Friday, November 30, 2007

Show and Tell Friday: my diary


diary
Originally uploaded by Anna's musings
Hello everyone! So lovely to "see" you here again, for another Show and Tell Friday. I hope you all have the most fabulous weekend ahead. If you feel like joining in the fun, be sure to head over to Kelli's blog . I'm sure glad I did – it's so wonderful to look around every week, pick up things that have been trivialized by mundane life, and realize each one actually has a beautiful story behind it, waiting to be told.

This week, I'm going to show you… my first blog. You know, from the time when blogging was done privately, with a pen and paper… and was known as writing a diary.

I have been writing diaries since I was 9 years old, and I still have them all. I have found that nothing gives me clarity of mind like writing down private thoughts and emotions, then reading through them, thinking, analyzing, praying and reaching a new level of understanding. It's also fascinating to step back and watch how our thoughts evolve through time. Yes, I still keep a journal – blogging has replaced my diary for day-to-day activities and most of my musings, and all your lovely comments are such a fantastic bonus – I truly feel I can't thank all you ladies enough for reaching out to me and becoming dear friends – but there are still many things too private for publishing them online, for the world to see. And yet I feel the need to write them down. So once in a while, I scribble away in my diary with great enjoyment, writing down thoughts for no audience but God's all-penetrating eye.

Have you ever kept a diary? Do you still do that?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: The Question

In today's post, we will start to examine a question most dedicated daughters in an unsupportive family eventually struggle with: "my parents want me to work. My father doesn't see himself responsible for me. That's unfortunate, but what do I do?"

I think it's very important to understand that in the vast majority of cases, the parents' disagreement with their daughter's home-focused direction isn't rooted in their wanting to make her miserable. Parents generally want the best for their children. But if you are a young lady in your teens or twenties, it means your parents probably belong to a generation which received a strong dose of feminism as a part of their upbringing in the 60's or 70's. This influences how they view the role of a young woman in her unmarried years.

Like I said earlier, I believe it is the father's duty to provide for his daughters until they marry. However, along with many other unfortunate changes in our mindset, a young woman who 'doesn't go out and do her own thing' is considered socially unacceptable. I do want to keep my eyes on the ideals – restoring the Biblical family unit. Right now, however, as we approach the second part of this series, I'd like us to examine together a few practical solutions that can help you on your path.

You can suggest a 'trial period' to your parents. If by now you have made your work a valuable and important part of keeping the household running smoothly, I'm sure it will be missed! Next time you have to eat a microwave dinner, or the floors are dirty, or a certain need of your parents is unattended because the daughter who used to dedicate herself to home is now at work, might just be the time for them to re-evaluate their decision. Now, I'm not suggesting that if you work outside the home, you become a slacker at home on purpose. You should still try and help as much as you can. But there's literally no way you can continue putting in the same amount of work, and if you did your job well, it will be noticed.

However, I feel I should say right away that if after all the reasoning, your parents still insist that you get a job or go to college, I think you should obey their authority. This is actually the most difficult part of the challenge you're facing: you don't want to compromise your convictions – but if you set out in open rebellion against your parents' wishes, you've already done that!

Having said that, let us move - hopefully, next week - on to the next posts, which will contain practical ways how you can be a financial asset, rather than a burden, to your family, and explore a few simple options to earn money from home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lost in cyberspace

Lately I received complaints from several ladies about comments they posted but didn't see published. As you know, I use comment moderation, but normally, I only delete comments that I see as personally insulting, wicked, disrespectful, too argumentative, or potentially hurtful to other guests. If your comment doesn't appear, but you can't see it as fitting into one of the categories above, you are most welcome to re-post it, or even send it to my email. Of course if it's very long you might want to save it in advance. I know this can be frustrating.

I had big plans for today, but sometimes, a little flu can turn your routine upside down. So I'm taking things slow. And that's fine. I'm going to listen to the needs of my body and focus on rest and recuperation. Tomorrow I'm hoping to publish the next post of "Dedicated Daughters". I wish you all a lovely day/evening!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Go out there and help the poor!

"If you want to be a godly woman, you should go out and help the poor and needy, instead of spending your days polishing the bathroom sink."

***

This, my friends, is the first time I get such a scorching remark in response to a post about cleaning and home organization; a milestone! Most of the negative comments I receive come as a reply to my posts about feminism, masculine leadership and the role of women.

But, as I already said several times, while I have no intention to allow a hostile spirit in my comments section, even personal insults can be a blessing if they cause me to stop, think, and double- and triple-check my attitude, which is precisely what I'm going to do now.

Not to brag, but just to clarify, I will say that I definitely support – and practice – helping others and extending the hand of fellowship to those who need it. As someone who experienced the overwhelming kindness of strangers, how can I not? In the past few years, I volunteered in the local community center; tutored a sick child without receiving any payment, for many months; baked for charity events; collected and donated used clothes and other items; no, I'm not saying I do enough – but one never stops growing, isn't that so?

However, here's something I have a problem with: the idea that it is acceptable (or even encouraged) to neglect the needs of our most loved ones, the people closest to us, the ones God entrusted us with – our family – in order to go out and do something 'for the greater good'.

This might ruffle someone's feathers, but I think that if my home is dirty and messy, meals aren't provided on time, the refrigerator is empty, the dirty laundry hamper is overflowing, and I haven't spent quality time with my family, or neglected my spiritual life, for a while now – this means something is wrong! I'll even tell you what: from the best intentions, from trying to do as much good as I possibly can, I end up doing harm.

Please note that I'm not referring to emergencies. If I see an injured stranger who needs a ride to the hospital, I'll drop my grocery bag or brush and mop or whatever I'm doing at the moment, and I will help. But if, for instance, I volunteer in the local elders club, while my Grandma stays home alone, her needs unattended, I just don't see how this can be right.

I remember this story I heard once, about a man who was asked, 'what does your wife do?' to which he replied, 'she takes care of unwanted children'. Some nodded approvingly, but then his honesty got the better of him and he added: 'the children are our own, and well, if she didn't take care of them, they would be unwanted!'

