is a Mom day. That means that I don't work for money, but instead focus primarily on raising kids. And homeschooling, cleaning the house and such. Things were going swell until, oh, maybe 10:00 am. Most of the morning chores were done, and Bennet was done with his reading. Tommy was being a total pill, and I couldn't get the dishes finished because he was constantly needing attention. So I sat down on the couch to cuddle him and have Lisel start her reading.

Bennet took this as a cue to wind everyone up as much as possible, and the fighting began. "I'm playing with this, you get away", and "But I had it first", and "I got what you wan-ted" were abounding. My attitude was headed south fast too.

The mantra of Ann's book is "Eucharisteo always precedes a miracle". I, in my less-poetic life have translated it to "Gratitude precedes a miracle". And I needed a miracle if our attitudes this morning were to be salvaged.

So I got out my new notebook - the one bought on Valentine's day evening, so that I would actually write things down rather than wait to turn on the computer. And I called the kids together.  I told them that it was a list of some of the gifts that God has given me, and that I'm thankful for. I read to them "Children waking up singing", "Crunchy snow under my shoes", and "Birds returning for spring". Then I asked them what sorts of good gifts God had given them. We went around in circles, each saying one, around and around. "My toolbox", "my bed", "dollys for my birthday" started off the mix, then "kittens at Papa Deweys", "horses" and "designs of clouds in the sky".

Happier now, we took a walk. At the kids' request we took along the notebook, and a lunch, and continued. As we enjoyed the first picnic of spring the kids added "the pretty rocks in the park", "little baby pine trees", "shiny bikes" and a host of others. The kids alone added nearly eighty entries in that new notebook this morning.

And the miracle happened. From the time I showed them my notebook until we were just getting ready to pack up and head home, there wasn't a single unkind word uttered among the children (wish I could say so for myself). Matt offered to share his scooter on the walk, and they all took turns willingly. Bennet took extra time to help Josephine, Mattias and Thomas on the slides. Lisel quickly and happily obeyed when I asked her to change the laundry really quick before we left (that's her chore). It was almost surreal.

So, in thanksgiving for the power of gratitude, I'm going to copy here, the entries from this morning in new gratitude journal. These are God's gifts to us, and we are so grateful for them!

(Oh, and I tried to take pictures to accompany some of these, but the camera won't work for me today. Notice that's not on my list....)  

holy experience

One thousand gifts, numbers 131 - 203 (Child additions are in blue, with repeats among the kids omitted)

Children waking up happy, singing
Candy sweet oranges
Thomas entertained by a block and a crayon for many minutes
Tubes to toot through
Birds singing in spring
Snow crunching under my feet
Frosty grass crunching under my feet
Light sleeping, so that chickens calling for help at 1am wake me up
Ice pick weapons
Husbands that will use them (the ice pick, that is, as a weapon)
Live animal traps (so that perhaps the chickens will not again need to call for help at 1am)
BB guns (so that perhaps the ice pick will no longer need to serve as a weapon)
Kittens at Papa Deweys
Dolls as a birthday present
Enough nails to make a roof
Neighbor horses
Baby brothers
The sun
The bears on Tommy's blanket
The plants
The house 
Our bikes
The park behind the other house
The park in our neighborhood, here
Nice warm air outside
Our friends
Warm coats
The world
Our church
Drawing pictures
Playing outside
My friend Charlotte
Library books
Ice cream
Arlington Sale
Big brothers
Charlotte's hair
A hatchet to chop those trees
Warm fires
Our cousin's cabin
Singing songs
Kids learning to be grateful
Gratefulness mood improvement
The designs in the clouds "They look like fireworks"
That 58 degrees outside feels like summer
The bouncy horse in the back yards, a gift that Tommy loves right now!
Mulberry trees
Chopped down trees
Little pine trees growning
Birt nests
Shiny bikes (not ours)
The rocks inthe park
Nativity displays, still up in spring
The swish of the air in my ears when I swing
Bit walking sticks
First picnic lunch of Spring
Pine cones
Wind Chimes
Home-made Oreos

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saving money off the beaten path

Eventually, in the course of trying to save money, you're going to hit a wall.  You don't buy things unnecessarily, you don't allow yourself very many frivolities, and yet you need to cut down expenses more.  It's time to start re-thinking what's actually a necessity.

