Sunday, September 30, 2007

Just for fun

You know, I usually avoid memes like the plague, but after seeing this funny little meme on a couple of blogs, I just couldn't resist doing it. As always, I won't tag anyone, but if you feel like playing, you're most welcome!

Below are a couple of pictures I took during the summer, but haven't had a chance to share with you yet: a duck - and some pigeons who apparently think they are ducks too. I find something sweet in those really, really, really hot days.

I hope everyone are having a wonderful day and a peaceful weekend - and hopefully, more thoughts and ideas will be shared tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to that!

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car) - Mickey My Two Feet

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)- Coconut Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name) - A Shi

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) - Blue Cat

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first) - Shi An

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink) - The Green Lemonade

7. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers) - Alexander Simon

8. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter) - Weinberg Warsaw

9. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, favorite flower)- Spring Orchid

10. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”) - Apple Jumpie

11. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)- Yogurt Olive

12. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”) - The Crochet Rainbow tour

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Unappreciated homemaker-in-training

Following the email from Carolyn, I received several notes from grown-up daughters who live at home and wish to focus on the home, and who are facing the same challenge from their parents – pressure to enter the workforce, go to college, pursue time- and energy-consuming careers. As you know, this is something very close to my heart, as it's basically my own situation. I'm sharing my thoughts in the form of a letter to each and every one of those brave girls.

Well hi there, dear homemaker-in-training! I loved hearing from you; thank you for sending your question! As you probably already know, my situation is somewhat similar to yours: I've just finished with college, I'm engaged, and in the time until my marriage I will be remaining at home with my family. My mother is very concerned about my lack of grand career ambitions.

If I had a father, I would love, love, love to dedicate myself to helping him until I'm married, and make this my most important job. I would love to be a stay-at-home daughter. Being a daughter to an unmarried mother, me having to earn money to support myself isn't even really a question. It doesn't mean, however, that I can make no difference in attitude.

The first thing I guess you should do is make sure you are useful and productive at home. If you take on a big part of the housework, if you show that your life at home is organized (this means not getting up too late, regular meal times, good working routine), that you keep learning new useful skills from home and don't neglect your capabilities, the pressure on you to get a job might decrease. You need to avoid seeming lazy and unproductive. Part of your parents' concern is due to financial reasons, of course, but at least part of it, I'm almost sure, is that you're leading an indulgent and aimless life. This is a myth that has to be shown as it is - a myth. You need to make sure your parents understand you want to be at home to serve your family, and not for your own pleasure, and you should use every means to show it.

And of course there's no avoiding the financial part. Staying at home and not having a job until you get married means you count on your parents to support you, so you should make an effort to be – and show that you are – frugal and resourceful. This means both savings - I do a great deal of my family's budgeting and looking for the best deals; work that would mean hiring someone unless you did it – for me it means big cleaning projects, cooking and baking almost everything from scratch, investing much time in organizing and improving home comforts; and your own expenses – you will have to keep things simple and be thrifty.

Also, you can check out ways you can make money from home. In the past five years, I've been blessed by having the opportunity to do just that. This is where every woman can play to her strengths and be creative; I tutor children and work as a translator. Once in a while I also do typing jobs for people who have trouble using a computer or don't type fast enough. Explore any skill you are good at and see if it can be made profitable. For example baking, sewing, various crafts can bring you a nice amount of spending money, if not cover all your expenses.

However, if after all your reasoning, your parents still insist that you get a job, I think you should obey their authority - just like I wrote to Carolyn who faced a similar situation with her husband. Fortunately, even if it happens, it doesn't mean there's nothing you can do.

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

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

Wishing you much success; your desire to make your life home-centered is praiseworthy, and I'm happy that you and your future husband decided to go against the tide and make it happen. I hope you keep me updated on how you proceed in this area!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Show and Tell Friday - a gift from the heart

Following the previous Show and Tell, this week I'm going to share with you another gorgeous, beautiful piece of needlework. This lovely handmade tablecloth was given to my mother and her parents during their visit to Bucharest around 1973 (Mom and Grandma are unable to agree on the exact year).

The lady who made it was a great friend of Grandpa's sister (a picture of whom you can see here), in fact, almost a sister/mother to her at a point of her life, and later she and her husband, who was an Armenian forced to flee from his home country due to genocide, became family friends. This friendship endured many, many years, and made many beautiful memories, until Grandpa sadly passed away.

In an age of no internet, and for many years no phone either (at least not a private line), this friendship overcame every obstacle you can think of, the biggest of them being World War II, which tore so many families apart forever. Doesn't it make you kind of ashamed of how easily we sometimes neglect our relationships, when it would be so simple to just send a note by email?

Just look at it - what a precious treasure! Can you imagine how many hours of planning, choosing colors, and work, were invested in this beautiful cross-stitch? I tried to take a close-up shot so you could really appreciate its precision, but for some reason, it didn't work out so well - so there's my best. Around the cross-stich squares, there's crochet work, also lovingly done by hand.

I understand it's not perfectly smooth - last night, I just decided to share it with you on the spur of the moment, and it was too late to pull out my old and creaky ironing board. We only use it for special occassions, and preferably when the danger of stains isn't too great - because it would be such a shame to ruin this treasure, which is intended to be passed, reverently, to the next generation.

Thank you for coming by for this Show and Tell - I know I enjoyed telling, and can only hope you equally enjoyed visiting with me. I'm so happy I joined the Show and Tells over at Kelli's lovely blog. Be sure to go there for more fun and stories!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Message in a Bottle

When it comes to modern writing, I'm usually very cautious and picky about the books I choose; however, I really enjoyed 'A Walk to Remember' and 'The Wedding' by Nicholas Sparks. Those were wonderful stories, celebrating sweet, pure, faithful, patient, generous love. After reading those two books, I had great expectations when I picked up 'Message in a Bottle'.

Boy was I up for a disappointment.

