Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Moving and our first day in our new home!

I have been feeling productive and creative lately, and wrote down many thoughts to share with you, dear blogging friends... which I am going to do very soon. But today, I just couldn't resist giving you an account of our last day in our old apatment, moving, and the first day in our new home.

I started the morning by luring my cat into the cat carrier I bought for her. It was so easy I felt almost ashamed of myself - I just opened the carrier and she crawled in, too curious to resist. I promptly locked her away, and by the time she realized she had been tricked, it was too late! I felt sorry for the poor thing, but it was for her own good. I didn't want her to end up under a heavy piece of furniture when it's moved.

Then it was time to do some last-minute packing. I thought we had everything ready yesterday, but it turned out we forgot a couple of things. Oops! Finally, everything was packed and loaded, including us, the cat and the houseplants, and in the late hours of the morning we were already in our new home.

My cat took it very hard, which I guess I should have expected, considering that this is the first time she has moved to a new home. She refuses to eat or drink anything or even leave the cat carrier once we opened it. She looks extremely nervous, which is natural, with all the loud noises and people she doesn't know and a new, strange, potentially dangerous place. Any advice on handling this?

A couple of unexpected challenges awaited us; it turned out half of the plugs aren't working, and we also discovered a leak and a creaky window. After calling our repairmen and being assured that everything will be fixed soon (they had better!..), we got ready for the good and thorough cleaning our apartment needed after the renovations. I didn't have the chance to do any unpacking yet. Since we don't have internet yet (and it's doubtful we can even make the computer work today), and I'm supposed to be studying for an exam, with most of my material in form of Word and PDF files, I took a bus to college... and just couldn't resist giving you a short update!

Well, now I think I should go off and do what I came here for: study for this nasty exam. I hope to post more updates soon. Take care, dear ladies, and have a lovely day!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Finally moving!

Dear blog friends, we're moving tomorrow morning. This is our last day in the old apartment, so things are crazy around here: doing all the stuff we put off until the last minute. Even my cat feels the tension and went into hiding! I'm sure we'll complete everything on time, though.

I started decluttering my room some weeks ago, but today, I found out I'm far from done. There were piles upon piles of things I even forgot I had! I wonder how it fit into my little room at all. I threw a lot of useless junk away, and I'm sure I'll find more to get rid of as I unpack.

More good news: I just discovered I passed, with a good grade, an extremely difficult course which I was afraid I might fail. Now my chances to graduate on time are very good!

We should get our internet connection on the first day in our new home, so I'll be back with updates very soon! I have so many things on my mind I can't wait to share with you. I hope you are all having a lovely day, no matter where you are.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Been busy cooking and baking

Cooking never fails to be exciting! Even my most horrendous kitchen disasters are somehow remembered fondly afterwards. Here's a new dish I tried out last Friday. It's filling, frugal, very easy to make, and a great source of protein for vegetarians like me or those of you who are trying to cut down on meat for whatever reasons:

Easy pasta with lentils

1 cup red lentils
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
4 carrots
4 celery sticks
2 ripe tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 cups water
2 cups pasta (dry)
Salt, pepper or other spices – anything and as much as you like! I added 2 tsp of salt, and some pepper, paprika and oregano.
Vegetable oil

Wash lentils; finely chop onion, carrots, celery, tomatoes and garlic. Sautee veggies (except tomatoes) for 5 minutes with vegetable oil. Add lentils, tomatoes and spices. Then add water; you can add boiling water to make the process quicker. Cover and let cook until lentils are ready (it took me about 20 minutes). In the meantime, cook your favorite kind of pasta according to the instructions on the package. Serve pasta and lentils together. We enjoyed this simple dish around here!

I also made my carrot cake (probably the last cake I bake in this apartment – now that's something to remember!), and this time I also made chocolate frosting:

1\2 cup sugar
3 tsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter

Bring everything to boil and cook for about 15 minutes, mixing. A wonderful aroma is supposed to fill your kitchen! After spreading the frosting on the cake, you can sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes or chopped nuts.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The time is now

Often, I find myself thinking and planning, and saying things like, "oh, how wonderful life will be when I get married and have my own home"! Or, "how wonderfully fulfilled I'm going to feel as a mother! What a good homemaker I will be!"

That's fine and well, but living the possibilities might make us miss out on today. I don't know what the future will bring. As you know I'm preparing for marriage – but ultimately, only God knows when and how it will happen. But I do know I have a family to love and take care of, friends to support, a home to run and manage, and a beautiful life to enjoy now. I have wonderful books to learn from; people to cook for; beautiful projects to make now. I have the duties and gifts and trials and joys He in His infinite wisdom sent me at this period of my life, and I don't want to waste today by thinking of someday and sometime instead of seizing the moment.

Seize the moment! You don't know what tomorrow will bring. But you know today will not come again. You will not be able to enjoy today's sunrise and sunset again; kind words we haven't said, smiles we held back, rush and anxiety – all those mean we are missing out on the joys of today. What a waste!

We remain focused on the great things we want to accomplish, forgetting the blessings our days are full to the brim with: cool breeze and flowers, sunshine and clouds and pattering rain, birds chirping, sweet moments of fellowship with the ones we love, times of prayer and contemplation when we feel so close to our Creator it almost brings tears of joy to our eyes. The pattern of our life cannot be complete without these simple threads.

Let's stop putting things off while we wait for our life to turn into a garden of roses. It will never happen. Rather, let's do what we can to enjoy the blessings we have today. And the time to do it is right now.

I'd like to finish with a quote from one of the blogs I love the most, Eyes of Wonder:

"I hope your day is beautiful. Hold your children, your husband, those you love and care for, tenderly, close. Kiss them and hug them. Smile often-- a soft, bright, loving, accepting, approving, smile. Be thankful for those you love, and be sure and express your pleasure with them, to them--through words, through your touch, so they know what your heart holds, towards them. Sincerely praise for even the smallest things that are praise-worthy, and with eyes open wide, take note of, and be thankful for, each kindness shown to you. Life is fleeting, and the only moments we can be entirely sure of, are those that we're presently in, right here, right now. Let us live our lives deliberately, purposefully, making every one of those precious fleeting moments matter, for now, and for eternity, in our life and in the lives of those we love."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Making Abortion Rare

I'm currently reading 'Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for a Divided Nation', by David C. Reardon. I haven't finished it yet, so I can't write a full review about the book right now, but I already feel it's worth reading. Now, I'm not saying I agree with every word written there, so keep that in mind. But I do feel this book provides some important strategies that can be used by someone who is pro-life and wants to take action.

