Monday, December 31, 2007

Ideas for the newlywed

A question from a reader: "What are some specific things a newly married woman should be doing while keeping her home and growing her marriage before children come?"

First, I'd like to tell you how my heart rejoiced when I read this question. So many young women today would find the answer to this question obvious, without even thinking about other options. What should you be doing in your single years? Why, everything in your power to advance your career. What should you be doing when you're newly married? Keep investing in your career; don't let something as petty as your husband's needs interfere. What should you be doing when you become a mother? Grudgingly allow some attention to your children before you ship them off to daycare and return to the only thing truly worthwhile – money-making and climbing the corporate ladder.

Of course, as someone who isn't married yet, I can naturally only offer you an unmarried woman's perspective. As many of my readers already know, I believe it makes sense for a young woman to prepare for marriage. And of course it makes sense for a newlywed woman to invest in her marriage, her home, to deepen her bond with her husband, to show him their marriage is the most important thing on this earth to her, and to make sure he knows she trusts him to provide for their family.

Practically, I think there are countless things you can do to better equip yourself for marriage and homemaking. If you don't have children – for some couples this period lasts a year, for others it might last a lifetime – you might find yourself with a bit of free time on your hands. Don't squander this precious gift! There might be periods later in life when you look back at it longingly, wishing you would have managed it better.

Invest in setting a good working routine in your home, tailored to your husband's plans and needs, so that the two of you can spend plenty of quiet time together when he is home. Practice and perfect your homemaking skills; learn to make your husband's favorite dishes – I feel this is especially important if he comes from a different culture with a different cuisine.

Now is also a good time to try out creative pursuits such as sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, and more exotic hobbies like making soap and candles. Try growing a vegetable garden, even if you haven't done anything like that before – just give it a try. Invest in making beautiful things for your home. Fill your home with lovely smells of cleanliness, fresh laundry, and delicious food; and most importantly, fill your home with your loving, contented presence!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another hello from a summer gone by


park1, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

The Israeli summer is boiling hot, but so beautiful. It remains my favorite season even on days when heat makes it difficult to breathe.

Many things are on my mind - and hopefully, they will be shared in the next few days. We are in the middle of our busy mundane life here in Israel, but to the rest of you - I hope you are enjoying your holiday season!

I would like to take another opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to all the ladies who have emailed me during the weekend. You are so wonderful. Your sweet words truly made my day.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rested and refreshed


caesareatheat, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

Another week has ended - passed so quickly I didn't even notice how the days go by in a blur of activity. Fortunately, no matter how busy things get sometimes, there is always the blessed gift of Shabbat to refresh one's spirit.

Here is another photo from Caesarea. Isn't there something enchanting in how ancient ruins look against the everlastingly fresh blue sea and sky? Today was nearly as gloriously sunny as that day during the summer. I think some rain would do us good, though.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The superglue touch

A reader sent me a link to this excellent article, which I strongly recommend to all unmarried ladies and mothers of teenage or young adult unmarried daughters. It talks about the role of physical touch in relationships, looking for a spouse, creating intimacy and preparing for marriage – from a Jewish perspective; however, I'm certain that non-Jews can enjoy it and benefit from it as well.

The bottom line is something I strongly believe in: touch plays a very important part in enhancing intimacy in marriage. However, touch can also act like superglue, creating a powerful emotional connection between two people who are incompatible and would never decide to start a relationship if they hadn't given in to physical attraction and lust.

Besides creating a deceptive bond of illusionary and premature intimacy, touch can also interfere with building a real connection of minds and hearts, which is so crucial to making a wise decision about whom you are going to marry. When the physical side enters a relationship prematurely, it often distracts you from thinking rationally about your degree of compatibility. It can create a euphoria that will prevent you from finding out truly important details about your potential spouse.

That's why it's so important to avoid premature touch and reserve physical intimacy for the right person only. And how do we know it's not premature? When do we know for sure we have, indeed, met the right person? In my opinion, the answer is obvious: only after you are married. Not a second before you have a ring on your finger.

"...Before you let the physical side enter, develop a relationship that stands on its own two feet -- a true soul-to-soul connection. Once that relationship is truly solid -- after marriage -- the physical side will be a beautiful and powerful expression of what you have. There's a big difference between letting sexuality determine an illusory connection and letting it express a real one. Before you give someone the opportunity to appreciate your body, let him or her have the chance to appreciate you for who you truly are. That's the kind of bond that lasts."

Of course, there's a common objection – how will we know if sex will be good if we don't try it out first? Human beings are not cars, though. We don't need a test drive.

"...In essence, when you have a healthy attitude toward sexual expression, love each other, are committed to each other, and want to bring each other pleasure, you have nothing to worry about."

"...It is crucial to maintain your objectivity, avoid emotional scarring, and build a genuine spiritual bond with your partner. Refraining from getting physical accomplishes this. It helps you find the right person and leaves you whole and able to create a deep, trusting, and loving relationship that will last a lifetime."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Potential for marriage: how different is too different?

This post was inspired by Dana, who sent me an email that got me thinking about the following questions: to what extent should husband and wife be similar? Which things you absolutely must agree on in order to have a successful married life? Can different points of view actually be an advantage sometimes, and when? And how different is too different?

Of course, as someone who isn't married yet, I understand my view may be somewhat limited – and as always, I appreciate and encourage input from married ladies. Having said this, I will humbly share my thoughts.

I believe that when you are looking for a spouse, it's important to focus on a few basic qualities that will be truly essential for your future marriage. Many people start a relationship based on superficial interests, hobbies that make a good subject for conversation but aren't something you can base your married life upon. Maybe you both like classical art, but that's hardly something to help you understand whether the person you are considering as a future spouse will "rough it" with you through bad times as well as good times.

I think it's essential to choose someone who shares your faith, and preferably more or less the same level of religious observance as well. I know many might disagree with me, giving examples of how this can be worked out, but I'm convinced that as a rule, crucial religious differences will more often than not eventually challenge your relationship, and the likelihood of this happening will increase with your level of adherence to your faith. That's why – apart from the obvious and clear prohibition of intermarriage, of course – I would never consider marrying someone who isn't an Orthodox Jew. Personally, I'm willing to allow some flexibility on the part of religious observance, but when I try to imagine life with someone who wouldn't observe Shabbat, or keep kosher, I can foresee conflicts arising in about every moment of our marriage.