Don't get me wrong; if you can fit volunteering (or any other activity) in your life without your immediate duties suffering and without living in a hectic, crazy pace, that's wonderful. But if you have a family, you have obligations – a daughter to her elderly parents, a wife to her husband, a mother to her children; for them, you are irreplaceable. Without taking care of those who need you the most, you cannot have peace and order in your life. And if you don't have that, how can you bring it to others?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: no one to teach you the basics of household management?

Dream of being a domestic queen, but in your family, dusting hasn't been a habit for as long as you can remember? Have aspirations to become the family chef, but can't boil an egg? Would love to make your own clothes, but can't fix a loose button?

I've been there and done that. Now, my mother is actually quite good at everything that has to do with cleaning, cooking, gardening and even sewing and crafts – but lacked the time to teach me all those things properly. For as long as I remember, she has worked full time to support our family due to the absence of my father – unfortunately, not an uncommon situation. And so I reached the age of twenty without having a clue about household management. I couldn't cook, let alone bake; my cleaning was pitiful and if you asked me to compose a shopping list, you'd get a good laugh.

In the area of cooking and baking, I was lucky – since I was studying nutrition at that time, we had cooking classes on our study program, and I gladly took advantage of them. We were taught a variety of valuable cooking techniques, as well as baking and canning and – something that I think is very important – experimenting with recipes and tweaking ingredients in order to make healthier food, or to use up what you have on hand rather than what you would need to buy. Experimenting led me to my share of kitchen disasters, true – but also resulted in some great improvements!

The ideal situation, of course, would be to find a patient, skilled and experienced older woman who would be willing to take you under her wing and teach you. I understand this isn't always possible, though. Even if you've never been near a mop or held a needle in your life, it doesn't mean you can't become, eventually, a great homemaker. In fact, I know you can – I got the hang of it, and it's not like I had any special skills. All you need is a little determination, creativity and willingness to take the plunge. There's a variety of online resources where you can find step-by-step instructions for anything you can possibly think of.

***

In the area of household organization, home-management binders are wonderfully helpful – especially if you, like me, are a terribly unorganized person who needs lots and lots of assistance to get on the right track when it comes to home management. Here's a brief description of the sections in my simple yet very practical home-management binder:

1) Home. This one holds my weekly shopping list, to-do lists, and of course, coupons. I compiled two master to-do lists for myself. One for basic daily chores (wash dishes, make sure laundry is caught up, take out garbage etc...) and one with reminders for shopping/cleaning days. I also compiled a master shopping list, which I can check if I'm confused about the weekly shopping list. This section also contains a few FlyLady tips and inspirational homemaking quotes. That's a section that helps me 'stay tuned' in the more basic things.

2) Long-term projects. Here I keep a list of all my projects that take a longer time to complete, and are less crucial to basic household management. For example: re-organizing the kitchen cabinets, polishing silverware, mending clothes; and also, little packages of seeds I'm going to plant, my crafts list and blog post/other writing projects ideas. This is a section I check out if I'm left with some idle time on my hands; it usually turns out I have numerous planned projects I just forgot about.

3) Food. Here are my menu ideas and new recipes that are waiting to be tried. After I tried them, they will be copied to my recipes notebook - much better than having them sticking out from every corner and then getting lost eventually.

4) Expenses. Here I keep our budget, a list of things we are paying for, grocery bills and other bills, and a summary of each month's expenses which I can later compare and see if we are improving or struggling in certain areas.

***

Here, again, I will keep saying: do not despair! Don't lose hope! I understand it can be very frustrating to compare yourself with some talented fourteen-year-old girls who sew their own clothes and plan and cook meals for a family of nine; so let's not do that! Rather, let's take baby steps towards our goal, and be realistic. I doubt anyone ever learned all the arts of homemaking on a perfect level, so no need to rip your hair out if your windows aren't always squeaky clean and your fancy cake didn't come out just the way it looked in the cookbook. This will inevitably happen; but yes, it's entirely possible to be a successful and efficient manager of the home even if you start out a tad late, without a proper background or anyone to teach you personally.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thank you

This is a letter of thanks to all your dear ones, who make my experience of writing here, in this little corner of the web, so much more meaningful, enriching and enjoyable, through your kind comments and emails. Hearing from you is always such a treat, and I cannot express how happy I am for having met all of you online. I used to feel alone, but now I feel like part of a warm, supportive community.

When I started blogging, I half-wondered – do I actually have anything to say, or will I run out of ideas in a week? But in a large part thanks to you, I am constantly encouraged and inspired to think, research, and challenge my thoughts, opinions and convictions. So I also thank those who disagree with me in such a courteous and respectful manner – life would be boring if we were all carbon copies of each other, and beliefs could become stale if they weren't challenged.

I think that a few times, someone might have been hurt or offended by things I said on this blog, and for this I apologize. It was certainly not in my intentions. What I would love to do is to reach out to all of you and hug you, all you wonderful ladies who became so dear to my heart. Thank you for visiting me every day. Thank you for being there.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Give us real men!

By my definition, a real manly man:

* Isn't afraid to take leadership and responsibility
* Is willing to provide for his family
* Both gives and merits respect

Maybe some of you have been more fortunate than I am, but from my observations, the world is full of 40-year-old Peter Pans with incurable commitment phobia. Sadly, not even all men who define themselves as believers fully understand the responsibility a man has as head of household, and the importance of masculine leadership. I remember once I was introduced to a young man who spent an entire hour telling me his expectations from his future wife – she doesn't need to be only a devoted mother and a great homemaker, she must also be good at earning money. By no means would he allow his wife to "just sit around at home doing nothing"! And this, my friends, was a man from a good, traditional family, a man who was supposed to know his Bible well. What can we expect of others?

Here's a note I received not long ago:

'Feminism and its influence aren't an excuse for men to dodge their responsibilities. Men have to be men, no matter what!'