The author believes that by better understanding of post-abortion issues and the horrible impact abortion has on women, we will be able to prove abortion is unsafe and does women more harm than good, even in the common 'it's for everyone's best' and 'you have no choice' situations. We can also emphasize it's us, the pro-life folk, who are really concerned about women. It's us, not the 'pro-choice' crown, who are compassionate and care about women's best interests.

As a child who was originally 'unplanned' and 'unwanted', but grew up to be a very much loved, happy and productive adult, I can tell you that I'm against abortions with every cell of my being. And I believe campaigning and making women feel guilty is not enough. I think that without unconditional love for every woman and unborn child, and without making sure everyone knows we are acting to help women, not 'ruin their lives because of guilt over abortions', we won't get very far.

The pro-choice movement claims to be 'pro-woman', but it's a huge, downright lie. Abortionists offer a quick 'solution' – and ruin women's lives. It's the pro-life movement that is pro-woman, but sometimes we're just not very good at showing it.

"Nothing we can say on behalf of the unborn will sway them from this position. Their concern is focused totally on the woman. Therefore, the only way to reach them is for us, too, to focus on the woman… at that point the middle majority will begin to ask themselves: "If abortion is causing women so much suffering, what are we doing this for?!" It is then that their moral ambivalence about abortion will swing the scales against the abortion industry. It is then that we will be able to protect both women and their unborn children."

If you want to read this book, you can receive it for free if you go to www.afterabortion.org and click on the 'Free Book' link on the sidebar.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Donquijote – Free Spanish Lessons

For years, I have been using the Donquijote website to improve my Spanish vocabulary and grammar from home, and it has been beneficial to me, so I thought – why not share it? I'm not sure how it would fit someone who is just beginning, but if you already know some basics, it could be a great tool.

Their primary goal, of course, is advertising their Spanish courses in different countries, but there is also an option of free membership which allows you to receive a FREE weekly lesson + exercise to your email. You can also correspond via the site with other people who learn Spanish. I have been learning and practicing that way for a long time now, and my Spanish has definitely improved.

So, if you are interested in learning some Spanish online for free, go to http://www.donquijote.org/, scroll down until you see "Members Corner", and get your free membership.
… another example of how learning can be made interesting, cheap, convenient – and done from home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Learning the art of homemaking: how long does it take?

While browsing a couple of blogs, I came across a comment which made me smile. I don't remember the exact way it was worded, but here's the general idea:
'I really don't get all this homemaker-in-training thingy for unmarried women. After all, how long does it take to learn to do laundry or change diapers? Can't girls just learn these things in a jiffy and then be free for exciting experiments with their lives until they get married?'

Why did it amuse me? Because the person who wrote this, obviously, knows very little about successful home management. And so, instead of starting a whole new discussion at the comments section, I decided to take this topic over to my blog and give it a good and thorough look.

During my years in college, I met people who studied for a degree in Hotel Management. They spent 3 years learning about how to do it successfully, and no one would dare to question the seriousness of their studies. But learning the arts of homemaking doesn't require much time and effort?

The way I see it, successfully running a household is in many ways similar to managing a small hotel: meals have to be served on time, everything must be neat and clean and presentable, with a well-organized routine of work that helps things run smoothly. All this, while staying within the strict limits of a budget. And in countless ways, running a home is so much more than running an hotel, because the homemaker is responsible for the long-term well-being of her family, and therefore must make sure her husband has his needs attended, meals are nutritious and made of high quality products and the menu doesn't become too predictable, her children healthy, educated and occupied with pleasant and worthwhile pursuits. She is also the one who sets the mood and tone of her home with her sweet and soothing presence.

I know it's impossible to list the many arts a good homemaker must know, and there's always something new to learn. But beyond cooking, cleaning, laundry, budgeting, scheduling, organizing and decorating, there is an important trait a homemaker must have, a trait that cannot be learned and tossed aside, but is only acquired through years of practice. It is patience.

Maybe your floors are so clean you could eat off them and you cook like a chef, but as a homemaker you need much more than that. You must learn to do the same tasks, day after day, week after week, with joy and contentment in your heart. Sure, technically, it's not very hard to change a diaper. How about ten thousand diapers? Doing a load of laundry is easy. Then why is laundry piling up in people's homes? Obviously, because after the thousandth load, we have a tendency to get bored and just let things go.

Suppose I say, 'OK, I'm 22 years old now and I already know, technically, how to take care of a home. I still have time until I get married, so why don't I drop all those boring duties I have here at home and go and do something wild while I can?' – is it going to help me prepare for a future when I become a wife and need to plan menus, wash dishes, iron my husband's shirts, wipe little hands and faces every single day? Of course not! The only way to develop diligence and patience in my life at home is to have my character molded bit by bit through practicing those daily tasks, which will help me become, someday, the homemaker I want to be.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Can we 'have it all'?

'The feminists told us we can have it all. And now we have it 'all' – ulcers, migraine, incredibly stressful lives where it seems that the more we accomplish, the more there is to do.'

This is a snippet from a conversation I had with a friend the other day. Do you want to know the conclusion we came to? Despite everything our culture teaches, it seems we can't 'have it all' without compromising our health, sanity or convictions.
This is another time when I feel it's important to say I'm not judging anyone's personal choices. I want to avoid acid remarks and finger-pointing, and focus on the important issue I'm going to bring up today.