What helps me when we come to this is to think about what the "olden days" were like.  How did they survive before everything was instantly available, what sorts of things did they do?  What did they do without that we take for granted now?   And, consequently, what can I do toward living without whatever that is?

What started this journey for me was cloth diapers.  Of course paper diapers (as we now call them) are convenient (no washing them out, yeah!).  But, you pay $15 ish for a package, that lasts 2-3 weeks if you're lucky.  Over at least two years (in reality more like three for most kids), well, that's a lot of money.  Why just throw that away?  Just as my first kid was born, I was given loads of cloth diapers.  And so that journey began.  Paper diapers are a luxury, not a necessity.

What else do I use this way?  To buy and throw away, just because the alternate involves more work, and/or is icky?

Baby wipes, for sure.  Just buy a few wash cloths, rinse them out with your diapers, and toss them in the wash (with your diapers).  By the way, I wash my diapers with my clothes.  Not everyone is willing to do this, but it really doesn't bother me.

Next on this list for me was tampons and maxi pads.  If I don't mind putting cloth on my baby's butts, why should I mind putting it on mine? 

Here's where I need to introduce a second principal, which was difficult for me at first.  Sometimes you need to spend money to save it.  Take the cloth diapers example (never mind that mine were given to me).  They are expensive.  Really expensive.  If you don't have  a free source, or don't have free fabric to use in making your own (cut up old t-shirts and the like), they're gonna set you back a lot.  How long would they take to make up their price?  (In the case of cloth diapers, if you're creative, it'll be easily less than a year).  Things that pay themselves off somewhat quickly (as in, less than, say three years if they'll last fifteen, or something...), are worth that extra up-front expense.

So, back to tampons and maxi pads.  Both pretty recent inventions, both totally unnecessary!   How can we do without them?

I read Little Heathens a few months ago, and they just pinned rags in their underwear.  I have to admit, it gave me a feeling of validity, because that's essentially what I do too.  But there's some more "civilized" ways to essentially do the same.

It's easy and cheap to make your own maxi pads.  My two favorite articles and tutorials on it are here and here.  I don't need to re-say what they do.  It's really worth doing this.  If you cut up old clothes or towels, they're essentially free.  And much nicer to your system to boot.

If you like the security of tampons, get a Diva cup or a Keeper.  I have both, and think the keeper is more comfortable to wear (I have the latex keeper, not the silicon one).  The diva cup, though, is easier to get in correctly.  And the Keeper is only more comfortable to wear if you cut the stem nice and short.  You can get both locally where I live -- look for a "natural living" type store.  They cost about $30-$35 - definitely not cheap, but will pay for themselves in less than a year.  But I really prefer wearing one of these with my pad pinned-in-rag on a "heavy flow" day that I have to work.  It just feels safer.

To take this further: Cloth napkins.  Hand towels in a basket on the counter instead of paper towels.  Soft flannel hankies instead of Kleenex.  How close can we get to getting rid of everything disposable?

Even toilet paper can be done away with if you're adventurous.  In Little Heathens, they used junk mail (catalogs, actually), wadded it up real well, and straightened it back out, until it was soft, then wiped with it.  Of course, they had outhouses -- junk mail probably wouldn't be good for our plumbing! (Sad, I think I could really like using some of the junk mail this way..). But, we could cut up old t-shirts into wash-cloth sized squares and use them instead, couldn't we?  Just rinse them out, and wash them with the laundry?  (Note, I haven't convinced my husband that this is worth trying yet, so you'll still have toilet paper if you come visit us, Ha!)  This, by the way is not a new idea, and is called a family cloth, and is rather popular in the "green" crowd.  Here, here and here are my favorite articles on using them.  Just writing about it now, and refreshing my memory, makes me really want to try this, soon.  Perhaps we'll start slow...

And we'll keep the toilet paper around, so you'll have it if you visit.  But you'll have to look hard for paper towels or Kleenex.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Giving in to the easy way

Sometimes my pride makes me stubborn.  I feel like that's been the case with a gratitude journal the past couple of weeks.  I've been reading "One Thousand Gifts" along with about a million other people (mostly women) on incourage, and this week's chapter was on starting the gift list.

I've already started mine, but haven't been super motivated to continue it.  I realized today that this is, in part, to wanting to be a bitter person.  I want to be miserable, and I want to blame it on other people.  How Christian of me.

