Thursday, May 31, 2007

Preventing early dieting and eating disorders

Lean asked me in response to my previous post on distorted body image:

Perhaps you could write a post on what we could do to prevent this fixation in the next generation? Where did we get the idea that scrawny is beautiful/healthy, and how can we train our future daughters to have the right view in this matter?

This is such an excellent question, Lean! Because after all, our primary concern is the young and vulnerable girls that are so susceptible to anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders.

So, how did we get here? How did we get the idea that thinness equals beauty? It's clear that this is some kind of distortion. Throughout history, feminine curves were considered beautiful and flattering. The desire to be healthy and fit is understandable – but what about those walking skeletons we see on the covers of glossy fashion magazines?

As far as I know, there isn't a single opinion about what causes the drive for unnatural thinness and anorexia nervosa. Most of the researchers agree that it doesn't exist in cultures where people are often hungry – after all, who cares about dieting when there isn't always enough food on the table?

I'm not a mother yet, but I think that we have two main targets here:

1. Minimizing the contact with negative influences.
This means all the media – TV programs, fashion magazines, dieting websites – that not only promote distorted beauty ideals, but even worse: try to make them seem like the most important thing in life, like the only thing that will bring us happiness. Try this diet and lose weight quickly, and be beautiful, popular, happy, perfect. Now, I know we can never eliminate all these influences. But we can limit the exposure of young girls to dangerous messages.

2. Showing positive and healthy personal example.
Will the young girls see their mother frustrated because she doesn't fit anymore into the skirt she used to wear in highschool? Will they hear their mother always talk about the latest diet and how much better her life would be if she could only lose that extra weight? And what is this supposed to teach them?

Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with looking good or being fit or dressing nicely. On the contrary! What bothers me is how this is blown out of proportion in our culture. How people's self image depends so strongly on body image. If the way we look determines the person we feel we are, no wonder we are so miserable because of a few wrinkles or extra kilos! If our identity is built mostly on external beauty, we will never have peace. We will always be miserable.

I think the message we should give our daughters (and young girls in general) is this: "Looking good is great, but you certainly don't want to build your whole life around it. And who said that looking good means fitting a certain cultural standard?"

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I love FlyLady!

I simply love FlyLady for all the wonderful tips on cleaning and home organization! The great ideas are really too many to count, but here are the ones that helped me most:

1. Shine your sink
This might not make sense - how does a shiny sink help when your whole house is a mess? Yet I've found out that it works miracles for me. If my sink is clean and shiny, I feel relaxed and contented enough to tackle the biggest pile of mess and clutter I can find.

2. Declutter for 15 minutes a day
I don't think I can over-emphasize the importance of regular decluttering. But suppose you're like me - someone who tends to accumulate unnecessary possessions - and those, in turn, accumulate dust? What if you have piles of clutter you are simple afraid to face? Doing a bit every day does the trick!

3. Pick up after yourself
This one makes a huge difference about how your home looks at the end of the day! A pair of shoes here, a glass or dish there... before you know it, your house is a mess. Picking up after yourself helps you maintain cleanliness and order.

4. Keep the bathroom clean
I think few things are more depressing and discouraging than a dirty, messy bathroom.

5. Set your timer for 15 minutes
When I face a cleaning day and I'm not in my best shape, I often feel overwhelmed - "oh, this will take hours! I will never finish this! I'm so tired!" - but if I work for 15 minutes and go as fast as I can, then rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then work for 15 minutes again (repeat as many times as necessary) - this really works when you can't do a lot at once.

... Waiting to hear your favorite FlyLady tips!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"You'd better have some control!"

"It's nice to be taken care of, but be careful. If your husband has discreet bad habits such as poker, women, booze or drugs you better have some control. By the time you realize what has happened it is too late."

This is (a part of) another comment I got to the posts where I expressed my opinion about masculine leadership and submission of women to their husbands. Apparently, I gave the impression that I think the submissive woman is a helpless, clueless thing that doesn't have the ability to take care of herself.

As you know from what I said earlier, I believe women have the right to be appreciated, respected, and treated like decent human beings. I don't deny the fact that abuse within the family exists, and I certainly don't support anyone or anything that contributes to the abuse of women. I believe women should be cherished and protected and a helping hand should be extended when one of our sisters is in a tragic situation.

A godly woman submits to her husband joyfully and willingly, because this is what God calls her to. She isn't bullied into it and she doesn't do it because she only has half a brain. And if something as horrible as abuse, adultery or addiction occurs in her family, I believe she is capable of noticing it. I also believe she has the right to defend herself – and the right to receive support and encouragement from her family and community.

Abuse of women is a difficult and painful issue which I have encountered personally. A man who mistreats, neglects, abuses his wife is not a godly man. God gave him the role of leader and protector, and he threw this beautiful gift away.

Does it mean, however, that women should resign their God-given role and become controlling in order to prevent themselves from depending on a potential abuser?

Should we go along the line that, "well, I never know if I'm abused, so I'd better be an independent woman and a feminist, and this way I am protected if it happens that I'm married to an abusive man"? To me, it sounds pretty much like hiding in a bunker because I'm afraid war might break out. Sure, if it happens, it will find me ready, but most chances are that I'll spend my life in fear and stress, without enjoying sunshine and wind and flowers, for no good reason.

Again, this is like all the other questions we have to take from others (and sometimes from ourselves too!) – What if your husband dies? What if your husband becomes ill and is unable to provide for your family? What if you divorce?

We don't know what future will bring, but we do know God's faithful and wise instruction. Let's not ruin the beauty of following His word by worrying about hardships that may or may not happen.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A quiet moment

So tired! How wonderful it is to be home and have a couple of peaceful hours.

Hope you've all had a lovely day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More on distorted body image

To tell you the truth, at times it's appalling how the ideal of thinness has become so deeply ingrained in us. Sometime during my second year in college, I've noticed that I'm nearly the only one who still brings sandwiches – with cheese and olives or peanut butter - for lunch. It seemed most of my fellow students lived off carrots and diet rice crisps.

There was one especially exhausting period when I used to come home very late and was too tired to eat anything but a salad before going to bed. I was close to falling asleep any time, day or night. I was anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated and all that, together with literally having no time to eat, resulted in losing weight.

And guess what, I started receiving compliments. Yep, that's right. "Oh, I see you've lost weight, good for you!"; "you look so great!"; "I wish I could be as thin as you!"

What's wrong with them, I thought? Can't they see I'm about to collapse from unhealthy pressure? My weight back then was lower than what I had in 7-th grade. I was so exhausted I didn't even feel hungry. How could anyone think I looked good when I felt so awful?

When exams were finally over and I went back to eating and sleeping like I used to, my normal weight gradually came back. I was pleased. Finally, I stopped looking like a ghost and had some color in my cheeks again.

Do you know what I got? Genuine concern and plenty of tips. "I see your diet isn't working anymore, do you want to try mine?"; "You should really stop with all those peanut butter sandwiches; it will ruin everything you've worked so hard on!" … Huh? I finally returned to my healthy and normal state. Why would I want to starve myself?

