Cutting Myself Some (Unwanted) Slack

I’m sure you’ve heard the whole quantity v. quality question in use before. Well, here’s another example. Writers, and especially bloggers, face this question in the way they approach their work.

Here’s how it applies to me. Option A: write my blogs as they come to me and post them as I write them. Of course, then I have given myself a lot of freedom. With no disciplined schedule, there will likely be long stretches of time with no output (but lots of caffeine intake, most likely) and probably also the occasional short burst of brilliant, inspired work every single day (and lots of caffeine intake, most likely).

Option B (which has been working for me): write a blog every Monday. Every single Monday. Even if I’m fighting to scrap something together on Sunday at midnight or Monday at 7 a.m. (with, of course, lots of caffeine intake). Then the potential problem is that my work will drag. I’ll start thinking, “Just write something, Brittani. Get something out. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be out by Monday morning.”

You may have noticed, if you’re a regular reader, that I didn’t post anything yesterday. On Monday. Because I thought that sentence this last week. “It doesn’t have to be good.”

What?

Okay, so quantity – or, more truthfully, consistency – is important to all writers, including myself. But I have discovered that I’m putting it ahead of quality. And the truth is that there is already a sufficient supply of drivel out there for you poor folk to wade through in order to find something worth reading. I have no desire to add to that pile of slum.

So, I hope that’s cool. I’m going to be working harder at writing things worth reading, and not so hard at writing plenty of things. With that in mind, the Monday schedule is out the window, at least for now. I have been trying to write a series, for your edification, on gay marriage in America. Hopefully, without the pressure of getting a blog out each week, I’ll have the brainpower to put it together. Maybe I’ll read a book instead of trying to write one. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll write, too – I’m really enjoying my NaNovel, so maybe I’ll devote some energy to that, too. Maybe I’ll log some more hours trying to get a couple of my short stories in print.

Stay tuned, though, ’cause I’m not checking out! I’ll still be blogging, but this is my official announcement that I’m no longer holding myself to a weekly schedule. I will write a post when a good idea for one comes to me, and I’ll post them accordingly.

And thank you for reading. :)

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I Think They’re Putting Mind-Control Serum In Potato Chips

Noted an interesting phenomenon the other day. Thought you-all should know about it, in case you’re interested.

So I’ve written before about how I like to live and eat chartreuse. As far as eating, this means a few things – I try to avoid things like MSG and high fructose corn syrup, I avoid foods with a lot of packaging, especially plastic, and I try to eat local and organic as much as possible. Among other principles.

But this weekend was different. As I write this, it’s May 29, and we just had our son’s second birthday party. To save a little money, we barbecued and everything else we served was potluck style. (Except for my delicious homemade funfetti cake, of course. Great recipe here, and many thanks to Faith over at The Kitchn.)

This meant that there was a lot of food we wouldn’t normally eat, which we considered a minor one-day setback, one happily overlooked because of the price of feeding 21 people a full meal. We had about twenty-seven bags of potato chips, several packages of dip, lots and lots of soda, and several bags of store-bought cookies.

Well, no one took their goodies home, and while I’m not one to buy dinner at KFC, I’m also not one to waste a bucket of free chicken. Which means we’ve suspended many of our chartreuse principles, just until the smorgasbord has been whittled down a little.

The evening after the party, I had eaten almost nothing nutritious for nearly 48 hours. (With the exception of some Bob’s oatmeal. Although to be fair, I had marinated that in brown sugar.) We had traveled up the coast to an aquarium for Ean’s birthday, and on the car trip we’d consumed two meals and a couple snacks’ worth of food with no nutritional value. (Hey, those chips used to be vegetables, you know!)

I was not hungry at all. My stomach was practically distended. In the car with me, I had two bags of chips, several chocolate truffles, a bottle of water, a bottle of juice, and leftover ravioli. Here’s the phenomenon I mentioned earlier. Despite all that, I wanted to stop at the store and buy a pizza pocket!

I was also ravenous for a latte. Every kiosk we passed made me feel more depressed, because I knew how irrational I was being, and I wasn’t about to ask my husband to pull over and shell out more money for a cup full of calories I certainly didn’t need.