Even with the efforts of radical feminists, I don't think there are many women who actually reject the idea of having a family, or say family isn't important to them. But the idea that we can have it all without any aspect of our lives suffering along the way is, in my opinion, quite dangerous. I think that saying, 'oh, go ahead and get a full-time career, you can juggle a marriage, children and household successfully along the way, and you can have a baby whenever you want' is much more dangerous than 'career is a better choice, go forsake your family!' – Why? Because honestly, can you imagine a decent woman stand up and say, 'hey, I choose to neglect my family, I don't care if my marriage suffers, my laundry piles up and my children never see their Mommy!'? But she can be tempted to buy into the I-can-have-it-all idea.

I honestly believe that most working wives and mothers aren't selfish, irresponsible women who don't care about their duties. I think it's more like, 'family first, sure, but I must also have work, career, self-fulfillment, community activities – those are important as well! How do I squeeze it all into my life? Well, I'll manage somehow!' or even 'I realize my duties are suffering, but I must have that extra income, and I must find employment outside my home, because otherwise I'm worthless! All my life, I have been taught I have no value if I have no paycheck – how do you expect me to change this now?!'

I believe each and every child is a beautiful blessing from God, not a burden. Let's make an observation: how many career women have large families? How many graciously embrace every child God sends their way, at His time? Now, let me make two disclaimers: one, I think that being a keeper-at-home is important and worthwhile not only for mothers, but also for childless married women and for unmarried daughters. And two, I realize that some might not share my conviction about any form of contraception being unacceptable.

Having said this, let's imagine a young woman who is planning to get married, doesn't know of any existing fertility problems, has moral difficulties with contraception (or more like, doesn't think she should postpone God's precious blessings)… and wants to have a glorious career. She knows that if she remains in good health and God blesses her, she might have six, ten or more children in the next twenty-something years. Do you see a problem here?

Obviously, something has to go. So, what options does she have? One, decide that her duties at home demand her full attention and focusing on her family's needs. Two, compromise her convictions and say that preventing conception isn't too bad after all and that the money she earns can pay for hired help around the house. Three, try to have a more flexible schedule and squeeze in her career into gaps of time she has here and there… please notice that I'm not about to list all the options this woman has and tell you which one I think is better .The point I'm trying to make is that obviously, she can't have it all and something just has to go.

This isn’t only true for women, of course. We are all only human beings and none of us can 'have it all'. Buying into that illusion might lead us to feeling inferior – when it's quite unjustified. The question is what choice we make. It's like getting rid of clutter: we decide what is important enough to remain in our lives, and what takes too much space and must go. Because if we don't, we'll be burdened with extra weight that will hinder our progress and won't allow us to focus on what's truly important.

Kelly from 'Families against Feminism' sums it up wonderfully:
'She can't have it "all", if all means a full time career outside the home, and a happy, healthy husband, children, self, and home. But praise God, she can have it ALL, when she joyfully submits to the will of God. She is then freed up to exercise her enormous talents, creativity, gifts and abilities in ways she never thought possible when she was enslaved to another man.'

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Just relaxing in the shadow of a tree

Things are pretty crazy around here these days, with exams, packing and sorting through my stuff. Boxes are piling up and it's driving me mad! Can't wait for the blissful moment when we've moved in and everything is unpacked and settled. But even during this stressful time, I'm still able to squeeze in some sweet minutes of relaxation, and for that I'm thankful!

Renovations are proceeding at top speed, and I hope nothing remains to be done by the time we're in the new apartment.

Our cute little kitten now has her eyes open. What a moment! I'll post some new pictures when I have them. Like all kittens, she has blue eyes now, but I know this is going to change.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Children: blessing or burden?

When I just started thinking about marriage, which was quite some time ago, I had a very socially acceptable attitude about how I see my future family: the first few years of marriage should be spent without children, so that both spouses can invest in their careers, and also have time for their relationship. After settling down a bit and buying a nice house and a new car and traveling around the world, there's room for children – not more than two, of course.

This was what I have always been taught by the society and by my family. I'm an only child, and never knew anyone with a truly large family (or should I better say, anyone who allowed God to be in control of the size of their family – doing this might mean you have any number of children or none at all).

But as I studied and prayed, I started doubting. Maybe the way I was taught to think wasn't the only way? What does God think about children? Does God think children are hindrances to our personal happiness and having them should be put off as much as possible? Does God tell us that we can only be good parents if we have only a child or two, so we can shower them with all sorts of material possessions?

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127)

"Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table" (Psalm 128)

These verses weren't new to me. I've known them for a long time. But when I re-read them, I was struck anew by the beauty of God's vision of children: rewards. Arrows in the hand of a mighty man. Olive trees, a symbol of prosperity, of roots that go deep into the land of our fathers. What an astounding picture! There's nothing about children being burdens; about the 'inconveniency' of having children when it doesn't fit into our plans. I asked myself: do I think God would say, 'ah, but if you're getting that mortgage, of course it invalidates everything I said about children being a blessing'?

This was how I reached the conclusion which isn't really a novelty: if children are blessings and precious gifts, why on earth would we reject, postpone or limit the sweet rewards God in His wisdom might choose to give us?

And you know what the most amazing thing is? I realized that I actually used to think children are bondage – but the real bondage was precisely those thoughts! I realized how important it is to have children, but I used to view them as hindrances to whatever other plans I might have. I thought having fewer children will mean more freedom. But I really felt free only when I chose to submit myself to the will of my Creator and accept whatever He has in store for me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Acting against abortion – the things we say

We can all do something to prevent the killing of innocent unborn children, today, right now. Even if we are too busy to participate actively in the pro-life movement, we can still do a lot in our daily lives and make an enormous difference.

Like in everything else, I believe prayer comes first here too. We can pray for defenseless unborn children, for mothers who are facing difficult situations; we can pray for a change of heart for fathers who decided to abandon their children or pressure their wives or girlfriends to have abortions.

