Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
I love this idea, especially on those down days. What better way to get a lift than to think back to your happiest moments? So here are a few of mine.
- Christmas at my grandparents' house growing up. Everyone was there. Every couch, cot and bed was full. There was always a fire in the fireplace. There were three Christmas trees decorated for the holiday and a wreath on the front door filled with Tootsie Roll Pops.
- I spent a summer living with my sister in northern Virginia in a tiny basement apartment. There was one room (I slept on the couch) and half a kitchen. It was awesome. One night in particular, my mom met us for dinner then came back to the apartment with us. She ended up staying the night (she slept on the arm chair) because we got drawn into a viewing of You've Got Mail. Nothing exciting happened, but it was just the three of us and I always love when it's just the three of us. Also, my mom started indirectly quoting The Godfather, which is amazing.
- The wedding of my two friends, Jamie and Mike. The day was beautiful, we ate Subway and played Pictionary between the ceremony and the reception, and we danced till they kicked us out of the reception hall.
- Becoming an aunt. Times six.
- Playing Charades with Corynn. Her velociraptor impression makes me laugh just thinking about it.
- Oddly enough, hanging out in a hammock on a porch by the water during someone else's vacation. I was there to nanny but I had an allergic reaction so I couldn't take the kids to the beach. While they were gone, I had free time. I spent all of it reading in that hammock and it was divine. Heaven on earth.
There are a few of my happiest memories. What are yours?
*For those who might have trouble with our links: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/byissue/default.asp?doctypeid=12&selDate=153 and http://gogoabigail.com/blog/2010/01/19/daily-dose-of-green-29/
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you are kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen.
Conan could have said anything on his last show and he made the choice to speak optimistic and kind words. It's a great example and his words are true. Working hard and respecting and helping the people around you will always get you where you need to be. It may not be where you thought you wanted to be, but it will be good.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
When I was younger, I was not such a fan. Cooking is messy. It's easy to miss essential ingredients when you're reading the recipe. (Like the time I was 12 and making banana bread and it got all the way to the oven without flour. Luckily my mom saved it before it was too late to add it. I mean, I thought it looked runny, but I didn't know . . .)
Even out on my own as an undergrad I was just kind of "meh" about cooking. I liked doing it when the occasion called for it, but really - when you're cooking for one, Ramen and omelets are sufficient. (To some extent, I still feel this way, although I am intrigued by the title of this book.) It's just hard to motivate yourself to cook when you're the only one who's going to enjoy it.
This year I joined a fabulous dinner group that I've mentioned before on this blog, and I discovered what it is that I really love about cooking. Yes, I love the way things almost always come together, and I love choosing recipes and having them be delicious and feeling like I accomplished something. But what I really love is praise.
Okay, I'm mostly kidding. (Mostly.) But what I really love about cooking is the satisfaction of making things for other people. It's no fun if I'm the only one who enjoys it. I love cooking for people and having them like it. I love inviting people to come over to eat something I've been wanting to try to make. I love pulling off a really great recipe and seeing people react to it. On Sunday I made buttermilk syrup for a breakfast potluck and got great reactions from the people at the potluck and later from my roommate (an intimidatingly great cook and a foodie), and I couldn't get over how much I loved that people loved it. I especially loved having people ask whether I'd tried the syrup when they didn't know I'd made it. (I told them though - because I'm selfish like that, even when it's some little four-ingredient thing like syrup.)
I guess you can take one of three messages from this. 1) Megan is an attention-monger who needs constant validation and therefore cooks get people to tell her how awesome she is. (This is kind of true. I won't deny it.) 2) It's okay to enjoy doing things because you're good at them - especially if other people benefit from you being good at them. (I like this one because it has that "don't hide your talents" aspect but there's still a little angle for you in there.)
3) Some things are just better when you do them for other people.
We talk a lot about ourselves on this blog, and I think that's okay. Taking care of yourself enables you to better take care of other people, because good emotional, physical, mental, spiritual health for you = lovely, charming, easy-to-be-around you. We also talk a lot about things that we do for other people, which is great. The fastest way to increase your loveliness is to serve other people. But in case it hasn't been explicitly stated yet, I'm going to say it: sometimes doing things for other people is the best thing you can do for yourself.
I don't like cooking if I'm the only one who is going to enjoy the end result, but it's become something that I really love to do. (For the record, I still enjoy the cooking, even if I don't get an awesome reaction to the food. But I definitely prefer cooking things that are awesome and more likely to elicit a response.) Maybe some of the reasons for that are selfish ones, but really, do you think anyone decided to make the world a better place without first thinking he or she might like to live in a better place?
