I Need Advice on Staying Positive

Blog readers, in my journey to be more kind, positive, loving, and patient with others, I have a HUGE topic that gets me every time. I continue to receive one recurring comment from people EVERYWHERE, be they friends, family, neighbors, Facebook friends, church members, etc. I simply can’t ever respond to this comment with any success. Can you help me out?

Here’s the situation:

In 15 years of marriage, we have moved eleven times. Each time we move, it is a good thing (because I’ve finally found a safer, less expensive, more spacious rental or because we were finally able to buy) yet each time we move, we receive the same comment made with the same face:

<grimaces painfully> “Wow, you guys sure move around a lot. When are you going to settle down?”

Here’s my explanation:

–While my husband was in grad school, we had children, so I was always on the lookout for kid-friendly yet inexpensive properties. Whenever I found one, we jumped on it, usually after our one-year lease was over. So we moved every year while in grad school.

–After grad school, we moved to a new town for my husband’s work. Our home in the previous town didn’t sell, so again we had to rent. One rental closed down because the owner had been foreclosed on, so we were forced to rent the first place we could find in a HURRY. This place wasn’t safe for children, however (on a very busy street with some “registered offenders” on it), so we moved again a few months later once we had the time to really look around for something suitable (that’s right–THREE moves in one year. I’ve tried summing this up to people who make “the comment,” but the story is too long so they just tune out).

–When my husband decided to pursue his doctorate, we again packed up, moved to another city and into a rental, then when he finished his doctorate, we bought a home in that town.

–With his post-doc completed, my husband has recently received a VERY lucrative offer from a company in a faraway state. We will be moving this year for the TWELVTH TIME. That’s right–TWELVE MOVES IN FIFTEEN YEARS OF MARRIAGE.

I haven’t told ANYBODY but my parents and siblings (and inlaws and husband’s siblings) about this new job because I’m not ready for the emotional workout of facing all those grimacing comments about how often I move.

Can anybody help me prepare a gracious response?

RESPONSES I’VE TRIED IN THE PAST:

  1. I’ve tried laughing and just saying, “I know–I must be a gypsy at heart!” or “Yes, God must want us to learn a lot–maybe our children will grow up to become world-travelling missionaries!” (but people just respond, “Your children would be better off with some stability.”)
  2. “Yes, moving is such a blessing. All these moves keep me from accumulating too much stuff; it is so freeing to live the minimalist lifestyle!” (usually met with “Yes, but children need to know that their possessions are secure, not going to Goodwill every few months!”)
  3. “I am so grateful for the increasingly beautiful homes with decreased rent that we’ve been led to over the years. These moves have made it possible for us to pay for my husband’s doctorate!” (usually met with, “Yeah, but it you add up the cost of moving, you’d probably save money if you would just STAY PUT!)
  4. “Yes, we do move a lot–we’ve been blessed with so many wonderful opportunities for my husband’s education and career that I don’t mind the changes in housing that they bring.” (this is usually met with, “Yeah, but it could hurt his career if you move around like that. It make you look unstable or like you are running from creditors.”)

The worst was last month–I went to visit a dear friend of mine at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and I let it slip that my husband was considering this lucrative job offer and she said, “Sheesh–you guys move more often than I do, and we’re IN THE MILITARY!”

I had no words to respond. I was too embarrassed.

CONFESSION:

On our last move, I just never told anyone. I never announced it on Facebook, never told anyone but family, since our phone numbers stayed the same and we were only buying a home in the town where we already lived. BUT GUESS WHAT? Come Christmastime, a bunch of my friends wrote on my Facebook wall, “Hey, your Christmas card was returned to me–what gives?” I quickly deleted those posts, then sent one-on-one messages explaining that we had bought a home (and “oops, silly me, I was so busy decorating it that I forgot to send out an announcement!”) and giving them my new address, but within days, I had former classmates, coworkers, college roomies, and even past boyfriends saying to me, “Sheesh, ANOTHER move?”

So with this upcoming move, I’m dreading telling anyone about it. But I can’t just not tell people, or I get the returned-card-fiasco all over again.

Blog readers, HOW can I announce this move AND keep some shred of dignity when people give me the usual spiel about how weird they think it is that we are moving?

Or am I weird in your minds? Give it to me straight–I can take it. Nothing you say will be worse than what I’ve already heard. And if I am just plain weird, can you think of anything I can say to help assuage my weirdness?