The next thing to work on is our own attitude. Believe me, it matters! Our thoughts, our words, the message we're conveying, it all creates a snowball effect. So let's ask ourselves the following questions:

- How do we treat children? Do we love children? Do we embrace each child as a wonderful, unique gift from God? Or do we treat them as hindrances, as burdens instead of blessings? Do we ever say things like, 'I can't wait for the moment when I can send them off to school', or 'I used to have so much more freedom in my life before I had children', or 'now that this couple has children, they will never be able to afford a new car or a real vacation'? Remember, every negative comment we make about children has a lingering impact!

- What about children with special needs and/or various disabilities? Do we treat them as they should be treated – individuals who need even more care, attention and love? Or do we imply they have no worth and it would have been better for them not to be born? One of my teachers in highschool had a son who suffered from autism. Last year, the boy unfortunately died from cancer. Many of the people who knew this couple weren't embarrassed to say right after this tragic event, that this boy's life wasn't worth much anyway! How cruel is that?! Why don't we say, 'I'm sure this child is such a unique blessing to his family', or 'They must be wonderful people, to be blessed with such a special little soul in their family'?

- Do we ever say 'what an unfortunate time to have a child'? 'I'll bet Mary Sue won't graduate from college now that she has a baby. She will remain uneducated and her life will be ruined!'; 'A baby, when you're only starting your career? You must be crazy!' – do you know how often I hear people saying something like this? Do you realize the effect this might have on a woman or family who are passing through temporary difficulties? We should say something different. How about: 'Yes, the Joneses have debt to pay right now, but it will be done with in a couple of years. A child is a blessing for a lifetime!'

- And how do we treat unmarried mothers? Our convictions about sex outside marriage and the attitude we express towards unmarried mothers should not parallel each other. I firmly believe sex is a beautiful gift, to be saved for marriage alone. But it doesn't mean we should turn our backs on unmarried mothers. These women might have made a mistake, but they are courageously standing up and facing the consequences of their actions! Their children are also blessings, to be valued and cherished like any other child. Your negative remarks, saying 'there's no way she can raise this baby on her own', a holier-than-thou attitude, refusing to extend your fellowship to a woman in trouble – seeing this might just be the last straw, the thing that will give a final push to a desperate single mother to go and have an abortion.

God loves and values each child, why shouldn't we do the same? God blesses us with children when we expect or don't expect it, when it fits into our plans or not. So let's start feeling and expressing boundless, unconditional love for children, mothers, fathers, families today. Let's prevent abortions by creating a snowball effect of love, acceptance, generosity, kindness and faith above all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Advice needed: moving with a cat and introducing a new kitten

We're moving at the end of this month, and I'm not sure how my cat will handle it. Cats are very attached to their home, I've even heard they can run away and try to go back to their old home, and we haven't moved since we got her, so how do I do this in the least traumatic way for her?

Shortly after that, we will most likely have a new kitten. This is another issue I'm not sure what to do about. How do I introduce the new kitten to my cat? I've read a bit about this, and it seems the general advice is to keep the new pet in a separate room for a couple of days, to allow the other pets to get used to the foreign smell, then introduce with caution. I heard that younger animals are accepted more easily by older animals, hope it's true.

I will really appreciate advice from anyone who has experience in moving with pets and/or introducing new fur babies to older pets. How did it go for you and how do you think it can be made easier?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


… A couple of thoughts after another Public Health class, and after reading this excellent article about hormones in our water.

You know those people who claim they don't want to have children, or at least not more than one or two children, because the world is overpopulated and they are 'sacrificing for the benefit of the whole planet'?

I've heard this many times, and I must tell you, I always have to get a grip on myself so that I don't say something nasty. I guess I should begin with saying I don't really believe the world is overpopulated the way some 'experts' claim it is. I think our problem is poor use of the space and waste of precious resources. And I just think something is wrong with this very attitude. Sure, no people – no problem! So why don't we just stop breathing?

But what irritates me even more is the real spirit of the people who claim that 'having many children is environmentally irresponsible, so we're not having any at all'. Um, you love the planet don't you? Ready to do everything for the planet? Then why don't you show it?.. Would any of those people make the effort to recycle? Walk rather than use the car? Stop consuming useless junk and producing piles of trash every month? Stop throwing away enough food to feed three Third-world families? Do any of them care enough about this planet to cut back on unnecessary electricity use? Do something about the dangerous chemicals that overflow our food and water? Make an effort to save endangered animal and plant species?

No! Of course not. They will continue wallowing in selfish pleasure, consumerism, careerism, immediate gratification and other symptoms of our Peter Pan culture. They will not budge an inch to change anything in their lifestyle of incredible overspending. They are only ready to do what fits their self-centered philosophy: have no children. And they will continue claiming they are doing it for the greater good (read: so they can afford to buy the latest iPod). And that the wonderfully close-knit, healthy, happy, creative, thrifty, industrious large families, who grow their own food, sew their own clothes and appreciate every child as a beautiful blessing from God, are irresponsible environmental criminals.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy birthday to me!

To all of you who have been anxious about the baby kitty I wrote about last week, I'm happy to say she's doing very good so far, eating every 3 hours and sleeping with a bottle of warm water to keep her from getting cold. She (we think it's a female) doesn't do much else right now, but here are some pictures of her eating and crawling around. The gal who is taking care of her for now is a sweet, kind soul, a real animal lover and very experienced with kittens, so I know she's in good hands and everything possible is being done for her. I think we'll keep her, and if that's not possible, we'll find her a good home when she grows up a bit and starts eating some solids.

And (like you must have already guessed from the title), it's my birthday today! I'm 22 years old. What a happy and special day! Thank you, Mom, my good, kind, sweet, brave Mom, for giving me life and raising me to become a happy and thriving adult, against all odds. I love you so much!

And thank you, dear God, for guiding me so faithfully and leading me through dark times when I didn't realize yet how much I need You. Thank You for being an unconditionally loving, protective Father. Thank You for all blessings you give me every day, and thank You for making my life a sweet journey of growing closer to You. I love You.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Clutter and junk

I finally started packing, and I'm decluttering as I go. I almost can't believe the amount of junk my shelves and cupboards can hold! I'm awful at accumulating clutter. I mean, I'm familiar with the 'if it's not useful, beautiful or meaningful, throw it away' rule. But when I plan to throw something away, I start thinking: well, it's not useful right now, but maybe I'll use it later? Maybe I will need it someday and then I'll be sorry about throwing it away (needless to say, it never happens...)? It looks ugly, but maybe if I repaint it, it will look good (I never have the time...)?

