Beauty, black in a multi-culti world, just for fun, Uncategorized

Friday Frivolities 12: Precious Childhood Memories Edition

 

Except I don’t remember smiling all that much during the process.

Welp, until Irma passes and the debris is clear…have a good week, and stay safe.

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Beauty, wife stuff

Comfortable in our skin.

I saw this story and as a mother of many daughters, I was reminded of a recent encounter where conversations and thoughts were sparked. Namely, about authenticity and trusting that God knows what He is doing when He makes us the way He deems best.

At our daughters’ commencement, several of us got separated, going in different directions for different things. SAM to get better shots of his girl, me to the ladies room, etc. Upon re-entering the crowded venue I didn’t immediately notice a man looking at me, trying to get my attention. I was looking over him, as I always look a little higher when I want to find my husband in a crowd.

When I finally did notice on him, he walked up to me and told me he thought the way I wore my hair was “beautiful”. I thanked him just as my husband and I found our way to each other in the crowd. My husband later made a joke about my picking up strange men, and one of my daughters asked rather pointedly, “Black guy?” The majority of men who compliment my girls on their hair are non black men.

As it happened however, this gentleman was black. Her next query was one of his approximate age. He was about my age I said, and she figured as much. The older ones are used to and more comfortable with black women straightening their hair and the younger ones haven’t quite matured enough to appreciate a look outside of what they see as the dominant look qua Beyonce, Kerry Washington, etc.

 Sidebar: Those are generalizations, and not absolutes. There is always an exception to be found to any general statement. Without generalizations, communication itself becomes impossible and generalizations do not emerge from nothing. Now, where was I…

Another of the 1,000,001 things I love about my husband -contrasted with many other men we know- is that when I made the transition from wearing my hair chemically straightened to wearing it in its natural state, he never objected. He never complained or requested the chemically straightened tresses that I’d worn from when we met in 1992, even knowing I would immediately straighten it if he asked.  This was 18 months ago, in transition, but before that it was longer. He was still cool with the curls. Once again, his overall confidence made it easier to confidently embrace the natural me.

Confidence left unchecked can easily become a vice. Nevertheless, it takes confidence in this culture to walk confidently in our God-given states, particularly if you’re a woman. Everywhere we look, we’re implored to change and alter things about ourselves -big and small- to appeal to as wide a consensus of attractiveness vectors as we can. Whether it was me with 28 years of relaxing or the woman who faithfully spends exorbitant amounts to be blond, or at least not gray. Those don’t even include the massive uptick in the amount of money spent on cosmetic surgeries year after year. The barbie girl is just the most extreme example of a dominant trend.

Single women are in a particularly vulnerable state. I am blessed to have the task of meeting the preferences and desires of one man. One who, quite frankly, has a high standard threshold. If I had the task of most single women, it would seem incredibly overwhelming in this climate. Niche culture has eaten away at the things we should do “in general”.

In general, stay fit, dress and groom well, followed with being kind and competent, would be enough for any woman to tackle as she navigates the single life in hopes of finding a mate. Those generalities however, are just the tip of a massive and winding iceberg. General rules have been tossed aside.

For example, I tend to find large tattoos ugly things, detracting from a woman’s beauty. However for many men tattoos (even arm-length ones), are just fine and dandy. You can expand this to include colored hair, overdone makeup, too much skin, etc. I could probably fill a page with things that were considered gauche when I was a teenager yet are perfectly acceptable now. “Nappy” hair was also on the list though, so…

I don’t engage in modesty debates anymore, for a host of reasons, but one of which is that in the absence of a commonly held set of belief about what is and is not acceptable for a woman to wear, there’s too much subjectivity. Even women who preach modesty can find themselves on the wrong side of someone else’s scale, and one man’s modesty is another man’s slutty. Given my propensity to feel choked without a décolleté just shy of too low, I decided to let my husband mind my business and let other women’s husbands and fathers mind theirs.

One thing that I do feel strongly about, and which every week I find my conviction growing, is that our best bet is to be the best, as beautiful, and the most honorable we can be in our own skin, and let the chips fall where they may.

