In the Moment

We’re down in Portland for the weekend, a little getaway to celebrate our anniversary.  Happy 21st to us!

Keeping my running streak alive, I dressed down and laced up for a run.

I put my headphones on and turned on my mp3 player.  Nothing.  I could hear that power was getting to it, but no sound emitted from the plastic attachment.  Strange.  I fiddled with it, unplugging the headphones from the player and reinserting them.  That was the extent of my mechanical knowledge. Nope.  They bit the dust.  I sighed.  I don’t like running without music.  I have done it, and will do it again, but it’s more enjoyable with my tunes playing.

I left it behind and headed out.  It’s summer here!  This is where it’s been hiding.  It’s not summer – yet – in Shelton.  Here, it’s warm.  It’s going to get close to 90 today.  I wanted to get the run knocked out early, before the sun could blaze down.

I turned down a side street.  The sun was just coming up over the hills.  The roadsides bloomed with wildflowers – something periwinkle, neon-yellow blossoms of something else, and my favorite, sweet pea.  My dad calls me Sweet Pea, not to be confused with this Sweet Pea.

Can you see the resemblance?

Can you see the resemblance?

And that started me thinking about our Heavenly Father.  Due to circumstances in my childhood, I’ve had trust issues.  I haven’t always felt like God had the best in mind for me.  But as the breeze blew a breath of cool, fresh, flower-scented air over me, I realized anew my faulty thinking.  It’s just that sometimes God is quiet.  We look for answers and seek His face but He doesn’t respond.  Sometimes we’ve veered from the path we should be on, and we need to realize it.  Other times, it’s simply a season of waiting.  We move forward with what we *do* know and listen for further instructions.

I chugged along in relative quiet.  In this location, it’s never totally quiet. Planes soar overhead.  Cars lurch.  Trains toot.  But my head calmed down as I put one foot in front of the other, sun warming my back.  I went up hills and down hills.  I ran on asphalt and grass and gravel.  Birds chirruped to each other in the trees.  My spirit expanded.

Earlier this week, Ruby and I attended a kids’ summer concert at our local library.  We listened to a group called Harmonica Pocket.  They sang original songs about trees and growing things and mud puddles.  Comprised of a guy and a girl, they played guitar and harmonica – and “hoolihooped”.  They were joyous and fun.  I sat on the wooden floor with Ruby, who didn’t want to sit alone.  I held her as we listened and sometimes sang along.  I watched her face and the other children’s faces light up as the puppets emerged from their suitcase and the performers introduced “Diaperman”.  General raucous chortling ensued.  Ruby leaned on my knees and swayed, lost in the music.  A feeling of contentment swept over me as I surrendered to the moment.  A sweet breath of rest rolled over me.  Ruby has no trouble with trust.  And in that moment, as in the one this morning, neither did I.

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Workouts from the Web

Tired of doing those time-consuming workouts?  Well, have I got news for you!  Did you know you can get fit in just one (1) minute a day?  One measly minute is all it takes.  Congratulations!  All of us can spare it.  That’s 60 seconds of pure energy, folks!  Check this out.

The One-Minute Workout: Sixty seconds, 60 different exercises. You’ll need a bench, a medicine ball, a willing partner, and an appetite for fun! Ready? Go: Left jab, right jab, left kick, right kick. Shimmy to your left, shimmy to your right, grab your partner, hold him tight. Jazz hands. Power jazz hands. Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Squat, rise, drum on your thighs. Drum on your partner’s thighs. Apologize, apologize! Step up, step down, twist your hips, spin around. Leapfrog your partner. Have your partner leapfrog you. One-second tickle fight! Do a jumping jack, then a reverse jumping jack, then a Spanish jumping jack. Tilt your head and shout “Ole!” Run in place. Shuttle run in place. Pretend you’re at Squaw Valley skiing down KT-22. Shift your weight right, shift your weight left. Avoid those trees! Simulate a wipeout. Spring to your feet, grab the medicine ball. Toss it. Catch it. Pound it like a conga drum. Lift it above your head. Tuck it under your arm. Strike 18 different variations of the Heisman Trophy pose. Collapse in exhaustion. (Note: If you attempt this workout, please film it and send me the video.) – From slate.com.

Stop laughing!

And I want to see the video, too.

P.S.  I think my girl does this workout at least once a day.  Cheers!