So I'm quite happy we're moving, because packing and unpacking stuff I don't actually need is too much of an effort, so I threw away an enormous pile of junk today, and I'm sure there's more to come.

Now, about something quite different: after a long period of silence, LAF posted some new updates and links! I enjoyed reading this great article, originally published in 'Jerusalem Post', by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of the bestseller 'Kosher Sex' and host of 'Shalom in the home'. It's called 'America's uninspired children', and talks about how parents these days, too busy and tired to pay attention, leave their children's education to the media. TV is turned into the ultimate babysitter, and the consequences are destructive: "The mother, meanwhile, is haggard, psychologically raw, and physically and emotionally exhausted. After giving so much of herself to her job and then coming home to a host of domestic responsibilities, she looks in vain to be rejuvenated and resuscitated by the affection of her husband. Since he cannot offer it, she slowly withers and is unable to inspire her children either."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'Want to help your husband? Get a real job!'

Lately, I received several emails about my posts in which I talk about how I view my calling as a future wife and homemaker. And here's something that was repeated in all of them (I'm summarizing it): "Baking cookies and making your home look pretty is nice, but don't you think your husband could benefit more from an extra income? The modern wife serves as a helpmeet to her husband by having her own career and helping earn money for the family."

Let's get this straight once and for all. What does being a helpmeet actually mean? It means the wife is supposed to encourage her husband, have unconditional faith in him, cultivate his feeling of accomplishment. She is called to help him – not do his job for him. And yes. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that men are supposed to be breadwinners. Even if I someday start a home business, give lessons, grow vegetables, write a book or do anything else that brings some extra cash from home, I still want my husband to feel our family depends on his income alone. I want to be able to drop whatever extra activities I might have when that is needed – for example if there's a new baby or I'm simply facing more work at home.

Ladies, I certainly don't claim there's only one way to be a helpmeet. I might as well make a disclaimer here: I'm far from judging anyone's personal situation. We are all different. There are many different situations; I could never say for example that the only way to be a godly wife is to raise a dozen children, grow all of your family's food, grind your own flour etc. What about childless women? And what about women with certain disabilities, which might make them unable to take care of all the household duties? Are they less of a helpmeet to their husbands? Of course not!

What we need to pay attention to is the attitude. Think about anything you might be doing. Are you doing it to help and honor your husband, or are you doing it only out of ambition? Does it in any way interfere with your duties to your husband? For example, if you work or volunteer in a certain organization, do you come home late in the evening, tired and cranky, unable to give your husband the attention he deserves?

About the suggestion that being a helpmeet is better accomplished not by putting all of our efforts into our home and family, but by heading to the workforce and earning some extra cash: I strongly recommend reading the short play "When Queens Ride By".
This play talks about a couple that lives on a farm; they struggle with financial difficulties, and to help her husband, the wife takes on a larger and larger part of masculine work on the farm. She becomes exhausted, frustrated and is unable to take care of her home properly. The needs of her family (and ultimately, even herself) are unattended. What next?.. Go ahead and read!

You might say, "But I have no problem to have the best of both worlds. I have plenty of time to take care of my home, husband and children and earn money to pay the bills". If you say so, who am I to contradict you? You know your own situation better than anyone else. Maybe you are, indeed, a champion of efficiency; maybe at the end of a long day at work, you have time to make your house spotless and cook a delicious dinner and freshen up and welcome your husband with a smile, and then spend the evening in gracious conversation and reading to the children. I don't think I would be able to accomplish all that – if it can be done at all, even physically - without feeling tired, overloaded, irritable. My heart would not belong entirely to my husband. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I'm only a human being. I know that even if I can strain myself for a while, it will take its toll. I don't want that, and therefore I'm making a choice: I'm choosing a life that might be more frugal and simple, but will give me peace and more time to spend time with my precious – God willing! – future family. I'm opting out of the rat race and going home, and you know what? I feel I'm making the best choice for everyone involved.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Cheerful ironing

Ironing is one of my favorite daily tasks. I love the smell of freshly ironed clothes, and the homely feeling of just standing there in front of my good old ironing board. This ironing board is as old as I am and maybe older, and brings back wonderful memories. I remember my mother using it when I was little, and she already had it when she used to iron my diapers (no disposables back then)! It creaks horribly and sends my cat into hiding behind the sofa, but I'm not in a hurry to replace it with something new.
On another note, Laura invited me to participate in a new blog she started, Maiden Fair, so now I'm going to write there too from time to time. In 'Maiden Fair', we'll be writing about things that are important for young ladies in their journey between childhood and marriage.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dressing with dignity for our loved ones

These thoughts were inspired by a post over at Jordin's blog, Paths of Peace.

When I tell people I'm working towards becoming a full-time homemaker, one of the arguments against such a decision is: 'You're going to become frumpy. You will have no reason to dress up and look good, and you will end up losing your sense of dignity!'

Why, though? Why is it that we are motivated to dress nicely for strangers, co-workers, fellow students and even neighbors, but not for the people we love the most – our family? Why is it that at home with our loved ones, we don't mind wearing clothes we wouldn't even think of wearing anywhere else? And who wants to stay at home if being home means being frumpy?

Do I think our husbands, children and other family members should love us just the way we are, no matter what we wear? Of course I do. But the way we dress expresses our attitude. If we dress fancy outside and frumpy at home… well, just think about it. What sort of message are we conveying? Don't the memories we create for our family matter enough for us to dress in a respectable way at home?