Then comes the matter of personal convictions. I think it's entirely possible to have a good, solid marriage if you have disagreements over some things – and indeed, it's difficult for me to imagine two adults not ever having a disagreement – but I understand there are some things that cannot be compromised. Only you can decide which differences you can live with, and which have a potential of ruining your future marriage. But I would still encourage you to be open-minded and not too picky. Sometimes different opinions can bring a special broadness and richness of mind to your marriage, if you don't allow them to end in an argument. Sometimes, though, it can become a major obstacle.

If you want a personal example, I cannot imagine having a peaceful discussion with a husband who supports abortions in the name of "free choice" (although the part about considering only observant Orthodox Jews pretty much rules this out) – but I'm more than willing to marry someone who isn't vegetarian; in fact, I'm most likely going to marry a carnivore, so I plan to learn cooking meat.

I feel we should be extra careful during the period of courtship, and while we make the decision, because once it is made and you are married, in my eyes there is no walking out (unless we are talking about very, very extreme circumstances). So be reasonable; evaluate all the pros and cons; and above all, be prayerful.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pro-choice or pro-abortion?

In response to my post Freedom to choose I received the following note of protest:

"Don't assume pro-choice=pro-abortion. Pro-choice is about giving women the option, but they must always have the final choice. Coerced abortion goes against everything the pro-choice movement stands for. Pro-life and pro-choice are very much united on this front."

Indeed, why am I so inclined against the pro-choice movement? I'm completely and wholeheartedly pro-life, but can't I at least agree with those who are pro-choice on the issue that we both have the woman's best interests in mind?

No. And I'll tell you why: because I will never be convinced, in the circumstances surrounding the overwhelming majority of abortions, that it can somehow contribute to the woman's physical or emotional well-being.

I will never understand how a woman can benefit from someone killing her own child. I know that now someone will probably ask me, 'but what if the mother's life is in danger?' – and I will accept it as a theoretical argument, but practically, of all women I know who had abortions, no one did it because her life was in danger. They did it under pressure of difficult financial, emotional or social complications, and almost all of them told me they felt they had no other option. There goes the famous 'freedom of choice'.

When I compare the abortion industry and the Holocaust, I'm often accused of being melodramatic and playing on people's emotions, yet I think the similarity between the two is striking: massive, cold-hearted, legalized, organized, justified with false theories ('they aren't really people') and hushed up murder of human beings someone declared as 'unwanted' and 'less worthy'.

Still, it might seem that between giving a woman the possibility to have an abortion, and convincing her to have an abortion, the road is long. However, when abortion becomes easily obtained and acceptable, when its significance is diminished and brushed aside, when its moral and psychological devastating consequences aren't emphasized enough – all for the sake of 'free choice' – it becomes only too easy for those who are interested to coerce a woman into having an unwanted abortion.

And if she resists the pressure, it makes a great excuse for irresponsible boyfriends or husbands: 'well, you could get rid of it so easily, so why didn't you? It's not my fault now'; and even 'you have no right to force this child on me'. When abortion is common, when it's viewed as an insignificant procedure with no long-lasting consequences, it's a frighteningly quick process from 'it's your choice' to 'it's what's best for everyone' to 'you have no other option'.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A view of Haifa


haifa 017, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

A lovely panorama of Haifa, one of my favorite cities in Israel; it is the place where we used to live in the first year after we have made aliyah. We then moved to the center, but I prefer the north and still miss it.

Monday, December 24, 2007

God will provide

Not long ago, during one of the discussions about frugal living we had here, I was asked to clarify what I mean by saying that "God will provide". I see it as a good and fair question, and will begin by saying what I did not mean.

Did I mean to say that we should fall back and do nothing, and God will provide the means for living an extravagant, indulgent, have-it-all lifestyle? No. Did I mean that we should rely on welfare and charity? Again, no.

How do I think God will provide then, in response to our sincere prayers?

I believe He will act on our hearts to minimize our desire for material things, and to help us gain more clarity and realize those things won't make us happy, thus enabling us to live without them contentedly.

He will give us insight and wisdom, to critically examine our lives and see what things can be weeded out, even though we previously thought there's absolutely no way we can live without them.

He will provide us with creativity, to seek for alternative means of getting by just fine without excessive shopping and luxuries we have come to see matter-of-factly; when we truly need something, He will give us the resourcefulness to make it, swap for it, save for it, buy it second-hand, look for the best deal, or just do without for a while.

In these ways, and in countless other ways, God has provided for me and for many other people I know. I never worked much, and always had a small income, yet I came through college with savings, because God provided for me – not by giving me more money, but by helping me to get my spending habits under control, and to think twice before buying anything, as opposed to waving a credit card like a battle flag, and working days and nights to pay debts I have accumulated buying things I don't really need.

It would be lovely to hear how God has provided for you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Becky, the dust detector


Becky is helping me spot places I should clean! Here you can see her with a dustcloth she has dragged under my bed and back out. It's full of dust, which shamefully states that I haven't vacuumed properly for at least three weeks. This kitty also has a tendency to climb into small, dark corners and come out looking so dusty I feel I simply must grab a mop and start cleaning all those forgotten spots.
I think I've got a great little household helper here ;o)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wishes of a blessed week


zfat3, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

Hi everyone. I hope all my Jewish readers had a restful Shabbat. The past week was so full of busy excitement for me, and I was so tired when Friday night finally arrived, that I nearly fell asleep right at Shabbat dinner. ;o) Then I spent about 14 hours sleeping last night. Now I'm finally feeling properly rested and prepared for the week ahead - which is good, because tomorrow morning at the hospital is promising to be rough.

To all the dear ones who took the time to email me - THANK YOU for your kind notes of friendship and support. I so enjoyed and appreciated hearing from you, and will certainly reply to your comments and questions, but please understand if it takes a little time.

To those of you for whom tomorrow is still weekend, I wish a lovely Sunday. To all of us, I wish a blessed and peaceful week.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"How do I find a good man?" - Part 2

Without claiming to provide all the answers, humbly hoping for just a small grain of truth to be found in my writings, I will continue to discuss a passionate question sent to me by a reader: "How do I find a good man?!"

Here's a point I believe to be very important: DON'T BE AFRAID TO LET OTHERS KNOW THAT YOU DESIRE MARRIAGE. I'm not saying you are supposed to walk around wearing a "Hunting for a Husband" sign. But if you are asked, "so, Jen, are you thinking about marriage yet? Is someone courting you?" I think there's nothing wrong with saying – with a big bright smile – "no, there isn't anyone yet. But I'm open to possibilities of meeting young men. I'm praying and hoping with all my heart to find the right man and be married!"

Please don't confuse it with frustration and discontentment – there's all the difference in the world between good, normal, healthy desire to start your own home and family, and wasting your unmarried years in bitterness and frustration because the right man isn't there yet. By the way, being desperate and anxious is unattractive.