It really gives me a sick feeling when I hear a fellow student calling herself 'a cow' for eating a low-fat yogurt, claiming she has hidden fat stores (where, for God's sake?) that she simply needs to shake off in the gym. All that, while she knows her BMI is on the lowest end of normal! But no, she wants to return to the 43 kilos she was once in junior high. Do you know how dangerous it is to be underweight? Much more than being overweight!

A 'good day' is when she overcomes her hunger. A 'bad day' is when she 'gives in' and eats more than what she needs to survive. No, she doesn't have anorexia – not yet, at least. The sad part is that soon she will start counseling poor women who are ready to give just about anything to lose that 'extra' weight (which is just their normal weight). She might even counsel women who have eating disorders. How is she supposed to help them when she hates her body so much?!

How have we reached a point when women are ready to trade their health and well-being for some distorted beauty ideal?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hmm... I guess it just wasn't the right day for baking...

Yesterday, I made an attempt to bake chocolate cookies... and well, I have no idea how it happened, but I got one huge cookie instead. Perhaps I didn't give them enough space in the baking tray. Oh well... one can't always be successful, right? I cut the huge cookie into pieces and it didn't taste too bad, but I won't dare to try that recipe again.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Do we need duty?

You know, the comments I decide not to publish really give me a lot of material for thought. True, parts of them are rude and nasty, but they also contain some questions I like to ponder.

Here's the latest:
"Does God want your 'duty' or your heart? Do you want your husband to see you as his duty?"

Duty. The rarely used word. The long-forgotten virtue. The synonym of everything dry, boring, suffocating. Do we want it at all? Don't we simply need love, and creativity, and freedom?

Yet let's think for a moment where our lives would be if we didn't have duty. What would happen if soldiers didn't feel they have duty to fight for their country? What if parents didn't think they have duty towards their children? What if everyone always did only what their heart desires? What would happen if nothing kept us going on when times get tough?

It doesn't take much sacrifice to just do what we want. But commitment, self-discipline, the ability to put the needs of others first? Those only mark a mature and responsible person.

I don't see any contradiction between duty and love, either. On the contrary. See Deuteronomy 6:5 – "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" – what does that mean, then? We are told to love God. We are told to give our hearts to him – but this is not a suggestion. It is our duty to love Him.

I think the same can be applied to marriage. We should be committed to love our spouses. I'm not talking about just falling in love here – I mean the kind of love that takes a lot of work, sweat and pain. This means sticking together when our spouse doesn't exactly behave like an angel. This means the husband is supposed to provide for the family even when he doesn't have the job of his dreams, and the wife should not skip a cleaning day because she feels more like taking a walk outside. Our duties towards our loved ones should not be seen a suffocating burden, either. We should do them with joy.

If I get married one day, do I want my husband to feel he has duty towards me and our family? Absolutely. Otherwise, how are we supposed to feel secure in our marriage? I repeat, duty and love are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite – they go hand in hand.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Strawberry jam!

I had lots of fun today making strawberry jam! I wish you could smell the wonderful aroma that is coming from our kitchen right now. I've left the strawberries to cool off, and in a couple of hours I'll give them another round... mmm! We're going to have lots of yummy, home-made jam soon!

PS: Here's how we make the jam:

1. Take strawberries and sugar in approximately 1:1 proportion (I took 1 kilo strawberries and 1 kilo sugar)

2. Put a layer of strawberries in a pot, top with some sugar, then a layer of strawberries and a layer of sugar again, until you're out of sugar and berries. Leave overnight.

3. Cook the berries&sugar for several minutes, until boiling, but don't let it boil for a long time if you want to have whole berries; turn off the fire and let it cool down. After several hours, repeat the procedure. When you repeat it for 3-4 times, the jam will gradually become less liquid.

4. When you decide it's the last time you're going to let the jam boil, squeeze a fresh lemon into it. This will prevent your jam from becoming dark.

I don't use any pectin, so it's still more liquid than commercial jams, but it's still delicious! And of course you can make jam from pretty much anything - apricots, plums, pears, you name it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What can homemakers offer their husbands?

"What can housewives offer their husbands as intelligent human beings, apart from cleaning their homes and raising their children?"

This question was a part of another comment I didn't publish; however, instead of ignoring it, I decided to phrase it in a more civilized and less aggressive way, and refer to it in a separate post, since I think it's important.

First, let me say that I don't think home management and child-rearing are inferior tasks that can be swept aside and ignored when a woman's contribution is discussed. On the contrary, this is noble and important work that has been a woman's 'career' for many centuries, and no one dared to call women 'parasites' because they 'only' managed the home and family. It was clear that a woman's presence at home has great benefits for the family.

Allow me to express my puzzlement about the thought homemakers have the intellect of a guinea pig. I've heard this many times, and this argument is based on the feeble 'logic' that if a woman doesn't pursue a career, this means she is incapable of doing that, and therefore she must be unintelligent. This opinion lacks solid ground. If a woman chooses not to pursue college education or career, this doesn't mean she can't. I wrote poetry, read classic literature, spoke 4 languages and could discuss the different periods of Goya's painting long before I went to college. Now I'm about to graduate, but I don't think college made me one bit more accomplished as an intelligent human being.

Women were created to be their husband's helpmeets. Read again: not mindless slaves or brainless doormats, but helpmeets. Can a woman be a true helpmeet if she doesn't understand what's on her husband's mind, can't have an intelligent conversation with him, is incapable of discussing important decisions and doesn't know even a bit about his ventures at work? Can a woman teach her children if her brain is never stimulated by anything new and is as dull and dry as the Sahara? I don't think so! How can a woman help her husband and educate the next generation if she's so intellectually inferior?

When you're on a long and difficult journey – and life is definitely such a journey –would you rather have a slave who obeys every word you say, but has no intelligent input of his own; or an assistant who doesn't simply submit to your authority, but is ready to give counsel, support and encouragement?

Don't doubt God's wisdom. He gave Adam a helpmeet and not a slave because he knew Adam needs a shoulder-to-shoulder partner, not someone with banana mush instead of brain.

We helpmeets aren't stupid – it just doesn't fit with our God-given role.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sharing a meal

I consider this one of the best kitty pictures I've ever taken. These two kitties are happily sharing a box of sardines.

Do you sometimes share a dish when eating out? I do it all the time. The servings are often so huge it would be impossible for me to eat a whole one anyway. Did you know servings today are about 3 times larger than in the 50-s? I wish I knew why.

Monday, May 21, 2007

If God has no authority

I love blogging and exchanging ideas with all the amazing ladies (and gentlemen) who visit my little corner. I love your encouragement and wit, your thoughtful and intelligent remarks. Yet from time to time, I get response that makes me happy I have comment moderation.

Sometimes these are plain insults ('you are stupid'). I ignore that. But recently, I received a comment (to my post about masculine leadership and feminism) that simply made me say 'huh?' – I didn't post it, because it was worded rather aggressively and contained personal ventures against me.