I don't want anyone to misunderstand me; I'm far from saying we should wear our best while washing the floors or hanging laundry. I'm talking about basic dignity here. Torn clothes, clothes with stains or missing buttons are unacceptable in my opinion. If an item of clothing can't be fixed or has a stain you can't remove, it shouldn't be worn at all. I also think hair should be brushed, face washed and nails trimmed and clean at all times. These simple things will make us feel better and can change our entire attitude about spending our days at home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things don't always go the way we plan

When I got up this morning, I prepared myself for a nice, quiet day of cheerful ironing, baking bread, sorting through my stuff and maybe packing a box or two, and of course - revision.

But as I was on my way home from the grocery store, I heard a tiny, helpless kitten who was desperately crying out for his mommy. An old lady that was passing by told me he was left there by a bunch of children, and she didn't know where they got him. It meant there's no chance his mommy would find him, so I had to act, and act fast. It was very hot and I didn't know how long he has been there without any food.

I put the kitten into an old shoebox and started calling vets. Can you believe I didn't find even one clinic in my area that would agree to see us right away?! I felt totally lost. I've never had such a tiny kitten, I think he's about the size of a hamster.

Fortunately, it occurred to me I can call a veterinary student from my campus, who agreed to take care of the wee creature, at least for a while. I took a taxi (had to get there fast!) and delivered the kitten to her. Right now he is getting close monitoring and a special 'baby formula' for kittens. The arrangements and going there and back took a whole lot of time and money, but it was all worth it!

He's so tiny that I'm not sure he will survive. But at least we did everything we could.

PS: The picture I added is just an illustration, so that you see how tiny he is.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hiding from truth behind 'science'

Abortions have no long-term effects? A woman doesn't mourn her lost baby? She just shrugs it off and continues business as usual? Can you believe any of this? What a downright lie!

Yes this is what I've been told, very matter-of-factly, by one of our professors, who teaches Publics Health course. Just so you get an idea about what sort of woman she is, some minutes before that she told us about the latest feminist congress she attended.

When I approached her during the break and asked if she knows anyone who has gone through an abortion, and how can anyone claim this has no long-term effects on the woman's physical and emotional well-being, she made an attempt to hush me up by saying that studies were made, and proved that 'overall, on a general scale, abortions only cause a short-term discomfort and there's no scientific proof that women who went through abortions suffer for a long time later on.'

Alright… so now we need scientific proof to show that a woman who lost her baby suffers for many years after the event and never quite forgets it? Excuse me, but I think that's bollocks. I asked her for sources of the aforementioned studies, but she didn't remember any exact quotes. Not that it matters. It's only too easy to guess who could have funded studies with such spectacular outcome, which support the abortion industry and the abortionists' agenda and goes against common sense, morality, decency, faith, and every positive value that is the pillar of our culture (I'm sure it was the same gang who tried to convince us that casual sex and promiscuity aren't supposed to hurt us and break our hearts and that chastity is a retrograde patriarchal myth).

That same teacher later argued that 'pro-choice movements put the woman in the center' – I felt it was beyond my ability to continue arguing then, but may I ask, the center of what?? How on earth promoting abortions, then pretending nothing happened, helps women? How on earth telling women they are not supposed to mourn their lost unborn babies because this 'has been proved scientifically by numerous studies', does anything to promote the well-being of women?

I know I sound a bit angry in this post, and I guess this is because I am angry. I can't feel anything but anger when I hear this sort of crap being pushed down the throats of 70 students who nod and take notes. I can't help but be angry when I hear that a woman must give up on the idea of having a large family if she wants to be a capable and intelligent human being ('most women of the Third World have ten children and are uneducated; Mary Sue has ten children, therefore Mary Sue is an oppressed, uneducated slave who belongs in the Third World'. Do you get that kind of logic?).

So, where am I getting with this rant? I think we should keep two things in mind:
1. Not everything that is 'scientifically proved' is true, logical, or trustworthy.
2. Whether we like it or not, this is precisely what we are being taught in secular colleges all the time. Be careful. I repeat: be careful.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My very first loaf

Yes, you heard that right! I've been baking bread, for the first time in my life. I thought it's supposed to be difficult, but it was really easy, even without a bread machine. It all took no more than half an hour (not counting the time I waited for the dough to rise).

I used a plain, simple recipe:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1\2 cup warm water (I left the yeast - 2 tsp. - in the water for 10 minutes before adding it to the flour)
Some salt and 1 tbsp. butter (I didn't have butter so I used vegetable oil instead, it works just fine)
I also added some raisins. Next time I might add grains, or nuts, or berries! I definitely want to do this again.

After kneading the dough, I left it to rise, then punched it a bit, left to rise again, put into preheated oven for about 40 minutes... and voila! Fresh, delicious home-baked bread. According to my calculations, it's about twice cheaper than store-bought bread, and much more filling. Not to mention the wonderful aroma of fresh bread all around the house!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Physical intimacy in marriage

[Not for very young readers]

Jess, over at Making Home, wrote a wonderful post about intimacy in marriage. I love the way Jess discusses this topic, with tact and dignity. You can also check out her previous posts about this subject.

As I'm not married yet, I often write about the incredible importance of chaste, modest, pure behavior prior to marriage. This is something I believe in with all my heart. However, as we prepare for marriage, I think we should also study the issue of physical intimacy. Don't get me wrong – I'm not talking about the horrible sex education lessons that are given in schools. A young lady can discuss this with an older, wiser woman who can be her mentor, for example her mother or older married sister. Someone who can explain that modesty and chastity should not be confused with body shame or being embarrassed by our sexuality. Sexuality is a wonderful, beautiful gift – and it belongs in marriage alone.

The secular view is that sexual inexperience can lead to problems in marriage, and therefore we need 'practice'. That's bollocks. Our bodies and souls are not cars and we don't need a test drive. Meaningless relationships – and most of the so-called 'innocent' dating are just that – have a dangerous potential to destroy this beautiful gift of intimacy that should be saved for our future husbands. Don't you think that's one of the reasons divorce rates are so high?

Physical intimacy can be especially difficult for women who had to go through abuse and/or heartbreak in the past. I'm precisely one of those women. I was exploited and verbally and physically abused by one of my boyfriends, and there was a stage in my life when I thought I would never get married because I simply couldn't bear the very idea of being intimate with someone. By God's grace, I'm past this stage now, but I'm still struggling with the issue. As I thought about this more and more, I came to the conclusion that being chaste until marriage might actually be less of a challenge to me than becoming intimate after marriage.