But, despite knowing better, I was incredibly frustrated. Nothing I had eaten all day had satisfied me, and I’d sampled aplenty. I didn’t feel full, although I knew I was. The day before, chips tasted salty and pleasant. After two full days of them, they tasted bland.

As I realized how unsatisfied I felt after gorging myself, I noticed a few other things. My skin was unusually greasy. I felt lethargic and groggy. My mood was in the tank.

And I wanted more of the junk that had made me feel that way …??!

So, I just thought I’d share that. Hopefully there are a few people out there who are on the fence about their eating habits, and I’d like to stand up on that fence and shout it:

They call it junk food for a reason!

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Thoughts on a Big Day

My son turned two yesterday! I don’t have anything particularly insightful or clever to say about it. I am your standard parent – completely baffled that he managed to get through two years safe and sound and smart, before I managed to blink.

Today’s blog doesn’t have much to do with that, though. I just wanted to brag about my great big beast of a boy. Today’s post is very simple. All I really have to say is this: my son is not mine.

Almost everyone I know has this concept of very young children “belonging” to their parents. I don’t know if this is specific to America or our time in history, or if it’s worldwide and historical. But I certainly had it in my head, and even after really thinking about it, I still have that instinct.

{I suppose in a way it’s good; I think of that saying that having children is like having your heart move around outside your body, and now as a parent, that really resonates. If I didn’t think of Ean as something as close to me as my heart, I wouldn’t have such a strong instinct to protect him. Also this post has nothing to do with biology; apart from the thing about uteruses a couple paragraphs down, everything I’ve said or will say is just as true for an adopted or stepchild, and I know that from experience.}

We don’t think of ourselves as belonging to our parents, right? (Again, I don’t know the cultural or historical truth of that.) We are independent people. We make our own choices. We adhere to our own beliefs. We have quirks and flaws and glowing qualities which have nothing to do with our parents.

And yet, we apply that idea to young children. I don’t think I was any less myself when I was two than I am now. And I’m positive that I was no less unique before God. As a mom, though, it took me several months to consider my son an individual, rather than something my body had made for me and out of me. I thought of him as “a little piece of me and my husband.”

*eyebrow furrow* Which he’s not.

{I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t value the God-ordained parent/child relationship. There’s a difference between independence, as it’s treated in our culture, and individuality. By independence, I mean “not needing anyone” and “finding your happiness within yourself.” Whereas by individuality I mean equality, uniqueness, and value. It means the way God created us and sees us. A child’s (or parent’s) individuality does not detract from the beauty of family relationships – in fact, it enhances it.}

My child is only “mine” in the sense that his care has been entrusted to me. He is a completely distinct person, one God conceived of long before the world began, and for whom God has an equally unique plan. Where do I come into it? Well, Ean needed a uterus in which to develop enough maturity to breathe air. After that, he needed someone to nurse him and help him learn when to sleep and to keep him warm. As he grew, he needed help learning to eat and walk, someone to read him books, someone to drive him to the park. Someone to love him and show him how to love. He needs someone to tell him about God and will need someone to teach him math and how to be a strong, godly man.

I was handy for the job (as was my husband); I don’t know the specifics, but within His own design, God decided that we would be a good match for Ean. And so when he was created – by God’s choice, not ours – we were the ones entrusted with the task. The three of us were united as a family. We seem very different right now, but we won’t for long. Pretty soon our differences will fade. Before the throne of God, all of us will be as obviously equal as we have always been in truth.

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Some Shout-Outs

So this week, I’ve been working hard at a new series of posts, which I will hopefully start running next Monday. Originally, I intended to write the first post, and then if more came out of it, I’d continue. I’d talk until I was done.

Yeah… but I’m a writer. And I have to outline. It’s coded in my DNA. So I am currently floundering in the Outline Quagmire, and I’ll get the series going soon enough. In the meantime, I’m taking an Easy Week. My topic? People who are better than me at what I do.

Okay, or they’ve just been doing it longer and they’re doing it the same way I want to be doing it.

That is: fellow bloggers! This week I’m giving you a quick list of several of my favorite blogs and what I like about them.