I also realized that it's in part, due to my making it too difficult on myself by trying to keep the gratitude journal mainly online (as in, here, on this blog).  When I notice something that really ought to be here, I don't want to take the time to turn on the computer, wait for it to boot and internet to start, bring up this webpage and type it in (I'd have probably forgotten it by then, and assumed that I was turning on the computer to check my email, get distracted and totally derail my day).

I'm realizing that the more I work on computers, the less I really want my life on the computer.  So I bought a notebook.  As in, one with lined paper.  That notebook is now dedicated to keeping my gratitude list, which will from time to time be placed here too.  But it's main home is going to be in pencil or pen, on paper, in this notebook.

I had to do that with Bible reading too.  Instead of reading each day and blogging about it (like I wanted to do, really I did, and even started for a while).  It's much easier for me to read, with a pen and a notebook and just write down my observations.  It's so much more portable, and just easier in every way.  Technology is not always the way to make life easier.....

So that's that.  Just thought I'd write it on line since I was here anyway.

Oh, and I'm hoping it'll take care of the wanting to be a bitter person and blame it on others problem too.  I'm told that an appropriate sense of gratitude can allow God to work miracles like that.  Something about repentance and the like.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One Thousand Gifts and Hezekiah

I began reading One Thousand gifts this afternoon.  I like Ann's writing in book form even better (much better) than on her blog.  And it's good there, don't get me wrong.  But here, it's, well, almost perfect.

I'll warn you that I'm generally the intellectual, not the emotional (perhaps that's why I work well in computer programming for the Structural Steel world).  And so what sticks out to me in these chapters is likely to be something that makes me think, more than something that makes me feel. 

That said, there's nothing short-charged about feeling in this first chapter.  It's a heart-wrencher.  Is there anything worse than children dying?  Anything? (If so, no, I don't want to know!)

After I stopped crying, what sticks with me the most though, is the words of John (Ann's brother in law, who buried both of his very young sons within two years' time).  I hope you don't mind if I just quote them:
"'Well, even with our boys...I don't know why that all happened.'  He shrugs again. 'But do I have to?... Who knows?  I don't mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament.  Can't remember what book, but you know -- when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life?  Because he prayed for it?  But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born.  And what does the bible say about Manasseh?  Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel.  Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born.  I'm not saying anything, either way, about anything." ......  "Just that maybe...maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds.'
There's a  reason I am not writing the story and God is.  He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means.  I don't.
...  "maybe ... I guess .. it's accepting there are things we simply don't understand.  But He does."

If there's nothing else brilliant in this book, (which I doubt), I'm satisfied.   This quote just might change my life.  I so look forward to reading more of your journey, Ann.

I suspect I'll re-read this chapter this week.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life in an Emergency

I was extra-blessed this past week to receive a free copy of One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  The copy was part of a give-away by Day Spring.  Thank you!

The book is accompanied by a series of interviews with the author, and yesterday I watched the trailer and the introduction interview.

The trailer blew me away.  It was exactly what I would expect from reading Ann's blog, full, rich, with beautiful pictures.  I didn't want to miss a bit of it.  And it hit me hard "Life is not an emergency".  Instead, it's made up of moments.  Gifts from God, these moments are, strung together into a love song, made so that I would notice them, realize that I'm loved by God Himself, and respond in thanksgiving and return love.  Yes, yes.  It's so true.  It's me that is hurried, rushed, and simply blind to these moments.  And it's because I live life as an emergency.

How can I change?  How can I stop being too busy to notice?  Or, at least, if I notice, too busy to take the time to stop, catalog these, and say the simplest and meagerest of "Thank You" to the Creator God.

That's where I am right now.  Living life in emergency.  I want that to change.

In the introduction interview with Ann, I was struck by how human she is.  She's nervous, almost flighty.   Not as put together as she is in writing (fancy that).  And thin (after six kids!).  I can relate to her (except the thin part).  I suspect she's even close to my age, though her kids are older than mine (I married quite a bit later than she did).  Thanks for being relate-able Ann!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

House rules

Lisel decided that we need some rules around here, so she wrote some.