I think I can't stress enough just how much I agree with this statement. Yes, we are in such strong need of solid, stable, responsible masculine leadership. Yes, men have to be men, but what can we expect when boys suffer attacks on their masculinity from a very young age? What can we expect, when the prevalent message is that women don't need men, and that men have no obligations towards women? On a personal level, it is not an excuse. On a general level, I can definitely see the link here.

It's not enough to say, 'give us real men'! We must build up our men. We can't expect to have real men if we aren't ready to become real women – godly, encouraging, kind, inspiring and strong in a feminine way. We can't expect leaders if we aren't ready to be helpmeets. We can't expect protectors if we aren't ready to trust our men!

But if we are up to the challenge of being real women and building up real men, we might just be rewarded with the loveliest compliment a woman can receive: 'you make me want to be a better man'.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Making progress


pics 003
Originally uploaded by Anna's musings
I'm slowly but steadily making progress on the scarf I started knitting a while ago. This one, too, will be given away as a gift to someone dear to my heart, with wishes for a warm winter. I'm using knitting needles number 7 and lovely soft yarn that feels so wonderful as it slides through my fingers.

I wish all you dears the most wonderful winter, with many cups of hot tea, smells of baking and cooking in your homes, and long, peaceful evenings of gathering with your most loved ones, curled up in an armchair with a knitting project or a good book.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: you are not alone

Dear dedicated daughter, this was written entirely for encouraging and supporting you. I know how lonely it can get sometimes. Maybe you are the only young woman in your community who has similar convictions, but I assure you: you are not alone. Every week, I receive emails from many young ladies who know where their hearts are, but nevertheless are pressured by their parents and peers to conform, to give up on their godly vision of becoming future homemakers, to go against what they believe is good and right.

And I can tell you something: there is hope, no matter what your current situation is. Whether you are fifteen or thirty-five, at home or far away in college, working outside the home or not, courted by a godly man or without any perspective of marriage right now – it is still in your hands to be strengthened and live out your convictions.

I believe our generation is starting a new revolution, completely different from that which overthrew the authority, family, and Bible. We stand up and refuse to rebel against God, against family values, against everything our foremothers held dear for so many generations. But it isn't always easy, especially for those of us who aren't supported by their families. I would like to share with you a part of a letter I received – just one of many, many like it:

"Dear Anna,
I'm eighteen years old, a fresh homeschool graduate; my dream and desire is trust the Lord as He leads me on the path to becoming a godly homemaker, if it is His will. My parents were divorced when I was little, and I feel discouraged because I could never 'live up' to all those wonderful daughters whose parents support their decision to stay at home until they marry…"

Looks familiar? I remember the rejoicing I felt when I first found there are still young, home-focused women out there, seeking the support and protection of their fathers, the guidance and training of their mothers; when I first read about how those young ladies train to be future wives, helpmeets, mothers and homemakers, how they give their hearts over to their parents and focus on their family's needs, I told myself – that's exactly how things should be. This is just what I want for my daughters. If your parents are absent, unsupportive, or in firm opposition to these ideas, your situation is more complicated, and it's often easy to feel frustrated and say, "Well, I just don't fit in! There's no room for me in this neat little picture!"

Believe me, I know what it's like when you feel you are the only woman in the world who feels such an irresistible pull towards everything that - as we have been convinced – we should consider unworthy of our time and effort: home; family; glorious, godly womanhood. In such circumstances, finding likeminded ladies can be anything but an easy task.

If this is your situation, I encourage you to resort to one of my favorite principles in this matter, and in general: think outside the box. Maybe the only ones who can understand you are older ladies in your community – try to get closer to them; true fellowship has no age limits! And now, the internet opened endless possibilities for us: blogs, forums, message boards… try to find young women in your area who share your convictions, and suggest that you meet; or, if it isn't possible, even long-distance friendship can be a great encouragement, a wonderful way to confirm that you are not alone, and that you are, regardless what anyone else might say, perfectly normal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Home sweet home


pics 001
Originally uploaded by Anna's musings
Can you imagine the delightful aroma in my kitchen, with orange jam bubbling on the stove, and chocolate chip cookies in the oven? Ah, the smells of orange, cinnamon and chocolate. My favorite way to keep warm on a cold, rainy day!

Now I can upload photos from flickr, but I still haven't figured out how to post several photos at the same time. If problems with blogger aren't fixed, I suppose I will have to change my browser.

Dear ones, thank you for all your kind comments and emails in the last few days. I know I probably don't say it often enough, but they mean so much to me. Even though I don't always have the opportunity to reply to everyone personally, each one of your thoughtful messages was read and appreciated.

Wishing you a lovely day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Abortions and illegitimacy

Last week, a reader sent me a link to a great article that explores the connection between abortion and illegitimacy. It's no secret that the rates of illegitimacy have skyrocketed since abortions became commonly widespread. But have we really stopped to ask ourselves why? If abortion was supposed to solve the problem of inconvenient pregnancies and "unwanted" children, how come we have a whole fatherless generation?

"With abortion seen as a backup, women as well as men became less careful in using contraceptives as well as more likely to have premarital sex. There were more unplanned pregnancies. But legal abortion did not mean every unplanned pregnancy led to abortion. After all, just because abortion is legal, does not mean that the decision is an easy one."

"With legalization and women not forced to go through with an unplanned pregnancy, a man might well expect his partner to have an abortion if a sexual encounter results in an unplanned pregnancy. But what happens if the woman refuses? Maybe she is morally opposed to abortion; or perhaps she thought she could have an abortion, but upon becoming pregnant, she decides that she can't go through with it. What happens then?

Many men, feeling tricked into unwanted fatherhood, will likely wash their hands of the affair altogether, thinking, "I never wanted a baby. It's her choice, so let her raise the baby herself." What is expected of men in this position has changed dramatically in the last four decades. The evidence shows that the greater availability of abortion largely ended "shotgun" marriages, where men felt obligated to marrying the woman."