What can I say? This is disturbing. I want to get married and I want to build a good, strong, godly marriage, which can't happen without a healthy attitude towards intimacy. I expressed these concerns over at Jess's blog, and started thinking that maybe I should get counseling, to make sure these issues are worked out, for the sake of my future marriage.

Can anyone, perhaps, suggest good books and/or websites that might be helpful?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Some pictures from the campus

Whatever else I might say about college, our campus is beautiful during the summer. So many lovely spots, to relax during the (short) breaks and enjoy picnics underneath the trees. There are fish in the little ponds, and if you approach, they will swim towards you, expecting food! However, we are not supposed to feed them, as they can be easily overfed, and they will eat practically anything. I also hear frogs, but couldn't see even one so far, I guess they are hiding really well. I love coming in the early hours of the morning and hearing birds chirping in the trees. I especially love the cute woodpeckers.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My 100-th post

How time flies! It seems like only yesterday I started blogging, yet here I am, writing my 100-th post.

To tell you the truth, when I started this blog, I doubted anyone would have interest in what I have to say except friends and relatives who live far away and like to be updated about what I'm doing at the moment. I was unexpectedly blessed with the online fellowship of so many wonderful, special, talented, charming, intelligent likeminded ladies. I have no words to express what this means to me, knowing I'm not alone in my convictions.

Thank you, dear ones, for taking the time to visit, comment, share, discuss, encourage and support. And to all you fellow bloggers, thank you for investing the time to write in your own lovely blogs, which are such a delight to read and such an excellent resource for learning and growing.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Parting of the ways: update

Some of you probably remember the post I wrote a while back, about a conflict I had with an old friend of mine, which resulted in her deciding she isn't going to speak to me anymore. At the moment, I admit I thought we would never talk to each other again.

But two days ago, she called me and it seems she got over the hard feelings she had towards me. Of course I made sure to let her know I don't bear any grudges either. I'm not sure we will remain close friends like before, with all the differences that exist now in our attitude and lifestyle, and with me moving and her getting married and starting a new season in her life. But I'm so glad we got over that conflict. God is so good. I know He was the one who softened her heart.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

What I learned in college

Some of you have probably read my previous posts about college. You know I had to struggle there. An immoral, ungodly environment, saturated with rebellion against the values I hold dear; an impossible timetable, that made me spend up to 16 hours a day, 5 days a week, outside my home; having to hear about people's latest adventure with the opposite sex; professors and students soaked up to their bones in feminism, careerism, egalitarianism and atheism.

The worst thing, perhaps, was the horrible competitiveness I felt in my fellow students. It got especially strong in our last semester. No one was helping each other anymore. Friends were turned into rivals. When girls a year below us asked for help, I've heard voices saying we shouldn't help them because they will ultimately compete with us for places in the workforce! And it wasn't just one person who thought this way. I'm sorry, but I think that's sad.

However, it was not all bad. I met some wonderful people, and learned many things that can be a blessing to my family when, God-willing, I will become a wife, mother and homemaker. Nutrition, health and medicine; menu planning, cooking and baking; food safety; wise consumer behavior. All of these can be so useful to a homemaker!

How do I feel about college at the end of my years as a student? While I see college education certainly had a benefit for me, I don't think it's necessary at all to become a skilled, intelligent, talented and capable woman. I think many of the things I learned in college (well, maybe not molecular biology) can be easily and naturally learned at home. Also, I was blessed by the opportunity to continue living at home with my mother. I don't know what could have happened if it wasn't so.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Beautiful blogs

I was given the Reflection Blogger Award by two lovely ladies – Sheri at Purely His and Emily at Unfurling Flower. Thank you! I appreciate this award and especially your kind, sweet, encouraging words.

In turn, I was supposed to nominate, in turn, five bloggers for this award, but the more I thought about it, the more difficult it became. There are just so many lovely blogs I enjoy, written by so many wonderful, special ladies. I couldn't bring myself to choose just five! I decided to do something a little different. If you look at my sidebar, you will see a list of beautiful blogs I visit daily. I thought I'm going to say a few words about each one of them; so here it goes, ladies. No awards – just my appreciation.

Cherish the Home, by Mrs. B. This blog is such a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration for ladies who have no children but still choose to be full-time homemakers. In Cherish the Home, Mrs. B explains why being a keeper-at-home isn't a waste of time even if you have no children, how a keeper-at-home can bless her husband in various ways, and much more. This blog has such a beautiful sense of hospitality.

Clothesline Alley, by Mrs. Brigham. Mrs. Brigham defines herself as a 'recovering feminist', and is a devoted wife and delighted mother of precious 6-month-old Peapod. I love reading Mrs. Brigham's insight about femininity and faith, and also her thoughts about natural birth, breastfeeding and cloth diapering, which can be especially interesting to all the new mothers out there.

Eyes of Wonder, by Jewels. This lovely lady and her husband have ten beautiful children and one precious grandchild. Jewels has a talent for photography and shares many beautiful photos of the simple, beautiful, incredibly rich and blessed life of her family. Her writings shine with a spirit of gratitude and love of God.

Happy Hearts At Home, by Alexandra. Alexandra is the queen of frugality and shares hundreds upon hundreds of valuable tips for frugal homemaking, gardening and home education on her blog. I glean so much from her!

Lula's Hardt, by Sherry. This is probably the most peaceful and relaxing blog in the entire blogosphere! Whenever I have a stressful day and feel like slowing down, reading Sherry's blog always does the trick.

Maidens of Worth, by Anna Naomi and Miriam Rebekah. These two 16-year-old young ladies show that being a teenager doesn't mean you need to conform to the crazy norms of today's society. They show us an entirely different lifestyle of modesty, hard work and commitment to their families. What a blessing Anna and Miriam must be to their parents and siblings!