Then again, I know some young women who are so focused on showing how happy and content they are as singles that they actually miss out on opportunities to be introduced to good men who are interested in marriage. Don't make that mistake. Allow the word to spread around that you feel ripe and ready to get married. Who knows, maybe your parents, older relatives, or married friends even have someone in mind for you!

To parents of adult unmarried women, and to other older, married ladies – if you have a young single friend or relative and you can think of a man that might be suitable, I believe that it wouldn't be out of place to take steps towards making an introduction! I know I have readers of many cultures here, and I understand that to some of you, this might sound awfully interfering. But think of how Isaac and Rebecca met. That blessed match happened with a good bit of help!

The bottom line for today: don't be afraid to admit you are interested in marriage and family. Make room for marriage in your life.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Me in Tzfat


annazfat, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

Here you see me in one of the narrow streets in the ancient city of Tzfat, also known as Safed, in the north of Israel. It has a very special, very spiritual atmosphere and if you ever visit Israel, you shouldn't miss it.

It was a very warm day in August when this picture was taken. Now it's raining terribly - I miss the summer. :o) Rains, wind and thunder have their own charm though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"How do I find a good man?" - Part 1

This is a question that was recently brought up by a reader, and I'm so glad to have the opportunity to talk about it; I'll try to share whatever humble experience and insight I might offer as someone who isn't married yet, but who is preparing for – God willing – marriage and motherhood as a full-time, lifetime vocation.

I'll begin by saying that I don't believe there's a formula of, "do this and get a good husband". I know a number of wonderful, excellent women who were never married, or married later in life. Ultimately, everything is in His hands, under His rule of everlasting kindness, wisdom and love. However, I firmly believe we aren't supposed to just let things be. I'm convinced that motivation, commitment and a decent measure of good old common sense can bring us further down the road of preparing for marriage.

I believe that IN ORDER TO FIND THE RIGHT MAN, YOU NEED TO BECOME THE RIGHT WOMAN. What you say and do, how you live your life, the convictions you demonstrate, and quite simply, the person you are, will influence the men you attract. A key principle here is examining yourself and your current way of life, comparing it to how you would like to see your married life. Don't hold back, don't postpone. Live your life to the fullest now, do what you love and what is important to you – don't wait for marriage to become the wife you want to be. It takes more than a day or two, so better start now.

What do I mean? Well, for example, if your vision of marriage and family is being a full-time homemaker and mother of many children, and living a peaceful, simple life, it would make sense to start living out this dream. Focus on your home, your parents or other people in your life who need you, who can offer you the precious opportunity to love and serve. Learn the arts of homemaking. Cultivate a soft, gentle, loving, feminine spirit. Be open to children and love children; whenever a woman you know announces her pregnancy receive the news with joy, as a cause for celebration.

See, that's precisely why I have a problem with an attitude expressed so often: "I know I want to focus on marriage, children and home once I find the right man; however, I'm not married now, so why don't I spend the next 10 years getting a PhD in marine biology?" - I see two main problems with this type of thinking. One is that a young woman might get so caught up in a time-consuming career that she loses her initial focus, and delays marriage and motherhood longer and longer, sometimes even unconsciously, because she doesn't have enough time to stop and really think about it. Then later there's also the thought of, "well, I spent 10 years studying for this PhD, am I supposed to throw it all away now?"

And if she stays true to her vision and becomes the happy bride of a good, godly man, she might discover how difficult it is to switch gears instantly. In her single years, she didn't think too much about wifehood, about focusing on her husband's needs, about making her home a haven. Think I'm being too dramatic? I wish you had seen the number of emails I got from young women who tell me, "I got married without knowing anything about marriage or homemaking, and now I feel like this ship is about to sink!"

To sum it up: work on preparing to become a wife to the man of your dreams. Be the right woman and increase your chances to attract the right man. Of course, I will greatly appreciate the input of married ladies on this issue – I enjoy learning from you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A few more clarifications

In the short time since my "coming out of the closet" and telling you I'm Jewish and Israeli, I received many, many lovely, sweet and encouraging comments, many more than I expected – thank you! Still, after reading a few responses, I feel a bit more remains to be said, just to make sure things are perfectly clear to everyone. So, here goes:

1. I thought saying I'm an Orthodox Jew makes this obvious, but several people asked if I'm "Messianic". Well, I suppose you COULD say I'm "Messianic", in the sense that I (like every other Orthodox Jew) am still waiting for the Messiah.

2. "Domestic Felicity" isn't a political blog. I am NOT going to discuss Israel's political leadership, the Palestinian problem, or anything that has to do with politics. This is not because I don't have anything to say – I have a very well-defined opinion, but this particular blog will remain politically neutral. I don't think discussing politics would add to the serenity here, and so we'll continue to focus largely on the same subjects as before – home, femininity, modesty, cooking, crafts and frugal living.

3. You know I usually try to be nice and civil, but the next person who attempts to evangelize me will get a less than courteous response. I see it as extremely disrespectful and arrogant when someone emails me - knowing nothing about the spiritual path I took during years of growing in observance - and tries to brush it all aside and "share the Truth". And no. I'm not going to host theological discussions here, period.

4. Those of you who sent me Christmas greetings not knowing I'm Jewish, or ever said something else to me assuming I'm a Christian, should by no means feel bad about it! You haven't done anything offensive, and haven't hurt my feelings, as long as you don't follow in the footsteps of people from the previous paragraph.

5. And finally, no, I don't live in a bomb shelter. I don't ride in a tank whenever I have to come out of my home. I don't wear a bullet-proof vest under my clothes. I live a perfectly normal life here in Israel, thank you very much. But don't worry – if a bomb is ever thrown in my window, I'll let you know. ;o)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just a bit of sky and sea


caesareabeach
Originally uploaded by Anna's musings
Thank you for your awesome response to yesterday's post. I appreciate it more than words could tell - you are absolutely amazing. When I opened my inbox, there were many sweet emails from those of you who took the time to write to me and encourage me privately. I feel so humbled. THANK YOU. I hope to catch up on emails soon.

I have been writing so much lately, both here and otherwise, that I feel like a little break is needed, at least for today. My head is overflowing with thoughts and ideas I would love to discuss with you, but today, I'll just share this picture I took last summer, at our beautiful beach in Caesarea. Sea and sky. I'm never tired of this view.

Did I mention blue is my favorite color?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

AN IMPORTANT NOTICE - and a bend in the road

During the past few days, I have received many wishes of happy Christmas by email. Thanks to all you dear, thoughtful, far-away friends for thinking of me. However, I think now is a good moment to make a clarification and tell that I don't celebrate Christmas.