To sum it up: we have a 36-years-old divorced woman, living an overwhelmingly busy life between her career and taking care of her 12-year-old son. In the course of a romantic adventure, she meets her charming hero, and despite unresolved emotional conflicts, they become intimate very quickly (why was I surprised that they had sex on their second date? Maybe I'm just too old-fashioned to expect things like that?).

Anyway, a certain bond is formed between them, and since they live far apart, the only logical solution is for one of them to move. Both of them agonize over it; the woman isn't ready to give up her career, and from that moment on, their relationship consists mostly of self-centered monologues, struggles for leadership, and sex scenes. All the while, this woman's poor son (who is constantly shipped from her ex-husband to soccer camp to some other activity), who obviously longs for a real family, is robbed of stability and doesn't know what to think.

Frankly, I closed the book with a feeling of puzzlement, not sure what the author's point was. If he wanted to show an example of tragic immaturity and obviously bad choices, he was successful. Or maybe he wanted to illustrate how complicated and painful life can become when adults aren't ready to sacrifice and be responsible (and simply grow up). It was also a pretty good example of how, if we give in to our lusts, it might make a woman bond with the least suitable person and be miserable. And it sure made me stop and think, 'I'm so happy my life looks nothing like this!'

If any of you are familiar with this book, what do you think?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Homemaking – or housekeeping?

'OK, raising children is important. It's noble work. But surely you will agree that dusting, mopping floors and cleaning the toilet is nothing but irksome drudgery!'

I enjoy the simple, mundane works of homemaking. Really. Washing the floors, laundry (and especially ironing!), shopping, cooking and baking; and also organization, decoration, budgeting and cleaning tasks I have only once in a while, like polishing the silverware. I think the only job I really dislike is washing the dishes, but of course, it gets done too.

Now, I don't have any special secret. Like I recently said to one lovely lady in a comment thread, to properly enjoy homemaking, you need a vision. As in itself, a load of laundry is an awfully mundane and boring thing. But, when you think those sheets will be hanged out in the fresh air, and then will smell sweetly of grass and sun, and your loved ones will stretch out comfortably in their clean fresh beds after a long day - that's something to give you inspiration! And this, in my opinion, is what makes the difference between homemaking and housekeeping.

Needless to say, I don't look down upon women who have hired help to do cleaning jobs – if you can afford it, good for you! Some have health limitations; some have an especially busy season with lots of little ones, who demand their full attention. But still, I think there is something special in a task that is lovingly performed by diligent hands, for our dearest family. Maybe a professional cleaner could get her floors to be more shiny than mine. Maybe (no, certainly!) someone's cakes and cookies are more fancy than I can make. But while I can pay someone to do housekeeping jobs for me, I can't pay someone to make my house a home.

I remember not long ago, I was listening to the radio, and there was an interview with a woman who is quite well-known as a psychologist and author. She was talking about her challenges of balancing marriage, children, homemaking and a time-consuming, professional career. 'I felt torn apart,' – she said, - 'it was obvious that something had to be compromised: either family, home or work,' – I held my breath – 'so I decided to let the housework go. I hardly do anything around the house anymore, and well, it does feel a bit like a hotel room, but at least the important things in my life didn't suffer!'

We all make choices in life; we all have different priorities. In my eyes, making a house a home is a noble and important task.

Today, I spent quite a lot of time re-organizing our living room furniture, polishing it, and choosing the right decorations to go with each piece. Eventually, as I stepped back and observed my work – which, I assure you, is far from professional – I wondered what I would feel if I just walked in to find my living room perfectly organized. I guess it would be nice, in its own way – but I felt such a satisfaction, knowing I did everything with my own hands.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Friends around the globe

Recently, I received two postcards from two wonderful ladies I was blessed to meet through blogland -

Candy from Canada and Michelle from Scotland.

The card on the left was sent to me by Michelle, and Candy sent the one on the right. Aren't they pretty? But here's what really made my day: the sweet, kind, generous words of friendship; they truly made me feel special. Thank you, dear ones! We've never met in person, but you took the time to send me those beautiful handwritten notes; in today's world of rush and hurry, I appreciate it more than words could tell.

It takes so little to make a loved one smile. Maybe you have an older relative who feels lonely, or a dear friend with whom you lost touch lately. Take the time and send someone a card today!

Monday, September 24, 2007

German politician calls for marriage expiry date

When I hear 'expiry date', what immediately pops into my mind is the grocery store and next week's shopping list. But this scandalous politician, apparently, thinks it should also apply to marriage. I was surprised to find out that she is actually a member of a conservative party.

Gabriele Pauli, twice-divorced, obviously attention-craving and publicity-addicted, explicitly stated her opinion by saying:

"My suggestion is that marriages expire after seven years."

Where did such a ludicrous idea come from? We all know divorce rates are high, and many marriages don't last. We also know what a heavy toll it's taking on people's happiness, security, and overall well-being.

Changing that, actually working on educating the next generation to understand the incredible value and importance of marriage, of family, of duty and honor, is hard work – and not at all glamorous.

So here we have a suggestion that equals marriage with any commonplace work contract: after it expires, you can choose to extend it – or not. To tell you the truth, it's difficult for me to even take it seriously. Such an attitude is an evidence of either extreme bitterness and disappointment of one human being, or desire to have her name in the headlines, or both.

If we step back from this particular case for a moment, I think this attitude is very typical of the feminist movement. Marriages are failing? Who needs marriages anyway?! Some men aren't up to their job of leaders and protectors? Fine, let's not strengthen masculine leadership – let's discard it. Some women aren't fulfilled with their God-ordained role of wives and mothers? Let's not bother helping them find fulfillment in that role. Let's rather have a revolution! That's much more fun – and who cares if millions of lives are ruined forever along the way?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Feline fights

Not long ago our family received a new addition: Becky, a cute little black kitten. For those of you who don't know, Becky has a very special story of being found and saved when she was only a few days old. Now she's a perfectly normal, very playful and cuddly kitten, and gives us lots of fun and exercise.

I was a bit apprehensive about introducing her to my older cat, Ksusha, who has gotten so used to being the only (spoiled) kitty in the family. I thought there's a chance that Big Kitty would be hostile to Little Kitty and even attack her.