Disclosure: I spend money, and sometimes quite a bit, on my appearance. What does that mean exactly? I’ll answer if asked.

 

 

 

Beauty, el's rabbit trails, just for fun

Friday Frivolities 10: Fashion Stuff

I’m fairly certain that fashion -in the traditional sense- isn’t really frivolous. It has always been that how we present ourselves to others sends a message, else Paul wouldn’t have bothered to address women directly about the way we present ourselves to the world. Additionally, we all understand intuitively the power of dressing for the job we want, the respect we want, the mate we want, etc.

In the grand scheme of  things however, and given the bleak state of the world and culture we live in, fashion conversation may seem frivolous. That is, until we stop to consider that life goes on and we still have to go out into the world and do the day to day things we need to in order to meet the needs of our families. My man has strong opinions about m appearance as well. To that end then, a frivolous fashion post!

~Our kids started school* this week. It isn’t school in the traditional sense, since we are still at home, homeschooling three full days a week, but it was certainly  new experience for them. One of the novelties was having to abide by a fairly strict dress code, one which I am certain I’d have trouble filling for them if they were at school five days a week. It is a good thing, however, when I contrast it to the lax standards we’ve expereinced in other supplental homeschool settings. It is as follows:

  • Shoulders covered, no tank tops. or sundresses without cardigans.
  • No shorts for anyone middle school and up and for elementary school students, they must be at least knee length.
  • All dresses and skirts must cover the knees when seated
  • No cleavage visible when females bend over
  • All boys shorts must have collars
  • Jeans -if worn at all-must be neat, with no frays or rips, and worn with a belt.
  • Parents are subject to the same dress code as students when on campus.

Our 9-year-old, being elementary aged, has more freedom than the 11-year-old, who complained at first. When you spend most of your time in a relaxed, casual home atrmosphere, your definiton of comfortable clothes is the standard fare (particularly in Florida): Shorts, tank tops, jeans, t-shirts, sandals. They enjoy the educational experience so much however,  that they are less bothered about having to get dressed on a day besides Sunday.

~Hearth shared a really great article with me about fashion color choices for women of darker hues. It’s no secret that black/brown women have a lot more leeway with regard to the colors we look good in, but it doesn’t mean that we look good in every color and a few tweaks here and can make a big difference.

I was fairly unfamiliar with the idea of deeper value and contrast, so I learn a lot about fashion and color from my interactions with Hearth. Have I ever mentioned here that she has written a book on the subject of women’s fashion and how to do it right? Well, she has, and you can find access to it here on the review I wrote for it when she published last year.

~One of my fashion challenges is variety. Generally, I wear almost any color that strikes my fancy, but when I know I look good in a particular color, I can overwork that color in my wardrobe. A couple of years ago, it was deep orange. I still wear that on occasion, but more recently, I’ve heavily leaned on navy blues.

*With this dress, which one of our daughters gave me as a gift from Unique Vintage, I added red accents (shoes as well as the cami) to cover the base of the very low neckline.My makeup looks like it’s melting because it was nearly 100 degrees that day, two weeks ago. It’s just one in a long line of pieces purchased in various shades of navy blue. It doesn’t hurt that my husband really likes me in the color as well, but I need to mix it up. My wardrobe is starting to bore me.

~Lastly, I stumbled on a product that has caused me -yet again- to change my favorite hair product line. Given that this especially marketed to those of us with thick, curly hair, it’s not for everybody. It’s relatively expensive also, but I have a permission, a directive even, to spend a few extra bucks if needed to look good. I also like their mimosa hair honey hair for the scent as much as the shine effect.

*There will no doubt be plenty of classical education and literature comentary at The Reading Room. I am learning as much as our kids, and loving every word of it!

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Beauty, el's rabbit trails, just for fun, wife stuff

Friday Frivolities 5: A hair raising edition

This is a hair raising edition because I’ve been thinking a lot about my hair this week. It’s not all I’ve been thinking about, of course, but it occupied more mental space than usual.