They read:
"DONT FIT" (fight)
"DONT WIP WITH NECLISES" (whip with necklaces)

Not a bad list. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A theme for the new year

A year ago, not far from this time, I heard on K-Love about choosing one word for the new year.  They were all doing it, and I thought it was weird and cheesy.  I most particularly didn't want to choose a word theme for the new year.  And yet, I was strangely attracted to the idea of having a theme for the year, and kept pondering that if I WERE to name the year, what would a good name be?

Then I came across Ann Voskamp's blog.  She names the years.  At the time, she had just named the new year the year of "Yes".  And that was her theme for the year.  (She had names past years "Eucharisto" and "Communion" if I remember right.  I might be wrong....)  Anyway, she must be much more stylish than K-Love in my mind, because I instantly wanted to name the year.

And it's name became "Rejoice".  I knew that God had been telling me to learn to rejoice in now, not just grit my teeth and try to get through now in anticipation of "someday" being better.  And so I learned.  Or at least tried.  I learned to savor moments with my kids now.  I learned to put the effort into making my house a pleasant place here.  And I learned to enjoy my tasks, especially the parenting related ones, in a whole new level.  This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

A few weeks ago, it became time to think about naming the new year.  It was mid-December, and I was feeling distracted with so much do to -- gifts to make, projects to finish, cookies to bake, so that we can all enjoy this special time.  I felt like I was on a rat race going nowhere.  And what was really important was becoming second to finishing projects.

As I thought, the only word that really presented itself to me was "relationship".  Relationships are to be my priority, not getting things done.  Since when is it okay to ignore my kids in order to catch up on my friends' Facebook statuses?  When did all my marriage conversations become the type that just communicate information: "I have meat in the fridge thawing for dinner".  When was the last time I really felt like God was my friend?

I didn't want to name the year "relationship".  It felt too convicting.  But the word kept getting reiterated to me.  Sunday sermons would focus on showing grace to each other as we relate in this messy world.  My kids would demonstrate that they really wanted my full attention, not mutters in the middle of something else.  I missed my husband.

So, after a while of resisting, Relationship is has become.  I want to treat my relationship with God like a real relationship -- making sure to spend time with him (either in prayer or reading or writing or memorizing or all of these).  I want to think about Him and have conversations with Him.  I want to play with my husband, not just work all the time.  I want to really be here with my kids, not distracted by the internet.  And I want to spend the time and effort to develop friendships, honest friendships that help me grow, rather than always being too busy.

It's a tall order, I know.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snow Sunday

It's a snow day today. Church is closed, leaving us with an open, unplanned day ahead of us. Outside is below zero, covered in pristine snow. And while the sky was the most opaque white-gray yesterday, today it's an icy clear blue.

The kids, after being brokenhearted last night over canceled church,  are excited for our "Sunday school at home", reminding me of the different things we've done in the past for such days. "Remember when we made fish from paper and paper clips and then went fishing?" "Can we sing lots of songs?" "What are we going to do for the craft?".

Chester decides to try a breakfast experiment, and makes a batch of ginger-bread flavored bagels. Of course they turn out delicious, and breakfast is made more special with cinnamon hot cocoa and marshmallows.

I'm trying to think of a Bible lesson to go with ice and snow. And a craft too. And coming up empty. Then I overhear the kids' conversation about how God knows the number of hairs on our heads, and decide to go with Luke 12:6-7 instead. Chester teaches the story, and we start a bird craft. We talk about how we know and love each of our chickens, but God knows and loves us even more than that. 

While the paint dries on our bird puppets, it's decided that now is the best time to "break our backs". That is, go sledding. I stay home with Tommy.  We snuggle, and he plays the guitar and sings along.  Then he gets out a board book, and reads the story to me, in his baby babble.  I notice that he's covered with paint, and now it's dry.  I guess this nice shirt is now a paint shirt.  I should probably mind, because it's one of two nice shirts that he had that fit him.  But I don't.  It's a lazy day, and I feel content.

We make lunch together, creamy tomato soup, and wait for the family to return from their sledding adventures.

holy experience

111. Long underwear
112. Ice-frosted weeds (wish I had a picture!)
113. Kids who love church so much that they cried their eyes out when it was cancelled tomorrow.
114.  Saturday night music practice, held as usual in the basement, at request of the kids (even though I wasn't scheduled to do music tomorrow anyway).