What left me in a state of puzzlement was that the author claimed she believes in God – but not that He has any authority over her life, or that His commandments are anything more than a mere suggestion. She also let me know how backward and narrow-minded I am, living my life by an ancient, outdated book. "I don't believe in the bible. I don't need it… It's trash. I threw it out long ago and never looked back and never been happier."

I know I have readers of different faiths here and I'm not going to open this blog for religious debate. But every religion I know is built upon authority and guidance.

If God has no authority, you let your desires be your God.

If God doesn't guide you, you let yourself be guided by your lusts.

If God has no control over you, you let your ambitions control you.

… You make yourself your own God.
Sadly, this is not uncommon. And let me tell you something, in my opinion it's no better than worshipping the Golden Calf.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Faith and Body Image

Those of you who have read previous posts on my blog know I attend college while living at home (I study nutrition). There are arguments for and against college, but today, I would rather not make any; I only want to share with you an observation I made.

Not long ago, a question was raised during class. One of my fellow students asked:
"What do I do with women who don't need to lose weight but still want to? How do I convince them their current weight is normal and healthy?"
Good question! The desire to become stick-thin is certainly not uncommon these days.
Our teacher looked at the young lady who asked, looked at us all, and asked a question in return:
"How many of you want to lose weight?"
There were about 20 of us in that room, all young women, none of us overweight. Guess how many stated they were not interested in losing weight? Only 3.
Yes, only 3 out of 20. And we are talking about women who are about to graduate with a degree in nutrition, fully equipped with knowledge, who are perfectly capable of making the simple calculation to find out their weight is healthy and normal!

So what about the 3 gals who thought their weight is just fine? Would you like to know what they had in common?
It's amazing, but they were all religious. 3 religious girls out of a group of 20, and those were the 3 who stated they are not interested in losing weight! By the way, one of those 3 was actually the only one in the room who could be described as curvy. Coincidence?
I have researched some literature recently and found several studies which prove religious women are less prone to eating disorders and distorted body image. Possible explanations?

I can't find the articles right now, but I remember that in one study, it was stated that religious women are more likely to have stronger values and tighter family connections, and therefore less likely to feel they are appreciated based on outwards appearance. Religious women were also more likely to have a firm, loving connection with their father – a highly important factor in building a girl's self-image.

A book I came across a while ago suggested a deeper level of thought on this matter: religion respects femininity, I'll say more – puts glorious womanhood on a pedestal. 'Liberated' world shuns it. Being 'feminine' these days means a skimpy outfit.

A healthy, feminine figure with curves, with breasts and hips, represents fertility and nurturing. It reminds us of the God-given role of joyful mother – a role intended for the vast majority of women. And some try hard to fight against is. Our culture is afraid of powerful womanhood! Women are afraid to acknowledge they are miles away from their true calling – and subconsciously, they choose to look less and less like women.

When I read this, it seemed a bit far-fetched. But after that incident during class, I'm inclined to believe it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ideas for vegetarian food

AnneK asked me to post some vegetarian recipes, and I thought I might give it a try. Perhaps I should mention that I haven't eaten any meat, poultry or fish for nearly 12 years now. So... here are some tips and recipes:

1. Protein
There's a myth that many vegetarians are suffering from protein deficiency. In fact, the average Western diet contains much more protein than we actually need, and the excess is burnt for energy. This is a waste of good protein and a strain on our body. However, the protein we consume must be of good quality, meaning that is should be balanced regarding all the essential amino acids. For those who include eggs and dairy products in their diet, it's not a problem at all. But even vegans can get good quality protein if they combine grains and legumes, for example: rice or pasta with beans, dry peas or lentils.

2. Iron
There are plenty of non-animal sources of iron, such as legumes, nuts, broccoli. I must be fair, however, and say that our body is able to utilize iron from animal sources much better than plant iron. If you heavily rely on non-animals sources of iron in your diet, this must be taken into consideration and I suggest you consume more iron than recommended by the DRI.

3. B12
Another myth is that all vegetarians are bound to suffer, sooner or later, from B12 deficiency. The truth is that one egg and 2-3 portions of dairy products should supply you with the amount of B12 that is stated in the DRI. Vegans, however, must eat B12-fortified foods or take a supplement.

And here are some recipes for you to try out, if you dare:

Rice with lentils
This is one of my favorite dishes! Very filling and satisfying. I love lentils and use them often in various dishes.

1 cup of green lentils, soaked in water for 1 hour
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of rice, washed
1 1\2 cups of water

Cook lentils in water for 20 minutes until soft. While lentils are cooking, sautee the chopped onion in a large pot until golden, then add the lentils (without water), mix and add salt and paper to your taste, and other spices if you like. Add rice with 1 1\2 cups of water, close the pot and let it boil. Stir occasionally. Cook until rice is soft.

Zucchini with sour cream
6 large zucchini
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. flour
Salt, vegetable oil

Peel and cut zucchini. Cook in salted water until soft, then sautee for a couple of minutes in vegetable oil. Put zucchini in a baking tray. Mix sour cream and flour and spread over zucchini. Bake in low temperature for approximately half an hour.

Moussaka with potatoes and lentils
500 gr potatoes
200 gr lentils, soaked
1 onion
1 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. tomato paste or ketchup

Cook lentils. Cook potatoes in skins, peel and slice. Grind lentils in food processor. In a pan, fry onion with some vegetable oil and add lentils. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper. In a baking tray, put out the bread crumbs, a layer of potato slices, a layer of lentils with onion; repeat until you're out of potatoes and lentils. Mix a glass of water with a tbsp. of tomato paste and pour over the moussaka. Put into oven for approximately half an hour.

Stay tuned for more vegetarian recipes in future posts!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yummy carrot cake

I thought I lost this recipe, and was so thrilled when I found it that I decided I should make this yummy carrot cake today.

To make it, you will need:

175 gr (6 oz) sugar - I used less, it depends on how sweet you like you cake
175 gr (6 oz) oil (I used canola)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 carrots, grated
100 gr (4 oz) raisins
1 skin of orange or lemon, grated
175 gr (6 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla sugar

Mix eggs with sugar and oil. Add grated carrot, orange/lemon skin and raisins. Then add flour with baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix everything well; you should get an almost liquid mass.

Put in pre-heated oven (180C/350F) for 40-45 minutes.

Simple and delicious with a cup of tea or coffee. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feminism vs. Women's rights

Here's a question Buffy asked me:
Do I take it that you do not support feminism but you do support women's rights? I was wondering what you thought the difference was as most people seem to be unclear about the definition of either.

What a great question, Buffy! Very often, when people hear I stopped supporting feminism, they assume I'm against women's rights. The reason of this misjudged concept is automatically associating feminism with women's rights and benefits, and everything that goes against it with oppression and belittling of women – which is imprecise, to say the least.

To help you understand why I think so, let me first give a brief introduction of these two terms – feminism and women's rights.

