It’s OK to Say “No”

No.”  It’s a small word made up of two consecutive letters that are squeezed into the middle of the alphabet.  Alone, neither letter has much meaning, but put together with no anchors on either side, they pack a pretty big punch.  Such a big punch that many of us would rather avoid using it.

The use of “no” doesn’t start off as taboo, however.  It’s among the first words that toddlers speak, because let’s face it, caretakers use it often.

As the minds of toddlers grow, an increased understanding of the power of such a word makes them feel in control when they wield it.   “No, it’s not bedtime yet.”  “No, I don’t want to eat that.”  “No, Mommy.  No!”

When interacting with teens, that two-letter word later evolves into a something that resembles a short-range missile, because of its propensity to launch parent/child wars when one party feels the need to exercise authority, and the other feels the need to express outrage for the injustices being forced upon them.  Sound familiar?

Parent-child relationships aren’t the only ones that become strained when “no” is tossed into the air.  Business, casual, and personal relationships can also suffer when one person fixes their mouth and emits a sound that represents the shortest form of verbal rejection.  For that reason, “no” makes us feel guilty, so we limit use of it.  When we know that our schedules can’t handle another commitment, we still subconsciously erase “no” from our vocabulary and become “yes men”.

“That promotion is so close, I can feel it.   Better to be thought a ‘kiss-up’ than someone who’s not a team player.”

“If I don’t volunteer to run that program at my child’s school, it will cease to exist.”

“I know that I should enforce house rules, but I’m afraid my child will resent me.”

“If I don’t serve on that committee, people might think I’m lazy or don’t care about important causes.”

“No” becomes a bad word.  “Yes” boosts our ego and our reputation.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was addicted to “yes”; I’ll blame it on the control freak in me.

When our sons’ Scout unit needed a leader, I took the reins.  When our youngest daughter’s school needed a PTA Vice President, I was the gal for the job.  When other volunteers weren’t able to carry out their responsibilities, I stepped in and donned as many additional hats as were needed.

All of that volunteering led me straight down a road to mental and physical burnout.  That’s when I found my “no” voice.  I often joke that I was born with a “help” gene, but I now recognize that gene dormancy can be a good thing.

Hanging up most of my volunteer hats has allowed me to spend more time with my family, live with less stress, develop hobbies, and participate in women’s Bible study sessions at church.

I am no longer a “yes girl”, because my limits have been tested and boundaries drawn as a result.

If it’s a struggle for you to decline invitations to assist in everything from chairing a committee that collects pennies for a new school playground to keeping the earth from spinning out of orbit, I urge you to simply say “no”.  Your emotional, mental, physical, and relational health depend on it.

CC

Low BMI? No Need to Apply.

Models.  Some of us love to hate them and hate to love them.  Teenagers want to be them and parents expend immeasurable energy trying to convince teens that modeling is not all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s a hard sell, because on the surface, the life of a model appears the thing of which dreams are made.

Models get to wear great clothes, travel the world, have their pictures splashed across the covers of magazines across the globe, and gain entry into some of the most exclusive events known to man. They appear confident and successful.  They exude perfection.

You can’t escape them – they’re everywhere and they peddle everything.  They’re ambassadors for fashion houses, fresh faces of the latest glamorous cosmetics, and sometimes, they are spokespersons for charitable causes.   However, what many of them clearly shouldn’t be are body image role models for young girls and women.

It’s no secret that the modeling world encourages unhealthy eating habits and is a breeding ground for eating disorders.  Many of the industry’s stars and wannabes have body mass indexes (BMI) in dangerously low territory.  This is why some governments have gotten into the business of modeling.  Not literally, but figuratively…no pun intended.

In 2006, twenty-two-year-old Uruguayan Luisel Ramos collapsed and died shortly after exiting a runway.  Her death is believed to have been caused by heart failure brought on by her severe anorexic condition.  That same year, governments in India and Italy subsequently enacted laws banning underweight models.  Two years later, in 2008, popular fashion week production companies in Madrid and Milan banned models who failed to meet minimum BMI standards, 18.0 and 18.5, respectively.