115. The Mondrian dress is finished and shipped.  Whew!  (There's 30 individual pieces in this dress). 

116. Instant gratification sewing projects!

117. Snuggling with my boys on lazy mornings.
118. A found jar of molasses, when cleaning out the cupboards!
119. Ginger snap cookies.
120. Ginger bread bagels.
121. All the kids favorite worship songs.
122. Singing at the tops of our lungs in the basement (so I can play piano to the singing.... not that you could hear the piano...)
123. Musical instruments, (that is, shakers, tambourines, drums and guitars), played as loudly as possible for the above songs.
124.  Baby songs.
125.  Furniture that isn't so nice that I'm bothered when I notice the kids painted it in addition to their craft.
126.  "Helpful" toddlers. 
127.  Wisdom that comes from experience telling me that someday the kids "helpfulness" really will be helpful.  Bennet loves to help by shoveling snow, for example.
128.  Crock pot suppers, making the day even more lazy.
129.  Sledding adventures, that didn't include a broken back.
130. Peek a boo between Dad and Tommy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thousand gifts, part 8

A start of a new year brings the freshness of snow, and the relived memories of building snow forts, making snow ice cream, and shoveling.  This time, I'm the Mom, introducing my kids to the delicacy.  Sure, some of them remember it from this time last year.  But it's still a super special treat.

Bennet has grown up enough since last year that he doesn't even ask if I want him to shovel.  I go outside to scoop the walk, and he won't let me.  He doesn't want me to get worn out.  So he shovels it, after having shoveled the entire driveway.  The driveway was scooped with a goal:  make a pile of snow big enough and packed down enough for a fort.

It was a successful engineering venture.

holy experience

91. Husband willing helping friends put up their new swing set - an all day project
92. Husband willing helping me with homeschooling two children
93. The freedom to homeschool two children.
94. Local AWANA program, that the kids eagerly await each week
95. Kids able to read and memorize their own verses in the Sparks book.
96. No women's Bible study during AWANA this semester means a date with Jesus for me.  Bliss.
97. Winter snow days (not that we skipped school...).
98. Little engineers and mechanics - experimenting and building.
99. A day or so of warm enough weather to enjoy it before it really got cold.  Brr!
100.  Bennet loving to shovel! 
101.  My husband patient enough to push me out not once, but twice, after I got our little car stuck.

102. A healed perspective on life.  I'm liking it again, seems the blues are lifting.
103. A finished Mondrian dress (version 2)  Pics to come!
104. Sewing for pleasure again.
105. Instant sewing project means a new nice warm wool skirt for me.  Properly nerdy too!  (And yes, more pics to come)

106. Winter evening games of Apples to Apples with the kids.
107. And two kids reading well enough to be their own teams -- now we have four.
108. Opportunities to train kids to be good sports about winning and losing.
109. Big brothers deliberately helping the underdog.
110.  Snow ice cream.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My experience with herbal remedies for depression

If you've known me very long, or read this blog much, you know that I tend to prefer the home remedy (that is ideally also natural) to visiting the doctor.  We have a standing joke at our home that I don't take a sick kid to the doctor unless I honestly believe that they might not fully recover.

So it follows that I would do research on depression.  In reality, I think most of my research on herbal ways to treat depression was in an effort not to admit that I was struggling with depression.

I haven't, ever, taken much in any attempt to treat depression.  This is mostly due to two reasons. 1) Any depression I've fought has always been somewhat mild.  2) I've been breastfeeding or pregnant for over eight consecutive years now.

That said, my research into treating depression herbally yielded one fact that surprised me.  Not that it'll surprise you -- I'm just a dunce.

Depression is treated as "fatigue".

Now, when I think about it, especially recently, I've felt like life really sucks.  And I've realized that it feels this way because I'm tired.  Really really tired.  And when you're tired, you lack motivation to keep doing anything.  It all gets blah.

It makes me wonder if having hope requires a certain amount of energy.

Anyway, enough blabbering, on to the herbs.  Here's what's recommended by the green book:

Gotu Kola
Peppermint leave
Ginger root

When I'm pregnant or nursing, I feel comfortable taking a ginger root and kelp blend with a tiny amount of cayenne in it.  I don't feel comfortable taking a very big amount of cayenne when I'm pregnant.   This blend helps me when I'm feeling low on energy and cold.  I'm hoping to increase the amount of cayenne in it now that I'm not pregnant and very nearly done nursing.