DISCLAIMER: I’m already working my way through those award-winning stay-positive guides The Anatomy of Peace and Bonds That Make Us Free. If any of you knows a way to simply adjust my thinking in the vein of these teachings so that I’m simply no longer bothered by these statements, please share–I manage to let most comments slide as these books teach, but for some reason the “moving comment” is so frequent and SO vehement that I have a really hard disregarding it!!

Thanks, everyone!! 🙂

The Best Homemaking Advice I’ve Ever Received

welcomehomewednesday card for djdMy Homemaking Dilemma

As a new mother, struggling to learn how to keep a home, I also lived in the same town as my in-laws, who are upscale neat-freaks. I, however, was born into the stereotypical “white trash” family (complete with rotting sofas on the front porch) and the home I grew up in was always messy, so my homemaking skills were somewhat lacking. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like I always had a sink full of dirty dishes and laundry–dirty or clean!–piled up somewhere .

Obstacle #1–My Beliefs

My mother had raised me to believe that “good” mothers focus more on children than on cleaning. “You should have seen my best friend’s house,” she used to tell me. “It was immaculate–but it was like a museum–entire rooms we weren’t allowed to enter, so we had to play outside!”

BabiesDOn'tKeep

The quote in this image comes from a sampler that my mother hung in a prominent place in our home:

I therefore inherited from my sweet (but white trash) mother this sense of “cleaning OR good parenting,” and the belief that both were not possible. Indeed, on the days I spent time teaching my little ones how to read, playing outside with them, or reading to them, I could never seem to fit in housework.

When visiting immaculate homes, I always sniffed my nose and thought, “Either she is wealthy enough to hire help, or she spends so much time cleaning that she neglects her children!”

Obstacle #2–My Beliefs Didn’t Add Up

There was one problem with my “clean parents are bad parents” belief:

My husband’s parents had already debunked it.

My mother-in-law kept an immaculate home. As a child, my husband remembers coming home from school and hurriedly cleaning his room, because his dad would be inspecting it first thing after work. I would love to scoff at this memory, but unfortunately, my husband also has albums full of “mom and me” memories that amount to at least ten times the memories that I have with *my* mom (you know–the one who was too busy making memories with children to clean?).

The pages of my husband’s scrapbooks show a mother out teaching her boys to catch, gut, clean, and cook fish over a campfire. They show her teaching them to skip rope and play baseball with Dad. There are many photos of her cleaning in the background while children play, yes, but she is always turned towards the scene that is playing out as she cleans, and her face shows that she is clearly engaged in the moment.

“I remember when mom used to take us hunting . . . ” my husband often reminisces. Or–

“Hey, remember the time mom was showing us how to fix the sink, and we flooded the bathroom?” I’ll hear him say to his brothers.

“Mom taught me” or “mom showed me” are the answers I hear whenever my husband surprises me with some heretofore hidden talent (such as cheese-making, electrical wiring, dry-walling, or carpet-laying). Sure, his Dad taught him most of what he knows, but how–oh how!–did his mother keep such an immaculate home, yet find the time to make memories with and teach her children so much???

I was determined to find out!

My Quest

Embarrassed by the look of discomfort on my in-laws’ face each time they came to visit, I decided to make homemaking a matter of study. My first assignment: interview the in-laws.

Every time we visited their home, I grilled my in-laws about their lifestyle. “What was a day in your life like back then?” I asked them “When did you typically do chores–how long did they take you?” Also, “did the kids pitch in? How much? How often?”

Her answers surprised me. But they didn’t help me–at least, not for the several years that it took me to apply them to my own life successfully.

Tips from My Mother-in Law (followed by my initial–ignorant–reactions)

  • “Always keep your house clean” (duh–that’s why I’m interviewing you . . . )
  • “Always put a nice meal on the table at dinnertime” (*instead* of cleaning, you mean?)
  • “Make sure you help the children learn how to clean house and clean it well.” (but then when would *I* clean?)
  • “Make sure to leave time to play with your kids and help them enjoy their childhoods.” (okay. But again–how? Where did you get the time for this?)
  • “Never go to sleep in a messy house.” (Oh I get it–you cleaned all through the night, then–right?)
  • “And always get eight hours of sleep.” (shoot. There goes that theory)

By the end of my little interview with my mother-in-law, I was more confused than informed. 

“But HOW did you do all of that–where did you find the time?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “I just did.”

“Wait,” I said, “Was it because you didn’t have any addicting pastimes like I do–Facebooking, texting, blogs, Pinterest–you never got involved with any time-wasters?”

She laughed. “Are you kidding? I was addicted to soap operas! I watched them every hour on the hour.”

Me: “But you cleaned while watching them?”