The industry still has a lot of work to do as it works to reform its image, but Israel’s government isn’t willing to wait any longer.

On January 1, 2012, a new Israeli law banned advertisers from using models whose BMI’s are too low.  The minimum BMI for models in Israel is now 18.5.  To put that into relatable terms, a 5’10” model must weigh at least 129 pounds to be considered healthy enough to get work as a model in Israel.  Models must produce a medical report showing they have maintained a healthy BMI for three months prior to a photo shoot or runway show.  The law also bans companies from using airbrushing techniques to alter the appearance of their models to make them look thinner than they really are.  Finally, advertisers who use software to digitally alter images must clearly mark them as such.

Critics argue that BMI laws do not take into account the genetic disposition of some models who just can’t seem to gain weight despite their best efforts.

While I’m not a fan of big government, I applaud lawmakers in India, Israel, and Italy for having the courage to legislate healthy body images in advertisements.   The United States and other countries could take a page out of their books.

What do you think?  Are governments trampling upon the rights of ultra-thin models who seek work?  Are they limiting the creative authority of advertisers?  Is more legislation needed?  Share your thoughts here or on my Facebook page.

CC

Israeli model Bar Refaeli - BMI 18.8

Do You Believe in Angels?

Today was a pretty typical one in my humble abode.   I worked, made dinner, did a bit of housework, watched the news, answered to callings of “Mom?”, and ran a couple of errands.  Nothing remarkable for the most part –  until late this evening.

After sitting down at my desk to browse the news and check in on Facebook, I saw the word “angel” three times in the span of a minute or two.  As I sit here typing, I recall seeing Clarence, an angel from It’s a Wonderful Life, in a clip from the documentary Freakonomics that I just finished watching before sitting down at my desk tonight.  (That brings the count of angel references up from three to four.)

Why is this significant?  I’m not really sure.  I don’t know what God is revealing to me at the moment, but knowing what kind of God it is that I serve, these angelic references were put before me for a magnificent reason!  (Can I get an amen?!)

A recent sermon at church was all about the presence of angels, and shortly thereafter, my Sunday school class engaged in a discussion on the same topic.  I guess this brings the angel reference count up to six now.

Angels.  They’re all around us.  They are the reason why we survive near-misses.  Some of those misses are readily apparent – escaping an accident before your eyes – while others occur unbeknownst to us immediately – misplacing car keys and showing up late someplace or missing appointments altogether.  Make no mistake about it, angels are real and they are sent to serve a purpose.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in luck.  I believe in God’s intervention.  The angels in the midst have undoubtedly intervened on my behalf more times than I can even imagine.

The incident that I remember most occurred when I was a young mother.  My then-husband and I had packed everything but the kitchen sink into our infant son’s diaper bag for a trip around the highway loop to see my mom.  (There’s no such thing as packing lightly when babies are involved.)  The walk from our condo to the car was short and the surfaces upon which we walked were hard.

What do hard surfaces have to do with anything?  Well, when we reached the car, we settled our son into the middle of the back seat and before we could drive away, somehow, managed to lose the car key!  We frantically retraced our steps, tore the interior of the car upside down (or so it seemed), illuminated the area with a flashlight, and looked in places where they keys couldn’t possibly have been.  All to no avail.

The trip to mom’s house would not be made that evening.  They key had been lost, but neither of us even heard the familiar clanking of a set of keys hitting the ground.  How was that even possible?  The car key was on a ring with at least two other keys (the key to our condo and the mailbox key).  Surely we would have heard them hit the ground!

There was something about the mysterious nature of how we seemingly lost the key, but I never doubted for one second that He was intervening on our behalf.  Getting the spare key from the house wasn’t even a consideration, because I could feel that a higher being had a hand in this.  He was protecting us from some sort of danger.  I’ve always been convinced of that.  I don’t know what lurking danger was kept at bay, but I firmly believe that angels were in the midst that evening.