Ginger root is also great for pregnancy nausea -- by far the best thing I've found for it yet.  I buy it as a candy and suck it.  Yum!

And peppermint tea is wonderful all by itself.

I have never tried ginseng or gotu kola.  But I think I'll plan to pick up some ginseng next time I visit the bulk herbs store.  From my meager amount of research, it's kind of a "good for whatever ails ye" herb.

I've had wonderful results from taking bee pollen for mild depression.  You can get it in capsules or in bulk powder.  I get it in capsules.  I would describe it's effect as just taking the edge off.  It gives a small boost in energy -- just enough so that I can function again.  It's very much safe during breastfeeding.  But not so much during pregnancy.  It's been associated with preterm labor, and I also had preterm labor when I took it while pregnant (though I suspect that it was because I overdid it with the energy boost).

Web searches will point you to the popular St. John's Wart for depression.  And while I know very little about it, it's supposed to work well.  I also noted that folic acid (Vitamin B9) is reported to be low in depressed individuals -- so eat your dark leafy greens!   Finally, fish oil was suggested as aiding in recovery from depression.  I found this humorous, since I've been taking fish oil regularly for the first time this winter, and have struggled more this winter with depression (or at least negative thoughts) than for a long time.  But fish oil is good for you, whether or not it actually helps in this way.

Honestly, though, this is only a small portion of the ammunition to fight the battle for your mind.  Learn to take your thoughts captive, and try some of my other suggestions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Staying crazy in a depressing world

I wanted to call this post "Staying sane in a crazy world"  But then I realized that not many who know me would actually consider me not crazy.

As one who has struggled with post-partum depression, I thought I'd share a few of the things that I've used over the past four (nearly five now) years to avoid re-entering depression.  They're things you'd probably find on any site talking about depression, especially post-partum depression and Christian sites.  But I think that perhaps it'll be slightly valuable to share my experience anyway - even if only to give glory to God for what He's done and is doing in my life.

I've heard it said that 100 percent of depression is anger turned inward.  I think it was this that kept me from admitting that I was depressed, even to myself, when I was.  I didn't want to admit that I was angry.  I'm not sure I had any idea that I was angry.  I'm not convinced that's true by the way.  Some depression, especially post-partum - really can be horomonal.  But mine was related to anger.

At the time, I'd been married a couple of years, had two babies, a very busy husband and high expectations of what both he and I and my life should be like.  He, in particular, didn't live up to my fairy tale ideas (neither did I, but my thoughts were more accusing toward him).  I was just finding out that the man I was married to wasn't the same as the man I thought I had married.  (Never mind that I wasn't the same either.  Marriage changes you).

That began about two years in the dimness of a mild depression.  It wasn't major, and I don't think it's really necessary to go into what the depression looked like for me.  I'm guessing that everyone's depression is a bit different.  Mine was mostly negative thoughts and lack of energy/ambition.

