Thursday, June 27, 2013

We can complain
because rose bushes
have thorns,
thorn bushes
have roses.
{Abraham Lincoln}


Monday, June 24, 2013

Brain Games

National Geographic's Brain Games is topping my list right now as a new summertime fave TV show. It's described as "chock full of interactive games and experiments designed to mess with your mind and reveal the inner-workings of your brain. Delving into topics like focus, fear, persuasion, decision-making and neural fitness, Brain Games turns your mind’s eye inwards for a profoundly entertaining and revealing journey into the three and a half pounds of tissue that makes"

Last night as we were watching the episode Illusion Confusion (all about how your mind perceives the world), I realized how easy it is for our brains to be fooled by what we see. A cardboard dragon that looks like his head is moving, a plate of food that is actually a flat piece of paper, and a pocket-sized teddy bear that looks huge were some of the examples of how our minds are tricked into thinking an object looks one way but in reality it is quite different. It's all about perception and angles.


This made me think: if the way we look at an object is all about perception, angles and lighting, and we can be made to perceive a flat piece of paper as a plate full of food, then wouldn't it be quite easy to perceive other things as real when they are false, or to even distort our own reality? Like how we look...or how we look compared to that beautiful supermodel on the pages of a magazine?

Creating a beautiful magazine spread is all about a distortion of reality, and whether it's a big distortion, with the use of airbrushing, or a relatively smaller one, with the use of lighting, make-up and angles, it's still all about creating an illusion of perfection. And it's one that we buy--hook, line and sinker. When we take that illusion of perfection and compare it to what we see in the mirror, and add to it the possibility of our minds being trained to think a certain way, with certain expectations and assumptions, then you have the elements of a perfect storm. One that creates self-doubt and esteem issues, and that could possibly lead to obsession, disorders and depression.

It's easy to believe the hype--after all, we are fed a steady diet of "what is beauty (and what is not)" from sun up to sundown--but it's not our only source of direction. When we start seeing the lies for exactly what they are--lies--then it's possible to then start sorting out what to believe and what not to believe.

God's word is the ultimate origin of truth, and I'm learning that beauty isn't just an outward treatment--the source comes from within (1 Peter 3:4).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pick 1

I was looking at a website for The Message (an XM radio station), and even though I was looking for something completely different, I found this and thought it was kind of fun. Enjoy...and let me know which one you picked :)

 We did one before posting this. Did you? Will you tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer, Summer, Summer Time

Boy, oh boy.

Summertime has officially hit the R household full force. I'm talking we are all about the I'm boooooored and the there's noooothing to doooooo, and the Why can't we go to the pooooooool again? and the If you don't stop _______, then I am going to ________. (That last one was me.)

And I can't say that I'm all positive, like the world is full of rainbows and butterflies. I'm off-schedule, and a little grumpy about it. Curmudgeonly, one might say. Today I had to apologize to my kids two times for snapping at them unnecessarily, and even after all the apologizing drama (it's amazing how quickly they forgive and forget), my son pointed out later that I yet again had a "mad voice". Yes. Yes, I did. Do you know why? BECAUSE SOMETIMES A MAD VOICE IS WHAT IT TAKES TO GET YOUR ATTENTION BECAUSE YOU DO NOT--NO, YOU REFUSE--TO LISTEN OTHERWISE.

I think we all need a teensy, tiny break from all this togetherness that has been happening around here. Together is good. Breaks are also good. And right now, WE NEED ONE.

I have a cold. It's weird to have a cold in the summertime, and yet here I am, stuffy nose, sore throat and a cough that only happens after I've juuuust fallen asleep. This is the most annoying cough that anyone could ever have, ever. Today my ears have been stopped up, so I've been all like "What did you say?" and "Huh?" all day. That's right. All. Day. Long. Then I'll yawn (this cold has made me so very tiiiiired) and they'll pop and I'm singing hallelujah, but only for one, maybe two words of the whole darn song because before you can say hallelujah three times in a row, they're stopped up again. Su-per.

Today, while my daughter was at a camp, I dragged my son to 4--no, 5--stores. In a row. Do you know what his least favorite thing in the world to do is? That's right. Shop. Long about the fourth store (the third store--Toys R Us--made him very happy), which happened to be Pier 1, he started moaning and groaning and sitting right on the floor, not to mention testing out the store's fine selection of lounge chairs, saying Can we goooo hooooome?, which we could not, because we had not enough time to go home but too much time to do one more lap around Pier 1. And I was not even inspired by a single piece of anything I saw today, so I texted my sister In a decorating slump. Yuck :(, but she didn't text back, and I felt very, very sorry for myself. What does one do when one feels very, very sorry for herself and her son is laying in the store's lounge chair, playing with the umbrella light's remote control, making the lights go blink, blink...blink, blink...? Go to Wal-Mart. It only seemed right, because you will certainly find someone who is more down on their luck than you are at Wal-Mart.

We observed several interesting people at WM, one of them being a boy of about, oh maybe 12-15 years of age. He had long-ish bangs and was bundled up in sweat pants and a hoodie sweatshirt (hood up, yes, and bangs in eyes, and I was like hey, can you even SEE in there?) like it was 32 degrees and snowing outside. I don't know what he was shopping for but I felt a breeze when he passed--he was on a mission.

The good news is that a) there is an abundance of nighttime cold medicine out there and b) God willing, I have a new, fresh start tomorrow. One that will probably include an apology by someone who is ill-tempered, the popular phrase I'm bored, the remnants of a summertime cold, and maybe even a store or two (let's hope not). But I learned today that overall, even when I'm in a mood, together is much better than apart, and while we have a little rumpus every now and again, I actually wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Time (And Electricity) Is A Beautiful Thing

Ahhhhh, electricity.

It's a beautiful thing.

And after being out of power and roughing it for an entire 24 hours, I am happy to report that things are up and running smoothly, and I didn't even have to clean out my refrigerator. Score!

I am not a hey-let's-go-camping-because-a-couple-of-nights-without-modern-convenience-sounds-like-a-good-thing kind of girl, although in my elementary and teen years I spent quite a lot of time camping out in my parents pop-up camper--before they upgraded to a trailer (all this valuable experience is how I know I don't love camping).

To be honest, the only reason I was really hoping the power would return is because I didn't want all my food to spoil, because I would have to revisit that abominable beast of a store known as Kroger. Kroger and I have had some issues recently, mostly due to the fact that they no longer double the coupons I so diligently clip every week (claiming they will lower their prices-ha!), and I had to break up with them and move on. Unfortunately, I've not been thrilled with the stand-in (Wal-Mart), and may be forced at some point in the very near future to return to my former grocery suitor.

The trials of grocery shopping...

But back to electricity, or lack thereof.

My husband, bless his soul, went to work where electricity was in abundant supply and left us stranded on the Island of No Power, where persons sit around and stare at each other, seeing MineCraft visions in their head and wondering how they can charge their Apple devices without being too obvious about it.

The day before the power went out, my sweet little boy wasn't listening to his mama, and he lost the privilege of playing Skylanders Giants on the Wii. When the power went out, I didn't have to remember all day that I had taken away the Wii, and he didn't have to ask, just to see if I would remember, and my sweet girl didn't feel the need to step in and be Mama No. 2. A silver lining.

I actually really enjoyed all the time we spent with no electricity. We were forced to talk, play games and spend time with each other with no interruption. No one had anything else better to do, there was no email to check, no FB to catch up on, no TV to watch, no phone to talk on (actually, my phone was charged, but don't tell anyone), no dishes to wash or laundry to do. It was...bliss.

And I'd do it all over again for the chance to spend unadulterated--I'd even call it wholesome--time with my family.

Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin.
{Mother Teresa}

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beauty News

Well, fellow beauty lovers, in April I promised you that I would try a lash enhancer for 8 weeks and let you know the results. I didn't bother to share my results after 4 weeks because, well, there were none. No growth, no nothing. So I waited until I passed the 8 week mark, hoping that I could report long, lush lashes. To my dismay, I have nothing to report except that my lashes look the exact same. No change. Nothing. I'm not even going to share a picture of my eye because it looks no different.

So. Disappointing.

Over the years, on my quest for miracle beauty products, I've tried umpteen different products (even "professionally" applied fake lashes, and let me tell you one thing--you get what you pay for, and I didn't pay that much. I'll just leave it at that, and also that I may have come off looking like a cross between Joan Rivers and a clown), often with the same results--no difference in my appearance and a waste of money. So, if you or anyone you know is considering going to drastic measures for beauty's sake, let me give you a small piece of advice: save your money and learn to appreciate your natural, God-given beauty.

Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.” 
{Markus Zusak, I am the Messenger}

In other news, I recently had the thought that I wanted another tattoo. I have one (a purple rose on my shoulder) that I got seconds after I turned the ripe old age of 18. I've been on and off the concept of tattoos for a long time, sometimes thinking they are way cool and others wondering why I ever got one in the first place (this happens when you look at a purple rose stuck on your back forever, and especially when said tattoo has faded and blurred a bit around the edges, and especially especially when your tiny babies start wondering when they can have a sticker like mommy's that doesn't come off.).

I know you probably are leaving right now to go get a purple rose, because this is the coolest thing you've seen since Michael Jackson and The Glove.

So this new idea of mine seems a little impulsive, maybe even a bit reckless and crazy as far as my life is concerned, I admit. Especially considering that I want to put it on the inside of my wrist (ouch), so I'm 99.9999999999% sure I'll probably take my husbands (strong!) advice and not get one, as I have a tendency to act impulsively and then regret my decision later. Thank goodness I have a ying to my yang, or we'd be in all sorts of dilemmas...

What have we learned so far today?

1. Don't waste your money on beauty products that do not work.
2. Learn to appreciate your natural beauty.
3. Tattoos are forever.
4. Think before you act.
5. Ying and Yang were made for each other.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Time Management

This chef has the magic touch!
Today I had the pleasure of dining with my children at the newest restaurant in town. It's called AnnCic, the magician-turned-chef is French, and it's even got childcare for busy parents who would like a quiet meal alone. The menu is extensive (plastic corn and green peppers, if you're into that kind of thing) and the service is spectacular.

Table for 8?

Or intimate setting for two?

It took awhile for me to get into it.

My daughter begged me to go down to the basement and play "restaurant" with her, and I did so, but begrudgingly. I kept thinking of all the other things I needed to (or wanted to) do, and playing wasn't one of them. Besides, playing always makes more mess to clean up, and I'm not so keen on more mess. But, as I sighed my way to the downstairs, it wouldn't do if I flat out refused to play.


I took orders.

I served plastic food.

I poured pretend water and tea.

I answered pretend phone calls.

I watched baby dolls.

And I watched my daughter play. She wasn't trying to so hard to be cool or grown-up. She was just being a kid, and doing what kids do best: playing and imagining.

And toward the end, I actually started having fun. Because it's not about how straight my house is all the time. It's about the relationships inside.

Any restaurant worth it's salt has a cash register that says Open Sesame.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Education Is...

Tomorrow is the last day of school, but before I despair over what my kids did and didn't learn this school year, I will remember this (and keep it with me all summer long...):

Education is what remains
after one has forgotten
what one has learned
in school.
{albert einstein}

Have an educational summer :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hey, There, Pretty Brown Eyes

The opening chords of Cody Simpson's newest song came on Radio Disney, and before I could lift my hand to change the station, my daughter piped up from the back seat: "Don't change it, Mom! I like this song!"

Apparently my daughter and her friend had heard this song waaaay before I had the chance to, because I could hear their little voices crooning along with Cody:

Hey, There, Pretty Brown Eyes
Whatcha doin' later tonight?
Would you mind if I spent a minute with you?
It's no different from any other tween love song, but the chorus isn't what caught my attention. It was this:
This girl she came round the corner
Looking like a model
Magazine figure
She was shaped like a bottle
Long straight hair...
What does it even mean to be "shaped like a bottle"?
These lyrics were being played straight through my car radio speakers and into the ears of my impressionable passengers, who were singing along with all their little hearts could muster. And I was angry. True, these lyrics are similar to almost every other Justin Bieber or JT song out there--it's all about looks and sexual attraction--so I don't know why this particular song did it for me, but it seems so very blatant. Here this kid from Australia, who is handsome in his own right, is singing a song directed at 10-16 year old girls about how they look. In my estimation, he's making his fortune (and his fame) by preying on the emotions of 12-year-old girls. Sickening. Many girls at this age are already swimming in a sea of self-doubt and body-image issues, and these lyrics only confirm the fear that drove them there in the first place: You MUST look like a model to be pretty. Period. So these beautiful little girls set themselves up for failure over and over again as they set out to do the impossible: look like a model, while they try to catch the eye of the boy down the street.
The thing is, some of those girls will never figure out that the models on the pages of the magazine that Cody Simpson so blithely refers to aren't even real. They are air-brushed. They are made-up. They have all the right lighting, all the right make-up, and all the right photographers. It's an illusion that we women believe is real, and some of us strive our entire lives, using plastic surgery, make-up and any other cosmetic device we can get our hands on trying to get there. And to perpetuate that image is as destructive to our girls as it is to our own souls.
So, I asked myself, am I going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?
And if I'm going to be part of the solution, what does that even look like? How do I make my voice rise up louder than the voices of the millions who embrace and propagate this message? How do I convince my daughter that she is beautiful regardless of what Cody Simpson has to say on the matter? And it doesn't only affect the girls that I know. How do I teach my son to respect girls and to not accept or dismiss them based solely on how they look?
I can ban all songs from my car, sure, but that's just a temporary (and unreliable, with iPhones, iPods and iPads in the hands of young people) solution. I can talk to her about real-life expectation versus fantasy, which is what most of pop culture is, but I'm not sure that she hears me. She knows that I think she's beautiful, she knows I always will, but that doesn't stop her from watching the world around her and wanting what it proliferates as "good" and "fun".
In the midst of the angst of it all, I came to this conclusion: It starts at home, and it starts with me.
The message from my mouth has to match the message from my actions, otherwise it's just lip service as far as my kids are concerned. It starts with the understanding that I can no longer criticize myself when I look in the mirror, but accept myself for who I am. Beautiful in my own right, and not constantly striving to be what I'm not. STOP the constant dieting, the constant wishing I could lose this extra twenty pounds for good, the constant talking about it, the constant focus on appearance and weight and being tan and being perfect and being upset when I don't look like I think I should.
Just stop.
And accept me for me. Shout from the top of my lungs I am me and I am HAPPY!
Our daughters and sons are watching closely, taking their cues and signs from us. And in order to be louder than the world at large, we need to speak louder. And more often. And be in their face about it.
They won't always show it, but what we do and say is sinking in.
They are listening. They are watching. And it's up to us as parents and role-models to be that positive force, to help them muddle through those mixed-up messages they hear.