Do you do this type of workout?  Does it help you?  Mixing it up can be good and create muscle confusion, which means your body continues to improve.  And yet – see below…Seriously, somebody stole their shirts.

Coffeemates

It's all of us!

It’s all of us!

On this drizzly, foggy, 100% humidity day, I celebrate coffee.  Join me!
Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! ~”Coffee Cantata”, J.S. Bach

We have a slew of espresso places in town but only a few have places for people to sit and enjoy.  One is a local joint a half mile from my house.  It’s independent.  They have great coffee and you can hang out and use their wi-fi.  Another is a bookstore, with an upscale, brighter vibe.  It’s nice.  It’s more girly and posh.  And then there’s Starbucks inside Safeway.  Meh.  Their coffee is consistent but the ambiance…isn’t.  The restrooms are right there, too.  The stench can be, uh, a deterrent.

Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven. ~Jessi Lane Adams
However, the Northwest is a coffee Mecca.  If you live here, you drink coffee.  In fact, I can only think of one person I know who *doesn’t* drink the stuff at all.  And he’s weird.  Probably due to caffeine deprivation.

Decaffeinated coffee is kind of like kissing your sister. ~Bob Irwin

We have at least a half dozen drive thru places in our  town alone.  It’s the drug of choice up here where it rains 9 months of the year.  I guess meeting someone for coffee would be the equivalent of  going out for drinks at a bar, only this is less hazardous for other drivers. Generally.  Since I’m not a drinker, I do not – would not – hold liquor well.  It wouldn’t be pretty.  I am the poster child for “knows she has a limit of less than one”. However, the same applies for coffee.  No double shots, please!  Nobody needs to see that.

I like my coffee strong, not lethal! ~M*A*S*H
Incidentally, there’s nothing about coffee in the Bible.  Although I wouldn’t be surprised if God created it on the first day to help Himself get through the next five. But wait!  I think I found a scripture…
For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors–a land flowing with milk  coffee and honey… – Deut. 31:20<

So, I guess what I want to say is that coffee makes me grateful.  Over the last few years, I’ve made good friends with folks while sipping the joe.  Thanks for meeting with me. Thanks for giving this lonely girl transplant a spot in your life.  Thanks for sharing your heart even as we share hot water poured over ground-up beans.  Thanks for getting hyper with me.  Some of you have drunk tea instead.  Wimps!  No, seriously, I don’t discriminate.  You can drink hot leaf-water if you want.  Whatever.  Makes no never mind to me.  And if I can do something that makes me feel more French  (like hanging in a cafe sipping java and people-watching), bring it!

Here’s to you, coffee!  You make the world seem full of possibilities.  Like waking up.

I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless. ~Napoleon Bonaparte

smiley coffee

All quotes taken from http://www.spillingthebeanschicago.com/quotes.

Modern Modesty?

Today, you’re in for a special treat.  I have written about this topic before.  However…My husband Jonathon penned today’s blog.  He has some great thoughts to share with you today. He poses an educated argument on this hot topic. Enjoy!

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I saw a video pop up on Facebook recently that friends have posted (or reposted). It is a nine and a half minute video of a female clothing designer who goes through the history of the bathing suit and makes a call for modesty in female bathing fashion. In one of the iterations on Youtube, the video is actually titled “The Godly truth about bikini’s – FINALLY someone gets it”. She makes a point in the video of equating modesty with the wearing of a one piece bathing suit instead of a bikini. You are more than welcome to see the video here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wtLYeyp8QU) and make up your own mind on this subject, but I would like to venture my opinion on the video and on the concept of modesty in general.

First, the video gives a quick synopsis of swimwear from late 1800s to today. Did you know at the turn of the 20th century, proper ladies not only wore “bathing costumes”  from head to toe, but actually used small houses on wheels that were pushed into the water (where they would exit) so nobody saw them on the beach in their ‘bathing costume’? Who knew?! Not me. The video then discusses the modest one piece and a modest two piece (modest because it did not show the belly-button). Then, the history of the bikini…

Invented by a French designer, it was SO scandalous that models of the day would not don it. He had to hire a stripper to model it for the first time. It was named the ‘bikini’ after the islands where nuclear testing was being conducted (Bikini Atoll) because this design was going to be a bombshell in the world of fashion due to how immodest it was.