~It started last weekend when an older male relative asked my husband why- given his relative “youth”- he won’t dye his hair or beard. He has a fair amount of visible gray. He said no. The hair grows back too quickly, making it a frequent endeavor, and a waste of time. Most importantly, he’s fine with his gray hair.

The man countered that it just helps make a guy more attractive, no different from what a woman does when she wears a little blush to spruce up. My husband replied, “That is exactly my point. ” His pithy end of the dialog made me laugh but also made me think.

I’m thinking a bit about my own gray strands, which I usually color every 6-8 weeks for the express purpose of covering the gray strands peeking out in front. I’ve pondered it for a while now, even reviewing a book on the topic. Lately, I’ve been going longer between colorings because it does take time I need to spend on other things.

I almost never get around to coloring without going at least a couple of weeks with my visibly gray strands, which kinds of defeats the point of coloring in the first place, no? That’s an awkward angle, but the point is the gray hairs, not my big eyes. I couldn’t figure out how to do one and not the other without an even weirder picture.

Some days, I don’t mind them. It’s only a little, and only visible when I wear my hair pulled back, such as it is now. Other days it bothers me and it’s those days I find myself getting the color in. It’s funny the things we lament that previous generations of women never thought about. I just don’t want to find myself at 65 or 70 with a full head of black hair thinking I’m fooling anyone. 25 years seems like a long time from now but time passes quickly.

~This next bit is about growth of another sort: Veggies! I may not the worst gardener who ever planted a bed, but I am no doubt in the lower 50th percentile. Nevertheless, and with a lot of helpful tips and reminders from the man, I have been able to grow and harvest some good looking vegetables so far this summer. Here is yesterday’s take:

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Two eggplants, and three tomatoes. I didn’t have eggplant Parmesan on my menu for this week, but I may have to consider a menu change.

~My word for the summer is “productive”. As much as we’re told about wife and motherhood being hard jobs, for me the reality is that a plan and a some focus can do wonders.

**Caveat: I am NOT referring to mothers of babies and preschoolers here. My “baby” is 9.**

The challenge, or at least my challenge, has been to resist the temptation to coast, doing what I need to get by (“good enough is good enough”) without stretching myself in ways that will force me to grow.

With that as my focus, it’s been remarkable that I have done twice as much around the house and errands, taken naps and walks when I need them, did some things to stretch and challenge myself and still indulge in occasional 30-45 minute time “wasters” such as writing this post*. It’s been a good season.

~Lastly, I mentioned a while ago that I was reading up on how to start my own SCOBY to make kombucha at home. It turns out that this was not as easy as The Kitchn made it appear to be. The main problem was finding a pure, unflavored bottle of kombucha to use as a starter. I went to every natural food market I could think of in our area and not one had a kombucha that was unflavored.

Fortunately for me, I have the hookup with good friends who are into this kind of thing and one of them gave me a SCOBY, which has brewed enough kombucha to make another SCOBY. So I have the makings of a SCOBY hotel on my hands. Problem is, everyone in my house thinks it looks disgusting:

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The brew still tastes good, and it’s good for me, too.

Have a great weekend!

*I don’t really believe that writing this post was a waste of time.
Beauty, healthy living, Humility is important, wife stuff

Exceptions don’t validate fat acceptance movement.

This post is mostly fresh, and partly re-warmed leftovers from a 2012 entry on my now defunct blog. The message is still relevant as the trend of forcing the national consciousness towards acceptance of what should be rejected has gained more steam over the past five years.

This couple’s photo and story, along with glowing commentary on how this husband proves that love and sexual attraction are much more about what’s on the inside than the outside, is another boon to the fat acceptance movement. It comes when many women are working out harder to look good in bikinis and tank tops as summer kicks into high gear.

This hoopla is an attempt to do two things. The first is discouraging women from exercising self-control and taking charge of their health. The second is to denigrate natural, healthy male sexuality by implying that men who prefer fit women are evil, mean and shallow creatures who value a woman’s appearance over her character.