And the result?

"Children born after liberalized abortion rules have suffered a series of problems, from problems at school to more crime. The saddest fact is that it is the most vulnerable in society, poor blacks, who have suffered the most from these changes.
Liberalized abortion might have made life easier for many, but like sex itself sometimes, it has had many unintended consequences."

Read the entire article here .

Monday, November 19, 2007

Changing emails

Just writing a short note to let all you ladies know I opened a gmail account. I've been having problems with my old email lately, so if you emailed me in the last few days, there's a chance I didn't get your message. You can now contact me at domesticfelicity@gmail.com

Dedicated Daughters: the opposing forces

Like I said in Part 1, 'what's a daughter to do?' shouldn't be a very difficult question for a home-dedicated maiden. But there's a reason why the subtitle to this series subtitle is, "Encouragement for the home-focused young woman in an unsupportive environment".

To my happiness, I believe I have reason to think the godly culture of family and home is now reclaimed. A lot is said about the importance of family unity, and especially about the father-daughter relationship – and all of this I can only strengthen and confirm.

However, let's face the facts: a considerable number of young women aren't protected by their fathers today. Many don't even know their fathers. Those ladies face a special challenge, and it is my purpose in writing this to humbly try and encourage them in their journey of seeking to live a godly life even if their father is absent or doesn't use his authority the way he is supposed to. I do not live in a rosy imaginary world; I'm very aware of the fact that these days, many young women are forced to fend for themselves; many of them are hardened and bruised, and reach marriage without the blissful, home-focused contentment they might have cultivated before they were pushed into colleges and the work force.

It seems as though everyone have made their goal to try and steal our hearts away from what should be our focus: not only the mainstream culture around us, but often also our friends and most importantly, parents; we are bombarded with temptations and expectations, pressure and pleading to do what's considered normal today: move out; go to college; pursue a time-consuming, competitive career. As a fresh college graduate, I feel I simply must say more than a few words about the dangers of this path.

Sure, many young women today think of nothing but college and career. But many others feel uncomfortable about being away from their parents for long years, acquiring a large debt through student loans, and emerging with a baggage of knowledge which is often useless and even sinful – after working so hard in college. Many understand that what feminism has to offer us isn't all roses, and seek other alternatives to develop their intelligence, creativity and skills.

Am I saying college is always evil? Nope. Did I suffer constantly in college? Again, no. Have I been able to grow towards serving my family and towards God's calling? Have I gained important skills? Yes, but I can truly and wholeheartedly say it happened more despite than thanks to my college education.

Our Public Health class was taught by a die-hard feminist who was an ardent believer in zero population growth, and considered China with its one child limit and forced abortions the optimal model of public health care system. At least I must give credit to her consistency – she also claimed abortions don't hurt women. When I approached her during the break and asked if she knows anyone who has gone through an abortion, and how can anyone claim this has no long-term effects on the woman's physical and emotional well-being, she made an attempt to hush me up by saying that studies were made, and proved that 'overall, on a general scale, abortions only cause a short-term discomfort and there's no scientific proof that women who went through abortions suffer for a long time later on.'

Should I even make further comments on this one? I hardly passed her course. I didn't expect anything else, after I failed to write an essay about how having many children destroys women's lives. Do you think that's just an extreme example? No; this is a typical picture of what is happening in a secular college. The propaganda is enormous. The destructive agenda that is pushed on us has ruined many lives. I believe young women and their parents should make informed choices.

Again and again I ask myself: is college today an appropriate place for a young lady? I don't want to be judgmental. I won't say "yes" or "no"; I simply tell the facts of my own experience.

Do I realize that sometimes, a daughter who doesn't wish to rebel against her parents' wishes, no matter how radically contradicting they are in comparison to her own, must go to college or work outside the home? Yes, I do. In fact, I'm firmly convinced that the way towards our noble goal cannot and should not be achieved through rebellion. I will talk about it more elaborately later on.

* Stay tuned for the next post in the series: "You are not alone"; coming, hopefully, sometime later next week.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ladette to Lady

I wonder how many of you have seen the 'Ladette to Lady' TV show. I enjoyed the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The show is basically about taking a group of the raunchiest, loudest, least lady-like women you can possibly think of, and shipping them off to a fine ladies' finishing school, Egglestone Hall.

For those of you who aren't sure what a ladette is, it's defined as 'a foul-mouthed, uncultured and unpleasant woman, who likes to drink and smoke and is often sexually promiscuous.'

During their five-weeks course in the finishing school, the ladettes are taught proper manners, speech, way of dress and several womanly arts, such as needlework, flower arranging, cookery (including how to set a table in a beautiful way and select fine wine to go with dinner). Every week, someone was expelled and in the end, only three ladettes (oops! I mean ladies) stayed, and one winner was ultimately elected.

Watching the show was fun, and left me thinking about how many women today could benefit from such a finishing school, even if it is in the area of manners and speech alone. I know too many to count – and I'm not perfect myself, of course, especially in the department of cooking and fine, womanly arts!

You can watch some videos from the show on Sundance Channel

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blogger help - my toolbar is gone!

... I mean the toolbar that is normally above the text window in "Create Post". This means I can't edit the font size; I can't post pictures; I can't link! There's an error sign at the bottom left corner of the screen. I have had this problem before, and it just somehow fixed itself, but now it has been gone for three days and I can't find anything about it in blogger help.

Is anyone else struggling with the same issue? Can anything be done? Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated. I hope it will be resolved soon, because I have so many pictures and links to share with you!

On the bright side, my second week in the hospital was less stressful than the first one. The training doesn't really take many hours, and I'm also getting the translation orders under control, careful not to promise to do any more work than I can currently commit to, or to do it quicker than is possible right now.

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Soy: hero or culprit?

Since lately several ladies asked me what I think about soy, and especially the phytoestrogens in it, I decided to write an answer here.