What in my opinion constitutes women's rights? Here's a summary of the basics:

1. Physical protection and safety – this means no one has the right to abuse, harass, threaten a woman, or put a woman in a situation that endangers her physical well-being. A woman is to have a feeling of being physically protected.
2. Emotional protection and safety – no one has the right to emotionally abuse or torture a woman, cause her distress, endanger her spiritual well-being or undermine her feeling of emotional security. A woman is to have a feeling of being emotionally protected.
3. Appreciation – a woman should be appreciated for her being a unique human being, created in God's image, and for her role as a woman, helpmeet, wife, and mother – which is also God-given.
4. Respect – a woman has the right to be respected. She has the right to express her opinions, which should be taken seriously. No one has the right to belittle a woman, deny her importance or boss her around.

Anything important that I might have forgotten can be considered as a part of physical or emotional well-being. You will also notice, of course, that everything I listed can be applied to all human beings, men as well as women – except that in number 3, 'role of woman, helpmeet, wife and mother' should be replaced with 'role of man, leader, husband and father'.

Now let's say a few words about feminism. Feminism is meekly defined as 'The name of a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies that are concerned with cultural, political and economic practices and inequalities that discriminate against women.'

Some defenders of feminism claim that 'feminism is not against homemakers; it's all about choice" – is that so?

"A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism...the [housewife's] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable.... [W]oman's work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a 'career' for woman." ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.

"[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed.... No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction." ~ Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma," Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.

"Feminism was profoundly opposed to traditional conceptions of how families should be organized, [since] the very existence of full-time homemakers was incompatible with the women's movement.... [I]f even 10 percent of American women remain full-time homemakers, this will reinforce traditional views of what women ought to do and encourage other women to become full-time homemakers at least while their children are very young.... If women disproportionately take time off from their careers to have children, or if they work less hard than men at their careers while their children are young, this will put them at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis men, particularly men whose wives do all the homemaking and child care.... This means that no matter how any individual feminist might feel about child care and housework, the movement as a whole had reasons to discourage full-time homemaking." ~ Jane J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA, 1986.

(Quotes taken from LAF article "You Don't Know Feminism")

Now let's have a look at the consequences of feminism and see if it provided women with the basic rights I mentioned in the earlier part of my post.

Over 40 years after the beginning of the modern feminist movement of the 1960's, we have unrestricted sex, the Pill, abortion on demand, an astronomically increased number of single mothers, teenage mothers and women in their 40's struggling with infertility; we have a fatherless generation who hasn't seen a better example; chastity is mocked, women are sexualized and coerced into selling themselves cheap; we have no-fault divorce, deterioration of family values – and I could go on and on. Tell me, how exactly does it provide women with a sense of physical and emotional security?

A woman is no longer appreciated and respected for being a woman – on the contrary, she is expected to be as masculine as possible, and every suggestion that there is, in fact, a difference in the way a men's and women's minds work meets vehement denial (even an innocent statement such as 'a research has found a higher percent of women have talent for studying languages, while men are more inclined to mathematics'). Motherhood is regarded as 'just one out of many options', and being a helpmeet is perceived as slavery.

A daughter can no longer expect to be protected by her father; a woman finds it hard to trust her husband's leadership and feel secure in her marriage, with the divorce rates so ridiculously high; a lady cannot expect chivalry anymore.

Feminism claims that before its onset, women were a faceless, abused, uneducated mass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Biblical laws have protected women for many centuries before feminism came into the picture. Take for example Deuteronomy 22:28-29. I've heard various opinions about this verse, but the bottom line is that a man cannot take a maiden's virginity and get away with it. What did feminism give us instead of defending a woman's honor and chastity? The preposterous claim that it has no importance and is more of a hindrance to a woman's 'liberation'.

Women's education is another myth. If you listen to feminists, women were nearly illiterate before the start of feminist movement. I wish they knew my great-grandmother, who was home educated and had wide knowledge of fine literature, music, arts, history and management of the home; she was accomplished in the domestic arts; she was an honored wife and the delighted mother of seven children. My grandmother did go to a women's college back in 1934, but it wasn't like today. She stayed with two respectable old ladies and helped them look after their home, and the ladies in turn looked after her and made sure no unworthy man gets near her.

Yes, feminism has provided us with 'freedom of choice' – but only for women who make a certain choice. What about women who want to fulfill their God-given role as helpmeets, wives, keepers of the home, mothers, and who see it as a satisfying, challenging, full-time work? But ah, they are mindless slaves! Oppressed! Brainwashed! They should be educated and forced – by legislations and campaigns – to make the right 'choice'.

If feminism is a movement for women's rights and for improving the position of women, its ultimate test should be a reality check of women's well-being, security and happiness. After doing such a check, isn't it obvious that feminism miserably failed?

I'm not saying the times before feminism were all of a rose garden; but I'm very much against feminism being portrayed as some sort of kind fairy who raised women from the dust and saved them from meaningless slavery. Do you now understand why?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts about masculine leadership and feminism

In Genesis 3, Eve is told: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you". Notice that the word used here is "rule" – not "oppress", "beat into submission", or "boss around".

Does it mean her husband gets the better deal? No. Ruling means the husband is responsible for the wife, her well-being and their family. The one who rules is supposed to be wise, responsible, to take care of those who submit to him. I'll say more – with his kind and loving guidance, he is a servant of those who are under his rule. He is a protector.

Recently, I had a discussion on this subject and more, with a young man who came across my blog.
"Women against feminism?" – He sneered. – "Isn't this like… black people against Martin Luther King?"
Oh, I certainly won't start explaining right now all the reasons why I'm opposed to feminism. But isn't it amazing how deeply ingrained is the thought that feminism is good for women? Say you're against feminism, and it will be concluded you're against women's rights, enlightenment and progress. Say a family should submit to an authority, and you're an oppressed slave, stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages. Say anything that rips a hole in the smooth structure of egalitarianism, and you're the enemy.

One thing feminism deprived us of is masculine leadership.

Here's a comment I received from an anonymous commenter:

What I've noticed over the years is that the men I've known have embraced the idea that they don't have to be solely responsible for breadwinning and rather like it. Some I've known didn't want to marry a woman who expected them to provide all the financial support. I just wonder whether this is a trend in male thinking that needs to be taken into account in your deliberations on the future. Men seem to want to be liberated from traditional roles too.

Unfortunately, there's a grain of truth in this statement – there are many men who are not willing anymore to embrace their God-given role of providers and protectors of their families. Make no mistake, however. Men are called to take responsibility, lead, and provide for their wives. This is the duty of men – just as it's the duty of women to be helpmeets. Thinking the husband should provide and protect is not some off-the-rocker expectation. Why does it happen, then, that some men declare they just aren't up to this task anymore?

Indeed, why should men take seriously their role of being providers and protectors of their families, if the feminist movement did everything possible to convince men that this role is outdated and isn't needed anymore?

By rejecting masculine authority, women also gave up on protection of men. What did this give us? A society of women who try very hard to show they can be masculine and men who are not ready to take up the responsibility of leadership – or if they were, they'd be labeled as 'patriarchal' and 'sexist'.

Women are afraid to trust men. "But what if my husband is wrong?" – We ask. – "What if I know for sure my decision is better?!" … I'd like to stress that right now I'm not discussing a situation when a husband asks his wife to go against God's word. I'm talking about financial decisions and family matters.