I couldn't imagine that it would actually be Little Kitty who will make Big Kitty's life miserable, by being so determined to make her a playmate. She jumps at her, attempts to play with her tail, gets under her blanket when she sleeps, and only backs off when Big Kitty hisses at her or even slaps her.

"There's no place to hide from this insolent little kitten!"

"I'm too tired to do anything else at the moment..."

I do hope they will work it out between themselves eventually.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"I'm not in the mood!"

Ever thought why marriages are failing and divorce rates are skyrocketing? Why there's so much rebellion and so little commitment? Here's what I think is one of the key reasons: our relationships are based on too little duty and way too much 'moods'!

While by no means I mean to undervalue our emotions, just think what we would come to if we only did what we felt like doing. Today I might feel inspired and uplifted and do my work with gusto. I sing while I cook and hang the laundry cheerfully. Tomorrow, I might not be in the mood – and then what? Should I just let the house go?

Some days, we feel like the kindest, most patient human beings. Then the next day, we feel like leashing out on our loved ones. So… should we just 'go with what we feel'? Obviously, not. In the mood or not, we should prioritize and see what we must do – and then just do it, even if we don't feel like it, patiently and preferably without grumbling. We rise above our fleeting little wishes and we do the right thing and give to others – and this is what makes our life meaningful.

You might be asking yourself, 'if I don’t feel like doing something for others, should I still be doing it, even if it frustrates me?' – if you ask me: yes! If it's your duty - absolutely. Why? Because it's giving that builds everything that is important in our lives, and relationships that are based on moods will dwindle and die – they have no firm ground to stand on.

I often hear opinions such as, 'well, if this doesn't make me happy right now, I guess I shouldn't be doing this'. This is fine when we're talking about a trip to the movies, but not when it comes to things that are the foundations of our life. Should we stop praying because we don't feel like it? Should we give up on doing something we know is best for our family, because it doesn't fit what we want to be doing right now?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Show and Tell Friday - crocheted table runners

This is the first time I participate in Kelli's Show and Tell Friday, and I must say this is very exciting. For my first Show and Tell, I'm going to share with you these crocheted table runners that have been in our family for as long as I can remember.

All of these pretty items were hand-crocheted by my mother,Grandma, aunt, and more distant relatives. Lots of time, love, skill and effort were put into them. When I look at them, I can imagine Mom and Grandma on a peaceful evening many years ago, immersed in work and conversation.
Isn't it a shame how women today often put so little time and effort into beautifying their homes, compared to their grandmothers? Your own hand-made crafts have individuality. Nothing will compare to the memories they will hold for your family for many years.
Grandma taught my mother to crochet, and I, in my turn, learned from my mother. I'm not as good as she is yet, but I do hope to learn more and make many lovely decorations for my future home.
Thank you for visiting! For more 'Show and Tell' fun, go to Kelli's lovely blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Get rid of it unless…"

"Unless you never want to see me again"
"Unless you want me to kill you"
"Unless you want to ruin my life"
"Unless you want to ruin your life"
"Unless you want us to kick you out of the house"

From my latest Elliot Institute newsletter:

64% of abortions involve coercion
Up to 83% are unwanted
84% were not given enough information to make an informed choice

From the book 'Making Abortion Rare', by David C. Reardon:

"In describing the despair which leads women to abort, Frederica Mathewes-Green of Feminists for Life of America, gives us this compelling word-picture: "No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."

This quote is so powerfully accurate that it has even been reprinted by Planned Parenthood. Why? Because pro-abortionists have long wanted to diffuse the notion that women abort for selfish or casual reasons. They want the public to sympathize with the desperation of women seeking abortions because they want to convert sympathy for women into support for abortion."

But what sort of twisted sympathy makes us believe a woman can actually be better off with her own child killed? What sort of crazy society separates the interests of mother and child, saying one's life depends on another's death? Why are so many people deceived? Isn't it obvious that all around the world, millions and millions of women are hurting, their pain dismissed and unacknowledged, their bodies and souls perhaps forever mutilated by the horrors of abortion?

How I wish I could reach out to each and every one of them. How much it is needed for each and every woman in a difficult situation to be held, loved, helped, listened to, supported, accepted and cherished.

Life is precious. Life is hope. Don't give up on life.

And if you haven't been around 'Making Home' lately, don't miss this sobering post by Jess, in which she gives a thorough overview of the horrors of abortion, and introduces several eye-opening articles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Managers of our time: the challenge of following our own schedule

If you are a woman who has come home after long years of having a strict schedule at a job or in college, it is not unlikely that you experience the following: a feeling of disorientation and even helplessness, easily succumbing to distractions, inability to concentrate and frustration over not knowing what you are supposed to do the next moment.

I'm talking from experience. After my most stressful period of college was over, and I started spending most of my time at home, I felt almost lost because there was no one to tell me when I need to get up, where I need to go, and what I need to do at every given moment.

If you've never seen a healthy and balanced home life in function, it's easy to give in to the world's expectations, feel useless, and conform to the idea that 'there's nothing to do at home'. When you become the manager of your time, disappointment and frustration are guaranteed if you don't learn to use it wisely.

The first step, for me, was to write out a good and solid routine, which includes all the frequent and basic housekeeping tasks necessary for our household to run smoothly, specifics of cleaning of different areas of the home, laundry, shopping, cooking, etc. Starting my day by carrying out those basic tasks saves me a good deal of rush and pressure afterwards. I also make sure to include quiet prayer and meditation time in my morning routine. It gives a completely different, more serene feeling to my entire day!

There are days when the basics alone keep me so busy that I don't have time for anything else – for example when shopping, laundry, major cleaning jobs and cooking all pile up in the same day. But normally – at this season of my life - it doesn't happen, and I'm left with several long hours on my hands.