You know what, as I noticed, is very characteristic of nutritional research, discoveries and guidelines? Trends. I remember how in studies from 10 or even 5 years ago, they just kept talking on and on about the benefits of soy, how good it is for everyone, how it prevents cancer and heart disease etc. And now it's suddenly the ultimate killer, worse than sugar, salt and MSG, responsible for every kind of cancer you can think of, and for premature sexual development and a variety of other nasty things.

So, while I don't mean to be disrespectful towards any of the experts, my own humble opinion is that the answer must be somewhere in between. I don't think soy is a killer. It has been widely consumed for many centuries in East Asia and I just don't find it credible that such a common crop is lethal.

I'd like to stress that I mean soy as soybean, not soy in processed, pre-packaged and frozen foods which I try to avoid like the plague altogether.

A couple of words about phytoestrogens. I know many people who are nearly hysterical about phytoestrogens and avoid soy in any form – why, phytoestrogens resemble hormones, what sane person would eat hormones with his food, they ask. Maybe the word "phytoestrogens" sounds intimidating and they just don't want to risk it, even if no studies have actually proved that eating soy in reasonable amounts causes harm. Yet these same people don't hesitate to eat meat of animals which have been given hormones to accelerate their growth. What is my point here? Be informed. Do not follow every trend and newspaper guideline and do your own research. Dig up a number of reliable review articles from well-known scientific journals.

Overall, my motto is 'everything in moderation'. If not consumed excessively, I don't see why soy can't have its place in a balanced healthy diet.

(PS: I was going to do a Show and Tell post today, but for some reason blogger won't let me upload pictures. Anyone else struggling with the same problem?)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Should women vote?"

This question was sent by a reader a few days ago. To tell you the truth, I wasn't going to blog about it here; but since the topic came up already, I must tell you this is something I have been thinking about lately, but haven't had the opportunity to address just yet. Now, please keep in mind that what I'm going to say now is just my personal opinion, not something I claim to be the absolute truth.

I believe that the husband and wife should vote as one: meaning that, after discussing the possible options, both come to a mutual decision and the wife strengthens the husband's vote with hers. I think it's a shame if the wife disregards her husband's opinion and "cancels" his vote by choosing the opposite. And in my opinion, the same is true for adult unmarried daughters - they are under their father's authority until marriage.

Of course, in our generation things are often more complicated than that. Some women have no fathers (like myself); some have unbeliever fathers who are unwilling to step up as leaders of their families - and there are other examples of situations when the voting issue isn't very clear. For now, I do vote, trying prayerfully to give my support to the candidate who seems most God-honoring. However, I admit that I haven't thought enough about whether or not a woman should vote if she has no husband, father or brother to guide her.

I would love to hear thoughts from other ladies.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: what's a daughter to do at home?

Our maiden years are the perfect time to be training for what we believe to be our future calling. If we aspire to be like the woman in Proverbs 31, with all her abilities and strengths, or the wise woman in Proverbs 14, who 'builds her home', it only makes sense to dedicate our time as young, unmarried women to pursuing occupations that will shape and enhance our homemaking skills.

Before we venture any further, I'd like to make it very clear that I believe the man – husband or father – stands in the head of his household, responsible for providing for his wife and his daughters, until he gives them away to the provision and protection of a husband.

I know that many of the young women who are reading this don't have fathers who agree with this point of view – that is, if they have a father at all. I am one of those women, in fact. It doesn't mean, however, that there is no hope. More about that coming in the next posts.

I just think we all should remember that only several generations ago, it was unheard of for a young woman to 'move out and do her own thing'; daughters, no matter how old, normally remained under the authority and protection of their fathers, finding a variety of useful and productive pursuits to keep them busy and happy at home. They trained in the arts of homemaking and perfected them, until they met a man who was suitable for marriage – and until then, they were a blessing to their families, siblings and communities in countless ways.

Basically, in her unmarried years, a daughter should seek training in the areas which will be important to her as a future wife and mother. I don't mean only practical homemaking skills; what's even more important are the character traits she will need as a virtuous wife, as opposing to the character traits our culture says she needs: gentleness and submissiveness versus rebellion, generosity and selflessness versus selfish self-fulfillment at all costs, mature acceptance of authority versus seeking doing your own thing in whatever possible way.

The list of creative, interesting and useful occupations a young lady can pursue from home is endless, and in the following posts we will try to explore them. From autodidactic learning to canning fruits and vegetables, I promise you: once you have your vision clear, you won't have lack of things to do! But it does require a vision. I know twenty-something women who don't know how to boil an egg or operate the washing machine; who haphazardly clean once in a while and are bored to death at home. Why does this happen? Lack of example, learning and vision. I know – I used to be one of them.

Most young women go to college right after high school and enter a cycle of unorganized, self-indulgent campus life. This is especially prominent when a young lady attends college away from home (more on that in the next post), especially a secular college with a high dose of immorality. Think about it: those crucial years after the young woman first crosses the border to adulthood, when she first starts seriously contemplating marriage and is supposed to be preparing for it, are spent in an environment that supports it less than anything you could think of. I just don't see the logic in sending a young girl away to a corruptive environment for a few years and expecting her vision of marriage and motherhood to remain untainted.

Pushing single women towards the path of college and career resulted in disastrous consequences for our society. In the past, while an adult daughter had many responsibilities, she still typically had more free time than married women who had their own husbands and children to care for. Unmarried women had the gift of time to be there for the needy – the sick, the lonely, the mourners; they had the time and energy to visit and comfort, to give help and encouragement. Just think about the possibilities, and how much we're currently missing out on. Think about the stress, rush, frustration, anxiety and disappointment that slowly crept over our lives since women in general, and adult unmarried daughters in particular, were pushed out of their homes.

Coming soon: next post on "Dedicated Daughters" - The opposing forces

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Your input will be appreciated

To all the more experienced homemakers out there - I would deeply appreciate your help and advice about the following points I have been struggling with:

* Peeling and chopping onions.
The moment I begin doing that, my eyes start stinging and burning, and gallons of tears pour out by the time I'm done. Washing the onion in cold water and using an extra sharp knife helps a bit, but not significantly. How do you deal with this? I love onions and add them to almost every soup, main dish or side dish I make, but the chopping part is a torture.