Ultimately, it all boils down to whether you believe in God's word or not. Women were created to be helpmeets and obey their husbands without any conditions. God didn't say, "Obey your husband if he's smarter than you" or "obey your husband if that's what works for you at the moment".

'Obedience' is not a curse. Neither is 'submission' or 'authority'. These are gifts from God, part of His beautiful plan for both sexes. Why forsake it in the name of egalitarianism? Why not dare to trust Him and live according to His instruction?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sharing random 7 things

Time for a break and a bit of fun before moving on to other 'heavy' issues…

Mrs. B invited all the readers of her blog to share 7 random things about themselves. I'm slightly modifying the rules of the game; instead of telling about myself, I will allow my cat to share 7 random things! She has wanted to do this for ages. So, here it goes:

1. My favorite food is canned tuna fish.

2. I'm mortally afraid of the vacuum cleaner and ironing board; whenever I see one of those, I hide behind the sofa.

3. I simply LOVE shoeboxes. When I see one, I MUST get inside and curl up! The only problem is that not many shoeboxes are big enough for me.

4. I have my own seat on the sofa and my own blanket, and those who try to usurp either of them will be severely punished!

5. I will lick your face if you only let me.

6. When it's warm, I love sleeping on the desk in Anna's room (see picture).

7. Breakfast is on my schedule at 6:00 AM each day, and I don't care if it's weekend. I want my food served on time!

So… all of you cats (and dogs) out there – consider yourselves tagged! I'd love to know more about you.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A question from Paula

I received many wonderful, thought-provoking comments on my post, "Pressure to Get a Higher Degree". One of them was sent by Paula, who asks:

Think also to the following situation: you get married and after a while your husband dies or leaves you. It can happen. How will you be able to earn your bread and raise your kids?

First, let me say that I certainly don't presume to judge women who work outside the home; each family makes decisions based on individual circumstances. You will also notice I didn't say there's something wrong with education or work as itself. I was raised by a single mother, and if my mother hadn't worked, we would probably starve. Right now I'm single, and since I don't have a father, I will most certainly work until God decides it's time for me to be married; then the matter will be discussed with my husband, and I will submit to his authority.

Most women are called to be wives, mothers and homemakers. Being a wife and helpmeet, even without children, is full-time, challenging, consuming work, and I simply can't see how I'm supposed to manage that and spend the larger part of my day in an office/hospital. Even if I'm creative and have a job with flexible hours, it will still interfere with my ability to manage the home - or my sanity. I know that if I overload myself, nothing will be done well.

As to your question about what happens if my husband dies or leaves me... well, I think it's a question every woman who desires to be a keeper-at-home has been asked at least once.

It can happen, of course. We cannot deny this possibility, as everything is in God's hands. The question is how we deal with that?

Does it mean I will take on a full-time job and neglect my duties at home out of fear that something might go wrong?

Or will I, under my husband's guidance - if God, indeed, has marriage in His plan for me - look for possible solutions: insurance programs, savings, perhaps starting a home business that will not take too many hours of my time and can be expanded if there's need to. I also have a degree which can be 'updated' even after many years with appropriate courses (I've seen people do that, and quite successfully). To sum it up, I'm sure that even if something horrible happens, I won't end up sleeping under a bridge.

However, I must say that I find the role of breadwinner very important for a man. A man should know that he, indeed, is the breadwinner, and he is not supposed to rely on the income his wife brings. I know a family where the husband, a talented engineer, is stuck at a low-paying, under-qualified job because his wife, instead of trusting his abilities and encouraging him, promoted her own career. Now she is the main breadwinner of the family, while her husband became a slacker… because after all, why should he try harder if she earns enough?

I would also like to open this for discussion, and pass this question to you homemaker ladies who read this blog: did you and your husbands make a backup plan in case something goes wrong and your husband is unable to provide for the family?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

More than modesty

Last week, in the bus on my way home, I saw a young girl dressed in a lovely, modest, feminine and elegant way. She wore a cream-colored summer skirt, a pretty pink blouse, her hair was nicely arranged and there was just a bit of makeup on her face. What a lovely girl, I thought. She certainly looks like a lady!

The bus was pretty much full. I was sitting and she was standing right next to my seat when an old man stepped in. Naturally, I got up to free my seat for him. He nodded and gave me a smile of gratitude (it was a very hot day).

… But before he could sit down, the seat was already occupied by the lovely young girl I admired a few minutes ago. The old man looked flabbergasted. Perhaps she didn't notice him! I approached her gently and said:

"I beg your pardon, but I got up so that this old man could sit."
She stared at me with dismay.
"Why should I care? I'm tired," – she said, rather loudly, unaware of the glances she was attracting.
"Well, so am I," – I persisted, - "but we're young; surely standing for a couple of minutes won't kill us!"
Only then, very reluctantly, she got up and the old man sat down.

For the rest of my way home, I thought about how being a lady is so much more than dressing modestly and with good taste. What about kindness, patience, a gentle spirit, respect for the elders? Compassion and putting the needs of others first? A true lady should nurture and cultivate these virtues. If they are missing, it really doesn't matter if she's wearing a ball dress or a baggy pair of jeans.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tempting chocolate truffles

Yesterday, I decided to try making my own chocolate truffles. The result is before you. They might not look as good as store-bought, but I assure you, they are delicious.

To make those, you will need:

300 gr dark chocolate
100 gr white chocolate
50 gr butter
1\3 cup chopped nuts
250 ml cream
2 tbsp. brandy or liqueur
cocoa powder or coconut chips

Break the chocolate and cut butter into small pieces; melt it all together, then add the cream, nuts and brandy. Let the whole thing cool off. The melted chocolate smells terrific!

Put into freezer for 2 hours (or more, if you feel it's too soft to work with), and roll those yummy chocolate balls in cocoa powder or coconut. That was when the real fun began! I wish I had a picture of my hands and face taken. I was covered with chocolate and cocoa powder... but I had such a good time!

Put the ready truffles back into freezer for another couple of hours and serve. Surprisingly, they come soft enough even out of the freezer.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How We Spend Our Days

Some time ago, I came across a really nice blog – and then my computer unexpectedly turned itself off. I didn't save the link. I don't even remember what it was called. What a shame!

I do remember it featured one quote that spoke to my heart (again, I have no idea where it was from, and forgive me if it's inaccurate). It went like this: "How we spend our days is ultimately how we spend our lives".

And it got me thinking – how do we spend our days? More often than not, doing normal everyday things – doing household duties and looking after our family; occasionally, reading a book, meeting a friend or some other activity.

Then it hit me. I'm spending and going to spend a big part of my life shopping, cleaning, cooking meals, washing the dishes, and – if God has it in plans for me – staying up late at night and changing diapers. I can be efficient and save some time while doing it, but it will still be a major part of my schedule every day.

How often, I asked myself, do I rush during my morning prayers because I want to hurry up and do things as quickly as possible? And when I start doing what needs to be done, how often do I walk around with a sour face and grumble?

… That means I spend a significant amount of time in unnecessary hurry and with very little joy in my heart. This is how I spend my days, meaning – this is how I spend my life. What a waste!