This is when exasperation would undoubtedly set in if I didn't have a section in my home management binder for long-term household projects. This includes all things that take some time to do, or cleaning tasks that only have to be done once in a while. For example: washing windows, sewing towels, polishing furniture, or renovations. The list of things to do at home is truly endless, but if I counted on my memory alone, I'm not sure I'd remember any of them in a moment of idleness, when a good book or my computer seem so much more tempting.

It's also important not to get carried away with an addiction to crossing items off your to-do list. I'm convinced that good home life is supposed to be simple and peaceful, so I try not to be overwhelmed by the number of projects that seems to magically multiply itself, and not bite off more than I can chew.

In the late afternoon and evening hours I try to unwind and dedicate myself to useful and creative activities: crafts, good reading, studying Spanish, writing letters or updating my journal (yes, I'm still addicted to that peculiar old-fashioned way of blogging on paper, with no readers and no comments!), and finally, computer time.

Of course, routines will be different for each home, for each family, according to individual habits and needs, such as nap times, nursing times, work schedules of other family members, and whatever other considerations you might take into account.

This brings me to the final point of today, which is: be flexible. Sometimes your neat and orderly schedule is unexpectedly broken off by the needs of your parents, siblings, husband or children. Don't let this discourage and frustrate you; having a good working routine is a must, but the possibility to alter it to meet the needs of our loved ones is one of the most wonderful aspects of being a homemaker.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Decorations: balance between bareness and clutter

A few weeks ago, my mother and I were invited to visit Mom's friends, a couple which recently did quite impressive renovations in their apartment. I walked in, preparing to admire their pretty new windows, doorframes and floors – and was overwhelmed by the amount of pictures, vases, porcelain dolls, and many other knick-knacks that covered every available space in the room.

Maybe it was the contrast with my own minimalist style, but I do think the room could have gained a lot from removing at least half of the decorations. It would make it look so much more light and spacious – and the remaining decorations could be viewed better, too!

I abhor clutter, and have more decorations than I could ever use at once. The solution, for me, is putting some of them away and changing them later. I have a few centerpieces which I try to rotate every once in a while.

Most of the decorations I use are not very elaborate or expensive. In the picture, you can see one of my favorites – it's a simple, clear glass bowl, filled with shells.

I would love to hear how you ladies find the balance between bareness and simplicity, between decorative ideas and filling your walls and surfaces with clutter. Any special tips to share?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Musing and memories of an 'unwanted' child

[Not for very young readers]

'Mommy, why don't I know my Daddy? Where's Daddy? Will he ever come and live with us? Can I see his picture?'

I was only 15 years old when I found out the terrible truth about my father: he never supported us and disappeared from our lives as soon as he found out my mother was nurturing a little life in her womb. But no, wait: he did something else before he left. He tried to convince my mother to have an abortion.

I wish I had the ability to describe the emotions that overthrew me when Mother told me about it. Anger. Bitterness. Feeling of insecurity, feeling unwanted. And all the while, a deep and sincere gratitude to my mother, admiration of her brave heart. She chose to give me life! Yes, despite all, she didn't want to give up on her tiny baby. She didn't give in to evil manipulations.

This continued to haunt me for years to come. Why didn't he want me? Did he hate me so much that he wanted me dead and gone, before I even had a chance to breathe fresh air? Was I so meaningless to him that he never bothered to find out if I'm alive or dead? It was then that my most rebellious period as a teenager started (no, I'm not justifying it, just telling my story). A girl who knows her father didn't feel obliged to protect her! The very thought is pure torture.

It took a great deal of growing, trials, pain, praying and seeking God to finally let go of the bitterness and forgive my father. Sometimes I still wonder what he would think if he saw me as the woman I am today: a grown-up daughter, on her journey with God, with dreams and thoughts and doubts and aspirations, preparing for marriage, longing to be a wife, mother and homemaker. Would he feel sorry for what he missed? Would he regret for being so selfish and short-sighted back then?

Does he ever think about what could have been? Walks hand in hand, his sweet baby daughter cuddling in his arms; talk and play and laughter; watching his little daughter blossom into a woman, protecting her. A glorious vision of the day when he gives her away in marriage, in God's perfect timing, to the right man.

Another thing I had to work through was the inferiority complex of an 'unwanted' child. I mean, I couldn't be worth much if my father rejected me, right? But I kept reminding myself, until it became ingrained in my head, that I was a loved child, a planned child, a wanted child – a child of God, a child like all the other children, and maybe even walking closer to Him, as I have no earthly father to watch over me in my years as an unmarried woman.

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up" (Psalm 27:10)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weight, eating disorders and fertility

Before learning about nutrition, health and physiology, I was under the false impression that fat is just an 'idle' tissue, without any really important function. How wrong I had been! Our fat tissue is, in fact, an endocrine center which secretes a variety of hormones and mediators.

We can't live a normal life without a good and healthy amount of fat, so no wonder it affects fertility too. Do you know how many women with eating disorders suffer from fertility problems, even long after they are healed? I remember a teacher of ours once told us about a patient she had, a woman who went through many years of anorexia nervosa and later bulimia. Eventually, all of these issues worked out, her weight was fine, her psychological problems were also solved, she got married… and it turned out she can't conceive. Tests have shown that her hormone levels are like those of a woman who is past her menopause. Years of being on the verge of starvation and tampering with her weight did not pass without leaving a trace! Most probably, she will never become a mother. Isn't this sad?

Several studies link obesity to fertility problems as well, especially for women with PCOS. Specifically abdominal obesity may be co-responsible for the development of hyperandrogenism (elevated levels of male hormones in women) and associated chronic anovulation. I haven't been able to find studies which explain in a clear way exactly how being very underweight or very overweight might have effect on our fertility, but it seems the connection is worth investigating.

Not that every woman who suffers from fertility problems has abnormal weight, and not all women with abnormal weight have fertility problems! However, it seems sometimes moderate weight reduction – or weight gain, in cases of anorexia nervosa for example - might help achieve a better hormonal balance and thus increase chances of pregnancy.

