H is for Hope

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

H was supposed to be for hydrate. When I am adequately hydrated, I have more focus, am less irritable, and have more energy. All of this things are good for keeping my stress levels down. I’ve also learned that it takes much more than the standard “8 glasses a day” to keep me hydrated. For me, it take closer to 3.5 quarts. Seriously. More if it’s really hot or I’m working really hard. But, for some reason, I struggle to keep myself hydrated. I was going to talk about ways to work on getting all that water in me every day.

Josh and Ben standing on the edge of Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga, TN

Josh and Ben standing on the edge of Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga, TN

But I changed my mind. Because, for me, at this point in the A to Z challenge, H is for hope.

I have learned so much about myself in the last couple of weeks. I had really dug myself into a deep, deep rut. If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might remember that in the past 5 years I have either been working outside of the home or attending graduate school while I homeschool my kiddos. For two of those years there was an overlap when I was doing all three things. I wouldn’t take those crazy years back for anything, but I really developed some bad habits during that period of my life. Apparently, those habits have stuck with me. My life was so frazzled and so hectic during that time. Things have calmed down a lot since I resigned and graduated, but I haven’t. I’m still acting like I’m running around with my hair on fire.

Working through this challenge and blogging about ways to reduce my stress has really caused me to ponder how I got this stressed out in the first place, what’s maintaining this level of stress, and, obviously, what I can do about it. Spending all this time thinking about these things has really been good for me.

I have felt like I have been drowning for so long. For the first time in a long time, I’m remembering that I know how to swim. I have confidence that I can conquer this stress and regain some sanity, both for me and my family. I’m finally remembering that I am in charge of my life, it’s not in charge of me. For the first time in a long time, I feel really hopefully about today and all the days to come.

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Your Body Is A Wonderland

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Image credit: http://theguidingstarproject.com/ “Don’t be afraid of your body. Take the time to listen to it and understand how it really works. There are thousands of wonderful resources out there to help you feel more comfortable with yourself and teach you about how amazing you really are.”

Although I always enjoyed the John Mayer song of the same name, this graphic gave me a new appreciation for the phrase. My body is indeed a wonderland. It is not in need of alteration of any kind, neither cosmetic, nor chemical. While this graphic is clearly aimed at the oppressive lie that women need to regularly ingest chemicals in order to live up to their real potential, the message is broader than that.

Feminists have a loud voice in the world. I am very grateful for many of their accomplishments. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, they got it all wrong. At some point feminists decided that in order to prove the value, worth, and dignity of women, we needed to renounce that which makes us women. I can understand how this started. As an effort to gain equality with men in the eyes of society, they sought to prove that women could be like men. They felt the need to prove themselves capable of that which they had been deemed incapable.

While this approach has achieved many victories for women, it is fundamentally flawed. It’s basic message is that’s a woman’s worth lies in the fact that she can be like a man. I find that unbelievably insulting! My worth results from my femininity, not in spite of it. Maybe that’s why feminists often seem so angry and bitter. They may not be able to put words to it, but they must sense that what they are fighting for is not accomplishing what they intend.

Enter the new feminist movement. New Feminism recognizes and affirms that women are different from men. One only need to open a biology book to recognize this truth. New Feminism allows us to be women without shame. We don’t have to hide or renounce who we are and how our bodies work to believe we are equal in dignity and value to the man sitting next to us at the conference room table. New Feminism acknowledges that a woman’s strength lies in the fact that she is a woman, not in her ability to conform herself to be like a man.

I long for this movement to take hold over and above the traditional feminist movement. When it does, great things will happen. Imagine the world when women are valued for who they really are. In this world: we won’t have to fight for adequate birthing conditions in hospitals. We won’t be shamed for nursing a baby in public. We won’t be forced to chose between our career and our health after the birth of a child. We won’t have our pumped milk x-rayed, dumped out, or endure public humiliation in order to nourish our children. We won’t be told by nearly every doctor in the country that the only way to control the gift of our fertility is by ingesting dangerous chemicals or undergoing surgery. We wouldn’t feel guilty about “wasting our education” by choosing to be stay at home moms, yet feel equally as guilty about choosing to work outside the home. When femininity is valued for the great gift it really is, we will stop finding our worth in the reflection we see in the mirror and we will stop treating other women as our enemies. We won’t judge our value based on the cleanliness of our homes  or how we measure up to the items we pin on pinterest.

I want feminism redefined. I want more than what women have accepted as progress. I want more for me and especially for my daughter. I want my daughter to know that her body, her feelings, and her aspirations are not a mistakes. She is fearfully and wonderfully made, and I want her to behave like it.

good enough

Quick Takes: A Family Update

Once again, I’ve neglected and abandoned my blog. It’s a good think I don’t treat our gardens the same way I do my little space on the web.  Both for the sake of time and for lack of anything important or interesting to say, I thought I’d do my first ever “quick takes” entry.