… Which is hardly a surprise, given the fact that I'm an Orthodox Jew.

… Not to mention that here in Israel our rhythm of seasons and holidays is quite different from the rest of the world.

When I started this blog, I didn't want it to be "Anna's Jewish blog" or "Anna's Israeli blog"; sadly, in my earlier experience I have encountered such rampant anti-Semitism, Israel-hating and Holocaust denial online, that it was often incompatible with expressing any other ideas about unrelated topics. So I decided to remain vague about my religious and national identity, and safely discuss issues such as homemaking, femininity, modesty, cooking, baking and crafts.

However, things happened a bit differently than I planned. The number of topics I discussed here slowly expanded and I often found myself talking about very sensitive, deeply personal matters, while withholding a very significant, very important and very defining part of who I am, of what fills my days and my thoughts and the very essence of my being.

Should I mention that with time, this grew more and more frustrating? And eventually, I asked myself, what am I afraid of? My ancestors went through centuries of persecution; they survived crusades, the Inquisition, expulsions, blood libels, pogroms and the Holocaust. Throughout the generations, they bravely resisted every attempt to destroy them, or make them betray the faith of their forefathers. The very fact that I'm sitting here, identifying as a Jew, means that I come from many generations of people who fought proudly and furiously to preserve this burning torch. Nothing could bring them down - not death threats, not the tempting pull of intermarriage and assimilation. And I'm concerned about a couple of trolls that might bombard me with hateful messages through the internet?

Bring it on, I say.

I would also like to thank the dear ones who supported and encouraged my decision; special thanks go to my friend Michelle at "The Walled Garden"!

I haven't decided yet which direction exactly this blog is going to take. My topics of interest didn't change, so I will most likely continue to discuss them. But I will be able to be much more personal from now on, and share more about myself.

I must say I look forward to that. :)

PS: I hope all my Jewish readers - yes, all 3 of you ;) - had a very happy Hanukkah. To everyone else, I'm wishing a joyful and pleasant holiday season.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The pillar a family stands on

Almost all of my unmarried friends say they want to start a family someday. I notice that when we discuss our future families, what immediately comes up is children. 'Of course I want to have a family! We all want to have children someday, don't we?'… 'Oh, I want the best for my children!' – so, is there something wrong with planning to have children? Of course not! Children are a wonderful, beautiful gift from God. It's all fine and well, as long as we remember one important thing: the pillar a family stands on isn't children. It's marriage.

Women were created to be helpmeets first, mothers later. Some families have no children at all, but strong, thriving marriages keep them together. On the other hand, children can't sustain a malfunctioning family or a marriage that is falling apart. I understand that as an unmarried woman with no children yet, I need to carefully weigh my opinion, but I don't think it's good for children to feel that family life revolves completely around them, either.

Another thing is that sacrificing for our children is still somehow tolerated, even by feminists. Or at least it's harder to contradict. A woman who puts her children ahead of herself is influencing the entire future generation! So putting your career on hold because you have small children is seen as an annoying, but justifiable sacrifice. But a woman who does the same for her husband causes puzzlement. Why on earth is she doing this, poor stupid little thing?

I feel this especially strongly when I talk about my wish to focus on my home and husband when I become a wife. Yes, a wife and not a mother. 'But won't you have plenty of time for yourself before you have children?' I'm asked. I love children and hope very much to become a mother, but my duty will be first and foremost to my husband. This will remain true even if I'm never blessed with the gift of motherhood.

In a godly, strong marriage, both husband and wife love God and each other. They have a strong desire to serve God and each other in their God-given roles: husbands as leaders, providers and protectors of their families, women as helpmeets and keepers of the home. This is an incredibly beautiful, harmonious design. A bit later, most families are blessed with the joy of children. This, too, is a wonderful, beautiful gift! Each child is a treasure God entrusts us with, a treasure we are to keep, guard and cherish. But marriage comes first. I believe it should always come first.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Noah, what are you doing?"

"Noah, what are you doing? Noah? Noah?"
"Why, I'm building the Ark, my dear… God revealed to me that there will be a Flood that will destroy everything upon the earth. You'd better pack your things."

"Abram, you are seventy-five years old. Isn't it a bit late for leaving the land of your fathers forever and setting out to Canaan?!"

"Moses, are you sure you are to be the one who leads the children of Israel out of slavery? Do you really think Pharaoh will let you go just like that? Be reasonable!"

***

Have you ever thought what it would be like, to be the wife of an extraordinary man, a revolutionary man, a man who goes against the tide of his generation? I think that would require a great deal of faith and trust in his leadership.

Now, I couldn't find what Sarai told Abram as they set out from Haran, long before their names were changed to Abraham and Sarah. But it is said that behind each great man there is a great woman - I'm sure she stood behind her husband and trusted him, knowing he was led by the One true God, even if her husband's actions didn't exactly make sense to her at the moment.

Someday in my life, there might be a time when I question my husband's judgment in different crucial moments. Maybe it will seem like the reasonable thing to do. Maybe I will rip my hair out and cry, "what on earth is this man thinking?!"

If this happens, I hope I will find the strength and patience – no, not to hush up, I believe the wife can and should express her opinion (in a gentle and prayerful way) – but to trust my husband's leadership and his final decision.

Where would we be today if Noah's wife had insisted that building the Ark is a waste of time?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baby tax needed to save planet?

Click here and read about a fascinating suggestion of a new, more "eco-friendly" policy:

"Associate Professor Barry Walters said every couple with more than two children should be taxed to pay for enough trees to offset the carbon emissions generated over each child's lifetime.

Professor Walters called for condoms and "greenhouse-friendly" services such as sterilisation procedures to earn carbon credits."

The reason behind such an anti-child, anti-family idea?

"Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society."

Profligate consumption of resources. You mean the rampant consumerism that is driving our lives in a futile cycle of spending most of our waking hours slaving away at jobs that allow us to buy lots of things we don't really need? The idea that we must always have the best and latest, and we must have it now? Sad and frustrating, indeed. I suppose one of the options, and the most popular one these days, is to have as few people as possible so we can carry on with our wasteful lifestyle.

Limiting our drive for consumption and teaching our children to be wiser stewards of the earth's resources, to have just what they need and use just what they can't do without, is another option. This isn't something that can be done by legislations and campaigns; it's quiet, steady work that doesn't involve glamour, bonuses and promotions. And in the long run, I believe it's the only way to really help our planet, because greed is limitless and being fewer doesn't mean we will be any less consumption-driven.