Isn't it fascinating how everything in our bodies is interlinked? It gets me thinking about how I should guard this body God has given me, so that I can be able to serve my family more efficiently, and to make it easier for me to bear children and give birth, if this is what God has in plan for me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A peaceful life

Stress and worry, always trying to accomplish more than you can ever squeeze in short 24 hours, running around with our to-do lists, jotting things off and feeling satisfied for a moment – until at the end of the day, we are overwhelmed and sink, exhausted, into dreamless sleep.

I've talked a lot on this blog how women are expected to have it all together – marriages, children, homes, careers – and manage all of those successfully, without falling apart (which, I believe, isn't realistic). Men are also facing the consequences of our crazy life, and are encouraged to work so many hours it makes me too tired to even think about it.

Have you ever heard of 'Ensure'? They offer a variety of balanced liquid foods for hospital and facility patients, particularly those who have difficulty eating or have no appetite (like cancer patients). Recently I heard Ensure is coming up with new campaign, directed at… people who have no time to eat! Want to save an extra hour every day? Just take a few cans of 'Ensure' and you've got it! Now, I'm asking myself, what are we coming to?

We know we don't want any of that. While rushing through our days and trying to accomplish everything at top speed is so common now it's actually regarded as normal, it's not normal or healthy – it's insane! It's a dangerous trap because we don't have the time to stop and evaluate our lives and realize we're off track.

The question is, how much are we willing to sacrifice? I'll be satisfied with whatever my future husband earns as long as it covers our basic necessities. But how does one decide what is a necessity and what is a luxury? How much are we ready to eliminate in order to have a simpler, quieter life, with more time to spend on things which really matter?

No answers yet. My journey towards building a peaceful life is yet to begin, and I'm progressing with much caution and trepidations. I have no doubt, however, that time, experience and prayer above all will allow me to find the balance in the sweet and simple life I'm seeking.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Writing letters: a beautiful tradition

The letters you see here have been sent to me by my cousin and friend, Maggie. Maggie and I started corresponding by 'real mail' over a year ago. It might seem awfully slow in today's top-speed, electronic age, and I agree that emails and instant messages certainly have their advantages, but still - there's something very sweet and special about receiving a real, handwritten letter - so much more individuality in Maggie's beautiful handwriting (or even my untidy scribble, for that matter) than in standard computer fonts.

There are many ways to make a letter especially delightful. Just a drop of perfume or scented oil will make the paper smell wonderfully, and a few dried flowers or leaves, or a small greeting card, will be such a nice gesture. And just look at those pretty sketches of leaves Maggie made! Something simple, yet so sweet. Maggie's letters are kept, treasured, read and re-read. They are always a special treat and I look forward to receiving them.

I'm leaving you for a couple of days and going on a wee break; I'll be back sometime during the weekend, or right after it. There are so many thoughts and ideas I want to share with you. To the sweet friends who visit every day: I'll miss you! To the new visitors - welcome, and make yourselves at home. Wishing you blessed, wonderful and peaceful days for the rest of the week!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No individual attention? Answering objections against large families

Several days ago, I had a few idle minutes during which I browsed the web, and came across some articles which spoke in the most hateful, disgustingly rude way about large families in general and the Duggar family in particular.

I should have been wise enough to turn my eyes away and close the browser window, because it was obvious such awful things could only be written by someone who has no idea what he's talking about (and should get a life!), but for some reason, I didn't do that; for a couple of minutes, I looked through some of them.

One of the most common objections against families with many children is that children are deprived and get no individual attention. Ten children inevitably get ten times less love and attention than one child, they argue. How ridiculous! Love is not a pie to be cut into pieces; our kind, loving, amazing God loves all of us infinitely, as communities, families, and individuals, and knows us better than the oldest, most faithful friend. His love has no bounds or restrictions, and none of us will ever be deprived. In a good, strong family we find a reflection of God's love for all the children, together and as individuals.

What shows the hypocrisy of this claim is that the people who shake their heads when they look at the Duggars, saying that the Duggar children are 'lost in the crowd', are usually precisely the ones who don't hesitate even a moment before shipping their own children off to daycare, where it's certain they won't get any individual attention.

Another argument was that in a large family, many responsibilities inevitably fall on the shoulders of older children. That one especially made me roll my eyes. Wow, children having actual responsibilities! What a tragedy.

My grandmother grew up in a family with seven children, and since five of them were boys and her only sister was twelve years younger than she was, you can imagine the amount of washing, mending, sewing, fixing and cleaning Grandma had to do as a young girl! They weren't rich, but there was order and dignity in their household, and all the children (except the younger girl, who sadly died when she was young) grew up to be respectable, responsible adults, without commitment phobia or self-centeredness. Surely, no one says older children can or should replace parents. But responsibilities are good for children, and help them form their character; and looking after younger siblings, even more so.

Certainly, children are a gift from God, and therefore a married couple might have only one child even if they long for more. I'm not saying being an only child means being self-centered. But to say that doing chores and helping little brothers and sisters means being deprived and 'robbed of childhood'? Excuse me, but is there any better way for developing a loving, gentle, patient, generous and noble character? I'm not a mother yet, but from my observation, teaching children to be helpers and givers early in life encourages them to develop into wholesome adults, as opposing to the self-obsessed, immersed in egoistic whims, immature 30-year-olds we sadly see all too often.

The picture above is of my Grandma (middle of the back row) and her family. I know it's blurry, but this was the best of my attempts. It was taken sometime between 1931 and 1933.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A few words on home businesses

A lot has already been said about this article, which encourages women to put in more entrepreneurialism and develop home businesses. I'm not sure how many of you have read it, as it was pretty long; it did contain a few interesting thoughts, but there are many points on which I disagree.

First, we must remember there are different seasons in life. The amount of time a woman can dedicate to other pursuits after completing her homemaking duties is limited, and at certain periods, I imagine, will be almost nonexistent. But even if a woman has everything in order and still some free time remains, it doesn't mean she should immediately dedicate all the time she has left to money-making.

I have been working from home, on and off, during the last five years. I tutor children and do translations. 'Working from home' sounds very comforting to some women, and in a sense it's true: you have a flexible schedule, and are there for emergencies. But it still means investing lots and lots of time.

There was a summer when I took on a very large translating project, and it kept me by my computer for 7 or 8 hours a day. Of course, I could take breaks whenever I wanted to, and I was still at home to tend to the needs of my elderly grandmother, but regarding my other duties at home, it was not too much better than if I had to work a job outside the home.

Theoretically, I learned, it's possible for me to run around, crossing things off my to-do list at top speed. Theoretically it's possible for me to pile up grocery shopping, laundry, vacuuming and washing the floors, cooking for the week, washing windows and what not, in one day. It's possible in an emergency. But this will be a day when I collapse, exhausted. This will be a day when I won't have time to do anything special and memorable, anything that really makes me a homemaker and not a housekeeper.

The way I see it, insisting that a woman should have a home business isn't that different from insisting a woman to work outside the home - though there are, of course, obvious advantages, like not having her work with a male boss, having a flexible schedule, etc. Sure, if I had to choose between the two, working from home is definitely a better option; but in essence, it all boils down to this idea, which bothers me: that a woman must bring in money in order to justify her presence at home. Managing the family budget wisely isn't enough. Being a busy, creative and resourceful wife isn't enough.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think there's anything wrong with having a home business, for those who can incorporate it into their lives. Actually, if you feel you can do it, great! But not if the woman's more basic duties (wife, mother, homemaker) are suffering, or if her sanity is compromised. And what happens if this income grows and becomes regular and turns into a very substantial part of the family budget? If running this business depends only on the wife, isn't it possible to come to a situation when the husband stops seeing himself as being completely responsible for providing?

These thoughts that are always on my mind whenever home businesses are discussed. When a homemaker feels she must find some way to earn money, otherwise her presence isn't valuable enough, where does it bring us? Isn't it getting dangerously close to the very thing we're trying to avoid, as women who decided to focus on their family and home?

As you see it's far from being black and white, but I was disturbed by the tone of that article, and generally by the attitude that the homemaker must 'justify' being home, either by running around and crossing things off her to-do list all day long, or by managing a home business, or by doing volunteer work. I wish we were at the point when, if a woman said, 'I'm a wife', no one would ask her: 'So... what do you do?'

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I don't want to get married until…

…I learn to be patient. Seriously. People who know me not only through my blog can attest that I'm terribly quick-tempered and easily annoyed when something doesn't go the way I want to. Sometimes I lash out on people. Realizing this caused me to nearly rip my hair out. What a terrible character trait for anyone, especially for a woman who sees marriage and family as her goal!

Alright, alright, self-flagellation over. I know I'm not perfect. I will never be. But I can improve, and become, God willing, a good wife and mother. The aforementioned quality is a good place to start. Flexibility, adjustment and patience are so important for a marriage that I can't help but think God gave me extra time so I can prepare.

I also feel I should praise Him for all things – including trials. Including things that test my patience. Without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Without them, how could I be shaped and molded according to His plan?

Here are some things I thought I could do:

* When I feel I'm going to lose my temper, I'm going to remain silent. If I can't say anything nice and peaceful, better say nothing. Even if it looks foolish or unfriendly, it's preferable to scathing remarks.

* I'm going to practice doing things that frustrate me; and I'm going to try to do them with a smile on my face! Examples: washing dishes, standing in a line in the supermarket, waiting for the bus.

* I'll do my best to be pleasant to others, even if they are unpleasant to me, and even if I'm tired, nervous or busy.

Any advice on how I can better accomplish all of this? I will also deeply appreciate it if any of you are willing to share your personal challenges about your character that you felt you had to overcome in order to become a better person, especially during the season when you were preparing to become a wife.

Friday, September 7, 2007

If you live on one income, it has to be a large one?

I have received a lot of response about posts where I expressed my desire to be a keeper-at-home in the future. A few of them were posted as comments on this blog, and others I got through email. Some of them implied that living on one income is only an option for rich people in rich countries, and that I don't know real financial hardships.

Those who have read more than a post or two on my blog probably figured out that I'm not some sort of pampered little princess who never lacked a thing. As I mentioned for example in this post, I was raised by a single mother, and we had to live on her small income alone (no help from my father whatsoever). As I described in that same post, it wasn't easy. We struggled. At some points it was not even frugality – it was real poverty. We never had a car; even public transportation seemed like a great toll on our minuscule budget! There was a long period when we never went on vacations. We never ate out, and trips to the movies were a rare treat. We had to save on food, clothes… anything you can imagine – because there was just no other choice.

Things have improved gradually, but the message I carried away with me from the toughest times was that if it was possible for us to live on Mom's income alone, it's also possible for other families where the husband earns the same amount of money. They say they can't afford it – but I know that if we made it through because we had to, it can also be done if we choose to do it. I know that if I married a man who earns a salary similar to what my Mom had back then, and we said we want to live on his income alone, we'd be told a thousand times again and again that it's simply impossible, it can’t be done. But that would sound unconvincing to me, as I already saw this budget in action.

Frugality isn't oppressive. It's liberating. It's liberating to know that you can easily do without half the things our culture claims you 'need'; that you can make ends meet and be debt-free even with an income that automatically defines you as 'poor'. It's liberating to be self-sufficient and resourceful, knowing you have freedom to choose the best for your family.

I'd like to stress again and again that I'm not passing judgment on anyone. I'm just trying to explain why I think living on one income can be an option even when it seems there's simply no way it could work out. I'm not arguing right now that it can always work out, no matter what – my point here is that many families, who think they can't afford living on one income, could probably become more frugal and creative and make ends meet if they were put in a situation that required it.

Don't be mistaken, it will probably take major sacrifices. I understand there can be a variety of circumstances and I think each family should pray about it and seek God's guidance, and each wife should submit to the authority of her husband. If my husband insists that I work outside the home, I will. But I do want the decision to be based on what our options really are, and not on what's the socially acceptable size of income needed to 'make a living'.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Meals for a Month

This week, I had the pleasure to discover the lovely 'Homemaker's Cottage' website, written by Kristy Howard. 'Homemaker's Cottage' features a wide array of encouraging and uplifting material for women of all ages, including courtship, homemaking, motherhood and frugal living.