The problem with this is that our outer life is usually a decent gauge of our inner life. In other words, a few extra pounds as we age or after the birth of a baby are one thing. It’s easy to see how this can happen when we do not make the necessary adjustments to mitigate the natural changes which come with aging or child birth. Perpetually carrying around an extra 50 or more pounds for years on end, however, may indicate an issue with self-control that will rear its head in other areas of life as well.

To use a woman who has earned the love and devotion of a man over several years, has given him two young children so far ( this is a young couple),  as an example to indicate that any chubby chick can reasonably expect to land a hot guy is ridiculous on its face. Does it happen occasionally? It does, but exceptions don’t create new rules. Rather, they highlight the opposite tendency of most people.

I seem -perpetually- to be losing (and gaining) 20-25 pounds so this isn’t body shaming. I am also, despite the extra weight which makes me painfully average among American women my age, married to a man who is above average in looks and indisputably conventionally handsome. He is not rocking abs anymore like that guy, but I digress.

Like the husband in the Yahoo story, mine is virtually blind to what I view as the disparity in our presentation, roundly dismissing with incredulity any assertion on my part that he is the better looking half of this duo. Gratitude doesn’t begin to summarize my response, but I’ve also had nearly 25 years to rack up the track record that led to his love blindness. I was also pretty fit when he first laid eyes on me.

There is a bigger problem here though, no pun intended. I was discussing this with a friend and she pointed out that we (the larger culture) have reduced this subject to black and white, when there is plenty of room for gray.

We have relegated “fit” almost entirely to the realm of emaciated models or world class athletes. Normal healthy ladies who aren’t obese yet also without muscled arms and bikini worthy abs lament their lack of fitness. So you’re either a total health nut or you eat donuts and Doritos, without much middle ground in between.

For those women who can’t or don’t want to get to super fit, they give up on just trying to be a normal healthy human weight. It would be good for us to accept that normal human doesn’t usually look like an athlete or a model, but nor does normal healthy human equal obese. We’ve fallen into the ditches of extremes.

As I thought about her words, I was reminded of a trip I recently took with our girls into an Under Armor outlet store, drawn in by the desire to take a closer look at a very large Incredible Hulk statue they had placed there. Instead of being shirtless, as the Hulk is normally seen, he was wearing an Under Armor shirt.

The store was a picture of the extremes my friend mentioned, with the super fit perusing the racks alongside those who clearly seemed to view the clothing as athleisure rather than something to get sweaty in. Since I don’t fall into the former category, I voiced my concern that I looked like I belong in the latter category. Our daughter looked at me and assured me that I am not what anyone has in mind when they think “fat people”. In other words, I’ve allowed my mind to be trapped in the thinking of extreme dichotomies when considering what it means to be healthy. And I know better.

Even though I find this love story romantic and sweet, it’s a bad idea in these cases to celebrate exceptions. Especially at the expense of encouraging the greater population to do their best to be as healthy as possible. It is not only foolish. For many women, this is downright deadly.

Beauty, black in a multi-culti world, Homemaking stuff, just for fun

Friday Frivolities 4: Fashion, funnies, and furniture notes.

It’s been a very rainy week and as such we’ve been indoors a lot, with exceptions for a couple of trips to our local library which has amazing activities, events, and classes to beat the dog days of summer doldrums in our city. Even if it wasn’t raining all week, it would be a sweltering sauna all day, followed by a hand swatting mosquito farm at night. Such as summertime in a tropical climate. We’ve made good use of the time though.

The life changing magic of tidying up rather than reorganizing old, useless stuff:

We’re doing some much needed redecorating and painting of the interior of several room in our house which offered the perfect opportunity for some much needed purging.  I have been following along as Annasach documents her adventures in minimizing her spaces, and I found it rather inspiring as well.

Our children have faced this purging of their things with mixed results, but when their room is restocked, it should be much easier for them to keep clean when there is less junk in there to contend with.

They don’t make things like they used to:

The man and I recently shopped for living room furniture. After visiting every major store in our area, I narrowed down what I liked best; a sectional which easily seats the seven of us plus one more person and an oversized matching ottoman.