It would also mean a great deal of discipline, self-control and sacrifice. I suppose that's why having fewer children is the more attractive option of being "eco-friendly". It just goes hand in hand with our current selfish, self-indulgent, get-it-now attitude. And I guess that's also why it's promoted by "professionals" aiming for quick headlines and cheap popularity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: Q&A

As an afterthought to my "Dedicated Daughters" series, I would like to share with you some questions I was recently asked by Katy-Anne, and my answers. I believe they will shed light on some thoughts other ladies might have had as well.

Do you believe that every young woman ought to remain at home until marriage?

I am a strong advocate of young women remaining at home until marriage, even if there are moderate complications and disagreements between the young lady and her family on issues such as faith, the role of women and feminine pursuits. However, I understand that there might be situations when it is healthier for the daughter to move out, in which case I strongly suggest that she should do anything in her power to avoid the typical party-out lifestyle that is so common today, when a young woman lives alone or with roommates.

If a young woman's parents do not wish for her to remain at home, what advice would you give the young lady?

First, I would suggest an open and honest conversation between the daughter and parents. Why do they want her to move out? Is there a specific reason, or is this the cultural conditioning of our generation? What are the expectations of her parents? Do the parents believe that moving out and attending a secular college, and in general being "independent" (I believe it's an illusion – we only choose who or what we want to depend on) is the only way the young woman will grow and develop as a person? Or maybe it's about financial concerns? The young lady could discuss with her parents opportunities of autodidactic learning, earning a degree online, or starting a home business. Sometimes all that is needed is to think outside the box. However, sometimes the daughter is facing parents who are thoroughly convinced by the feminist beliefs the world wants us to buy. If that is the case sometimes the daughter has no choice, and then she has to struggle with finding a godlier lifestyle while not being under her parents' protection.

How do you obey God and honor your mother's wishes at the same time?

I don't give up on what I believe in; however, in my journey towards godly femininity, I often have to make compromises, both because of my mother's wishes and because I never had a protective father on this earth. I would love to have been born into a close-knit, warm, religious, protective, traditional family, and work alongside my parents and siblings in a family business, but since this isn't possible, I must find other venues: getting a college degree and professional training my mother insists on, but living at home at the same time; earning money from home; dedicating most of my free time to sharpening my homemaking skills; the way is there, you just need to look for it.

Is it hard to keep to your convictions when your mother is opposed to them?

I won't say it's easy. It's a constant challenge, finding the balance between being firm and strong in my convictions, and at the same time being soft, loving, respectful and understanding towards loved ones who do not share them. I don't believe in open rebellion of a daughter against her parents, however misled and unbelieving they might be. If your parents want you to go to college and won't take no for an answer, but you are afraid of the corruptive environment there which might be unsuitable for a young lady, I believe it's better to obey your parents, pray for God to guard and protect your heart, and seek positive influences, than be rebellious, harsh and disrespectful.

What should a young lady do in a truly abusive home situation?

In a truly abusive situation, I believe there can be no compromise. The young lady should seek help immediately – from other family members, from the leaders of her community, and yes, also from legal authorities. No woman should tolerate violence, abuse and mistreatment. In the sad case when our earthly parents truly and irrevocably fail, our Heavenly Father will reach out to us and protect us.

What do you say to people that oppose your beliefs about a woman being a keeper at home?

I quote from Scripture. There is no better shield to my beliefs. Sadly, it is often dismissed, and in that case I challenge people to see that the alternative of egalitarianism – which we have experienced in our society in the past decades – brought atrocious consequences and has been destructive to our faith, families and communities.

Do you ever get discouraged being a stay at home daughter?

I'm told all the time it's foolish and "a waste" to put my focus on the home, as a daughter today, and in preparation for a future marriage. I'm told I can be more ambitious, competitive, and successful – in the world's terms. I won't tell you I live in a rosy world where I'm never frustrated or discouraged. But I find my strength through God, and now I also have the blessing of being supported and encouraged by likeminded ladies; I found wonderful friendships that has been such a source of joy and inspiration to me. So I would like to take this opportunity to say once more: thank you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quality Time

"Quality time" is something we hear so often; it seems as though we're under the illusion that it doesn't really matter how much time we spend together, as long as it's "quality time". And more specifically – it doesn't matter how much time we spend at home, as long as "our heart is at home".

How little time is enough, then? If we come late in the evening to a home that has been empty all day long, can we say, "Now we can relax and spend time together?" Not really. Not unless you have a maid and a cook, anyway. If dishes pile up in the sink, the mountain of dirty laundry is overshadowing the poor washing machine, the refrigerator is empty and the floors are dirty, this hardly provides a healthy, nourishing, relaxing atmosphere. It's almost impossible to properly rest and relax until basic things are taken care of.

Allow me to give you a real-life example. As you know, I currently attend a training program in clinical nutrition in a hospital. So, a few days ago, we had a patient, a 7-year-old boy, hospitalized because of a certain condition that requires nutritional intervention. We went to his parents and asked, "What does your son eat?"... They glance at each other -

"Um. Well, in the morning he has some milk and cereal and then we rush him to school - he eats lunch at school - and then he has evening school until 7 PM... He eats dinner there. Then he eats a snack at home, so we don't really know what he eats during the day..."

You know, I'm sure this boy's mother loves him. I'm sure she means well. But the fact remains that she only spends time with him for - 1 hour? 2 hours? - until he goes to bed. This isn't enough. Not nearly enough. And today, it's not an unusual situation at all. What are we thinking? Isn't it obvious we need a certain amount of "quantity time" so that it can truly be translated into quality time?

Things are very different when a woman is a keeper of her home. Even if she doesn't homeschool, she has the opportunity to create a safe, peaceful, welcoming haven, and still has enough time to be cheerful and relaxed when she greets her loved ones as they come back home. Don't be mistaken - reclaiming the lost culture of the home will take a long and hard battle. But I believe it will be worth it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: choosing the lesser evils

Today's post is the last I planned in the "Dedicated Daughters" series – but stay tuned for a bonus feature later this week!

Until now we discussed the different ways of being a thriving home-focused daughter in an unsupportive community – from overcoming inexperience and lack of proper tutoring in the arts of homemaking to withstanding negative influences; from battling frustration to ways of making money from home.

As I stated in the beginning, I don't claim to have all the answers up my sleeve; maybe my suggestions, so far, helped you. Maybe they didn't. Maybe, for various reasons, working from home isn't an option for you. Maybe your family firmly upholds the agenda of feminism, and will not be satisfied until you attend college and climb the career ladder. Sometimes making compromises is inevitable – but it doesn't mean there's nothing you can do.