I decided I am going to do my best to be more joyful while I do simple everyday things, try to enjoy doing them – as much as possible - and take more time to do each of them. Sing while you're cleaning, Anna, I told myself. :-)

I can't say I will never feel tired or frustrated again, but developing a positive attitude sure works! No, the pile of dishes in the sink will not start washing itself and the laundry will not automatically become clean and dry, but does it mean I shouldn't feel contented?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pumpkin pie

When revising my fridge today, I found a stray piece of pumpkin. It was already softening and even a bit mushy here and there, so I decided I should put it to use and try a recipe for pumpkin pie I found some time ago. It was super easy to make, and everybody loved it.

To make the crust, I took:

150 gr (5 oz) soft butter

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 egg

1\2 cup sour cream

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

First, I mixed butter and sugar, then added egg, sour cream, salt, and finally, flour + baking powder. Then, I divided the dough into two parts, rolled them out, used the first part as the bottom crust, and the second as the top.

To make the filling, I simply chopped the pumpkin, sauteed it with some vegetable oil, added 1 tsp. sugar and a bit of cinnamon.

Then I put it in the oven (200C/400F) for around half an hour. It made a yummy side dish!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Daily Domestic Maintenance

Often, I have these days when I wake up and there are so many things calling me that I simply don't know where to start! I'm horribly unorganized, and until recently I would fret and try to do everything at once. Now, however, I take my home management binder and pull out my "Universal Daily to-do List", which includes the following:

* Making beds
* Watering the plants and making sure my cat has fresh food and water in her tray
* Taking out the garbage
* Washing the dishes
* Laundry: loading the washing machine, or folding, ironing and putting away, or both
* Looking around and seeing if there's anything that needs to be put in its place, or tossed into the garbage, or if there's any spot that requires "emergency cleaning"

Voila! Once I've done all that, I feel free, relaxed and able to concentrate on other things that need to be done: shopping or major cleaning (if that's a shopping/cleaning day), cooking meals, studying, or any other project that needs to be done that day.
It mind sound trivial to you, but until recently, I felt so overwhelmed that I would try to rush through everything and ended up forgetting to do things.

Some time ago, I read this great advice on Lady Lydia's blog, "Homeliving Helper": don't attempt to start your day before you're dressed and your hair is combed! So true. I could jump off my bed and start doing things that needed to be done, saying, "well, it's urgent!" – And next thing I knew, it was nearly lunchtime and my hair was still uncombed. So my day only starts 'officially' after I get dressed, comb my hair, say my prayers and have some breakfast.

What about you ladies? What sort of daily plan works for you?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Pressure to get a higher degree

In a couple of months, I'm going to graduate, and since my grades are pretty good so far, I'm already facing pressure to get a higher degree. Once again, my convictions about the feminine role and my desire to be family-focused are clashing with my respect for my mother and wanting to show I trust and obey her.

Of course, the reason why I object is not so much about the degree itself, but more about what would come along with it, such as:

* The more I invest in professional studies, the more I will be expected to invest in a career later on. And even if I remain a single woman for the rest of my life, I don't think a competitive, all-consuming career would be the right path.
* Since I do think there's a good chance I will get married, it's important for me to show potential suitors I'm home-focused. How will it ever happen if they see me constantly working for professional improvement? I will not attract men who wish for their wife to be a keeper-at-home.
* The more I study, and the more successful I am in my studies and career, the more of a 'waste' it will be considered if I do leave it all to be a keeper-at-home later on. It will mean more pressure and more difficulties.
* After spending the past 3 years in college, I know what a dangerous and negative influence it can be on a young woman. Immoral lifestyle, ungodly teachings, ambition-saturated environment – who promises me it will not boggle my mind and lead me astray if I stay there for another couple of years?

Finally, I fail to see how doing research on rats or a cell culture, writing papers, doing laboratory work and in the end obtaining another diploma and a few letters after my name will help me advance in my God-given role: being a feminine woman, a homemaker, a wife and mother (as I hope that is what He has in plan for me). It will not make me more intelligent; it will not help me teach my children. So why should I invest time and money and risk what I believe in?

So… I'll be waiting to hear your feedback. What do you think a young lady should do when she faces pressure to get a high-paying career, be 'independent' and compete with men – not only from the outside world, but also from her family?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Banana ice

Summer is approaching, and yesterday we had such a warm day that I found myself longing for a refreshing dessert! I decided to try making my own banana ice for the very first time (we had plenty of almost overripe bananas!). I took:

6 bananas
4 tbsp. low fat cream cheese
2 tbsp. vanilla sugar
2 tbsp. liqueur

I mixed it all in a food processor and let freeze overnight. Well... it wasn't bad actually - nice, cool and with very little added sugar - but it was so HARD. I wanted to share a picture, but it's already gone.
I wish I could find a good, easy recipe for really soft and smooth homemade ice-cream. Ideas, anyone?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Pill: my perspective

Today I'm going to talk about one more difficult issue, something that has an impact on the lives of women all around the world.

The Pill was launched in the early 1960-s, and the number of its users grew rapidly. It
is often associated with "liberation" of women – a glorious journey from the dark pit of patriarchal society to the bliss of free sex - free from worries about unplanned pregnancy. This is called "reproductive control".

The Pill is supposed to be perfectly safe. Every doctor will tell you that. If you press about something specific, for example breast cancer, you will probably hear something elusive, like "a direct link between the two things hasn't been confirmed", or "the risk is insignificant". What does it mean? That there is no official guideline to mention the numerous studies that have found a link between the Pill and increased risk of breast cancer, strokes, heart attack and blood clots.

A friend of my mother, a perfectly healthy young woman, had two children in only two years. Feeling exhausted from two pregnancies in a row, she decided to go on the Pill for a while. Not because she didn't want to have children anymore – she just felt she needed a break. She had been on the Pill for a year, and then stopped. Her third child was born only five years later, after a series of painful and exhausting fertility treatments. She and her husband decided they will not be able to stand something like this again. They do not have any more children. Their dream of having a large family had been shattered.

… The family I told about is a very religious one; before making the decision about taking the Pill, they consulted both their doctor and their spiritual leader. They were told that the Pill is safe and that using it for a while is justified – for the well-being of their family and the mother's health. How they wish now they had trusted God's plan for their family!

In an unofficial gathering, a family friend of theirs, a doctor, told her the following: "it's a good thing you had two children before going on the Pill."
No doctor will ever tell you that when you come to get a prescription.

I wonder if someone ever thinks of the individual circumstances that lead a woman to using the Pill. I will tell you my story.

Those of you who have read my post, "Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity", might already have a hint of what kind of state I had been in when I decided to start taking the Pill. I was young, insecure, in an unstable, uncommitted relationship, frightened to death by the prospect of unplanned pregnancy, knowing I will not be supported if it happens, knowing for sure it would mean being a single mother. I was desperate not to get pregnant.

Our society, while encouraging – or at least not condemning – teenage sex and premarital sex, is horribly unsupportive to the unfortunate girls and women who suffer the logical outcome of this: a high rate of unplanned pregnancies. Most of them are told, "Oh, bad luck", and are pressured to "get rid of the inconvenience".

