Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Theory

I've been trying to figure out what the deal is with human beings and our obsession with appearances. My current philosophy is that looks are completely unimportant, and I have been doing a lot of work to make myself believe it. It's been great--I've actually lost weight, and when people ask me what I've been doing my only answer is, "I stopped caring about losing weight." I really love being able to say that and have it be true.

Yet our reliance on appearances seems to be such a natural part of us that it makes me wonder. For the most part, our natural instincts are there to keep us safe: Physical pain warns us away from something that can hurt us, the gag reflex helps expel harmful things from our stomachs. The instinct to judge based on looks seems to be innate--so does this mean that it isn't wrong? Is this instinct actually something we should use?

I will be honest here--I really don't want to believe that. First impressions of people are often completely wrong, especially when those impressions are based only on physical appearance. Thousands of years of evolution aside, the fact is that human beings are rotten at understanding people based on a look. (For reference, please see every movie ever made about a tough guy--or girl--who looks mean but turns out to be sensitive and emotional because their hard exterior is just a defense mechanism .)

Anyway. I don't know the answer to this question, but I have one theory. 

My family's holistic doctor, Dr. Einsohn, tells us that we should be grateful for the most awful, difficult people in our lives because without them, we couldn't grow in whatever specific way they will force us to grow. Maybe this obsession with appearances is like that--a great obstacle that is part of our test, and we're meant to learn to overcome it. 

What do you think? Any other theories?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Be Welcoming

Well friends, after a long absence, I'm back, and writing to you from the southern tip of Texas.

I wasn't very excited to move down here. My new husband is working for the Teach for America Corps, and he was assigned to the Rio Grande Valley mere days before we started dating. It's not really where I would have picked, although I suppose with 70 degree weather in January and a half hour to the beach, it isn't all bad. (However, I'm still not a big fan of Mexican food. I'm sorry.)

The day after we got here, we went to church, and several people came and introduced themselves. We even got a dinner invite from this amazing family (which was great, because the only food we had in the house was some spaghetti that came with a wedding gift, and all of our cooking supplies were still in boxes).

I'm always taken aback by how welcoming some people can be. I have a hard time reaching out to people because I feel shy, but so many wonderful people just scooped us up into their circle immediately, and I felt about a thousand times better about being here, despite the number of tarantula stories we got over dinner. No matter how many concerts make it down here or how far we have to go for sushi, there are wonderful, kind people around me and they have willingly allowed me into their homes and opened their hearts to me without knowing me at all. How can I complain about that?

So this week, there was another new family. I made a point to introduce myself after the meetings. "I was new last week," I said with a big smile. "Welcome. You're going to love it."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guest Post, Emily: Bucket List

Here's another great guest post we got while we were on our break, from Emily. Check out her fantastic personal blog at

I recently graduated from college and entered the adult world of full-time work. The transition was much harder on me than I expected it to be. Suddenly I didn't have papers to write or exams to study for, and I felt that I had free time coming out my ears.

All my life, all I'd known was school. First my main goals revolved around doing well in school, so I could get into college; then the main goal became finishing college, so I could get my bachelor's degree. I got stuck when I didn't know what I was working toward anymore.

I wasn't finding much fulfillment from my supposedly "dream" job, and I didn't want to spend all my life either working or watching Netflix. That's when I realized I needed to make some goals. Life goals.

I decided to make a bucket list.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted on my bucket list. What is it that I want to do before I die? What do I want my life to be about? What are my priorities?

Some things on my bucket list are silly (like learning how to milk a cow). Many involve traveling (like taking a road trip across the country or walking along the Great Wall of China). Some things I have control over (like reading all of Shakespeare's plays and running a half marathon), while others...not so much (like having kids). But that's okay! Because now, I feel like I have things to work on and things to look forward to. Things that I can do now, and things that need to wait 'til later.

What I've realized through all of this is how important it is for me to be setting goals and working toward them. My happiness is largely dependent on my productivity.

I want to have a lovely life. I'm trying my best to enjoy the small moments of everyday life, but when I'm feeling down, it's so nice to pull out my bucket list and think about the lovely moments that are waiting.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Post, Julie: Home for the Holidays

Julie sent us this guest post during the holiday season. Unfortunately, I was in full-out wedding mode, and Lindsey and Miri were crazy busy with holiday plans of their own, and we didn't get to it until now. However, it's such a lovely post that we can't very well wait until next year to post it, and I can certainly relate as I look forward to next Christmas with my new in-laws. Enjoy, and sorry for the delay, Julie! 

I want to go home every holiday. I want to be in my childhood home, with my parents, and my siblings, and I want the same traditional food with the same decorations and the same activities. It is comfortable. It is warm. It feels like love.

I cannot go “home” anymore every holiday. My husband and I have this every other year swap. This year we are spending Christmas with the husband’s family. He loves them. It is his traditions and his food and his siblings.

If you can believe it, our first married Christmas with his family my heart was so empty longing for home, that we packed up the very next day and drove 750 miles so I could feel the warmth I cherished so much. I still have to restrain myself from doing this every year. I cannot. We have 4 kids, 3 fish, and a cat, with new traditions to uphold.

I want to share some of my tricks of how to deal with the longing for “home” holiday syndrome. Hopefully it will help find a way to cope with lone-lies around the holidays.

After 10 years of marriage I now know what to expect. I know where the holes in the holiday are that make me feel sad or lonely. So I anticipate and take defenses against these holes.

Embrace the city you are in. Adopt a local food bank or nursing home. Round up some friends to sing carols in your neighborhood. Visit the festivities the city provides. I now look forward to visiting the Christmas lights downtown and shoveling the snow.

Lower your expectations. Set too high and you are bound to be let down. Set them reasonably and they are sure to be surpassed. Don’t expect a stocking filled to the brim or the conversation to be centered on you. Mold yourself into their family and you are sure to become a cherished member.

In my family I am an important piece of the puzzle. I feel valued and loved always in their presence. I still struggle with not having this every year. I know my husband’s family is not trying to hurt me with their actions or lack thereof. Love is shown in other ways. I look for the ways they show their love for me and try to make sure I show them how much I value them in my life also.

Most importantly is not looking inward, but turning outward. This holiday is important to others. It means a whole lot to my husband’s family that we are here. I need to make my best effort to participate in their traditions without wishing they were different. I already can feel my heart becoming closer to them as I put away my selfish feelings and make this their traditional Christmas.

It is so easy to get caught up in a serious case of selfishness, self pity, envy, and even anger in the holiday season. Remembering the reason for the season puts things in perspective. And you will never be a lovelier you.