I will start with college. I already said more than a bit about college; and you probably already know that while I don't think college is necessarily always evil, I'm convinced that it's a terribly dangerous and corrupting environment for a young lady. If your parents insist that you get a college degree, do everything in your power to get a degree online or attend a college near home. It made all the difference in the world during my college years and beyond.

Now, I understand there might be rare circumstances in which a young woman is better off moving out, such as when the environment at her own parents' home is immoral and corrupting – sadly, that can happen too. And not all colleges are the same, of course. But in the vast majority of cases, remaining at home will help the daughter not to lose focus of her goals, responsibilities, dreams and the path she is seeking. Living at home will allow more orderliness and opportunities to exercise her homemaking skills and practice caring for others. It's far better than disordered, irresponsible campus life.

If you do have to work outside the home, the type of work you do also makes a difference. Your parents can insist that you have a job, but nobody can make you have a time-consuming career. You can try to have a part-time job; and preferably, something that would enhance skills that will be especially valuable to you as a future homemaker. And I think you should be particularly careful not to develop a career mentality that would steer your heart away from your duties when you do have the blessed opportunity to come back home.

You can live frugally and avoid unnecessary expenses which would pull you into working more hours. You know the saying, 'time is money', right? Well, it works the other way too: money is time! Excessive purchases will develop your appetite for more unnecessary trinkets, and next thing you know, you're working crazy hours in order to be able to afford all that. Before you notice, your beautiful vision of a simple, home-focused life is buried under a pile of enormous bills.

You can avoid the rat race and power struggle of climbing up a career ladder. Do I believe that if you work outside the home, it's better to do something useful and interesting? Yes. But there is a very fine balance. The higher you climb, the more is demanded from you. Get caught in the rat race, and again, you will find yourself working an insane number of hours to get to the top. More subtly, it will also affect the type of people who are drawn to you. You will be surrounded by career-minded women and men who probably don't plan for their future wife to be a homemaker.

It might sound awfully pragmatic but it's true – if now you work 50 hours a week, earn a large income and spend a considerable amount of your energy hunting for job opportunities, the transition you were planning to make – finding a good man who wants his wife to be a full-time homemaker, leaving the work force (or greatly reducing the number of hours you work), concentrating on your home – will slowly find itself pushed away more and more.

You can spend most of your free time at home, rather than at social gatherings. Nowadays it's common to come home from work and immediately run off someplace else if you have a few spare hours. As you understand, this doesn't contribute at all to a simple, quiet, home-focused life. You can make most of the hours you do have with your family. You can live with peace in your heart and love for God.

As we come to the end of this series, I know there is more, a lot more to be said. I have only touched some of the burning questions, challenges and objections a home-dedicated daughter has to face, especially if her own family isn't supportive of her convictions; even more remains to be said about the countless blessings we receive by being virtuous women, embracing our feminine calling, and serving our families.

But if I could pass you only one message, if I knew you would remember only one thing of what I wrote, it would be this: by choosing to focus on your family and home, you are renouncing glamour, promotions, pay rises and bonuses; maybe you will get very little appreciation for your work; maybe you will have to face ridicule and slander. But have no doubt: your work is important; your convictions are noble; it is thanks to young ladies like you that we have hope today to reclaim the culture of home, to rebuild our long-lost vision of virtuous femininity - and live it out for the glory of God.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My crochet work in progress


crochetprogress
Originally uploaded by Anna's musings
Stitch by stitch, on long and cozy winter evenings... one of my favorite ways to relax!

I hope you ladies are having a lovely day. Tomorrow, I hope to post the last article in the "Dedicated Daughters" series. Stay tuned, and feel free to send any questions you might have if you think that certain relevant topics weren't covered.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Using time efficiently

It has been over a month since I started my training at the hospital. Emotionally, it has been a tremendously challenging and inspiring period for me. I thought I'd be depressed, surrounded by pain and fear, but in reality I wake up each day with a wide smile on my face, praising God for the countless ways He has so richly blessed me, and praying to be able to bring even a little comfort to the suffering.

In the area of managing our household, being occupied several hours outside the home each day means that I had to become more efficient in the use of my time. This involves getting my priorities straight, saying "no" to some outside commitments, and above all – patience and perseverance.

Setting priorities means that I don't fret about long-term projects that take longer time than usual. Maybe I put off polishing the living room furniture – and maybe I'll only do one piece at a time – but hey, at least the dishes aren't piled up in the sink, the laundry is caught up, the floors are reasonably clean, and there's a good meal on the table.

As many of you know, I don't have a car and use public transportation – thankfully, it's convenient enough around here. It means I have some free time – about an hour every day, 30 minutes each way - which I can put to good use. On my way there or back, I compile my to-do list, weekly schedule, and shopping list; I can even jot down ideas for blog posts or other writing projects. I also work on my knitting or crocheting, or read a good book.

What about you? Feel free to share your ways of multitasking and managing your time more efficiently! I'd love to hear more ideas.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lessons of poverty

We never had much money, but there was quite a lengthy a period when we were very poor. It was a difficult experience at the time, but now that I look back on it, I'm grateful for the lessons I learned, which gave me tools to develop the invaluable qualities of creative frugality, contentment with simplicity, making do with what you have and finding ways to get what you really need for free or for less money. I might have more money in the future, but the habits learned during times of poverty will linger – and, I firmly believe, will continue being an important contribution to the economical stability of my future family.

It did take a while, but now it's second nature to me – before I buy something, I always ask myself the following questions: can I borrow it from someone? Can I make it myself? Do I really need it, or can I do without it, using something I already have? Can I buy used? What are the best deals? I've been called a cheapskate; a stingy, boring person who doesn't know how to enjoy life; but I know one thing: my spending habits safely got me through college without debt; I never had to pull nightshifts and strain myself beyond my ability in order to pay my bills.

I remember last year I had the privilege to teach a wonderful, truly special girl from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city where we used to live. She learned from me – I hope! – some math, English and science, but I learned a far more valuable lesson from the cheerfulness, orderliness and dignity of their household, from how well-behaved the children were, how they showed respect to their parents and how the older ones helped take care of their little sister. The apartment was bare, the furniture shabby, the few decorations cheap, but everything was spotless, neat, nicely arranged and well taken care of.

The area they lived in was truly dreadful. I always tried to arrange the time of our lessons so that I could leave while there was still daylight. A few times I had to leave late in the evening and it was creepy. At any given time, even during the day, I ran into someone who either was smoking weed, or looked as though he just did. Sometimes the mother of the family would grab her broomstick and chase them away. Once I came to give a lesson and found out that someone died from an overdose that very morning, right near the entrance to their building. My heart ached especially for the parents – I can imagine how horrible it must be to know your children watch this every day, and not have the possibility to take them away from these horrible surroundings.