Before finalizing the order and ponying up the cash, we did some research: reviews, etc. We couldn’t find anything about the particular furniture I’d chosen, (new release), but we found plenty of negative reviews about the company I’d chosen to buy the furniture from.

Before I panicked and headed back to the drawing board -since I really liked what I’d chosen- we decided to check consumer websites for reviews of every major furniture store in our metro area. After all, people usually on put their thoughts on record when they are disgruntled  rather than pleased and the company I was ordering from is pretty big.

I included stores known for producing high quality furniture as well, since I was prepared to get what I paid for and shell out more cash for better pieces which will last many years. I am glad I decided to do that, because the results were telling.

Even among companies such as Ethan Allen and Thomasville furnishings, it was easy to find numerous complaints of workmanship, service, delivery times, etc. While that was a little bit discouraging, it did settle me down about the choice of furniture I had settled on since there was clearly no guarantee that going with another company, and buying something I didn’t like as much (I’d already been to all of them anyway) was necessarily going to yield better results. Bottom line is that they just don’t make things like they used to and all the stuff is probably being made by the same company anyway. Just another one of those little things that you miss from yesteryear.

Feminine fashion and perception:

Every couple of months or so I click over and see what interesting stuff has been presented at the website Beyond Black and White. I have a whole lot of opinions and thoughts about their overall agenda (some favorable, some not), but one thing I appreciate is the blog hostess’ push to encourage black women to embrace a more feminine attitude and persona.

Recently she discovered the lure of the pinup girl look after seeing a lot of women dressed in vintage wear while on vacation. She decided to try the look and was amazed at the reaction she got from people. People were suddenly drawn to her, and she the only thing she’d done differently was girl up her look. A lot.

I liked the post because we have known about models like Angelique Noire, the black pinup for a few years, and I wrote before that one of our daughters is very drawn to the highly feminine vintage clothing look.

In reality, it’s not just black women who could use some girlying up. Women as a whole have lost touch with the innate desire to embrace and be beautiful, but black women do have a steeper curve when it comes to the perception of femininity, which is one of the things I do agree with Mrs. Karazin about.

Friday funnies:

I am not, I repeat NOT like the parody Kyle Exum masterfully presents here in his “Mom Rap”. However, our 10-year-old says that there are a few lines in this funny video that for sure remind her of me. It is very funny, so enjoy, the Mom Rap:

 

And enjoy your weekend!

 

 

 

Beauty, el's rabbit trails

Friday frivolities: things I like, 1.

This is just what it implies; not deep. However, in the interest of supporting the notion that it’s perfectly fine and normal for women to enjoy being women and all the stuff that goes with, I want to start sharing some things which are not necessities of life, but make being a girl kind of fun.

I *get* the whole frugal thing. I live on a budget, too, and not everything I mention will be costly. In fact, some of it will be cheap or even free. Just not today. Today my frivolities are beauty products that no woman needs but that I enjoy and also don’t cost an exorbitant amount of money

  • Cocoshea Honey Sugar Scrub, Body Wash, and Body Lotion. I have no doubt that there are cheaper or even free alternatives to baby soft skin but currently, I am using these.
  • Easy Breezy Brow Shape + Define Brow Mascara. I have never been good at taming my own brows, and have had hit or miss luck having them shaped professionally. I like shaped brows, but not thin ones (my brows are already on the light side), and I’d rather leave them alone than have them done wrong. My daughter discovered this stuff a couple of weeks ago, and it does just the trick. I like it a lot.
  • ApHogee Curlific Moisture-Rich Leave-In. This specific product is, as it implies, for thick, curly hair, but ApHogee is a an excellent line for repairing and infusing protein and strength into all hair types. My hair likes moisture so this is a great way for me to do that on an every other day basis between shampoos.

Those are a few of my unnecessary necessary beauty products. Feel free to share any of your own, including natural ideas!

Have a great weekend.

 

Beauty, real living in a virtual world

The only skin you need to fit is your own.