MIL: “No way–I was at the edge of my seat to find out who was the father of whom that day.”

Great! How on *earth* was I supposed to learn the secrets to her seemingly perfect housekeeping routine?

Giving Up

At that point I gave up. I just fell back into the familiar patterns I had learned from my mother: “Love your family, clean when you can, but don’t stress yourself out trying to have an immaculate house, because you CAN’T.”

Homemaking took a backseat to other activities in my life (homeschooling, writing, community service, church service, grad school, then work).

Then one day, I had a wakeup call. Nothing seriously bad or dramatic. Just a “whoa–if I don’t change trajectory soon, I’m going to lose my family!”

My husband had grown steadily grumpier, my tween daughters increasingly distant. They needed a mother, a homemaker, a helpmeet to create a haven from the outside world–a place they could look forward to returning to at the end of the day, so that they could recharge their physical and spiritual batteries in preparation for the next day’s journey “on the outside.”

So I took a closer look at my mother-in-law’s advice. Even though I had no idea *how* it would work, I decided to just start–at least TRY.

My Homemaking Day Job

Last month, I quit my full-time job and returned home. I started just doing what my mother in-law told me to do, in the list above.

I cleaned. And cleaned.

I cooked. A lot!

All that cooking led to more dishes.

So I washed those, and taught my tween daughters how to wash them, too.

I enlisted my little ones to do pickup work and laundry hauling.

We played while we cleaned.

When the house was cleaned, we started playing outside, so we could keep it clean.

Suddenly life was getting easier!

Suddenly the house was looking better!

Soon, the momentum simply KEPT the house clean, and I had more time for my children, for sleep!

Holy crap–that seemingly stupid advice actually WORKS!

I think I get it now

My Mother-in-law’s advice worked, because the harder I worked to keep my home in order, the more energetic I felt afterwards. In other words, I had to expend energy to earn it (no caffeine required–I’m a a Mormon who abstains from it).
The more I cleaned, the cleaner the house.
The cleaner the house, the happier its occupants.
Happier occupants=more willing to help out
Everyone helping=chores done faster
Chores done faster=more family time
More family time=memories and fun galore! 🙂

I get it now! And it works–the more I clean, the more time I have for non-cleaning activities. Sounds strange, I know, but try it–it works!!! 🙂

Beyonce’s Facebook Bullies

The un-flattering Beyonce pictures that are going around my Facebook feed make me want to cry. I once had a very embarrassingly un-flattering photo of me get posted to Facebook, too. It was so hideous and revealing (taken as I slipped and fell at a family event–combination fat reveal and wardrobe malfunction) that I quickly begged all of my friends and family to not only un-tag me, but to take the photo off of Facebook altogether because it was so humiliating. They agreed and complied, much to my relief!

But this last week, these same family and friends are now repeating the offense to the musician Beyonce, via a nasty trend where everyone is re-posting an embarrassingly bad photograph of her. Why on earth would they do that? Why do they think that humiliating someone with unflattering press is funny?

Why are so many otherwise good people in my Facebook feeds (Christians, mothers, environmentalists, philanthropists, even!) totally tossing aside all rules of courtesy and graciousness that I would hope we all strive for as part of the human race?

I didn’t dare say any of this on Facebook. “Come on, DJ–it is all in fun,” I could hear my friends arguing with me already. Negativity and arguments don’t solve anything, but positivity does, so here’s my attempt to turn this negative meme into one of positivity:

Ms. Beyonce, on behalf of the non-famous population out there, I apologize for this degrading Internet meme about you. You are a beautiful woman with a gifted singing voice, and it is obvious to all that you put a lot of hard work into staying fit, beautiful, and healthy. I admire you! And I know that the people who re-posted those embarrassing photos, like the playground bullies they are emulating, only do so because they are hurting inside. Either they don’t love themselves and can’t find beauty in themselves (so they are jealous), or they were raised in hostile homes where they were taught to disparage others, instead of noticing the beauty in them.