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Combine butter, sugar and buttermilk in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Boil 2 minutes. Note: This can get messy, so you might want to use a bigger pan than you really need to avoid having it boil over.
Add baking soda. Mixture will fizz. Stir, then add vanilla. Remove from heat. Serve.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Several weeks ago we were up late with our youngest, Diddles, who had another cold. Josh turned on this Discovery Channel show called Two Weeks in Hell. It documents the selection process of the elite Army special forces unit, the Green Beret. I watched these poor men and boys withstanding physical, mental and emotional tests with each challenge and mission. As the narrator explained "what it takes," I got thinking about motherhood and what it takes.
Not to in any way demean the Green Berets and the work that they do (or any member of the armed forces), but I found myself almost empathizing with them! I could see similar requirements in things that I do day to day. Some days I am in awe of the things I'm somehow able to physically and emotionally accomplish. It's hard work being a mom sometimes! I got thinking about what the motherhood tryout would look like, and this is what I came up with.
Plan an entire week's worth of meals for a family of four, that picky children will eat, and only spend $100. Your grocery list will be taken from you upon entry to the store, forcing you to shop from memory.
Drive to an unknown location in the dark, during a snowstorm with the directions "in your head," while three children are buckled behind you whining, screaming or demanding food. It gives a whole new meaning to psychological warfare!
Make lunches for two children while they inform you that they are "starving" every five seconds and threaten to "just get whatever we want" if you don't comply. Carry on a conversation with your husband over the phone while balancing your baby in your other arm. You must also use a knife and a cheese slicer at the same time.
Carry a full basket of laundry down two flights of stairs (with a landing in between) with a baby in a front-pack. You are walking blind and building upper-body strength. A fall could maim you and injure your baby, not to mention spill your laundry!
Decode foreign languages (screaming tantrum) and execute a strategy which not only maintains your authority, but also dispels the incident. Do this in very open and public places - church, the library, grocery store, etc. No physical violence may be used on others... or on yourself.
Pick up, nurse, burp, diaper, and dress a fussy baby on demand, night after night. Do so in pitch darkness in order to gain more than four hours of sleep each night. One can hope!
Serve a peace-keeping mission each day amongst often hostile forces (who have not napped), encouraging "friendly fire," open trade, and positive communication between nations.
Colds, sicknesses and viruses will seek you out and attempt to destroy you. You must press on.
Morning sickness. It will show you no mercy.
What would be on YOUR list?
Today I was explaining to the kids that some mommies go to work and the kids go to the babysitter. This was a totally foreign concept for them. They were honestly having a hard time even processing it. Mommies going to work and not staying home with their kids? I'm grateful for the opportunity that I have to stay home with my kids and see the milestones, the smiles, the "wins." Despite the above tests, which are sometimes failed, the prize is far greater than an award, a green beret, or even a pay check. I get to see smiles on my kids' faces and know in my heart (sometimes deep in my heart) that I'm doing a "great work." "For out of small things, proceedeth that which is GREAT."
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
I have a confession. A dark, humiliating secret which I have, until now, been too ashamed to admit. Before I divulge the ugly truth I want to make it perfectly clear that I am an incredibly lovely person, and I have hope that I will not be judged based upon what I lack but rather on what I do not.
I cannot bake cookies.
Now this may seem at first glance a simple and trivial quirk but let me tell you--it is neither simple nor trivial. There is something about me that defies the science of baking even the simplest chocolate chip cookie. Has it always been this way? Perhaps… I don’t think I ever attempted outside my mother’s presence until I got married.
It started as a gesture of love for my new husband. I began mixing the ingredients one by one, following the directions explicitly. I dropped the dough by the teaspoon onto the cookie sheets and baked them according to the label. When the timer went off I went to retrieve the cookies with my husband following eagerly. I opened the oven--and to my horror, each cookie was a flat disk melted to the bottom of the pan. Amidst the laughter from my husband, I burst into tears. What could I have done wrong? I tried again with the same batch of dough. Same result. It would be months until my second attempt.
That time, I tried again following even more explicit directions. The result never varied. I thought, it must be my mother’s recipe! I tried a new recipe. Same result. I tried varying the ingredients, the temperature. I looked on blogs and other websites… same result. I tried seven different batches, different types of cookies, different instructions. Each time I plopped the cookies in the oven they became flat, inedible disks.