I did not ask about possible health complications. I didn't bother to find out if the Pill is safe for me with my family history of thrombosis (the doctor didn't ask about that, either. Only much later I found out how great was the risk I subjected myself to. It is known that the Pill is unsafe for smokers, but did the doctor ask about it? No. I don't smoke, but there's no way he could know). The only risk I cared about was the risk of pregnancy. I knew about the case of Mom's friend, who lost her ability to conceive normally after taking the Pill, but you know what – I didn't care about that either! Do you want to know what went on inside my head? "Better never have children than become pregnant now!"

I could say many words to describe the way I felt at that time. However, "liberated" or "free" or "protected" would not be on that list.

Fortunately, the period when I had been on the Pill didn't last too long. After my life took a turn for the better and I got rid of my abusive relationship and dangerous attitudes, I decided I will never take that crap again.

But I know women who started taking the Pill when they were teenagers, 8 or 10 years ago. I know a young woman who was 15 when she started taking the Pill. She is 22 now, and is not going to have children before she is 30. Until then, she is planning to continue using the Pill. Did anyone really check the possible risks of such long-term use, initiated at a time when the reproductive system isn't fully formed?

I'm not a researcher and I can't come up with answers. I can only raise questions – questions that never get satisfactory reply when I ask them. I will not go into an ethical debate right now, I'm concentrating on medicine. So far, no one was able to convince me that using the Pill is completely safe. Another point to be aware of is that doctors, when prescribing a medicine to children or teens, don't often stop to consider the possible harmful effects to this specific age group, or how the optimal dosage might be different. A dose of hormones that is harmless to a grown woman might have a different effect on a teenage girl.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Questions Game: comeback

Before I talk more about some heavier issues that are on my mind these days: Robert told me he's interested in participating in The Questions Game I mentioned several posts ago. Since Robert doesn't have a blog, he sent me the answers via email, so I could publish them here:

1) If you could change your name,what would you change it to?

I like my first name,but I also like Steve Judd who is a character from one of my favorite movies.

2) What is the best compliment you have ever received?

The times at work when I've had to work a busy shift on my own and been told that they really appreciated me for my effort and helping to keep things running.

3) What do you do to cheer up when you're sad?

Usually I will look at some blogs, listen to some favorite songs or look through a book.

4) What is your favorite book, and why?

I don't have one now. When I was younger it was The Sea Wolf, but my interests are now very different. I like Jane Austen though I know her through movies rather than books. A book that I'm enjoying now is The Exemplary Husband, A Biblical Perspective by Stuart Scott. It's helpful as I'm new to the idea of biblical marriage.

5) Is your life different from what it was five years ago, and how?

The first change came about two years ago when I found The Walton's tv show. Watching it got me thinking about marriage and family. The second change came seven months ago when I found the YLCF website. I was looking for Anne of Green Gable quotes to use on a small Walton's forum I post on. The google search brought me to Gretchen's potpourri section. At the bottom I noticed the YLCF logo and clicking on it sent me to their homepage. From there I found the blogs I read. I found like-minded people and topic's like courtship.It will be interesting to see where things go from here.

... Thank you for the interesting answers, Robert!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Reply to "Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity"

[published with permission. Not for very young readers.]

I received a wonderful reply via email to my previous post, "Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity". This was written by a young man, and I'm publishing part of it with his permission:

"... So, those myths... well, especially the scarcity of good men (and women), that is espoused by people who stay in bad situations is something that I think is partial reason for ease why people are being used. I mean, people are afraid about following things:

*That they will never find anyone and this is why they have to submit themselves to anything other person wants.
*That they will never find anyone better than the current one, if they have managed to get past the first fear due to having found the original jackass in the first place.
*That they are different from others and get ostracised because of that. They lose virginity to not get ridiculed. This fits especially well to men.
*That sex is like salary and one has to have a lot of it and early on to get ahead in life in order to not be loser.

...and many more. These are just ones I have heard or had, but there can be many more that I can't even imagine. Baseline is that most people go to bed out of fear. I originally planned to say that they do that for this reason only first time, but with more thinking I guess most people have sex out of fear, period. Many mask it well, failing to recognize it themselves even, but still they fall in for the pressure.

And I think it is sad.

I know I would have done it earlier... well, way earlier out of fear (first three, especially third), if not for my terminal shyness. It was only later, when all those fears had evaporated and the shyness too, that I had developed the desire to have sex only with dignity. That is, that I could look back on all my sexual decisions and be proud of them (but not brag - I believe in being discreet as well...).

Interestingly same thought processes erased the pedestal I had for virginity. What I mean, is that before that being virgin was on one hand pure curse for male and something that I would require for female. But as the fears subsided and the idea of dignity began to sink in (though not worded as such at the time), the virginity lost its importance as such. It became just side product of the dignified life (though sometimes it felt painful side product... I admit that).

So how does that fit with your text? Well, chaste life is dignified. To me at least. And to me the key to being dignified with the regards of sex is to recognize the simple truths of sexual life:

*I make my own decisions, no one else.
*I am unique and I have no obligations to emulate others.
*I owe nothing to people I date when it comes to sex.
and finally...
*People can say about anything in order to get to bed. If you are not married, and if you could not have sex with them with any one of the things they have said being untrue, then don't go to bed with them. If you have married, then you can trust (if you can't trust, then why did you marry in the first place?)."

... Thank you for taking the time to write this!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity

[not for very young readers]

What I'm going to share today is difficult, but I feel it needs to be addressed. It has been brewing up in my head for quite some time.
Those of you who have been reading my blog might know that I wasn't raised in a religious family. I went to public school, watched TV, read plenty of glossy magazines – just like any other kid (or later, teenager). I was miles away from any idea that might have hinted chastity, modesty and humility are virtues, and not a pile of old-fashioned crap that should be tossed away without thinking twice.

Now, don't get me wrong. I assume full responsibility for the mistakes I made. I'm not going to sit here and moan about how it was not under my control (it was!) and how the negative influence was too powerful for me (I have friends – unfortunately, very few - who went through public school and even army with their purity intact). I just want you to understand what kind of environment I was immersed in.

In my years of highschool, I couldn't tell that the behavior we were used to and perceived as normal, was in fact immodesty, impurity, disrespect, violence and lack of moral standards. I don't think we even used the word "moral". Few girls weren't molested at some point or another. I will leave to your imagination the "dress code", the alcohol, drugs, foul language and more delights of "liberated" education. Let me give you just one example. Many girls in my school had abortions, girls as young as 13. It wasn't considered immoral or tragic; just a short unlucky episode, like sliding on a banana peel. The "real freak" was a girl who got married at 17 and had a baby at the end of her senior year (she was 18 when her baby was born. No, she didn't get married because she was pregnant). Oh, poor thing, people whispered about her. She ruined her life!

Girls who stated they didn't want to lose their virginity before 16 were looked upon as extremely old-fashioned. Teenage girls shared their sexual experiences in classrooms during breaks. Girls who restricted their sexual contacts to only one boy were perceived as incredibly virtuous, because they were in a "serious relationship". I started dating my "serious boyfriend" well after I graduated from school, but the context didn't change.