Because I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, today I praise the beauty of this young mother and talented musician. And in her honor, I will go and post positive, uplifting, and praise-worthy comments in the Facebook boxes of my loved ones who joined in the bullying brigade. Maybe that will help them heal and start to spread positivity and cheer online, instead! 🙂

Beyonce

Wishing I Could Homeschool

I really, really want to homeschool my children. Now that I’m no longer working, I’ve got the time and energy, and I’ve definitely got the motivation (you should see the inane homework assignments my children are bringing home from public school these days–they are RIDICULOUS!). No, the problem isn’t lack of time/energy/money. The problem is my husband. And my in-laws. Mostly my in-laws, who are huge fans/disciples of the public school system and who tormented us so badly for the four years that we did homeschool that I was forced to stop or risk ruining my marriage. Below is our homeschool story and what went wrong. I am hoping to return to homeschooling in the near future, so please read it and share your advice with me, homeschoolers:

When I first started homeschooling our children, my husband was thrilled. He proudly told everyone we met how I had taught our first child to read before she was four (that was more a reflection of her than me, though–our other children learned at the usual ages). He was so impressed with how quickly they came to love math (our eight year-old’s biggest complaint about public schools right now is, “they never do enough math!”

But even though my husband was initially on-board, his parents were not.

They started with subtle jabs here and there: “Son, when are you going to put your kids into *real* school?” they’d ask.

“Son, don’t you think its time your children got out of the house once in a while?” (as if I were keeping them hostage indoors). I guess they never noticed the dance lessons, church activities, homeschool group, and art clubs/library storytime/playgroups/children’s museum we had joined!).

As my children grew older, their pressure on my husband mounted and our marriage became more strained as a result (I married “the good son” who is almost more loyal to his parents than his spouse). By the time my oldest was ten, I got the message loud and clear: “put your kids back in public school or risk losing your husband.”

So I turned my children over to a hostile, inefficient public school system two years ago, and went to work full-time, hoping to replace my teaching activities with something else. I didn’t know what else to do all day once my children had been taken from me.

But working outside the home didn’t work. It only resulted in fewer made-from-scratch meals, less laundry ready and folded when needed, etc. So I returned to full-time motherhood. But let me tell you, I miss teaching. I have a Master’s degree and worked as a teacher at one point in my career. Why do my in-laws think me less qualified to teach my children than a public school teacher with only a bachelors?

What really hurts is: while I was homeschooling, my in-laws never once complimented my children on their early reading skills, their love for math, their poetry memorization, or their elaborate nature journals and science experiments. But as soon as I put them back into public school, my in-laws immediately started praising my children with words like, “Wow–look how well you have learned to read in your new school!” and “Nice work–your new teacher has done a great job teaching you how to love math, hasn’t she?” My innocent children–who adore their grandparents–merely nod and smile, grateful for any praise (nevermind that it is WRONG).

I don’t know what to do now. I’m hoping some homeschooler out there has advice for me.

To loosely quote Shakespeare: “My marriage is constant in all other things, save in the office and affairs of homeschool.”

So here’s my plan–I hope it works:

  1. Stop pointing out all the reasons I want to homeschool (to my husband)
  2. Build my husband up as patriarch of our home, via the Fascinating Woman Method and Total Woman Plan
  3. Submit to God more often, seek greater faith in Christ
  4. Pray to God, in earnest, that he will touch my husband’s heart and grant me this one dream.

For you homeschoolers out there, how have YOU overcome in-law or spouses who are against homeschool?

Saved by “Crave”

thindownthursday djd

This morning, my husband and I got into an argument. When he left for work, I was so angry that I decided to make me some comfort food, to help calm me down.

I’m not sure how normal people binge, but when I binge, I don’t just reach for ice cream or potato chips. I’m a major foodie, so when I’m bingeing . . .

I start cooking!

I immediately started chopping vegetables, dicing herbs, and de-seeding jalapenos. I made myself a HUGE bowl of killer guacamole (complete with chunks of tomato and red onion, flecks of jalapeno and cilantro, with minced garlic, seat salt, and lime juice).

I did reach for some chips, though–tortilla chips.

In fact, the other day when I binged during yet another a high-stress day, I whipped up some hot fudge sauce with bittersweet chocolate, agave, and coconut milk to pour over my ice cream, rather than just grab the ice cream and start stuffing my face with it.

Why do I do that?

You’d think that with all the time it takes me to binge–thanks to my perfectionist foodie proclivities–I’d use that time to talk myself OUT of bingeing!

Dangit.

Well today the time it took to chop, dice, and mix didn’t slow me down. But while mid-binge I did stop eating and reached for my copy of weight-loss guru Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional book.

This devotional book is a follow-up to TurKeurst’s NYT-bestselling weight-loss guide, Made to Crave:

I lost about eight pounds while reading the original Made to Crave book, but once I finished reading it, I kept falling off the wagon.

I’ve since concluded that I need to keep TerKeurst’s book alongside my scriptures as a daily reminder of my goals.

Hey, I have to read scriptures daily in order to keep from nagging, gossiping, judging others, and a host of other sins, right? Well, it makes sense that I add another layer of inspirational literature to help keep me on the weight-loss path.