Making Home, by Jess. Jess also defines herself as a recovering feminist – and in many wonderful articles, explains why. Jess also shares her thoughts about wise environmental choices, educating children while focusing on God, and the importance of intimacy in marriage. What a blessing it is to read about the issue of intimacy in marriage, discussed in a very wise and tactful way.

Modestly Yours, by Wendy Shalit. Wendy Shalit is the author of a book that has had a tremendous impact on my life: "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue". As you can guess, this blog is devoted to issues of modesty. Together with Wendy, other lovely ladies share their thoughts about modesty. I especially love reading posts by Taylor Moore, Allison Shapiro and Shira Stanleigh.

Paths of Peace, by Jordin. Jordin got married not long ago and is a keeper-at-home (by the way, if you intend to become a keeper-at-home from the moment of your marriage, you will probably have a season in your life as a childless homemaker! This season might last a year or a lifetime, and it's definitely something to prepare to). Jordin shares many wise thoughts about modesty, femininity, courtship, homemaking and being a helpmeet.

Perennial Pioneer, by Laura. Laura is a grown-up daughter who made the counter-cultural choice to continue living with her parents and be involved in the family business rather than pursue worldly success. As someone who also decided to continue living at home until I get married, it's so wonderful to know I'm not alone!

Purely His, by Sheri. Sheri is happily married and a mother of two precious, beautiful little girls. I love Sheri's views about modesty, purity, marriage and motherhood, and I appreciate the effort she puts into conveying these important messages to young ladies. Her Modest Monday posts are simply awesome!

The Walled Garden, by Michelle. Michelle is a farmer's wife and helps her husband raise sheep while learning the domestic arts. I first found Michelle's blog through LAF, and loved her posts about how ladies can have a wonderful and creative home education with limited resources. Michelle also writes about returning to a simple, more peaceful life, being wise stewards of the environmental resources we've been given, and much, much more.

Unfurling Flower, by Emily. Like myself, Emily is a 21-year-old college graduate and we have a lot in common regarding views on modesty, courtship, femininity, role of women and more. Emily's blog is a wonderful resource for young ladies and covers a variety of interesting topics.

Unless the Lord, by Tracy. Tracy is a happy wife and busy mother of 4 children. She is a full-time homemaker and does it beautifully. Tracy has a gift for writing and making even the simplest things seem so exciting. And if it weren't for all that, I'd visit her blog just for the great recipes!

… I understand this was a bit long, but I felt I simply must share with you at least some thoughts about all the lovely blogs which have been such a blessing to me (and many others). Thank you, ladies!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Frugal face treatments

1. Olive oil scrub:

Take one teaspoon of olive oil and a bit of salt. Mix them together, then rub in circular movements for a couple of minutes and rinse away with warm water. This is super simple and will make your face silky and smooth!

2. Strawberry mush mask:

Take one strawberry and make mush from it. Use it like you normally use a facial mask – leave until it starts drying (approx. 15 minutes), rinse away with warm water. Your skin will feel wonderfully refreshed.

3. Cucumber treatment:

This one is the most simple of all! Take a piece of cucumber (preferably cold) and gently rub your face with it. The cucumber juice is very soothing and refreshing, especially after sunburns.

PS: On a different note, today I had a little accident. I was rushing downstairs, in a hurry to get to my next class, and didn't notice the stairs are a bit slippery. As a result, I fell and came sliding down. I tell you, that was a major ouch. I have some nasty bruises, but nothing serious.
... I should be more careful.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Beauty contests

Not long ago, a friend of mine participated in a beauty contest and was quite successful – 3-rd place. Some time before the contest, she called me excitedly and asked to vote for her and cross my fingers for her. I knew she was expecting me to call her later and congratulate her for her success.

But I couldn't make myself do it. I just couldn't.

Seeing my friend – whom I've known for about 12 years – right there on the catwalk, wearing nothing but translucent underwear… it was more than I could handle. How on earth are young women encouraged to sell themselves so cheaply – and look so happy about it?

Half of the participants were as young as 16. You wouldn't know when you looked at them. They tried their best to behave like mature women, with unrestrained sexuality, showing off their body without the least bit of shame. But I knew – and I'm sure deep down they knew it, too – that it's simply not true. They were girls. Teenage girls deprived of their flower of youthful innocence.

I know I risk being called a prude here, but I have the following problem with beauty contests:

1. They don't focus on true beauty, but on a perfect body and pretty face.
We don't know if a particular participant is a selfish, immoral, ungodly person. Does she model truly beautiful femininity? Is she a kind, intelligent, friendly person? We don't know. She wins or loses based on her outward appearance alone.

2. They promote exploitation of young girls and teach young girls to put all their efforts into maintaining their external beauty.
Most of the participants in beauty contests are young – much too young to be exposed like they are to lusts of unworthy men and worldly desires. Traits and skills that will be important to these young women in their future lives are not promoted. They are only taught to be pretty dolls.

3. They create an unrealistic and unhealthy ideal of youth and beauty.
Most of the women who participate in beauty contests are very young and very thin. My friend is tall and skinny, and can eat as much as she wants without gaining weight. But she is an exception from the general rule. Do you know how many of those girls are depriving themselves of proper nutrition? And how many of them already have eating disorders? What about older women (I mean older than 30)? Why does it seem that models disappear after the age of 25? Is a 30-year-old mother, happy and relaxed and with a healthy glow over her face, less desirable because she put on some extra weight?

Let's face it; what we often have behind that catwalk and those gleaming smiles is promotion of promiscuity, eating disorders, immodesty, unhealthy lusts. And this is called a beauty contest?

Disclaimer: when I read this post again, I realized I might have made a generalization here. I'm not saying this is what always happens at these events, but it happens often enough to be a source of concern.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The joy of reading

I've always been a bookworm, but I can't believe I still have time to read even during this busy period in my life! A page here, a page there, a chapter during my daily bus trip, a chapter before bedtime... and I've completed a book in a week! Not bad, isn't it?

Recently, I've read:

* Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
* The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie
* The Forged Coupon and The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy

...What have you been reading lately, ladies?