Several weeks later, the set of keys turned up in a manner that only He could script!  (Teary-eyed just typing this.)  The keys were on a chain that had a “drop in the nearest mailbox if found” dog tag of sorts that my bank had given me when I opened my account years earlier.  Apparently, someone found the set of keys and dropped it into a mailbox as the dog tag instructed.   Tears again!  The keys made their way to the local post office where none other than MY MOM had them fall into her hands while working her shift one evening.  A coworker of hers found the keys while sorting a pile of odd things that sometimes ended up in mailboxes.  The coworker recognized my name, which was engraved one of those cutesy vanity license plate thingies that you put onto your key-ring.  Since my name is rather unique (finally, it counted for something), the coworker immediately took they keys to my mom and the rest is a mysterious, God-breathed history.

I’ll be honest with you, my faith had been shaken and weak for a number of years prior to the angel/key thing, but my outlook began to change after that incredible series of events.  If I didn’t believe in angels before the evening that I lost my keys, I became a firm believer that night, and my belief was reaffirmed once they keys were found and returned weeks later!

Do you believe in angels?

P.S. – I do believe in angels, but have never kept my house and car keys on the same ring after that mysterious night.  I call it “using the good sense that God gave me. :)

NOTE TO SELF: Tell oldest son this story.

I ran across the following picture and message on my Facebook page tonight and know it’s worth sharing.  May you find comfort that His army of angels is out there protecting us – even when we aren’t aware.

Stay blessed!

CC

Me: God, can I ask You a question?

God: Sure

Me: Promise You won’t get mad

God: I promise

Me: Why did You let so much stuff happen to me today?

God: What do you mean?

Me: Well, I woke up late

God: Yes

Me: My car took forever to start

God: Okay

Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong & I had to wait

God: Hmm

Me: On the way home, my phone went DEAD, just as I picked up a call

God: All right

Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home ~I just wanted to soak my feet in my new foot massager & relax, BUT it wouldn’t work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did You do that?

God: Let me see, the death angel was at your bed this morning & I had to send one of My Angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that

Me (humbled): OH

GOD: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.

Me: (ashamed)

God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick & I didn’t want you to catch what they had, I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.

Me (embarrassed): Okay

God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.

Me (softly): I see God

God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.

Me: I’m Sorry God

God: Don’t be sorry, just learn to Trust Me…. in All things , the Good & the bad.

Me: I will trust You.

God: And don’t doubt that My plan for your day is Always Better than your plan.

Me: I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, Thank You for Everything today.

God: You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I love looking after My children…

A Year without Resolutions

 

Blog more often.

Drink more water.

Eat healthier.

Get a meaningful hobby.

Learn a new craft.

Study the Bible more.

Work out more regularly.

Those are all things that this mom is not making a commitment to do.  Not today anyway.

I don’t like failure, and from where I sit, committing to certain lifestyle changes just because the calendar flipped over to a new year is the first step to ensuring failure. Don’t get me wrong, we all have to pick effective dates when we choose to make changes, but settling upon a date merely because it’s what people do this time of year isn’t going to work for me.  What will work is taking the first step when I’m psychologically ready for a change.

The date that I’ll take the first step of whatever change I’ll seek to make is unknown to me, so for now, I’ll relish in the success of not being a failure at some arbitrarily dated resolution this new year.

Best wishes in all that you choose to do in 2013.

Regards,

CC

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

So Long, Facebook!

As of today, I am 63 days sober after having dropped Facebook cold turkey.  I’d pondered the self-censorship for many weeks and discussed the possibility of doing so with my husband many times, but the way that it happened was almost as a shock to even me.