* Removing stains.
Recently I've had to deal with lots of stains, mainly greasy stains from food, but also wine stains and blood. Store-bought detergents do the job, but they are terribly expensive. I'm wondering if any of you practice a cheaper and preferably more eco-friendly method.

* Organizing kitchen cabinets.
All our closets and drawers are more or less organized – at least well enough so the things we need can be found quickly – but for some reason, I can never get a system that would work for our kitchen cabinets. How does it work for you?

Thank you – I eagerly wait for your tips!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Introduction - Dedicated Daughters series

Dear ladies, daughters, mothers, grandmothers and all you devoted homemakers out there - I'm happy to tell you I just finished working on a series called "Dedicated Daughters - Encouragement for the home-focused young woman in an unsupportive environment"; The series will be posted on my blog over the next weeks (There will still be room for other things as well). The purpose of these posts is to encourage and support those young women with passion for family, home, and femininity; women who desire with all their hearts to dedicate their single years to studying the arts of homemaking - but can't hope to receive understanding and support from those who surround them.

Why did I decide to sit down and write "Dedicated Daughters"?

It just so happened that one day, the amount of thoughts, memories, observations, objections and frustrations, coupled with many emails I received from likeminded young ladies, reached an all-time high and could no longer be ignored.

Today, some forty plus years after the onset of modern feminism, we have a generation of young women who got a good strong doze of reality after experiencing its detrimental effects. We have young ladies, who would love nothing better than to do what countless young women did in the past: prepare for a future of wifehood and motherhood; hone their homemaking skills; learn from older women.

Only it so happens that for most of these young, virtuous women, the task isn't as easy as it was for their grandmothers: many homemaking skills are lost, home management itself is underappreciated, the right man is in no hurry to show up and their peers - and often parents as well - apply moderate and not-so-moderate pressure to reap the bounty of feminism: independence and self-fulfillment (read: self-centeredness and irresponsibility) which can only come, it is claimed, from pursuing a college degree and seeking a competitive, high-paying and time-consuming career. And those older women who are supposed to teach and instruct the young ones? Oh, you mean, their feminist mothers. Well, not much hope there.

No one cares that they yearn for peaceful home life and for accomplishing the vision of womanhood; is it any wonder that they are feeling frustrated and even hopeless?

Here are only a few words from the many young ladies who wrote to me (edited to preserve privacy): "I would love to train in the arts of homemaking, but my parents insist that I go away to college for several years"; "I'm newly married but there was no one to teach me how to cook or manage a household. I wake up every day to a messy home and a frustrated, hungry husband. What do I do?"; "I know I'm called to home, but I'm also called to honor my parents, so how am I supposed to balance that?"; "I have read books and articles dedicated to unmarried adult daughters, but they all describe a situation when a protective father is present. It isn't so for me – so what are my options?"

I don't claim to provide the ultimate answers. What I would like to do, however, is share my own experience as someone who in a few years walked the path from die-hard feminist to home-focused daughter, as well as the priceless advice I gleaned from more experienced ladies I had the privilege to know. From college to home organization and earning money from home, I'll try to touch numerous aspects in the life of a young lady who wishes to dedicate herself to home, but can't hope for much support from her family and friends.

Coming soon: "What's a young, unmarried woman to do at home?"

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

One thing have I desired

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)

At the close of a day, I'm asking myself the following questions: have I gone to seek Him at moments of doubt, fear, or trouble? Have I set apart special time alone with Him, to delight in Him, and thank Him for the many blessings He has given me?

Was I good enough to the people I love, to the precious people who love me and need me, and whom He has given me, at this season of my life, to care for? Was I loving, accepting, forgiving, soft and selfless? Did I tend to their needs? Was I flexible with my time, plans, and projects, to accommodate everyone's?

O God, help me release myself of selfish desires and willful stubbornness. Reshape my heart in submission to Your perfect will. Lead me to trust the plan You have for me. Fill me with thirst and passion for Your Word, Your ways. Allow Your daughter to be dutiful and loving, and to dwell in Your house always.

Take my heart and free it from rebellion, discontentment, hardness and impatience. Help me be loving, yielding, soft and gentle; release me from hardness, self-righteousness, and harsh judgment. I am nobody and nothing without You, and only by my love for You I am sustained.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

First week in the hospital

My first week in the hospital went smoothly enough – with the exception of one patient yelling at us that the food is so bad he wouldn't even feed it to his cats (it is rather bland, but what can we do?); better than I expected, anyway, even though there's of course a remarkable difference between academic learning, and actually giving counsel to a patient. Also, we spent most of the week in nephrology unit, where our advice can be crucial – there have been cases when patients with malfunctioning kidneys died because of electrolyte imbalance after eating too much of something they weren't supposed to touch. It's heavy responsibility of course, but learning from apprenticeship, rather than books, gives much more confidence. Overall I'm having a good time, and our team is great.

However, I think my mother started to notice an almost immediate downfall of our home comforts and household efficiency, now that I don't have time to do much of the work I normally do when I'm home all day or almost all day. Are the windows clean? No, cleaning schedule must be moved to accommodate my new responsibilities. Can I start sewing new curtains for grandma's room? Ha, I haven't touched the sewing machine for days. Any baked goodies to have with our tea? Sorry, only store-bought cookies. I know they aren't nearly as good as home-baked, but I don't have time right now. Even our grocery bill was higher than usual this week, because I didn't have as much time to look for the best deals and make everything from scratch.

Am I complaining? On the contrary, I think it's a very valuable lesson, an illustration of something I have been saying for a while now – there are only 24 hours in a day. I can hardly be expected to do a new studying program and take as many translation projects as I usually do (not that I can afford to stop and lose clients right now), while still doing everything that can easily keep me busy for a whole day here at home. Oh, I do the basic housekeeping, and it doesn't look as though we're going to be out of clean underwear anytime soon, but I certainly cannot do it all. Not because I'm lazy or unorganized, but simply because it's an unreasonable expectation.