When it lifted, though, my life changed, and I recognized that I needed to take steps to reduce the likelihood of ever going back there.  Here's some of the steps I've taken (or things I've learned), in no particular order.
  • I started doing something outside of what had been my world (that is, the house).  I had to find something that I didn't have to do as a wife and mother, but that made me feel like I was doing good.  For me, this was taking a part time job - it used my mind, took advantage of my education, and gave me something that I could be good at.  It's pretty easy in a home to see a lot of failure in yourself and others. Now when I think about this for others, I think that volunteering somewhere is almost the perfect solution.  I needed to get out of myself and do some good for someone else.
  • Recognize when I'm vulnerable.  For me it's not so much a certain time of the month as when I'm tired.  It goes without saying that the most tiring times are just after having a baby, so I'm susceptible to post-partum depression.
  • Get some exercise.  When my fifth baby was born, I felt especially on the brink of going down again.  He had a lot of preemie problems, and it would have been easy to blame myself for them.  I had troubles maintaining a house and work, and had financial worries too.  So I started walking every day, just a short distance.  The fresh air and circulating blood and mini-escape really do wonders.
  • Eat right.  Pay attention to what you've been eating when you start to get depressed.  Sugar sends me down.  Usually in the form of chocolate.  Not that I'll give up chocolate, but at least I recognize it, right?
  • Own the anger.  Learn to forgive.  You cant forgive if you won't admit there's a problem.  In my case, there really wasn't -- he wasn't sinning against me.  But I still had to forgive him.  Most people have real wrongs to forgive, and people that don't deserve forgiving.  Jesus asks us to forgive them because He forgave us.  We can do this for Him.  And He helps us.
  • Focus on others.  Intentionally bless someone else.  I remember it taking all my energy to go visit a neighbor during this time.  It still amazes me how much that visit meant both to her and to me.  Yes, this is really the first one again.  I really think God created us to live not a self-centered life, and that we stay sane when we do so.
  • Be thankful.  Romans 1:18-21 is, I think, a root of many bad things, especially divorce.  Here's the progression.  1) forget to honor God as God (ie, He's the center of the universe, not me), 2) stop giving thanks 3) become futile in your thinking - "it's no use", "he'll always be like this" - this is actually losing hope 4) darkening of your foolish mind.  Yep.  The great thing about this progression is that it's reversible.  Starting to notice all the little gifts God gives is a way to honor God as God.  Suddenly things aren't so hopeless.
  • Remember that God sees.  Matthew 6 talks about God seeing when we fast, or give, or pray.  It encourages us to do good in secret.  My problem was that my doing good was too secret.  No one in their right mind really cared how many diapers I changed in a day, and I wanted some affirmation.  I had to learn the truth that God does see.  And more than that, He notices.  He notices that I changed that diaper with patience and love, not a spiteful attitude.  He notices that I was up three times last night and am really trying not to be snippy this morning.  And he rewards those deeds done in secret.  It's worth doing things just because God will see them.  This has saved me from becoming bitter dozens of times.  It's far better to let the anger go (especially the petty anger, which is usually my problem), knowing that God sees how hard it is to let it go and will reward it.
  • Memorize scripture.  It gives your mind something to do when you're too upset (or too wired from the chocolate) to sleep, or when you'd rather stew on your anger that you won't admit you have.... not that I know anything about this of course!
  • Do something to improve your situation.  I read this quote on, and now I can't find it.  It was something to the affect that someone who lived for a long time surviving in the wilderness said that the key to staying sane in long term intense situations is to always be doing something to better your situation.  I wish I could find that quote.  Last weekend I was having a huge pity party -- life just doesn't work out like I wish it would sometimes, you know?  I was in the bathroom pitying myself to tears, and remembered this admonition.  I ended up re-arranging furniture, and the new arrangement really is helping life be more smooth.  Not only did it give me some needed physical exertion, but it improved my situation. 
  • Set aside a regular time and place to pray.  Beth Moore suggested this as a key to staying sane as a Christian businesswoman.  I think  it's key to a lot of things, businesswomen are just so busy that it's more obvious.  For me, I didn't have a place, and it kept me from really taking the time.  So I instituted the morning walk.  That's my place and time to pray.  Nothing else.  Well, except walk.  I don't use it to review my memory work, or to stew about problem or to plan my day.  Instead I notice the trees and thank God for their unique shapes, and pour out my heart (that is, my whining) to Him and such.  It's a good way to start the day.  I wish I did it more regularly, but now that it's cold, I usually stay in bed.
  • Write.  Blogging has become a good emotional balancer for me.  I have a private blog for things to public to write here, but most things that I take the time to write out are actually here.  It forces me to thing through things in something that seems to me like a logical manner.  And it gets things out of my system. 
  • Vent. I used to think that if I said something (or otherwise got some frustration or worry out of my system), it would make my fake problem more real, give me more credence to be mad and just make everything worse.  I'm learning that's not the case.  If I can vent while remaining respectful (this is a delicate skill), then it can be very good and helpful.  My husband is a good listener, and will let me work through something verbally to him.  I don't use this often, but the few times I have, it has been helpful.  The key for me is to do it in a way that is still respectful and kind and even honoring.  Which is probably why I rarely use it.  
  • control your mental input. I had to learn that I don't stay sane if I watch the news. It's too scary for me, it makes me paranoid. Do what's necessary to "take every thought captive", and prevent the bad ones from dominating.  
  • Keep a sense of humor. Enjoying a good laugh lifts a lot of stress.
Okay, that's it for tonight.  I need to go to bed.