What brought about the sudden snub of one of the most popular social networking sites?  Growing privacy concerns, an ever-changing site format, and my personal addiction to posting and reading status updates.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved communicating with friends and family online, but I came to the realization that I was hooked when I found myself frequently checking my Facebook feed while on vacation – not from one device, but from three: my laptop, my phone, and my tablet.  I attribute the sudden epiphany to the proverbial mirror of one of those device screens in which I saw the image of a person headed toward a 12-step program.

Initially, I only planned to stay away from the site for the remainder of my vacation.  I intended to log in again to upload vacation pictures once we were comfortably settled back into our routine at home, but that didn’t happen.  The more I stayed away, the less I wanted to go back to my addiction.

Sure, I miss the countless people with whom I had loads of fun on the site.  They’re the coolest bunch of people I’ve never had the pleasure to meet in person.  I don’t know if I’ll ever reactivate my account, but for now, I am grateful for the memories of these amazing people.  I’m also grateful for the extra time that I now use to focus on my family.

No more worries about tending to five virtual farms in one game, a frontier in another, and a city in yet two other games.  For now, I am content to tend to the homestead in which I reside in real life.

Do you maintain a Facebook account?  If so, how often do you check in to post or read status updates?

CC

Teen’s First (Real) Summer Job

 

The picture above sums up the past few weeks in my household.  Trying to get my sixteen-year-old to understand the importance of  getting a summer job, at times, seemed like a full-time job for both my husband and me.

I could hardly believe my ears when my teen yelled, “You don’t need the money!  I don’t need the money!  So why do I need a job?!  It’s pointless to make me look for one!

Where, oh, where had the drive to earn his own money and not rely solely on allowance gone?  Surely, this kid’s memory of summers’ past hadn’t been erased.  We used to pay him for cutting the grass and he was ever so proud of his accomplishments and earning potential.  Especially, after a neighbor hired him to cut their grass for the entire summer.

Despite his resistance, my husband and I stood our ground, lectured frequently, and even issued an ultimatum that our teen didn’t take seriously.  Given that we say what we mean and follow through with most it, it’s a wonder that we had so much opposition.

While the battles were intense and emotions sometimes got the best of us, all is well that ends well.  You see, after submitting just one application, placing a follow-up call to the employer (at my insistence), and refusing to apply for any other other job on the face of the planet, my teen landed an interview.  Just one day later, he heard the four words that we’d all prayed he would hear:

YOU

HAVE

THE

JOB!!!

Victory!  

The scowl that I thought had been permanently etched onto my handsome boy’s face had vanished.  Despite our worst fears, he hadn’t blown the interview on purpose.  He presented himself in the best light possible and impressed the interviewer who, in turn, put in a good word for him with the head manager who ultimately made the decision to extend a job offer.

Sure, it’s not a humanitarian role or a graduate school appointment, but we’re still proud.  At sixteen, our teen has gotten his foot into someone’s door and he will soon realize that the sky is the limit.

Praise God for opening a door that my teen didn’t want to pass through and praise Him for breathing optimism into the life of a kid who didn’t think he wanted to enter the workforce as have many of his peers.

The big day at work is Monday and we will continue to pray that this experience will be positive and enriching in purpose.

Love to all!

CC

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

Doing Your Child’s Homework

Children are busier than ever.  Early morning hockey and swimming practices, after-school sports activities, religious obligations, and maybe even after-school employment or volunteer responsibilities compete for their time.  Schedules can become overwhelmed and not allow enough time to do everything, so some families find that they skimp and relax the rules for homework.

However, some parents take it much farther than just allowing their children to skip homework.  They step in and do it themselves.

In a national Ask.com survey, 778 parents were asked if they do their children’s homework for them.  Here are the surprising results.

  • 87 percent of parents in the south admitted to doing their child’s homework.
  • 43 percent of parents nationwide admitted to doing their kid’s homework.
  • 47 percent of dads nationwide did their children’s homework.
  • 39 percent of moms nationwide did their children’s homework.
  • 38 percent of the homework done by parents is math.
  • 28 percent of the homework done by parents is English.