But you know what, they were always relaxed. Despite all their hardships, they always smiled and showed hospitality. I don't have the slightest doubt that these children will grow up to be decent, hard-working people. To me, that family was a perfect example of making the best of what you have and firmly standing against the surrounding evils.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: saving and making money, part 2

Previously, we discussed how a daughter can be a blessing to her family by being wise with money. Now I'd like to explore a few simple ways to make money from home.

I'd like to stress again that in my opinion, the key to having balanced finances isn't earning more – it's spending less. I was able to put more in savings off the modest sum I make from home, than from the time when I worked many hours outside the home and, apparently, earned much more money. The additional income melted away into expenses such as transportation, work clothes, and "compensatory purchases" – little things I bought because I worked so hard and "deserved it". If you just sit down and calculate how much it costs you if you buy a latte every day, you'll be amazed.

I think that if a young woman must earn a living, the ideal way to do it would be for her to join a family business. However, I know very well that in our day and age, families don't work together very often. Therefore, I'll introduce a few practical ways I've been using to make money from home in the last five years. Of course, I can't cover all the ways you can possibly make money from home – but maybe you'll glean an idea or two.

Working with the little ones – babysitting isn't just a way to earn money – it's also an invaluable opportunity to gain valuable experience with children. By the way, it doesn't have to be done just for money; for example, if you have a relative or neighbor who just had a baby and has several older little ones, she just might need a hand; don't hesitate to ask! The experience will be truly priceless, especially if you, like me, grew up in a small family and never had the chance to help out with little ones in your own home.

Giving lessons – another great way to spend time with children, teach them, learn to understand them; and cultivate the virtue of patience along the way. Throughout the years, I've had the blessed opportunity to tutor many children and teenagers, mainly in math, English and science, and it has been a very enjoyable experience for me. Often, the lessons I learned from the children and their families were more penetrating, and more important, than what they learned from me. Last year I had the privilege to teach a very special and lovely girl from a very poor family. Their joy and kindness to each other, their spirit of cheerfulness even though they had so little, were a precious example of gratitude I will carry with me, I'm certain, throughout the years.

Here, too, I think you can also see opportunities for volunteering. Some years ago, I tutored a sick child for free, during several months when she was at home and until she went back to school. I didn't earn money, but it was a very special and beneficial experience in other ways.
Look what you are good at; maybe it's languages, music, sewing, flower arranging? Whatever it is, there just might be some eager children, or other young ladies near you, who will be glad to pay for you teaching them that skill.

Translating – Along with tutoring, translating is one of my favorite ways to make money from home. The schedule is flexible; you and you alone determine when, how and how much you do every day (as long as the number of offers you take on is also controlled by you). I'm not a professional translator, but since I charge much lower for my services, I've found that many people are more than willing to pay, and as you gain experience, it makes you more and more reliable. This is an option for you, of course, only if you know more than one language.

Typing – even in our digital age, many people – especially older ones – aren't exactly friendly with computers, and will gladly pay you for typing for them. It's a great option for you if you type fast.

There are, of course, a myriad of ways to make money from home, and no one can possibly try them all; therefore, my suggestion to you is – be creative! Explore any skill you are good at and see if it can be made profitable. Are you good at sewing or other crafts? See if you have the time and energy to make items for sale, and how much you would be profited by it; do your cakes and cookies earn compliments whenever they are served? Consider checking where you could sell them, and make a few extra batches. I did that several times at charity events and it was always a smashing success.

This is an area where each one can play to her own strengths. I know young ladies who have developed a skill for photography, flower arranging, making candles and soaps, and even pottery, and successfully earn enough money from home to cover all or almost all of their expenses. Some even took the plunge and started online businesses; even if it's something you don't know much about, it doesn't mean you can't give it a try. Notice that I'm not saying you should jump headfirst into any possibility that looks promising – I am merely encouraging you to think outside the box.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Freedom?

This interesting article , sent to me by a reader (thank you!), explores the ugly face of a slogan we are all expected to bow to – "freedom of choice". Not a week passes by without me hearing, "but it's thanks to feminism you can now do whatever you want, you can go to college, get a career, marry anyone you want and get a divorce whenever you want"… I know it sounds appealing to some. But what about other "freedoms", which are mentioned less often?

Here's a snippet:

"We are also free to become useless in our homes. We now hire maid services, landscapers, pool cleaners, painters, interior decorators, cooks, nannies, teachers and tutors, caterers, therapists, party planners, massage therapists, laundry services, etc., while losing every intuitive instinct of our female natures. "

"We are free to completely ignore the FACT that our children are SUFFERING with mean-spirited and incompetent mothers – children who are hungry, starved for attention, and mistreated by non-stop extracurricular sports regimens, drive-thru bags of dangerous food, teachers and public school indoctrination camps, completely ignored spiritual needs, and disrespect and contempt of their children’s fathers."

I must tell you I like the alternative much better:

"We need to educate our children in the home. We need to eliminate family debt and to stock and store our home pantries and family supplies. We need to reconnect to our biological and intuitive natures, and with that said, we must reconnect to our spiritual natures and needs as women. We must be ultimately careful that we do not become what we loathe."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dealing with pain and suffering

I haven't written much more about my hospital experience since my last post, but these thoughts have been brewing inside my mind for weeks now. Warning: I'm sure many of you will not find any interest in these ramblings. Anyway…

Before I started, I was sure I'm going to collapse the moment I see a patient in real life. But as days and weeks went on, and we kept going from unit to unit, surrounded by the most terrible pain and suffering you can imagine, I was surprised at my own calmness. I'm doing great, I thought, mentally patting myself on the back.

One of the dietitians in our hospital also has a license in art therapy. She did a session with us this week, which brought up much of what we were feeling but were afraid to admit even to ourselves. There wasn't much talking, but I saw how each one of us looks inside herself, her own emotions. It was only then that I realized I've just been walking around in a certain form of numbness.

I'm not indifferent to other people's suffering. Far from it. However, I'm determined not to be overwhelmed and broken by it. So I do what I can. I take it one day at a time. I rejoice in being surrounded by friends, who make it so much easier to hold on, and even throw in a good deal of laughter, support and fellowship. I see amazing changes in young women I thought I got to know well during our college years. They are harder and softer at the same time, more real, more focused on the truly important. It's hard for me to tell, but I wonder if a similar process is taking place in my heart as well.