I eagerly anticipated receiving Kristy's e-book, 'Meals for a Month – Volume 1', and upon receiving it, started reading right away. The following words caught my eye: … how often do we drag ourselves into the kitchen, stare inside the fridge or a cabinet, and wail, "I just don't know WHAT to cook today!"

Yes, yes, I said excitedly! It seems as though this was written precisely for me and about me. That very morning, after completing my cleaning chores and with lunch time approaching, I blankly stared inside my refrigerator and freezer, trying to make my brain work out the never-ending Question of Questions: 'what's for dinner?', accompanied by 'not lentil soup again?!' and 'aren't there any leftovers from the weekend?'

'Meals for a Month' proved to be everything it promised and more. Kristy's passion for wholesome, natural foods was evident through many of the recipes. As a vegetarian, I was particularly enthusiastic about recipes that featured lots of beans and vegetables, but the meat-eaters among you, I'm certain, will find many creative and inexpensive solutions as well. And all will enjoy the wonderful money- and time-saving tips that Kristy generously shares with us. I especially recommend it for beginner homemakers who want to be more organized in the menu-planning department but don't know where to start.

If you visit 'Homemaker's Cottage' before the 14-th of September, you can request a free copy of 'Meals for a Month – Volume 1'. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"What's going on? Women are coming home!"

This article is a rather old one, but this is the first time I came across it. Thanks to Green Eyes for sharing the link! When I saw it was written by Linda Hirshman, I already had a vague guess about its contents, and was proved right: Hirshman expresses her deep and sincere concern about women who make the choice to opt out of the workforce and go home to their families. It was a true masterpiece as a whole, but some of the following pearls of wisdom really got me ticking:

"What is going on? Most women hope to marry and have babies."
Really? What backwardness! What lack of rational thinking! Of course, this is the reason why we are all here in the first place, but why on earth would someone willingly choose this sad fate for themselves, if they have glorious alternatives in the form of high-paying career, dating into their late thirties, fertility treatments in their 40's, and loneliness in later years?

"Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy."
Pay attention to this, ladies. It's not about what you want. It's not about what your husbands and yourselves decided will be the best for your family. It's not about what makes you peaceful and happy, or gives you contentment, or enables you to take better care of your children; it's about someone's willingness to push a certain anti-utopian agenda on us all.

"If women never start playing the household-manager role, the house will be dirty… Either the other adult in the family will take a hand or the children will grow up with robust immune systems."
You should never allow yourself to make an effort to keep your home pretty, tidy and well-managed; you should never allow your home to become a safe haven of relaxation, warmth, love, joy and hospitality, because if you enjoy your home, this might make 'prying you out of your traditional gender role' much more difficult. Don't mind if your children get infections from food pathogens, either. The important thing is that you don't give in to your natural drive for making your home neat and clean!

"Have a baby. Just don't have two. A second kid pressures the mother's organizational skills."
You mean, being a busy wife and mother of many children makes you better at organizing, multitasking, being flexible, effective and resourceful? Or you mean that motherhood and home life are a full-time job? That's no news to us. We knew it all along, and as a matter of fact, we don't see anything wrong or negative in it. It's the feminist camp that tried to convince us family and motherhood are of little value, and rob us of our intelligence, skills and talents.

But if – as we are told all the time – it's all about 'choice', why should they even care about what we freely choose?

"We care because what they do is bad for them."
If you make your husband and yourself happy by being keeper-at-home, it's bad for you. If your children have their Mommy with them, it's bad for you. If you don't give into the habit of addictive consumerism and live frugally and resourcefully, it's bad for you. If you have time to pursue your talents, practice hospitality, and create a peaceful life for your family instead of being exhausted, harassed, overwhelmed and stressed out, it's – again – bad for you. To keep matters simple, everything that is bad for your career, independence and/or bank account is bad for you.

"Now the glass ceiling begins at home. Although it is harder to shatter a ceiling that is also the roof over your head, there is no other choice."
This statement really simplifies the matters. These are no hints or implications: it's acknowledged that what we are encouraged to do means shattering the roof over our heads. Fortunately, no one can force me – or you – to do that. I'm opting out. I choose to keep the roof – and my home – intact.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Every day brings new delights

... And this week, it was trying my hand at a new pursuit. Our kitchen cabinet handles and some of our furniture looked rather shabby, so I thought - why not give it a shot and try for some renovations?

I boldly grabbed a brush and some wood varnish:




In process:


Some of you probably could have done it better, but I consider it not too bad for someone who never painted anything but her own nails before. I'm reasonably pleased with the result, and in the future, plan to do as much as possible around here on my own, without having to invite someone. It saves a good deal of hassle, time and money.
I hope your day, too, brought you new delights, or maybe a new angle of seeing the blessings you've already been given. As I went through your comments and emails, I just couldn't resist saying a huge thank you to each and every one of you, for being so supportive, kind, encouraging, uplifting, wise, insightful and friendly! Your caring, funny and gentle words are one of the sweetest pleasures of my day. I feel truly blessed by 'meeting' you online!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Wow for Wendy

Today I read the first chapter of Wendy Shalit's new book, 'Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good'. It's a must-read for young women, their mothers, and anyone who feels that modesty, chastity, pure behavior and healthy, strong marriage are values that continue to be important today, no matter what we were conditioned to believe - and also that chastity and happy marriage are inseparable.

Wendy mentions a trend I can't help but be concerned about:

The number of unmarried women between ages thirty and thirty-four has more than tripled during the past thirty years, and the percentage of childless women in their early forties has doubled.

She also describes, in a funny and ironic way, the reactions her previous book produced:

In a sense, it was touching to see sworn ideological enemies join hands and come together – at long last – for the purpose of descending on me: feminists, antifeminists, libertarians, pornographers… Playboy featured my book under the heading 'A Man's Worst Nightmare'…But I wasn't discouraged, not even when I received death threats, because I was too busy reading fascinating letters from young women.