When we moved to our new home I felt hope. I had a new oven, I had a renewed commitment to conquering the cookies, and more than that (and here is the key) I was now a mother! Every mom can bake cookies, right? So armed with confidence and a jar of pre-mixed cookie ingredients from our neighbors, I began baking some cookies. Can you guess what happened next?
Clearly it was not meant to be. I am a cookie killer. Sadly, cookies are a comfort food of which my family will be deprived. It is silly, really. The tears no longer come, only a sigh of disappointment and a resolve never to try again (although for some reason I still have not given up).
So what does this have to do with the quest to become lovely? I think at some level we are all destroyers of something we wish we could master. Unfortunately, we do not all have the ability to do everything we want. There are people who would desperately love to contribute something to society that would be embraced as wonderful or beautiful. Some people would love to have a talent for singing, others would love to play the piano or create beautiful art, and others just want to make a dang batch of cookies for their family.
The key to being successful is to embrace the things that we are talented at, even if we don't think they're important. I may never be recognized for my ability to keep an organized, pristine home. There isn’t a category in a talent show for folding laundry, changing a diaper one-handed, or scrubbing toilets. As a teacher I wasn’t honored in any ceremonies or banquets, and as a wife and mother I’ve never been given a standing ovation. Now I can also accept that I will never be praised by a neighbor for a delicious batch of cookies. I’m okay with that. We need to celebrate the things we can do, and accept the things we cannot. I think the reason we were all given different talents and abilities is so that we can recognize our dependence on each other as a whole. Rather than being bitter for the things we cannot do, we need to be happy for the success of our friends, and share our skills and talents (no matter how trivial we perceive them to be) with others.
That being said… I would love some cookies.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I don't know why I sometimes feel this way. There are other times when I feel fully in control of a situation, and I become the person trying to make other people feel welcome and comfortable. It's just that the times when I feel out of place and awkward are so frequent.
The other day I was participating in a discussion wherein we were talking about those times in our lives when we just felt like we were out of place, but then it turned out later that we were in exactly the right place. I don't know if you've ever had that experience, but sometimes I look back on those awful times and realize that things worked out and that I was okay - and that in retrospect it feels like I was supposed to be there. I don't know if this is just a testament to human beings' infinite ability to adapt or whether I just really belonged there all along, but thinking about this got me thinking, what would happen if I just always assumed that I belong?
Here's my reasoning. When I feel comfortable and really believe I'm in the right place, I behave as if I have things under control. I'm more likely to volunteer to help people, to talk to people and try to include them.
So I came up with a new goal. Wherever I am, I'm going to assume that I'm in the right place. And except for in certain circumstances, I'm going to assume that people will accept me and like me (because hey, I'm likable and acceptable). I'm going to act as if I belong and hope that it makes it easier for me to believe it myself - to overcome my insecurities and gain more confidence. Feel free to join me. You belong here too.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I feel this way about a lot of people. No matter what flaws, quirks or habits they might have, I adore them. Maybe I adore them because of those flaws, quirks or habits. Maybe I adore them because they adore me for all the same reasons (believe me, I know how weird I am).
Just something to think about. Who do you adore?
Monday, January 18, 2010
Why are we always looking for more when what we have always wanted is staring us in the face?
In October, my husband and I decided to stop preventing pregnancy. I have always known that conceiving a child would not be easy since I have a family history full of infertility and many symptoms of a condition known as PCOS, but I still hoped it would come right away. After hearing about a neighbor becoming pregnant and getting a call from my sister to announce she had an adorable new nephew, I was feeling rather down. I was starting to wonder why it is so hard for me to get what I want! As I was driving home feeling sorry for myself, I was struck with the realization that I have the most amazing family already and I will get a baby when God wants me to have one.
I spent a great deal of my four years at college wanting a husband and a teaching job. Although I tried to focus on having fun with what I was doing at the time, I still wasted too much time waiting for the future. Now that I have an amazing husband who loves me and a wonderful job (the exact thing I was waiting for two years ago) I certainly don’t want to waste my time waiting for tomorrow.
So here is my advice to others and mostly myself: No matter where you are in life - be happy. I can’t think of a time (whether you are a single adult waiting for your knight in shining armor and dream job or a mother of three just waiting for your kids to make it to all-day school) where there isn’t something to be happy about and a million things to learn.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
From "Pretty (Ugly Before)" by Elliott Smith
Meg used these song lyrics in her introduction. They pulled me in. I want to talk about them. Is the answer yes or no? Who requires of us to want to be wanted? What is the ultimate objective of being wanted? I want to talk about being wanted, in the desire and pursuit of love.