The presenter then goes on to speak of two Princeton studies of college aged guys that were shown women in various states, from ‘modest dress’ to fully clothed to ‘scantily clad’. The findings, as reported by the presenter, were that the guys saw the scantily clad ladies as tools to be used or not really people at all. Of course, there was no citation for me to go read the research for myself, I just have to take her word for it…and her bias was showing under her well put together and modest outfit. More on this study later in the blog…

I have three problems with this video in particular that mirrors my problems with the entire modesty debate. The main problem I have with the modesty debate in general is the utter failing of the Christian culture (and any other that I have seen) to recognize modesty is not a biblical standard but a social construct. A woman adorning herself with modest apparel (1 Tim. 2:9) is a biblical standard, to be sure, but what that standard looks like changes over time and depends on the prevailing culture. The very same verse that admonishes women to be modest (the one quoted a few lines above) goes on to state that modesty is put into practice by women when they do not braid their hair or put on pearls or gold or “costly array”. This was Timothy’s definition of a modest woman in the first century. This definition has changed based on changing social norms. Do we (in 21st century America) consider braided hair to be immodest? I don’t think so. Modesty as a concept is biblical. The definition of what clothing/actions are considered modest changes with the culture.

This is one of the main problems I have with this particular video as well. The presenter seems to be choosing what culture to use to define modesty for us, and it’s not contemporary society. She mentioned the turn of the 20th century with “impractical” bathing suits that went past the knee and elbow for the ladies and even mentioned the “36 square foot house” that some ladies would wear into the water. Why is that not used as the model for modesty? Why is the model of modesty defined as what we had in the 1950s? Why not a ’30s bathing suit? Why does she think ’50s fashion is modest, particularly ’50s swimsuits? She answered that question for me towards the end of the video, so I will make you wait until the end of this blog to find out why she chose a ’50s style as the standard for modesty.

The other problem I had with the video shows up in the research she quotes. Guys are shown pictures of “scantily clad” women and they MRI them and find that the portion of the brain that lights up when they see the pics is the part of the brain that uses tools. This study is held up as a prime example of why women should not be scantily clothed. Men might react to you like something to be used instead of something to be conversed with. I have a few problems with this study. She never cites anything (just that it’s a Princeton study) so I will ask my questions here instead of reading the research directly.

How do I know that this reaction (of Princeton male college students) can be applied to a 40+ male that never went to an Ivy League school? What about older men than me? Does my father-in-law (70+) process images of scantily clad women in the same temporal region that images of tools are processed? Do women react like that as well? If women have the same reaction, should we be requiring men to wear shirts and board shorts to swim in? How did they react to fully-clothed women? Did they process all images of women in the same region? We have no answers to these questions.

Even if we DID have answers to these questions, What does that location of processing mean? If I process love and hate in the same region of my brain, does that make both of them bad? If scantily clad women = tools…I don’t know a single man that gets aroused by picking up a hammer. I’m just saying. She interprets the results for us without really thinking about it…and she expects us not to think about it either.

OK, enough of picking on the study. What I have always disliked in these types of discussions (and this study makes the point for me) is, if the guys are responding this way, why is it the women’s problem? Are we as men not supposed to “take our thoughts captive”? Why are we men not being told to keep ourselves accountable for how we view women. In my world, a woman could walk by completely naked and if I think of her as a tool to be used and not a human being, that thought is *my* fault, not the woman’s. A ’50s style bathing suit is going to be no different to me that a tiny bikini if I have a lust problem, and if I don’t have a lust problem, either suit would be fine as well, right?

So…why is a ’50’s suit held up to be the perfect recipe for modesty? Why is covering your belly-button modest and uncovering it something that is shameful? Why is the bikini so bad? Why not full “bathing costumes”? She put up Audrey Hepburn as the model she wants to follow because she was always stylish and never immodest. Really? How about Audrey clad in only a man’s shirt…or horror of horrors…in a bikini! Why does she hold to this ’50s culture as the exemplar of modesty?

Two-For-the-Road-audrey-hepburn-4320105-640-790

Oh…that’s right…because…wait for it…wait for it…remember she’s a designer. Gee, I wonder what she designs?! Yep. Bathing suits. Really? Yes indeedy, folks. She’s selling bathing suits modeled after 1950s fashion. I just sat through a 10-minute sales pitch not for modesty but for a clothing line. Her tag line for her business? “Who says it has to be itsy-bitsy?”