Recently we were leaving a shopping center, and I noticed a well-dressed woman getting into her car. She caught my attention because it’s becoming increasingly rare to see a woman -at Target no less!- exhibiting such combination of femininity and style. Her long blonde hair was also pretty and well styled.

When she turned around, however, I noticed that she was not white as her light blonde hair suggested, but Asian. I didn’t think much of it, but as we got into the car, my youngest child said matter of factly, “That lady would have looked prettier if her hair wasn’t dyed like that.” Rather than verbalize an opinion ( I agreed), I asked my daughter why she assumed her hair was dyed. Again very matter of factly, as children tend to be, she answered, “Asian women don’t usually have such bright hair.”

In that moment I was reminded of an exchange I had with a relative who made the assertion that black women who change their natural hair are engaging in a display of self-hatred. I wondered if anyone had ever accused this woman of hating herself because she chose not to embrace the dark, straight hair that she was likely born with. Or if the Hispanic women who take both blonde dye and flat irons to their characteristically dark, wavy hair are accused of harboring self-hatred. Maybe those women encounter these things, but I doubt it. Our older daughters have a plurality of Hispanic friends and have since high school, and we’ve never heard of it.

Before I go any further, this is not about a defense of weaves, wigs, or relaxers. No one in our house wears any of those things, including me. It has been over a year since my hair has been straight, and my husband’s reaction, contrasted with what we have witnessed from the husbands of friends and relatives, is partly what inspired this post.

Despite the fact that my husband had only ever seen long, straightened hair on me, he has been great about the fact that my hair (not straightened) looks fairly short. Part of the reason is that he is fully on board with the mission to live healthier and also encourage our youngest girls to embrace themselves and who they are as God made them, partly because he is just cool like that, but he also knows if he ever expressed a desire for me to go straight again, I would comply without hesitation.

A couple of other husbands we know, however, have not been as accepting of their wives’ decision to “go natural”. They don’t like the texture (even though it matches their own), they don’t like the perceived length, even though they know if their wives took some heat to their hair and straightened it, it is quite long. Apparently, my husband is a distinct minority:

Men may insist that they prefer natural hair, but many still gawk over women flaunting Pocahontas weaves. Why? Because many men, like some women, have grown accustomed to the standard.

There isn’t a woman I’ve spoken to who didn’t receive a bit of push back from her husband or boyfriend when deciding to take the plunge. I do understand. It’s a drastic change in look for most of us. It’s a change that comes with political implications and antiquated assumptions; a change that challenges perceptions of beauty.

I could run quote after quote detailing the responses of black men to women whose hair is exactly like theirs, but I’ll stop at one for the sake of time and space:

“No not like that, but if they have it slicked down, that’s better. I just don’t like the messiness of the afro or how rough it looks. She can wear her real hair, but just not in an afro or like out sticking up. It has to be permed and laying down on her head.”

You get my point. So is it self-hatred motivating black women to straighten their hair, or just a healthy sense of what they need to do to get the male attention they seek?

The other thing that inspired this post was the reaction of the young white men who work with my daughter as she recently began to wear her natural hair out. They thought it was pretty, that she looked cute, complimented her,  and one of them (whose girlfriend is also black) expressed the desire that his girlfriend would shun the wigs she likes because he thinks she looks “much better” wearing her natural hair.

The only thing I can make of all this is that men who are comfortable in their own skin tend to find women who are comfortable in their own skin more attractive. This assumes all the other markers of attractiveness are present: healthy weight, nice smile, pleasant personality, etc.

Where does this leave our daughters, in a culture where everyone is encouraged to be discontented with themselves and everything in their lives, and additionally as a member of a race which is being trained to view itself as inferior? It leaves them with a decision to make about whose voice they are going to listen to as it relates to what they need to do be acceptable, beautiful, and at home with who they are.

None of us decided to go natural because we thought that relaxing our hair was a symbol of self-hatred. But isn’t it funny that on the one hand, relaxing is deemed a symbol of self-hatred while on the other, not relaxing supposedly reduces attractiveness among the men who possess the masculine side of our feminine ancestry? The self-same men then get pretty annoyed when they see a black woman married to a man of another race.