To sum it up, my work is missed. And I'm happy about it. I think that when a household is running smoothly, it's so easy to take things for granted and forget about how much work it actually takes. It's very rare to hear someone say, "Your refrigerator is so neat and organized," or "how lovely it is that we have clean and ironed clothes to wear". But when there's no time for cleaning the refrigerator, ironing or serving a nice, homemade dinner, this void is noticed.

I would like to share with you a story I received by email a couple of days ago:

A woman's work

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.

The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing.

In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on thefloor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door. He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened.

He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls.

As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened here today?" She again smiled and answered, "You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?"

"Yes," was his incredulous reply.

She answered, "Well, today I didn't do it."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Show and Tell Friday: my mother's ring

Another Friday is here - how quickly the time passes! I'm happy to have you join me for another Show and Tell. This week I'm showing you a ring both me and my mother are very fond of.

Mom bought this ring around 35 years ago, when she was a student in one of the universities of St. Petersburg, Russia (at that time, Leningrad, USSR). It wasn't very expensive - we think it's made of not very pure silver, and I'm pretty sure the stone in its center is malachite. Much more interesting are the beautiful carvings on it (click to enlarge so you can see them properly). It hold memories from a period of Mom's life which she enjoyed very much and loves to remember. This makes it special for me as well, and if God blesses me with a daughter, I intend to keep it and pass it on.

Another thing I love about this ring is that it wasn't made for mass production with a hundred similar pieces of jewelry. Mom bought it in an artist's shop, and I've never seen anything quite like it.

Thank you for visiting me today - and thank you for all your lovely comments and emails this week. I so enjoy and appreciate hearing from you! I wish you all a refreshing and relaxing weekend.

For more fun and stories, visit Kelli's blog.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Queen of your castle

I felt I simply must share with you this wonderful story.

Thank you, Green Eyes, for sending the link! It sums up so nicely my own – and many others' – thoughts about homemaking and the role of woman in the home. I would rather be a queen of my own humble castle, than have a large house full of possessions but no warmth, human touch, or the gift of time to dedicate to loved ones.

"Affluenza's victims are stricken with a warped perception of true wealth," the king explained. "Instead of valuing what they have, they want more. They trade their time for things, and then have no time to enjoy the things they've traded for."

Go ahead and read it. It's worth your time!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Radical vs. non-radical feminism

A comment from a reader:

'I understand why you're against radical feminism. But why are you against feminism as a whole?'

This was written as an objection to my post, 'Feminism vs. Women's rights', which I published some time ago. In that post, I brought some quotes which, indeed, are probably part of the most extreme branches of feminism.

Why, again, do I insist that I'm against feminism – not radical feminism, or no-children feminism, but feminism as a whole? There are several reasons, which I will try to explain now.

The first, and most obvious one, is that while not all those who define themselves as feminists embrace the violent anti-family, anti-male feminism, what they believe is still in one league with their more militant comrades. And, deviations or not, I want to get as far as possible from that!

Why? Because – and this is the second, and more important, reason – I want to be as far as possible from anyone or anything that claims women shouldn't be fulfilling their God-given roles: helpmeet, wife, mother, homemaker. Or that these roles are unimportant. Or that they are suitable only for the inferior, less intelligent women. Or that they shouldn't be a woman's first priority.

I want to be as far as possible from any idea that undermines masculine leadership and tells us we shouldn't trust our fathers' and husbands' leadership. I want to be led by my husband, and I want him to provide and protect for our family. Not in tyranny and oppression, but in harmony and love, respect and honor, in a sweet, blessed, joyful union.

I want to be as far as possible from ideas that hint children, especially young ones, are better off anywhere else but in their mother's arms; that they should be shipped off to daycare as soon as possible; that strangers are more capable of educating children than their own parents, because they have 'qualifications'; that the money a woman can earn in the workforce is worth more than her presence at home, for her husband and her children, and that she is nothing, simply nothing, if she doesn't have a college degree and career.

And the third and final reason why I'm against feminism is that we can't only look at pretty slogans ('freedom of choice and women's rights!'); to really evaluate what feminism has done on the behalf of women, we must perform a reality check. Like I said before and will say time and time again, nothing and no one will convince me that high divorce rates, promiscuity, abortions, extreme stress, loss of respect for femininity and modesty and loss of true masculinity and true leadership are 'for the greater good' of women and society as a whole.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Leftover cottage cheese cake

What do you do when you have a pack of forgotten old cottage cheese sitting in your refrigerator? Last time, instead of throwing it away, I decided to improvise and whipped up a cake that turned out surprisingly delicious:

1 cup softened butter
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla sugar
A handful of raisins

I simply mixed these ingredients in no particular order and baked until the cake was nice and golden. It was one of those times when not being afraid of experiments produced excellent results.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Women of old: did they really work?

Sometimes, when you read certain books or watch movies that describe the home life in 19-th century and earlier, it's easy to believe that women did nothing but sitting and doing needlework or having tea parties. While I find both aforementioned activities very nice and relaxing, and enjoy them myself on a regular basis, women of old did much more than that.

In novels I've read about 19-th century Russian nobility for example (Tolstoy and other classics), I see quite a lot about home management; no, noblewomen didn't scrub their own floors - but they had large households to manage, and many servants to direct. They were often also responsible for the family finances. Without their instruction, everything would fall apart! I'm pretty sure it was the same in other countries too.

There's one Russian author named Saltykov-Schedrin who gives, in one of his books, an excellent description of one day in the life of a Russian noblewoman, a mother of nine children, in a large country household. It included supervising all the servants, meal planning, gardening (in a large garden which produced all the greens they ate), and the children's education; dealing with family financial business and correspondence; and tending to the myriad of needs arising throughout the day. So, this woman could hardly be expected to do all the cleaning, cooking, milking cows and gardening herself (her household was much too large), but she had heavy responsibility on her shoulders, and worked hard.