The study found that some parents did the homework themselves to relieve their children’s schedules, but others completed the work for an even more dubious reason: higher grades.

*dragging soapbox to the front of the audience*

I have never, and will never complete my children’s work for them.  I repeat, haven’t ever done it and will never do it.  If they’re
overscheduled, it is my job as a parent to step in and relieve some of the extracurricular stressors.  Doing the work of my children helps them in no way long-term.  However, it does teach them to say “Yes” to every opportunity, except school.  In my humble opinion, it also teaches them that they don’t actually have to work hard, someone will always be there to pick up their slack, and that it is OK to cheat.  Yes, even if you believe you have a good reason for completing your child’s homework, it’s still cheating.

*putting soapbox back into corner*

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Helping children with homework is not the same as doing the work for them.  I help, in fact, I teach (two of mine are homeschooled), but I do not give them quiz and test answers or complete homework for the two who are in brick-and-mortar schools.  Parental guidance and involvement are absolutely required for most children, but by definition, guidance does not mean doing the work on someone else’s behalf.

Some homework “helper” excuses:

“She’s busy with [insert activity here] and knows the subject matter.  I’m just helping them, since they’re short on time.”

“We were at a PTO activity and got home late.  It wasn’t their fault that I had to drag them along.”

“Homework isn’t that important.  What’s important is the classroom instruction.”

“They’re unable to focus for long periods of time.”

“They get too much homework!”

“The assignments aren’t engaging.”

“They get good grades and already know the content.”

If you find that you’re completing your child’s homework, or have considered it, try these 10 tips from blogger Julie Rains:

1. Start now with the it’s-your-homework-not-mine stance when (hopefully) the stakes are low, rather than in high school when grades start to matter. Remind yourself that having your child take responsibility is much more important than getting the answers right every time.

2. If the work seems overwhelming and your child is anxious, show your child how to calm down and tackle each assignment. This is a good opportunity to teach time and stress management.

3. Find and use resources. For example, when my son was having difficulty understanding double-digit subtraction and parents were instructed not to use the term “take-away” as I was taught at his age, I went to the math book’s website. There I found an animation that explained the proper methods and terminology; my son and I watched the subtraction segment over and over until he (and I!) finally understood the process.

4. Let your child ask a friend for help. Kids tend to relate to each other better than adults, especially when they have been sitting in the same classroom or learning the same material. My child’s middle school encouraged this behavior and set up teacher-supervised, kid-to-kid tutoring sessions. Not all friends will be able to help but those who truly understand the material will probably be better helpers than parents.

5. Encourage your child to ask the teacher for help. Some teachers have time set aside to give extra help to students, either right before or after school, or during times dedicated to independent work.

6. Figure out where your child needs extra guidance and give assistance for certain subjects, but not all classes. Younger kids may not have learned what approaches work for them, so they may need some help in figuring out how to tackle a new subject. If they can develop independence in at least one area of homework, they are more likely to learn how to do homework in other areas.

7. Teach project management. One of the biggest areas of homework frustration at my house, especially in the elementary school years, was the project. In some classes, teachers actually broke down projects into manageable, doable, understandable steps. This approach taught project management (there were steps and timelines with due dates!) for which I am most grateful. But if the assignment isn’t that clear, you may need to help with project planning.

8. Let your child make mistakes. Even if you see (or think you see) an error, don’t correct the homework. If your child consistently hands in perfect homework, the teacher may make the reasonable assumption that your child doesn’t need help and that the student (and possibly the entire class) can move forward with new concepts; if the class does move forward (and your child doesn’t grasp earlier concepts), you’ll likely get stuck with perpetual homework helping.

9. Show your child how to find and evaluate resources needed for assignments. For example, when my kids needed to write on current events in Europe, I pointed them to BBC rather than the international section of our local newspaper.

10. Get the answer wrong. I stumbled upon this approach when my oldest son was taking Geometry in third grade, and it’s perhaps my best advice. I have some sort of visual-spatial deficit so my assistance with this particular subject was useless. Fortunately, he then turned to his teacher, who taught him strategies that helped him to overcome any geometry-related deficiencies that he may have inherited.