Again, I won't say "I was told it was normal and natural" or "I did this because he pressured me". I didn't want to do it, but it was still my responsibility and my choice – my very unfortunate choice. Call it love or crush or infatuation, but I felt a strong emotional connection with my boyfriend and didn't want to lose him. I was desperate to please him. As far as I could see back then, there was nothing else I could do.

I didn't want to go on the Pill, either. But once, my period was late, and I was terrified. Abortion – thank God! – never crossed my mind (although it was certainly on my boyfriend's mind, as he didn't hesitate to tell me), but I knew pregnancy would mean being a single mother. Raised by a single mom myself, I didn't want to repeat her story. I went to see a doctor and he prescribed the Pill in the most casual, matter-of-fact way. He told me it's normal to be on the Pill and that almost all young women are on the Pill. He also told me it's perfectly safe, but I didn't care at the time. The prospect of unplanned pregnancy terrified me so much that I would still go on the Pill even if I was told there's a risk. However, I will not expand on this right now. I've got too much to say! Better save it for a separate post.

Our relationship (my boyfriend, me and the Pill) lasted quite a long time, but it wasn't anything you would call "serious". There were no obligations. According to my boyfriend, that was only fair – after all, we didn't say anything about commitment or duty when we started dating! He could disappear for weeks, or dismiss me and be rude when he wasn't in the mood. I was abused verbally, psychologically, sometimes even physically, but I couldn't let go. Not now! Not after I did all those things for him! (Remember, at that moment I couldn't mourn my lost purity yet – it would be too old-fashioned! I couldn't admit that having a physical relationship bonded me to him – that went against everything I've been taught so far! So I told myself I've "invested too much in this relationship").

So there I was, tired of being treated like trash, tired of feeling like my life is going nowhere, tired of pumping hormones into my body. I didn't know what to do. I felt something was definitely wrong about this – but what?

It was then that I came across the book of Wendy Shalit, "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue".

Here's just one paragraph from the introduction:
"A friend of mine had an affair with her professor when she was 21. She was in his class at the time and madly in love with him; he had no intention of doing anything other than using and summarily disposing of her. She was a virgin before the affair. As she related the story to me, ten years after it happened, I was struck, not that what had happened had deeply upset her, but that she felt she had to apologize for the fact that it had deeply upset her: "And, well, and it didn't mean the same thing to him, and um...this is going to sound really cheesy but, um...I mean, for God's sake, he took my virginity!" As she struggled to find the words to explain what had happened to her, it occurred to me that in an age where our virginity is supposed to mean nothing, and where male honor is also supposed to mean nothing, we literally cannot explain what has happened to us. We can no longer talk in terms of someone, say, defiling a virgin, so instead we punish the virgin for having any feelings at all. Nevertheless, although our ideology can expunge words from our vocabulary, the feelings remain and still cry out for someone to make sense of them."

Reading this struck me like a lightning. All of a sudden, I could explain what happened to me. I could talk about it. I could define it and write it down and think about it. And more than anything, I could finally mourn my lost purity.

It was obvious I had to break up with my boyfriend, but it wasn't easy. I tried. I thought that perhaps, if he loves me enough, we can take our relationship on a different course. But it was finally time to open my eyes and see that I'm stuck with a boy – not a man, a boy! – who isn't ready to do anything for my emotional and physical well-being, and who doesn't even want to understand what is bothering me. Who only wants one thing. My body.

I cried and suffered and mourned and prayed for a long time. For a long time, I wondered – is healing possible at all? I felt worthless, dirty, unloved, humiliated and exploited. I felt I will never be able to trust a man again, or develop a pure, healthy relationship. But God was good to me. The pain molded and purified my soul. It also helped me to reach resolutions. I acknowledged my mistakes and decided I don't want to be in the same situation ever again. Now that some time has passed, I feel like a different person. I feel chaste and respectable and pure again. My mistakes were both thorns and roses – they hurt me, but they also prevented me from making more mistakes.

I made a major change in my standards of modesty and sexual behavior. But I understood it wasn't only about that. Apart from resolving I will never again use my body to get attention from men, and that I will never, ever again fall into the dark pit of temptation and lust with a man who is not my husband, I decided I need to make a stand against the horrible, ugly culture that tries to force us into thinking that virginity is nothing and purity is something to wrinkle your nose at. The culture that mutilated so many young girls, emotionally and physically, spiritually and socially.

Those of us who suffered and were fortunate to recover need to spread the word. I would encourage all young women to read "A Return to Modesty". I also want to state that I'm here for all the young women, who have been hurt the same way or struggle to avoid being hurt the same way, or wonder if it is possible to make a change. It is possible! It is possible to avoid mistakes, and if you already made them, it is possible to recover. God is good! There is nothing He can't heal. Reach out to Him and love Him and let Him soothe your soul and guide your path.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Questions game - continued

So… the ladies who agreed to participate in the questions game I mentioned in my previous post are:
Jordin ("Paths of Peace")
Bethanie ("The Desire of My Heart")
Craftydaughter ("Homemaker In Training")
Autumn ("A Little Princess")

Here are your questions:

1. If you could change your name, what would you change it to?

2. What is the best compliment you have ever received?

3. What do you do to cheer up when you're sad?

4. What is your favorite book, and why?

5. Is your life different from what it was five years ago, and how?

I'm looking forward to reading your answers on your blogs! When you post them, don't forget to offer to interview someone else!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Questions game

Tracy from "Unless the Lord..." asked me to answer the following questions – which I did with great pleasure. So… let the fun begin!

1. Would you rather read a book or watch a movie?

Hmm. That depends on the book/movie we're talking about! I'm a bookworm; but movies can be watched with friends, and we can share some snacks while we watch... and maybe even a pack of tissues if that's a girls' movie!
The fact remains that I start and finish a book almost every week, but I haven't seen a movie for months! *smile*

2. What does your perfect day consist of?

Getting up not too early and not too late; saying my prayers first thing in the morning; eating a big and healthy breakfast; spending time outside with friends and family; being creative; cooking or baking something delicious; doing at least one act of charity or helping someone; learning something interesting and useful.

3. Pick a song that best describes you.

"Not Like the Other Girls" by Rasmus.

4. If money were no object, where would you live and what would you be doing with your life?

I would live somewhere in the countryside, in a large house with a garden. I'd dedicate my life to taking care of my husband, children and home. No matter how much money I have, that would still be what I want to do.
While I'm not sure I'll ever live in the countryside or have a garden, I do hope I can accomplish the rest of my dream!

5. Share one surefire way to get to your heart

Let me know if you're a cat lover and share some pictures of your cat! Cats always make my heart melt.

Now your turn! If one of you wants to be interviewed, please leave a comment and tell me. I will then ask you five questions (I get to choose the questions), and you will post the answers on your blog!
If you choose to do that, you will have to include this explanation in your post and offer to interview someone else. When someone volunteers for an interview, you will ask them five questions.