One Hundred Dollars a Month

This is an exciting blog for me as a fledgling gardener; it’s the “story of how I feed my family with one hundred dollars a month.” Mavis, the writer, clips coupons, gardens, and keeps a flock of chickens with which to feed her family. She even goes to grocery stores and gets the food that’s about to be thrown out and salvages what she can. I’m not big on coupons and to tell the truth I don’t intend to hit up the local Safeway anytime soon, but I am thrilled about the gardening and the fun presentation of it. I’ve read that many gardeners believe they’re saving money, but only a select few of them actually are. Mavis most certainly is, and I’m happy to take tips from her.
How to Build a Potato Tower
How to Make a Recycled Pallet Vertical Garden
How to Make a Rustic Pea or Bean Trellis Out of Sticks

Roscommon Acres

This blog breaks my heart. A little over a year ago, Dana Henley, who had already been blogging for a long time, lost her second-youngest son in a tragic accident. She was already writing interesting posts about her life as a homeschooling, Christian wife and mother and running her family’s five-acre home. But now her writing is heart-wrenching and cathartic and inspiring. I’d have thought losing a son would ruin her blog. Instead, it has lent it a depth and clarity that never fails to reach my heart.
Micah’s Joy
What Hurts the Most
I Miss Tias

Keeper of the Home

This blog has a tight focus. It’s written to environmentally-minded and frugal Christian wives/mothers. If that describes you, then every post on this blog is relevant to you. Which leads into what I like the most about it: despite being written to a specific, tight demographic, the amount of topics and the quality of information covered is staggering. I remember the night I discovered this blog. I think I lost three hours.
Preserving Summer’s Bounty
Recipes
Gardening 101 

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Fanny Crosby on Hope

O heart bereaved and lonely, 
Whose brightest dreams have fled
Whose hopes like summer roses,
Are withered crushed and dead
Though link by link be broken,
And tears unseen may fall
Look up amid thy sorrow, 
To Him who knows it all

O cling to thy Redeemer,
Thy Savior, Brother, Friend
Believe and trust His promise, 
To keep you till the end
O watch and wait with patience, 
And question all you will
His arms of love and mercy, 
Are round about thee still

Look up, the clouds are breaking, 
The storm will soon be o’er
And thou shall reach the haven, 
Where sorrows are no more
Look up, be not discouraged; 
Trust on, whate’er befall
Remember, O remember, 
Thy Savior knows it all

-Fanny Crosby, “O Heart Bereaved and Lonely”

 

 

 

 

A version by Leigh Nash, on an album I recently discovered:

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Two Big Buckets Full of Happy Dance!

Woooooooot!!

We have had an excellent couple of months at the Larkin household, and today I thought I’d give you a brief recap of all the woot factor going on around here.

First of all – we are in! We are officially moved in to our very first home – no, I don’t mean the first home we’ve shared – I mean our first home. We, like, own this thing! And, guys, it is so beautiful and perfect for us and our family.

So here’s the story, though. This is awesome. A few years ago, my husband and I had finally genuinely dedicated our lives – together and separately – to the Lord for real. And we started to grapple with one of The Big Questions. What are we doing with our lives? Where are we going? Maybe my husband could go to school and become a pastor. Maybe we could work with a charity. Maybe we could go to school together. Maybe we could become missionaries and move to the other end of the globe. What does God have for us?

We thought about moving to Washington, but that never worked out. We considered the mission field – Kosovo, Bolivia, Nepal, etc – we looked into a lot of places. We thought about getting involved with a domestic mission of some sort, or even just a charity. We thought about moving to a bigger city. We even considered moving to Texas at one point.

In fact, it was just in the beginning of January that I went to a conference with Wycliffe Bible Translators and came home revved up to go to linguistic school. To which my husband replied, “Yeah. I want to buy a house.”

Buy a house? If there was one option we never seriously considered an option, it was settling down where we are. This job? This town? This lifestyle? Indefinitely?

Okay, so I won’t lie. Here was my thought: Well, this won’t work out. We’ll waste a few weeks looking at houses and then give up. Nothing will be in our price range, or we won’t get a loan, or we won’t find what we need. Something will prevent this. So no worries. 

Well, we were instantly approved for a loan. And then we got a hold of a mother-daughter agent team, who were extremely helpful. They took us to three houses, and after seeing the third one, I was converted. My husband and I walked out of the front door, looked at each other, and both said, “That’s the one, isn’t it?”