1. After a lengthy hiatus, we’re back on the DIY/home improvement bandwagon. I, for one, am thrilled. I just can’t get enough of working in the yard. Sadly, our yard is small, and most projects are quickly completed. I desperately want to extend our patio and add some stone retaining walls to our beds, but I don’t yet have the confidence to tackle those projects myself or the budget to hire them out. Alas, I stick to simple gardening and the likes. Inside, I just bought new paint to cover the “turkey puke” I pasted all over our living room and foyer. While I can’t wait to get the new paint on the walls, neither my hubby nor I are thrilled about painting. It’s definitely not a project that either of us enjoy.

2. We’ve officially made the decision to homeschool and we’re not turning back. I’ve been waffling back and forth for over a year now. Laughably, one of my biggest fears all along was what people would think/say when they found out. I felt like so much about our little family was already off the beaten path, and I knew that announcing we were homeschooling would officially make us weirdos. I’m finally getting a little more confident about sharing this information, as evidenced by this public announcement. Weirdos or not, this is what we believe is best for our family.

3. Despite my dislike and distrust of too much tv time, the addition of a DVR in our home has resulted in some new tv addictions on my part. Some are embarrassing, like American Idol and Teen Mom 2, some are late, like The Office, and some are just hysterical like Police Women of ___________. Luckily, Josh has never taken issue with vegging out in front of the idiot box, so he’s happy to accommodate my new-found fascinations in the evening.

4. I’m in love with my job, but I literally don’t have time to breathe. And adjusting to both parents working is a topic for another entry. Maybe even a series of them. Being a mom that works outside of the home, I am now more convinced than ever that the ideal situation is for mom to be at home with the kids. But, for whatever reason, Josh and I are both wholeheartedly convinced that the Lord put me in this position and would like me to stay there for the time being. We’re both curious to see just how long the “time being” actually is.

5. Ben is ENORMOUS! He’s nearly 10 months old! I truly don’t know where the time has gone. He got his fourth tooth today, but only having four doesn’t slow him down at all. He will literally eat anything I eat. Of course, most of it requires a little modification to make it safe for him, but he inhales it all. Despite the fact that he routinely out-eats me, he’s only in the tenth percentile for weight. The doctor doesn’t like that at all, but I could care less. He’s happy, healthy and meeting his developmental milestones. Who cares how he stacks up against the other kids his age? That being said, he’s in the 95 percentile for height. Maybe we’ll be traveling to watch him play in the Final Four one day!

6. Speaking of Final Fours, this year was such a waste! Worst. Game. Ever.

7. I’ve been a total slacker this Lent. I chose my Lenten sacrifice and I’ve stuck with it, but I haven’t really opened myself up to big spiritual growth like I did last year. There’s sill time to though…and it’s not like Lent is the only time to grow spiritually… I don’t mean to sound nonchalant, because I’m not at all. As I so often do, I’m just rationalizing my shortcomings. It’s easier to deal with that way, right?

8. I’ve been on the hunt for cute, modest, flattering swimwear. It’s impossible! I have no desire to be covered completely from neck to knee on the beach, but I also have no desire to be fully revealed either. Surely there must be another option besides being naked, wearing the same bathing suit as my grandmother, and swimming in sweatsuits??

Well, things are beginning to unravel here, a clear sign that Mommy’s attention has been diverted for a few minutes too long, so that’s it for now. Have a great weekend everyone!

To work or not to work…

youth-villages-logoI got a phone call from Youth Villages the other day asking me to come in and interview for a position in their research department. I am beyond excited because I am IN LOVE with Youth Villages and everything they stand for. I’m passionate about children, and seeing them live successfully with their families is indescribably rewarding.

During college, I did four internships with YV and anxiously awaited the day I would have a full time position. But life happened. Between Andy’s arrival and moving to Texas, I haven’t had the opportunity to be involved with them since my last internship.

The most exciting thing about the position I’m being considered for is it’s part-time. I’m really reluctant to leave my babies, so that’s a major benefit. Being a part-time position at a nonprofit organization, the pay is practically nonexistent. More than likely, once we pay the childcare expenses we incur, we’ll be bringing in the exact same amount of money we are today. Basically, if I were to take this on, it would be solely for the personal satisfaction that comes with working for an organization you believe in. I have no problem with that because I love Youth Villages that much. I would volunteer my time to mop their floors if it meant it would benefit the children in direct care.

Anyway, what it boils down to is I have to chose between my babies and this job. I know that’s sounds a little dramatic, but that’s what it feels like. When I consider the list of pros and cons there’s really only one of each.

Pro: I’d be working at further improving an organization that already does a stellar job of improving children’s lives.

Con: I’d be missing precious moments with the boys.

When I was working Texas, leaving Andy was the worst part of my day. Now that I’m home with Jack, I see how many little moments I truly did miss with him. I feel like I cheated Andy and myself out of time we could have been spending together.

I have every intention of pursuing a masters degree and going back to work one day. I’m just not sure if one day should be today.

I hadn’t intended on going back to work until Jack went to kindergarten. I’m not worried about the care they’d be receiving in my absence. I feel like we have some good childcare options and for the first 4-6 weeks Josh’s mom will be keeping them. I just don’t know if I’m ready to give up all of those little moments that make my heart smile. I have until Thursday to decide. What’s a mom to do….