No one is harder on us than we are on ourselves, yet we are constantly told that others are out to get us. They don’t need to be out to get us. We do a pretty good job of beating up on each other over petty things. I’m sure this is a reality for people of other backgrounds as well, but this is about the things I wish I knew sooner so that I can pass them on to those coming behind me.

While standards of propriety and good taste never go out of style, you don’t have to deny who you are or shun God’s original work in order to fit into an increasingly shallow and arbitrary culture. It’s cliche but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true:

You will only be appreciated to the extent that you accept yourself.

Beauty, real living in a virtual world

Real growth comes through actions and investment in others.

I only really internalized this over the past few years, but it’s life changing. I wish I fully understood it sooner, but I wouldn’t trade the lesson for anything in the world. Better late than never, I suppose.

It isn’t so much that I didn’t know this, since my father taught and modeled it to his kids from the time we were  young. Knowledge sans action is pretty pointless, however, and motivations matter as it relates to experiencing growth even when outward actions seem pure.

The relationships I’m currently developing are such a blessing and the investments I am willing to make now are investments I wouldn’t have been prepared to make if I had not learned this lesson.

I’m encouraging our daughters to have real, robust relationships with people they see, enjoy and care about and who care about them. Facebook (which no one in our house has anyway), Instagram, Snap Chat, and even texting are no substitute for the depth of relationship you can have with people. Even people who are not exactly like you in every conceivable way.

The good things that God has put in us are best shared in the flesh and the good things he has put into others are best absorbed by us in the flesh. That’s not to say we can’t learn from secondary sources, because we can. We should. What we mustn’t do however, is cut ourselves off from the wealth and richness of flesh relationships and think we can replace it through the illusion of “community” with ideologically pure people. That just puffs us up, making us believe we are something when we are nothing and worst of all, hinders our ability to extend grace to other people.

I am so very grateful for the relationships I have developed over the years that now extend beyond the comboxes. I appreciate what those people have added to my life, and they know who they are. One of their biggest benefits is helping me remember that there are good people everywhere. That sparked a desire in me to be more open, and reach out more to people in my immediate vicinity.

Others however, have served as an excellent cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t pan out, get out, and connect with people around you due to a condescending attitude and general disdain for other human beings.So for that Internet, I  thank you.

We must learn to spend more time developing skills than being hypnotized by nonsense. Spend more time with your friends in person than through pixels -at least as much as you can. Work alongside people and experience the joy of receiving from them as well as imparting to them with grace as Providence allows.

One of the things that hinders our growth is failure to appreciate how much we need to grow, and how much we don’t know. We have knowledge at our fingertips and are awash in knowledge, and as a result we don’t think we need other people to learn. We don’t appreciate when someone less educated or less materially blessed has something to offer. As a result, we miss out on fleeting moments of charity and clarity because we’re just too busy to be bothered.

I’m guilty of it, too. But I’m learning not to be, and life is more rich and rewarding as a result.

Real growth comes through actions and investment in others.

Beauty, family life

Have fun. Have friends. Enjoy family.

One of the things I am trying to remember, and instill into our younger children, is that leisure while nice, should be the reward of work and not an end unto itself. In other words, essentials first. However, every life needs fun, beauty, leisure, and fresh air. Not to mention, blueberry fields:

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To that end, we recently got together with another family we’re friends with and went to pick blueberries at a farm where they are ripening uncharacteristically early. It was lots of fun, and the berries taste wonderful. Some of my people ate almost as many from the bushes as they dropped into their buckets.

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The kids had a great time as well:

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The weather was beautiful:

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There were orange groves adjacent to the field:

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And wildflowers! In January!

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Clearly not everyone is experiencing balmy 80 degree days in January, but I’ve seen some of the beautiful photographs friends and amateur photographers have taken of snow drifts and winter skies in places north of here.

You may not be able to pick blueberries yet, but perhaps you can sled, make snow angels, or simply enjoy a hot cup of cocoa by a fire.

The wonder of creation -and life!- is that it is captivating in myriad ways, if we would only take the time to look for it.