If you’re considering picking up a pencil or logging onto the computer to complete your child’s assignment, ask yourself if you’re teaching them a respectable virtue then proceed as your conscience allows.

CC

Resources

Going to School - PBS

How to Motivate Your Kids to Do HomeworkNews for Parents

Philippians 4:6

I once read the statement, “The more you worry, the less faith you have”.  Ouch!  That’s convicting.  I have great faith; enough to cover me and countless friends and family members, but I still worry at times.  Some of the things that I worry about are small, but others are large.

“Where will we go for vacation?”  

“Will I have enough time to complete my to-do list?”

“Will I make it to my destination on time?” 

“Am I a good wife, parent, and friend?”

“Are my prayers bold?”

“Do I pray enough?” 

“Will my children always follow God?” 

When I catch myself feeling guilty (convicted) for having the audacity to stress out about things over which God reigns, I worry that I don’t have enough faith.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

I am thankful for the knowledge that not only does He hear our prayers and know our thoughts, but He has already worked out all of the details and He knows what we need before we know what we need.

The song below was suggested by a former manager at work.  It aided me during some very tough times and still reminds me that God is sovereign, there’s nothing He can’t do, and He provides our every need in perfect timing.  I need to take my worries to the Lord in prayer.

CC

 

Cheap Gas!

Do you remember when you didn’t have to keep up with gas prices?  When the expense was more of an incidental than a budgeted line item?  I do.

When I bought my first car, gas was somewhere around 89 cents per gallon. Ten buckaroos bought a fill-up in those days.  That was ice cream money by today’s standards.

Fast forward to today.  I was down to 1/4 tank today and every station in town and neighboring cities was selling gas for $3.79.  I kept thinking about how I should have made a U-turn to fill up at the station near my house that advertised a gallon of regular gas for $3.59.  However, if I was going to get where I was headed, I couldn’t make an additional stop.  So I headed toward my destination with what I had left.

Good things come to those who wait?  Sort of…  When I approached home on the return trip, the station that was selling gas gasoline for $3.59 per gallon had only increased by 2 cents per gallon, not 20 cents like everyone else!  To make the deal even better, I saved 30 cents per gallon with my grocery store loyalty card, so today’s fill-up was a bargain basement $3.31 per gallon.

I am thankful for cheap gas today.  I have a 250-mile drive ahead of me tomorrow and the thought of making it with gas prices hovering around $4 per gallon makes me ill.

Father,

Thank You for giving me the patience to keep going this morning and the fuel efficiency to make it possible to make the trip without having to spend more than necessary.  I pray for the people who have to make tough decisions about their quality of life as an effect of increasing fuel prices.  Please give them a sense of peace in knowing that You will provide all of their needs.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC

Another Birthday

Today, we celebrated another birthday as our oldest daughter turned fourteen.  Gosh, we’re getting old(er)!  As is tradition, we gathered around the dining room table, dimmed the lights, and sang the birthday song.  Burning candles were extinguished, pictures were taken, jokes were told, and cake and ice cream were dished out to everyone who wanted some.  I passed for the time being, but made no promises to lay off the cake on a long-term basis.

Birthdays are always so special to us.  While we’ve had parties on the rare occasion that the kids request them, we always spend time celebrating as a family.    There’s something to be said for not commercializing the birthday experience.  Birthdays are celebrations of life and we praise God for allowing us to be here for a new day.

I am thankful for having four very healthy children and grateful for being able to celebrate another birthday in my family.

Father,

Thank You for giving me another day with all of my  children.  I praise You for choosing to keep them all safe and healthy and ask that You continue to bless them abundantly.  I pray that the birthday girl continues to draw closer to You and will someday make the decision to be baptized in You, so that she may be born again and may enjoy celebrating a new kind of birthday.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

CC