… I was shocked that according to nearly half of the letters, a girls' own parent thought something was wrong with her for not being sufficiently casual about sex.

It's very sad how today, a woman's chastity often not only isn't preserved and cherished by her parents, but she is actually pressured by her own family to give it away! It comes as no surprise to me, though. Back when I broke off my abusive relationship, my mother congratulated me for such a wise decision – but she just thought I need another boyfriend, someone who will 'treat me better'; she didn't think I had a reason to choose a cardinal change in my life, or that having a casual dating relationship, in itself, hurt me maybe even more than the abusive part of it. As a matter of fact, I felt that the casualty of it was the worst abuse. That's something people who only know me superficially often misunderstand: I didn't 'go mild' because I was mistreated; rather, I was mistreated because I didn't 'go mild'!

This sounds very much like what I had to hear, too:

When she found out that her daughter hadn't slept with the new boyfriend after a whole weekend away, the mother warned her ominously, "You're gonna lose him!"

You know, we're oh-so-liberated, right? It's all about choice, right? But in fact…

… The sad fact is that much of the sex teen girls have is unwanted. And even when sex is wanted, it tends to be regretted soon after – especially by girls.

And this, I think is the saddest of it all. In the years when a young girl or boy are supposed to make room for personal growth, explore their individual abilities, dreams, needs, desires and plans, they are instead soaked in a sex-saturated culture that pressures them to date, break up, get disappointed, get over it, and say it's 'no big deal'.

Here's my favorite line, the one where Wendy really hits the nail on the head:

When you examine why young women are told to sleep around for the sake of feminism and 'positive sexuality', even when it makes them unhappy, the reason often comes down to a corruption of the idea of 'girl power': Girls must do everything that boys do, even if it's not working.

You can download the first chapter of this book on 'Girls Gone Mild' blog. After that, I'm sure you will want to read it all!

Sidenote: I'm of the opinion that it would be wise for young girls to consult their parents before reading any book that touches matters of adult sexuality.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Everything about nutrition: post your questions here

Lately, I received several emails with nutrition-related questions, and I thought it would be a good idea to create a place for them on this blog. I only finished studying for my degree not long ago, so as you understand my practical experience is limited, but I'm gladly offering you whatever humble knowledge I have that may be helpful. Input from other ladies is also always welcome.

And also, I thought, what can be a better way to preserve and refresh my knowledge, than by constantly stimulating it with questions, which will make me do additional thinking and research? By posting your questions, you are helping me do this; so don't be shy.

A link to this post will remain on my sidebar, and you are welcome to post here questions about anything and everything that has to do with nutrition, diets and healthy eating. Of course, those of you who still prefer to keep it private are most welcome to email me.

Disclaimer: I'm far from knowing everything about health, medicine or nutrition. If you notice I'm mistaken or inaccurate, please don't hesitate to correct me.

Also, please remember that answers in this thread cannot replace medical and/or nutritional counseling.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Me, a feminist?

A comment from a reader:

'Anna, I hope I don't offend you when I say that by my definition, you're a feminist (and I consider that a compliment).You chose your own path in life, chose what's right for you and you're acting on that decision.You do not consider yourself weak, feeble-minded or incapable. You respect yourself and you respect others around you.'

Well, I'm certainly not offended! On the contrary, I appreciate this comment, because it gives me an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the equation that has been deeply ingrained in our minds, the association of feminism with everything good, right and beneficial for women, and all that opposes feminism with oppression, weakness and incapability.

Some time ago, I wrote a post called 'Feminism vs. Women's rights', trying to give some good airing to the myth that we women weren't even treated like humans before feminism came into the picture and gave us 'rights' and 'liberation'. What a lie. Women's rights – human rights – are God-given, written out very beautifully and explicitly. What we need to do is enforce them, not resort to immoral practices that cause the deterioration of our society.

Here, again, I'm of a similar opinion. If being a strong, capable, intelligent woman means being a feminist, and being an anti-feminist means being a brainless weakling, then I suppose you could call me a feminist. But as far as I know, feminism didn't monopolize feminine strength, talent, virtue and wisdom.

All we need to do is look at what women are called to be. Remember the Proverbs 31 woman, eishet chayil? Interestingly, the word 'chayil' is of the same root as 'warrior'. Not exactly a description of the weak and incapable, is it? The one who 'girds herself with strength' and 'reaches out her hands to the needy'? The one who is 'clothed with strength and honor', 'opens her mouth with wisdom', and 'does not eat the bread of idleness'? What about Proverbs 14, where we are told, 'a wise woman builds her house'?

Very clearly, we aren't called to lead a life of incapable, unproductive, feeble-brained dimwits which are, at best, pretty ornaments. We are called to be valiant, virtuous women. If we look at the characters of Sarah, Miriam, Ruth and many other wonderful examples, we will also see strong, wise, capable women. Sarah wasn't afraid to confront Abraham about his son Ishmael. Miriam protected her brother Moses, ensuring his safety. Ruth the Moabite chose to leave her former life behind and follow the one true God. And indeed, there are more examples to beautiful, virtuous womanhood than I can possibly mention in the short time I have.

Yes, they were strong women – but not feminists. And similarly, I strive to be a woman of valor, virtue, wisdom and talent – but I do not consider myself a feminist. Why?

Because I embrace my God-given feminine calling, entirely and wholeheartedly, not seeking to twist it to better fit my views. This is the path I took, not what is convenient or socially acceptable, or what fits my whims and desires at the moment. I seek to submit, willingly, to strong and wise masculine leadership, not looking for ways to overrun it.

I feel the calling of marriage, motherhood and creating a beautiful home is a truly wonderful and empowering one; a precious gift. I focus on the home and family, and have no interest in pursuing a man's job of leadership, protection and provision. I don't think men and women are the same, or should be the same, or should take on the same duties; this is how God created us, and I see nothing offensive in it.

And this, you see, is why I'm not a feminist, and don't want to be one. Strong, wise, capable woman? Yes. Feminist? No thank you!