Well, it was apparently going to be really difficult to get in. Our loan wouldn’t allow for the necessary repairs, and we couldn’t afford them. It was a short sale – our realtors assured us that would make everything longer and more difficult. Even if those issues were taken care of, then there was the appraisal to hang everything on – and what if we paid for repairs and then the appraisal required more that we couldn’t do?

After about two weeks of this, I learned to just go with the flow. It will either happen or it won’t, I thought, and spent plenty of time praying. Every few days there was a new obstacle to overcome, and it always seemed to care of itself.

Two months later, we moved everything in!

So apparently, we’ve been shopping in the wrong section of the Life Plan store. Three years of prayer and confusion led nowhere in the mission field or another town or more school or anything else. Two months of next to no effort, and we unlocked our new front door. I certainly don’t understand it … Honestly, I’m ready to be out movin’ and shakin’ for God. But apparently he wants us here. He wants us settled. My thought? It probably has to do with “being faithful in a few things.”

So, yeah. Our God is pretty cool. You wanna know the other cool thing he did? Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing our new house has three bedrooms.

Everyone, this is Bertho. We don’t know the gender yet, hence the unisex name.  (We called our first son Bobtrude until we found out what variety he was.) Bertho will be here sometime late in November and we couldn’t be more excited!

So, yeah. Two big buckets full of happy dance!!

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Possibly a Correlation

I have a theory. You know how they say that character is who you are when no one’s looking? So if you want to know who a person really, truly is, at their core, there’s no better place to look than, say, a hidden camera. (Except I’m not condoning that. Don’t get arrested, and don’t get me arrested.)

But I thought of an even better test. I think that character is who you are behind the wheel.

A couple of years ago, I  found Christ and experienced  a gradual change in my heart – in my attitude and my behavior and my overall mood. In everyday conversation, I was less likely to snap in anger. I spent more time in the Bible and less time stressing over my day. I wasn’t perfect, of course, nor am I now – but I had peace, a real, genuine peace, which came from within and wasn’t dependent on anything else.

Well, I was driving home from Portland with my mom around that time, and the speed limit was 55 on the stretch of highway we were on. There was a car in front of me, but I was happy with the speed we were going. When a second lane opened up, I didn’t feel the need to pass him, so I stayed put. We turned a corner and there was a state trooper parked along the road, sticking a radar gun in his windshield.

My mom said, “Nice call, keeping it at 60. I’d have been speeding to pass that guy.”

The comment stood out to me, because I knew that just a year before that, I would have been gunning it. In fact, I’d probably have been tailgating him until that passing lane opened up. And I knew, just from knowing my own heart, that the change in my attitude toward driving was a direct result of the change in my attitude toward God.

Well, alright. That’s enough of you guys getting the wrong impression of me. Cause it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was driving and I got cut off. My reaction: “That’s real nice, jerk.” To which my son added, “Yeah!” And boy, his tone was just identical to his mama’s.

Ouch.

In the car, there’s no accountability. There’s no one to glare at you if you spout off some mean retort. There’s no one to fling your anger back in your face. There’s no one to apologize to when you realize you’re wrong.

Do we use that anonymity to get away with behavior we wouldn’t even consider in polite company – or any company, for that matter? Well, that’s kind of a dumb question. Of course we do. I do. You do. Duh.

I don’t just mean road rage, either. How many people have you passed just because you need to be first in line? (Don’t worry – I won’t make you say it out loud.) Do you sigh at red lights? Do you speed?

It’s not that there’s this huge consequence to our behavior behind the wheel. No one hears us yelling, right? But our attitude when driving tells us something critical: what’s the state of our hearts? What character do we display when no one’s around and the pressure’s on? It may not cause a wreck if you flip a bird – and the other driver will probably forget you by dinner – but it tells you something. It reflects on your heart.

Maybe we could take a step in the right direction, by using our driving attitude as a litmus test for our spiritual maturity. (In fact, we could probably use lots of different aspects of our lives to test our faith. Like, what percent of dirty diapers do I face with a smile?) Honestly – if I read my Bible more consistently, I’d probably yell a lot less behind the wheel.

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