Who says it has to be itsy-bitsy? Not me, but don’t judge me (or my wife or any other woman out there) if they show their belly button the next time they go swimming. Ladies, wear a one piece if it makes you feel good and you think you look cute in it (and the designs she showed were cute, I have to admit).  But don’t limit yourself to covering from head to foot in fear that you will make men stumble. If I stumble based on what you are wearing, that’s on me – not you. Now go enjoy a guilt-free swim. I give you permission. I have to find my hammer.

Sewing Circle

Ruby wanted to learn to sew.

Oh joy.

My adventures in sewing are pathetic affairs.  I first encountered sewing, if memory serves, while in daycare.  Irvington Elementary School had an after school  childcare program my brother and I attended for the long hours between school’s end and Mom’s return from work.  We learned to make pillows by hand-stitching.  Tiny pillows in exotic fabrics.  Animal-print velveteen, brightly colored paisleys and the like. I was enchanted by the gorgeous textile scraps.  Sometimes we added tassels.  To this day, I think it was some sort of psychological attempt to get us to nap.

Fast forward to  my teen years, and my stepmom tried to teach me to hem.  Yeah.  Somehow, I ended up cutting holes in my pants instead of fixing them.  She covered my mistakes and hemmed my pants for me after that, a necessity in this world overrun by pants with long inseams.  Thank God.

More recently, in the not-t0-distant-past, in a land called Reedsport, I attempted to teach myself to sew. This was my “I finally have time on my hands” phase and I wanted to try my hand at crafts. I figured, How hard can it be? I somehow forgot my former trials with needle and thread. My mother-in-law, an excellent seamstress, gamely attempted to teach me over the phone from her home in Wilmington.

Not good.

Oh, picking out the fabric and notions was fun.  I liked fingering all the dreamy cloth and imagining myself a successful clothing designer.  My creations would be featured on the cover of Vogue!  But… Three hours to measure and cut out the fabric, three hours to pin and cut the fabric,  and three hours to sew it with the machine.  I managed to make a “simple skirt” take 9 hours. Well, Susan, how did your skirt turn out?  Glad you asked!  I managed to make a lovely tropical blue tube.  I pulled it up over my legs and there it stayed.  It did not fit.  And that was my at my skinniest, pre-children.  I resigned myself to a world without sewing.

As you can see, I didn’t have good memories.  Nor do I have improved sewing ability at this point in time.  If I need something hemmed or taken in, I use a tailor here in town.  I put the scissors, needle and thread aside for those with superior spatial skills and patience.

Ruby was insistent.  Laura Ingalls had a handmade doll and she wanted to make one, too!  Curse you, pioneer girl!

I found an old white dress of mine.  For clarification purposes, not my wedding dress.  I cut out a rectangle and showed Ruby how to stitch a simple pillow, explaining all the while that I am the most BASIC sewer ever.  I had no desire to even attempt a doll until she’d mastered the Art of Pillow first.

Being her grandmother’s granddaughter, she took to it like a duck to water.  She loved it!  We sacrificed an old dollar store pillow for the stuffing.  She gleefully whip-stiched the last side and tossed it in the air.  Her first pillow!  She promptly customized it.

Kitty pillow

Today, onto the doll. I could dodge it no longer. I took the same dress and cut out a gingerbread-shaped pattern twice, pinning it to the fabric.  Hey, I remembered that part!  She is working on it now.  Her stitches improve a little each time.  She is learning patience and persistence.  She told me, “I love sewing!’

I have *never* said that.  I probably never will.

I have to admit that creating something new with your own two hands gives you a great feeling of accomplishment.  I feel that way when I make a great dinner or a fabulous dessert. Even learning to cook, you have to start small, master basic techniques.   Really, in everything in life, you start out with bite-sized pieces to learn a new task, then continue to progress as you “get it”.

It makes me happy to think that sewing, an art seemingly lost through time, is making a comeback as another generation discovers it for themselves.  Things have come full circle, and I got to help.

Friday Find

I haven’t written about my running in awhile, so I thought I’d update you.  This week, I tapered.  Not like this

tapered jeans

Tapering like this would take a  surgery or a funhouse mirror.  Much less invasive. As Jonathon would say to the girl (above):  “Eat a cheeseburger!”  Sheesh.

No.  I kept the running streak going, but cut the mileage back.  I ran either one or two miles a day. I will finish the week tomorrow with a 2-mile run. I got up to 17 miles  last week, but I didn’t want to hurt myself.  So, I scheduled a “cut-back” week.  I don’t have a race.  Yet.  Runners do that when they want to increase mileage but need their bodies to catch up.  At least, that’s what I’ve read.  I’m not so good at cutting back.  I did it, however.  I don’t want to get hurt again.  I want to continue to feel better and go farther. My progress has been slow, slow, slow.  At times it irks me.  Other times, I remember to be grateful I can run at all.

As you can see, this week’s theme, unbeknownst to me, has been grace.  Grace for others, grace for myself, grace in all circumstances. I’m afraid grace is not my natural bent. I am learning, in this school of life circumstances.  See?  Even confirmed perfectionists can reform!   I need to let my body rest and recharge in a sort of active recovery so I can push it harder next week.  I need to let the kids – and myself – transition to being school-free so we can find our next adventure.  I need to let our church make a transition in leadership and support the people continuing the work, as well as those who have gone on to do more, with kindness and grace.

There’s a dependence in grace, a surrendering of sorts.  It all leads back to God and what He has done, is doing, for us and in us.  If we truly believe Romans 8:28, we can rest in that.  We cannot earn grace; it’s a free gift.  It’s been given to us.  We can extend grace to others, where they are.  We can forbear where in the past we might have snapped and lacked compassion.  We can never truly know all that ails our fellow man (and woman), but we can give them grace.

Snake in the Grass

Don't eat me!

Don’t eat me!

Today, we literally found a snake in the grass.  Okay, it was actually in the petunias.  Ruby was gamely dead-heading the spent flowers with me, when suddenly, I caught a movement from the corner of my eye.  I jumped.

It was a blue-striped garter snake, at least a foot long.  It had been lurking in there and was startled by our activity.

“Mom!” Ruby exclaimed.  “Grab it!”

I quickly snatched up the slithering length.  It wriggled in my hands, trying to get free.

I should interject at this point that Ruby is not a girly girl.  She likes bugs – except spiders and earwigs – and has had a couple of pet snakes that met untimely ends.  The one named Emily met her Maker when she escaped from her rickety box and Rex chomped her.  Literally. Oh Emily, we hardly knew ye!

Ruby really wanted to keep it.  But considering her recent track record with caterpillars, centipedes and other invertebrates, I simply couldn’t do it.

“Rubes, you can’t keep it.  It’s a wild snake. It must be free.”

She looked crestfallen.

“Besides, your last several pets died.  This one should get a chance to live. Anyway, there are more in the yard.”  I hoped.

She held her snake for quite awhile.  She carried it around – but not in the house!  We don’t do well with small live non-cats in the house.  The snake, for his part (I get to decide the snake’s gender) peered alertly at everything, tongue flickering inquisitively.  Seemed alright.

I went inside to talk to Zac, recently returned from his trip.  He was finally awake and fed.  We discussed his trip, of which he said:  “I don’t like remembering dead people.”  I’m hoping he got more out of Washington, D.C. than that, but he has a point.

During this period, Ruby let her snake go.  She kissed it goodbye, she said.

“I put it in the bushes, Mom.”  Good girl!  I told her it was the right thing to do.  She leaned her head on my shoulder and I held her for a minute.

Hours later, out of things to do, we went to look for it.  Ruby showed me where she put it.  Of course, being a smart snake, he wasn’t there.  Or anywhere.  He had high-tailed it  out of the area.  We spent a good bit of time looking in the bushes.  Then we collected bugs to bait another snake.  Then we found out they don’t eat bugs at all but tadpoles, goldfish, mealworms and other juicy morsels.  Great.  If only I had a spare goldfish lying around…

The good thing that came out of all this is that Ruby got reacquainted with her friend D. and his brothers.  They walked by while we were grubbing for bugs and we invited them to join us.  Her former protests about D. being a boy gone by the wayside because D. is a good person, fun and kind.  Sometimes, letting the snake go, the shiny, exciting thing, can net you a real friend.  One who doesn’t eat goldfish.