Meg used these song lyrics in her introduction. They pulled me in. I want to talk about them. Is the answer yes or no? Who requires of us to want to be wanted? What is the ultimate objective of being wanted? I want to talk about being wanted, in the desire and pursuit of love.
As a woman I want a romance. I want the Confederate wedding to Rhett Butler and the happily ever after with all his smuggling-earned money. It is seared in my soul along with the girlhood memory of Aladdin taking Jasmine on a magic carpet ride. I was addicted to boys by first grade and declared my love to Mark in a folded love letter which I never gave him. I was in love with Mark until 8th grade, with the exception of my mad obsession with adorable Rhett in 4th. Why are girls obsessed with boys? Are we obsessed with boys, or do we just want to be wanted? Are these two separate things? Being wanted feels good. Being NEEDED is even better, like being picked first for dodge ball. It feeds our self value, ego, social status.
Yes, society is causing the destruction of young unguided girls in the desire of love. Entertainment is distorting love and glorifying physical desire. Love is on everyone’s mind. It feels required of us to seek love. But here is the fact. It is not required.
I have hope for the swooning female gender. Women can successfuly want to be wanted without destruction! It is healthy emotion to want to be wanted. It is how you ingest these feelings that makes the difference. You make the choice: succumb to pressure from society, obsess over love's pursuit and your worthiness, or pursue your own personal happiness and love. Do you want to love? To be loved in return? If the answer is yes then seek it, watch for it, wait for it, and enjoy the pursuit of it. But no one can love a broken obsessed you (unless you meet Brady Black from Days of our Lives. He could fix you). Become the one you want to be. Then, wanting to be loved cannot destroy your soul, only make it more beautiful.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I have those days. I HATE those days. I could eat whole pints of Ben and Jerry's on those days.
To me, it's like whatever it is inside me that makes me who I truly am has taken a vacation without giving any notice. If I was a cartoon, there would be a picture of the inside of my head with one of these:
Unfortunately, I am not a cartoon. There will be no solution presented to me after the break and no happy ending in 30 minutes. There will be no white knight arriving at my door to rescue me from my truly disfunctional day, completely disregarding my severe lack of shower and makeup.
All I can do on those days is hope and pray I can keep it together until bedtime and continue to hope and pray that tomorrow, I will be me again.... and probably eat a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's.
But then there are those days when you couldn't be more happy with yourself. Where you can conquer the world. Laundry not only gets cleaned, but folded AND put away! Dishes are done and real-life, healthy meals are made. It's like the sun shines down on you alone and birds sing your praises and everyone is your best friend. And poor Ben and Jerry are eschewed with a firm hand, never to be heard from again.
I have those days. I LOVE those days.
The trouble comes in trying to find where the difference lies. Is it attitude? I don't think it is, because you can try and try to be happy no matter what during an off day and it just doesn't change things. They are different from bad days. Is it some outside influence? I would also have to say no to that. I think it really is just a need for opposition. You can't have the good days without having the bad days. You can't be "on" if you are never "off."
So maybe it's all about embracing those off days, as uncomfortable and frustrating as that may be. Allow yourself to take a break mentally and physically. Try not to focus on how your inner self is probably off lying on a beach in the sun somewhere. Lay down and take a nap with your kids. Read them a book. Read a book for you. Watch some TV and eat some Ben and Jerry's. Let the laundry and the dishes wait. Eat cold cereal for dinner (your children will think you are awesome, I promise). Embrace the off days and maybe they will be fewer and further between and you'll actually have more time to just be yourself.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Giveaway #1 goes to Lis
Giveaway #2 goes to Christian
Giveaway #3 goes to Sam
All winners were randomly chosen. Shoot us an email (beinglovelyblog at gmail dot com) with your contact information and we'll send your winnings out as soon as possible.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
For the final giveaway, I'm going with a mom/baby-centric item, since I know a lot of you are moms.
Fancy schmancy, soft and cozy burp rags. They are made with minky and either flannel or a home decor fabric. We used these with my youngest nephew and they were so convenient and not ugly, which is always a plus. You get your choice of girl or boy colors or coordinating girl and boy colors.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I'm curious if men feel the same need...or do they just appreciate that brotherly relationship once it happens?
I know I'm not the only woman who feels a need for sisterhood. Not just friendships, but true, unconditional sisterly love. I have a sister of my own and we have an amazing relationship. I've lucked out in that department. I have friends (like Megan) who only have brothers and we've talked about this quite a bit. Is Megan missing out on something that I hold so very dear?