As soon as I can, I hurry to my dear home. I find even more joy than before in performing simple, mundane tasks: hanging the laundry; baking a cake; reorganizing my closets; knitting; playing with our kitties. On the other hand, I feel my mind is less perceptible to information, especially troubling news. I stopped watching TV altogether. I read much less newspapers, websites and blogs. Of books, these days I mainly stick to comforting, peaceful, and preferably, familiar stories.

I don't talk much, but I crave the closeness of people I feel comfortable with. I love listening to everyday conversations – for some reason, I find it soothing. And every day, every single day, I will keep safely placing my heart and soul at the hands of God Almighty. He will guide me and deliver me. I know He will.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dedicated Daughters: saving and making money, part 1

Being a daughter at home doesn't mean being a financial burden. A creative, hard-working daughter can be a blessing to her family (yes, financially as well) while developing the techniques of spending less and stretching every penny that will be very useful someday for a stay-at-home wife and mother.

Maybe a frugality isn't a habit for you. I know it wasn't for me; it required changing my entire mindset: from "must have it" to "can do without it", from "it costs almost nothing" to "I don't really need it", from "not buying whatever I want is suffocating" to "being enslaved to my whims is truly suffocating".

There are many resources you can find online which will help you on a path to a more frugal life. You will be encouraged by the stories of countless people who spend less and live more, people who made choices of frugality and simplicity, people who cut up their credit cards and have never been happier. Frugality isn't just spending less. It's being creative and resourceful, patient and thankful.

A few practical points that help me on my path to frugality:

I buy second hand. For a long time, I wrinkled my nose at yard sales, second-hand shops and thrift stores, equaling price and quality – that is, until by chance I found some real treasures. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it does pay off, and no one can guess I buy second hand. Also, no one would ever know how little I actually spend on clothes, unless I told them. You can also sell your unneeded items, earning some extra money and ridding your home of clutter at the same time.
You have to be wise with this one, though. Don't settle for low quality because it's cheap – it will cost you more in the long run.

I don't have a car. Most of my friends who insisted on having cars during college either ended up accumulating debt, or working many long, exhausting hours, or both, at the same time complaining for the money they had to pay for gas and other car-related expenses. I always had a much smaller side income for my own needs (giving lessons and translating), out of which I put a considerable sum into savings. I'm debt-free, and intend to keep it that way.

I give handmade gifts. I love giving gifts, and would be very put off if frugality meant I can now do less to make my loved ones feel special. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be so; far from it! Learning to knit, crochet and cross-stitch opened a whole new set of possibilities for me; even with the most basic level of these skills, you can make a variety of useful gifts everyone will love: scarves and blankets, doilies and dishcloths, and even bookmarkers. They are not only practical, but you can make them personal (for example stitching the initials of the person for whom the gift is intended), and people will appreciate the time and love poured into them, as opposing hurriedly chosen gifts from a department store.

Even if you've never held a needle, you still have a wide range of possibilities to be frugal and creative with your gifts. A personal scrapbook or a stack of handmade cards; baking mixes for special breads or cookies, beautifully wrapped and with a recipe attached; a collection of different sorts of tea, with homemade cookies to go with, and a lovingly written note – I'm yet to meet the person who would say no to one of these!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Not only women suffer from negative body image

We all know about how the incredibly thin, beautiful and young models we constantly see in the media might make us feel ugly, fat, unworthy, depressed and discontented with our looks.

Did you know men can also be affected by the muscular Superman image they see in commercials and glossy magazines? A research I've read some time ago in International Journal of Eating Disorders states that men who are constantly exposed to such images may feel not masculine enough.

According to this research, men might suffer from a body image disorder called muscle dysmorphia – feeling their muscle mass is not big enough while in fact it is normal and fits the healthy standard for their age group. This may lead men (especially the young ones) to use steroids and put themselves under unnecessary health risk.

When will we take action to stop what I call the Media Madness? It destroys our self-image. It makes us feel ugly for absolutely no reason. Let's do something and make a stand against it! Let's keep in mind that men are masculine and women are feminine and we all can be happy and loved even if we don't perfectly fit the cultural norms of beauty.

... Just a random thought, before we continue with "Dedicated Daughters" tomorrow. I hope everyone are having a lovely day.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Modesty: true beauty uncovered

As I start another post about modesty, I can almost see in the eyes of my mind a young girl or woman out there, giving a little sigh and saying to herself: 'Yes, I know modesty is good and right; I know it's important. But I'm just getting a little tired of reading about how I should only wear skirts, how tight is too tight, and how I shouldn't draw attention to myself. No fun!'

Well, actually, the message I would like to give today is quite different. Certainly there's nothing wrong with being valued, cherished, and appreciated – and yes, getting attention. Only we need to make sure it's the right kind of attention. If you put on immodest clothes and inappropriate, flirty attitude, you will not be seen as yourself – a precious and important human being – but as a lightheaded, flirtatious woman. Maybe you will even give the impression of superficial cuteness. But it will not give you long-lasting and solid attention and affection.

When I was in high school, the girls who received a lot of attention from the cutest guys were inevitably the most flirtatious ones, dressed in the shortest skirts and wearing the most makeup. Sometimes I would sigh and wish I was like them: pretty and popular.

Now my former classmates are all between 21-23 years old, and more than a few girls got married already. Want to know which girls? The meek and quiet ones, the ones we didn't think would ever find anyone. What about the giggly queen bees in their flashy dresses? They had so many boyfriends, so why aren't they married?

I'm not saying getting married as quickly as possible is the ultimate way to bliss. My point is that getting a lot of attention from men doesn't mean anything about our long-term happiness. We should ask ourselves: what type of attention do we want to get from men? Do we want fun and a few laughs? Or do we want men to see us as potential wives and mothers of their children?

Not long ago, I flipped through some photo albums from my high school days. I used to dress very inappropriately back then. Looking through those photos, I slowly came to realizing how there was virtually no chance to resist the obvious appeal of that young woman. Her bare shoulders, legs, chest, midriff screamed for attention. The wrong kind of attention.

Modesty isn't about hiding forever in the shadow of plainness. On the contrary: modesty allows to uncover the real you, with your special, unique beauty. You aren't your body. You aren't giggles and flirting. You are a sweet woman, cherished woman, with a beautiful heart, mind and soul.

You are also an individual; yes, modesty has nothing to do with cookie-cutter living. We are all called to some basic standards by God, but other than that, there's plenty of room for creativity and expressing your true self. It cannot be seen, however, if you let it be overshadowed by immodesty.

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


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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 .