Second, not every woman had servants. In fact, nobility was hardly a major part of society. Many women (farm wives, homesteaders) had to do almost everything themselves. My great-grandmother was one of those women. I think she had hired help from time to time, but with 7 children, she still had more than enough cooking, sewing, baking, cleaning, washing, mending and so on - to do. Most of the homemakers today are of this kind: no servants, and a much smaller household to manage.

To sum it up, I think we can learn a lot from the Victorian era about the value and culture of home, but we certainly shouldn't idealize it. Instead, we can take the skills which would be useful in our own homes, today, and invest in developing them.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

From an Elliot Institute newsletter

(A true and powerful message; not for very young readers, though):

"Surveys show that many women feel pressured into abortion. Many abortions are the result of pressure, coercion, misinformation, withholding essential personal or financial support, lack of viable alternatives, emotional blackmail, threats and even violence. Women and girls are often pushed into traumatic and unwanted experiences and then left to sort out the aftermath alone. That's not 'choice.'

Rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse and other problems increase after abortion. Women are not told of the physical risks of abortion, including problems that can affect future fertility. Although abortion is sold as a safe and simple procedure, the women I know who have had abortions have told me that abortion is a safety hazard, not a safety net.

I share the anger of women who were pushed or even forced into unwanted abortions by their boyfriends, husbands, parents, school counselors, employers, or others around them. I know that in most cases these other people did not understand the life-long impact abortion can have on women. But it is still gravely wrong to insist that a woman or girl who needs support from her loved ones have an abortion instead.

We especially need to protect the rights of young girls who are facing violence or sexual abuse. Abortion is often used by sexual predators to cover up abuse when a pregnancy occurs. Tragically, abortion clinics often fail to ask questions or report suspected abuse, so that these girls are subjected to often traumatic abortions and then returned to the abusive situation.
We also need to support additional research on the detrimental effects of abortion and counseling programs for women who are struggling with unresolved grief, trauma or other problems after abortion.

Perhaps most important, we need to be less quick to assume culpability or to presume to know the circumstances of those who have undergone abortions. In many cases, abortion is an unwanted and traumatic experience and women need and deserve the support of their families, friends, churches and communities to heal from this experience.

These hurting women are our friends, daughters, sisters, mothers and wives. They deserve our love and support. We need to work harder to protect their rights and help those who are struggling find healing after abortion."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Husbands and housework

Cristina, a lovely lady I got to know through blogging, wrote a post where she shares some of her thoughts about how much, and when, husbands should help with homemaking duties. Even though I'm not married yet, I thought I'd say a few words from my perspective - and all you ladies are very welcome to drop by Cristina's blog and share your thoughts as well, she will deeply appreciate it!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably know that I believe in the Biblical roles of man and woman: generally, a man is to be the breadwinner, while the woman's primary duty is to take care of her husband, children and home. Within this general division, each family finds an individual balance that suits them.

While I think the home is primarily a woman's realm, it doesn't mean I believe the husband (or sons) should never lift a finger to help the wife and mother. Sometimes, indeed, it's very difficult to manage without help. Women are physically weaker than men, and at certain seasons of a woman's life this is felt even more acutely, for example during a difficult pregnancy or after giving birth. A husband who loves and honors his wife isn't supposed to think it's beneath him to mop the floor when it's difficult for her to bend, or to cook dinner when her feet won't support her for longer than five minutes.

An observation I made - and this is something that was confirmed by other ladies - is that men often simply don't notice junk, clutter, dirt and dust. I know I'm painting with a broad brush here, but I'm convinced that's a trend with men - they simply see things differently. Studies proved that women are geared towards noticing details (and a very big part of homemaking has to do with paying attention to details!). Men are built differently. Most men won't think about dinner until they are hungry; many of them won't go shopping until the refrigerator and freezer have been empty for weeks. This can often be a source of tension.

I believe that if a homemaker feels that at this season of her life she needs more help, she should calmly, gently and pleasantly talk it over with her husband. From my observations, many men will take out the garbage if asked - but the same men won't notice an overflowing garbage can for days if they aren't reminded about it. For a loving, kind and generous husband this will be a way to honor and support his wife when she most needs it.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Show and Tell Friday: wooden spoons

Welcome, and thank you for coming by for another Show and Tell! Today, I'm going to show you my wooden spoons. Scroll down to see the pictures of the spoons, along with one wooden fork. Some of those were given to us as gifts from specialized woodwork shops, but most have been in our family longer than I can remember.

They are my favorite kitchen tools. I also have wooden spoons, forks and plates which are purely decorative, but the ones you see here have been faithfully used for many years now.

I feel there's something so lovely in mixing and stirring with a wooden spoon, especially if it's cake or cookie dough which will later smell deliciously in the oven. Working in an old-fashioned way, without an electric beater, mixing dough and batter with the simple tools of a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon makes me feel like a link in the chain of many generations of women before me.

Thank you for visiting me this week. Don't forget to stop by Kelli's lovely blog for more Show and Tell fun!




























Thursday, November 1, 2007

Have a cookie!

Between my new training program, several large orders and my wish to keep our home neat, clean and welcoming and the household basics (like meals and laundry) running smoothly, I'm feeling life has taken a crazy pace these last few days. This tide should be over in a few weeks, though, since once I finish these projects I'm currently working on I'll take fewer new orders for the next months. Note to self: do not bite off more than you can chew!

In the meantime, to cope with the elevated level of stress, there's nothing like good, relaxing music, scented candles, a bit of knitting (as time allows)... and a warm cookie, fresh from the oven! Thank you, Louisa, for sharing this excellent recipe which was so loved around here:
Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

Beat until combined. Then add

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Again, beat until combined, then add

1 1/4 cup flour

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix until combined. Drop tablespoon sized drops on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375(fahrenheit) for about 10 minutes. Cool. Eat.