Obviously the answer is no. That would be silly. The truth is, anyone can be a sister. I have a handful of friends that I consider to be like sisters. I turn to them in times of crisis or in happy times almost as much as I turn to my own sister. I know that my sister has similar relationships. It doesn't lessen what we have, but it strengthens the bond we share with those friends. They are the type of friend you will call when you have babies and when those babies go to college and when you go through menopause. You'll call them up and you'll go through all the current stuff remembering how things were when you were in your 20s and had (in retrospect) nothing to worry about.
You'll remember when they were there to comfort you during a family crisis when all of your family was 2000 miles away. You'll remember when it was just the two of you doing stupid stuff in the halls of your dorm and how hilarious it all was. You'll remember the thoughtful gifts from a person who knows you so well that it doesn't matter how far apart you live or how long it's been since you last saw each other. You'll remember all of it, happy and sad, because it was more than friendship - it was sisterhood.
And, just because...
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
With this giveaway, you have a chance to personalize the colors. I will stitch them up and get them right out to you! So when you comment, make sure to include the three colors you would like to be used.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” — Tom Robbins
If you've made a decision that you feel is right, but are finding it hard to achieve, try rethinking your approach. The fact that it isn't working doesn't necessarily mean you were wrong to do it, it just might mean that you need to try a different way.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Everyone loves a giveaway. I have been making all sorts of things for Christmas gifts and such and decided to make a few extra little goodies for you Lovely Readers.
Here's how this one will go. There will be three afternoon posts this week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) with a different little something we're giving away. Comment on which ever one you would like to win (or all three!) telling us something lovely. It could be about a little Christmas miracle or it could be about how much you love the new pair of shoes you just got...as long as it's happy. Comments must be made before midnight on Saturday, January 9th. We will pick random winners and announce them on January 11th.
Our first little something is this:
I say I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, but that's pretty much a lie. What I don't believe in is making resolutions just because it's the beginning of a new year. I generally take the spring time to step back and look at what I would like to work on in my life. Something about all the green and sunshine makes everything seem possible. Still, I have resolutions that are somewhat constant, things I need to recommit to in order to stay focused. I resolve to:
- focus on what could be and not what is - there is always potential for something better.
- be happy.
- be less critical of myself. I sure give me a hard time.
- do my part - as long as I am trying, the rest will fall in line.
I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. They're unrealistic and, more often than not, are forgotten by the end of January anyway; so after over a decade of abandoned far-fetched goals, I decided to stop making them, and forgo the associated guilt. (Now I just do something fun, like give myself a number of books to read for the year. I do have goals for my life; I just don't feel like I need to make new and exciting ones just because it's January.) However--in the spirit of this post, here are some of the things I'm working on right now:
- being honest about my feelings with myself and others
- assuming the best about people/giving them the benefit of the doubt
- learning that what my body looks like just isn't important
- Physical: I will stop wishing I looked like Zooey Deschanel. I don't have her clothes, I probably can't pull off her hair, and neither of those things make me ugly. Also, earlier last year I was doing really well at getting a little exercise - at least some sit ups and pushups and brisk walking. I'm going to do that again. (Although the walking might have to wait until spring.)
- Emotional: I will try to stop obsessing over things I can't control. I have been better in the last few months at being happy with my life, but sometimes I forget how good it is right now because I worry too much about what happens next.
- Mental: I will spend less time watching TV shows and more time reading. I love reading, but sometimes my Hulu queue makes me think it's more important to catch up on all of my shows. It's just not as satisfying to say I've seen every episode of three different crime dramas as it is to say I finished Anna Karenina, and watching Dollhouse right before bed gives me really weird dreams.
- Spiritual: I will try to fulfill my church responsibilities without being reminded every month. I will also work on finding quiet moments; I clutter my life with a lot of noise and don't spend enough time thinking quietly, and I would like to remedy that.
Friday, January 1, 2010
We received an email about a project called "We Are Women" which centers on the divine attributes of women. Here's some of what it said:
This project will focus mainly on a series of essays that are written by various women.... Complementing these essays will be black-and-white photographs of women whom we know, love, and respect.
The essays and photographs will be compiled into a book. The proceeds of that book will be donated to the Campaign to End Fistula.
The public may submit black-and-white photographs to be included in the book until Tuesday, January 12, 2010. The photographs must center on aspects of womanhood.
The book will be self-published through lulu.com and be available in April for purchase.
If you are interested in submitting a photo, read more about it HERE or send one in to firstname.lastname@example.org
photo by kinsey.t
Hope you all had a very merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year!