So after layering my literature (literally: I stuck TerKeurst’s book in between my scriptures and my journal, featured prominently in my “reading corner”), imagine my excitement when I discovered that TerKeurst had written a daily weight-loss devotional follow-up:

devotional300new-210x300

Fast forward to today:

Halfway through this morning’s gourmet guacamole binge, I stopped.

I put down the tortilla chips and ran to my “reading corner,” where TerKeurst’s book sits between my scriptures and my journal. I opened the book to where I had dog-eared my “left off” place, and the words I read brought tears to my eyes:

“God loves you, sweet sister. Rest in this reality today.”

Made to Crave Devotional, p. 63.

The binge was stalled (albeit about six hundred calories to late, but better late than never!), and I remembered who I am and Whose I am.

From now on: no entering the kitchen until AFTER I’ve read my scriptures and my weight-loss devotional.

Thank you, Lysa!!!

For my “Thin-Down Thursday” meme, TerKeurst’s “Crave” program materials are going to be one of the programs I use.

Anybody care to join me? What weight loss program are you using?

New Marriage Meme for Blogs

Today, I’m introducing a blogging meme I’d love to host as a blog carnival one day (if I ever get any followers) so that women can share stories, what they’ve learned, and what works/doesn’t work in their marriages. I call it, “Fascinating Womanhood Friday”:

fascinating womanhood friday djd

When Friday comes, I want to shift my focus away from home, homework, and kids–I want to refocus my energies on my husband, who has worked hard all week and is hoping for an enjoyable weekend. If his weekends at home stink, why should he bother coming home at all?

To that end, I’ve discovered a GEM of a book–one that has rocked my marriage, but that only works if I think about/study it daily:

Fascinating Womanhood is full of old-fashioned advice from a woman who figured out that the only way to get a man to treat you like a queen is by first making him feel like a king. Makes sense, right?

Not really. I struggled with this book at first. I was raised by a first-wave feminist and grew up in NY where all of my teachers were feminists, so I firmly believed that men should worship women no matter what we do. Why should I have to read this book and be the one to make him feel like a king, first? Why can’t he just make ME feel like a queen first before he receive his kingly treatment?

But after trying only a few pieces of advice from this book, I saw my husband make some HUGE changes. He was more helpful, more open and talkative with me. He started coming in the door happy to be home instead of looking grumpy and tired every day.

Plus, on the days I don’t follow the advice in fascinating womanhood, I see him slip back into old habits and old (bad) behaviors, so I don’t care what the feminist crowd thinks–this book makes my husband do more for me, love me more, and function as a better father, so I’m willing to do what it says.

The bottom line: men are simple creatures. Simple changes to a woman’s behavior can make him a better, harder-working man and more loving father. So what if some of those changes require that we make the first move? As long as it works, I’m all for it! 🙂

Tell me, blogosphere–have any of your read this book and tried it? Or am I the only one?

Why *This* Mom is Conflicted on Gun Laws

timeouttuestday djd

What I’m pondering on this “Time Out Tuesday”

Gun control is only on my radar only insofar as if affects my family and home. I’m a mom. I’m in the business of keeping kids healthy and safe, while keeping marriage healthy and home running smoothly, so here’s what I see as I look around (and grimace) at all the idiots screaming their heads off about gun politics right now:

  • Guns scare the crap out of me. I shot one once and it was terrifying; I can’t imagine people walking around with semi-automiatics!
  • But I want to keep my kids safe. Schools aren’t looking too safe right now.
  • I could go back to homeschooling, but if everyone homeschools to stay safe, won’t the shooters just move on to churches and Wal-marts?
  • President Obama’s kids are nice and safe with their armed guards. Tell me again why no armed guards are protecting my children? Oh, because I’m not a celebrity? Well neither were the kids at Newtown.
  • My husband wants to protect us. He also digs guns. We have a locker of guns so locked down that even I can’t get into them (trigger safety locks on each unit, then in a locker that only he has combination to).
  • I’m not interested in using guns, so I prefer to let my husband do the physical protecting from bodily threats while I focus on keeping the kids emotionally and nutritionally protected from other dangers.
  • My husband doesn’t own a semi-automatic.
  • Now that semi-automatics are the preferred choice of gunmen everywhere, I’d love for my husband to have the option to get one for protection, if ever there is a threat.

As a mother, I can NOT endorse this video, because it uses nasty name-calling that I would never apply to the man holding the highest office in our nation. But I do applaud the point it raises about unequal protection for America’s children: