Sunday, January 28, 2007

Have You Bought Into Our Neat Freak/Organize Everything Culture?

Seems everywhere you turn these days the talk is about "organizing" and "removing clutter" from our lives. This focus and ensuing tasks in effort to achieve the latter can be all-consuming --if you let it-- and it can even cause guilt for those of us who are unable to achieve 'perfect order' in the eyes of the world.

But there is some good news for those of us who can't quite seem to "get it right" ... those of us who have reached a compromise between chaos and order?  It turns out there are, in fact, many hidden benefits to disorder. That in truth: a little disorder gives us new ways of looking at things, often spurning new ideas and outright creativity in science, art, music and every other aspect of our lives.

The authors of a new book on this very subject matter are Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freeman.
Their book is titled: "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder."

This book is currently available only in hardcover.  I am going to pick up a copy tomorrow.  I can't wait! I may just buy a few extra copies and give them to some of the "neat freaks" in my life.

[Update: 2/2] So far the book is good. It has a lot of scientific references that I understand and find very interesting -- being an engineer and loving science in general -- but if that's not your thing you can skim over these sections and get the general gist of what the authors are trying to say.

Thus far, the book makes me feel less guilt about the tendency of my house -- with 3 small, bright, and creative children under the age of 10 -- to be messy.  I'd already come to the conclusion that in order to stay sane and enjoy the young stages of growth and development in my children: I needed to let go of the illusion that I could have a perfectly clean house.

Life is too short! And I don't want to the Mom who is so obsessed with order that I spend more time cleaning my house and picking up than actually interacting with my kids. But on some level, I still have guilt when talking with or visiting my sisters, mother and other moms who always seem to have a pristinely clean house. I am so embarrassed when anyone comes over and sees our 'less than perfect' house.

But on the bright side: my kids are extremely happy, very creative and well adjusted. So from the latter standpoint living in a 'less than perfect' --often downright messy house!-- is a small price to pay for having happy, healthy, bright and creative kids. Maybe this book will help to liberate me [and others!] from the guilt about the clutter and lack of organization in my [their] own home?

Friday, January 26, 2007

"Solefully" Challenged

Q: What shoes would you wear with this dress? Clueless? Me too! (I am supposed to wear this dress to my sister's wedding this upcoming February 2007.)

[<=No: this is not me!]



I think someone -- like Oprah -- should do a show on "shoes for women." Most women have millions upon millions of shoes: one pair for each outfit. It seems to be some inherited gene that most women have -- like the "shopping gene". These women, who have this "shoe gene", seem to know just which shoes go perfectly with which outfit. Up until now, I have pitied these poor fools who spend so much of their disposable income on just shoes (kind of like "Carie," from "Sex and the City")?!

Well, I am a woman and I guess that I just didn't get the "shoe gene"? I take a functional approach to shoes: I have a brown pair of shoes, a black pair of shoes, some boots, tennis shoes, and a dressy pair of black shoes.  I love being barefoot most of the time anyway, so shoes have never been a real priority for me.  This past summer, I am proud to say, I expanded my horizons and bought sandals and a thong type wedge shoe -- which was stretching it for me -- for a vacation to a beach area resort.

Despite my practical side -- which my husband loves, as I don't spend a small fortune on clothes (didn't get the "shopping gene" either) and shoes every season -- I will admit that there have been many times where I've been all dressed up and something just doesn't feel quite finished. I would love to have the perfect pair of shoes to complete my outfit, but I am too practical and quite frankly clueless.
And what's up with heels (even strappy ones?) and jeans? I just don't get that. I look ridiculous trying to wear heels with jeans. Maybe you have to have a certain personality type to pull this off? And I'm just too practical/down to earth to make it happen? Once again: clueless!

There are tons of shows on fashion as it relates to clothing, and Oprah has even done whole shows dedicated to bras and jeans, but rarely does anyone ever address what to put on your feet. Help?!!!!

Fortunately, in the meantime, I have a fashionable sister who loves to shop and she goes with me often to help me buy clothes, accessories, and sometimes even shoes. I even get her designer hand-me-downs in the shoe department. So I don't go around dressed like a slob or anything. I have a nice business and casual wardrobe. I know who "Maggie London", "DKNY", and "Jones of New York" are. Love Anne Taylor too. So my 5'8", 110+ frame is nicely dressed most of the time. Just need a little bit of help in the foot department. Maybe I'll send this plea for help onto Oprah for a show idea?

1/25/2010  I've come a long way since this original post!  This is where I'm at today ... according to Facebook quiz 'What Shoe Are You?'

Dolch & Gabbana



And they're not far off either ... weird?!  I almost bought a pair of shoes just like this the other day ... just for FUN ... ya never know when these might come in handy ; ).  Though ... don't think I could fork over that kind of money for just one pair of shoes?  Have to think for awhile on that one ...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union Address

My 3 daughters -- all in elementary school, the youngest in kindergarten -- say:

"Go Bush! You ROCK!"


I agree. More later, but I will say this: I challenge you, one and all, to rise above your comfortable complacency and to actually think critically for yourselves about the true state of our union. Don't just digest and accept the spin that you get from the liberal media machine.

[more later ...]

I think that President Bush gave a good address. It was very upbeat, focused on the positive, and addressed specific charges about the war in Iraq. The order of affairs was definitely different than previous speeches -- recognizing Americans (even those for finishing business in Iraq) are weary of war and ready to focus on domestic issues.

Too bad Bush won't be given credit -- in the present day liberal media ... I think history will give him his due however -- for all that he has done for the economy in spite of:
1) war in Afghanistan & Iraq, 2) 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S., and 3) 2 natural disasters -- one of which was the worst on record in the history of our country. I mean we have a strong economy and a dollar that is competitive on the world market -- with countries like India and China whose economies are booming -- interest rates are low, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the job market is growing, with great choices for anyone looking for work or wanting to change jobs.

To have cut the federal deficit by 1/2, and 3 years ahead of schedule is truly an accomplishment! I think that it is awesome that Bush is going after earmark spending. Hope that this gets signed into law before our Democratic congress starts deciding how best to spend our money for us. At least that way, there will be some additional revenue at their disposal, and maybe they won't tax the poor middle class into oblivion.

Bush said he has a plan for completely eliminating the federal deficit in 5 years. I'd like to see the details of that plan. Did you know that China owns nearly half of our debt? Scary.

Hopefully Bush can make a mark on saving our Social Security program so all the $$$ that we "young" folk are paying into the program will actually be available to us when we retire. The idea of a universal health care system scares me, although I do think medical costs are out of control. I think health care insurance for all will help some, but costs have got to be reigned back in somehow.

What is your take on the State of the Union?

Insomnia, Late Night Movies, and How Good We Have It ...

Yes, I have it: INSOMNIA. Lately it has been bad. Seems to become worse during times of amplified stress. Anyway, I absolutely could not sleep last night and I just needed to focus on something other than my life. So, I wound up watching a movie that I would not normally watch -- as the movie was pretty graphic and violent.

Anyway, the movie was on HBO -- I think -- and it was called:"Harrison's Flowers"(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0216799/). The title tells you absolutely nothing about the subject the movie. The movie was about the ethnic cleansing, in war-torn Yugoslavia from 1991-1995. The movie is from the perspective of a wife (palyed by Andie MacDowell), who goes into Yugoslavia in search of her photojournalist husband who has disappeared and is presumed dead.

Wow! It was truly an eyeopener for me. I mean, I knew that an ethnic war was going on during this time, but I had no idea the actual scope of the violence and atrocities suffered by so many innocent victims. It is just mind boggling to me that anyone can harbor such a hatred for their fellow men over such simple differences in race, ideology, religion, and over mere ownership of land?

What's more this type of "war" is going on in the world all around us daily. It's not an isolated incident! Just look at the Middle East and countries in Africa, like Darfur. ( You may find these related links interesting: http://worldnews.about.com/od/celebrities/a/clooney_darfur.htm and http://action.one.org/ActionSignup.html?gclid=CKCele7N-IkCFQGPWAod-00mVw).

These realizations really put things into perspective and makes me feel silly for worrying about things like the importance of outrageous kid birthday parties?! It truly makes me grateful that I live in a country that -- for the most part -- values and thrives on diversity. A country where I have choices to believe as I choose, w.r.t. religion and politics, without fear or subject to violent reprisals.

It also makes me glad that I have a strong President who openly recognizes a power greater than himself, who sees a picture bigger than our isolated country and this one moment in time... A leader who is not afraid to do what it takes to safeguard the freedoms that so many Americans take for granted.

... A leader who is not afraid to do what it takes to protect our country from terrorist threats and attacks, who is willing to do what it takes to finish what we started in Iraq, in order promote democracy in an unstable region in the Middle East -- which is critical to maintaining the upper hand against the terrorists.

... A leader who realizes that, as a nation, "we have been given much" and so "in return, much is expected."

...A leader who realizes the need for our great nation to get involved, from time to time, in other parts of the world, in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves (i.e., the people of Darfur region, in Africa).

May God continue to bless and guide our President and his advisers.

May God bless the members of our Congress and help them to work together, with each other and President Bush, for the greater good of our nation and the world at large.

May God bless, protect, provide for and heal all who live in fear as a result of persecution, illness, or poverty. May God protect innocent children everywhere.

May God bless the brave men and women of our armed forces that are currently serving in the middle east. May God bring these soldiers home safely to be reunited with their loved ones. May God bless and provide for the needs of the loved ones of these soldiers in their absence.

Amen and goodnight.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Kid Birthday Parties are Out of Control?

Kid Birthday parties are out of control? What do you think? Well I, personally, happen to agree! With three children in my own family, we could easily wind up attending one, or more, birthday parties each and every weekend of the calendar year.  And this when weekends seem to be the only non-rushed, non-scheduled time we happen to have together, as family, during the entire week these days. I really hate to give a 'decline' response for attending birthday parties, but I want (and need!) to have a life and some downtime for my own family.

With the above in mind: our new rule is that if a birthday party is not for a special friend, or someone the kids actually play with at school on a regular basis, then we won't be going to the party. And I've set boundaries with respect my own kids' birthday parties too. They won't be getting a huge blow-out birthday party each and every year for themselves either. Family parties are just fine, in my book.  They're lower stress, and in the long run are probably much more memorable than the big kid-centered blowout parties.

Up until now, I thought I was alone in my feelings with regards to the endless and outrageous stream of kid birthday parties, but I caught a brief segment on the "Today Show" early this morning which happened to be about other parents who feel the exact same way as I do: namely that kid birthday parties are getting out of control. I sincerely hope this new way of forward and down-to-earth thinking finally gets a serious discussion going among parents with school-aged children, because up until now --for me-- bringing this topic up for discussion with other parents has just drawn blank looks from the other parents.

Here's the link: http://www.birthdayswithoutpressure.org/

Read for yourself and see what you think.

I did check out the site and there are a lot of good ideas for toned down kid birthday parties.

I especially liked the story on the site from the father who said they rented a limo for their daughters birthday, etc. And as a result of their daughter's eye-opening response to all of this attention and lavishness: they are now volunteering as a family every week -- in order to serve others -- and are rethinking the whole birthday party thing.

Also saw a lot of angry parents on the above site who are basically saying "Who are you pushy people to be telling us how to spend our money?!"

Think these angry parents are missing the point entirely.  The point being that we all live a society where our children are privileged to interact with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, many who cannot afford to throw such outrageous parties.  Moreover, I think showering this much lavish, and often excessive, attention on just the 'privileged' few year after year might just  be contributing to the creation of a an unruly and ungrateful generation of children who will in all likelihood grow-up to see themselves as adults with a misguided sense of entitlement.

It's hard enough to raise decent kids in this materialistic world ... kids who are grateful, hardworking, respectful of others and others' feelings, kids who are truly appreciative and genuinely grateful for everything they are so fortunate as to have, without them being bombarded with the false messages these wildly over-the-top, 3-ring circus birthday parties present, on almost every or every other weekend of the entire calendar year.

Wanting to have this discussion isn't telling other parents HOW they should spend their money.  Rather it is just concerned adults interested in raising well-adjusted, considerate and grateful children by opening up a meaningful dialogue with other parents as to how best to begin to effect meaningful change not only in our children, but also in the communities in which we all live, work and play.

As a busy mom, I will admit that our family has done the big birthday thing a couple times for each of our children. But, we quickly realized how these large parties could easily get out hand.  Once we realized the latter, we told our kids that the big blowout birthday party thing wasn't going to be happening each and every single year.  As a young mother, with three small children, I will admit  it was so much easier for me to have a party outside of my home, and the school my children attended pretty much dictated that must you invite everyone or no one.  So often the sheer size of the party dictated it be held somewhere other than my home.  So if the latter applies to you as well, I know from firsthand experience that you really have your work cut out for you if you want to buck this crazy birthday party trend!

The hardest part for me, now that we've committed to breaking the outrageous birthday party trend for our own children is the fear of missing a party invite for another child's birthday party, and then not giving an R.S.V.P. -- even if we don't plan to attend-- at all or in a timely fashion.  I mean we get a new birthday party invite at least once a week and there are even many weeks where we get 3 or more party invites.  It's Crazy?! But this crazy has nothing on the social-pariah crazy of forgetting to or failing to R.S.V.P. to a birthday party invite.  Oh, well one step ... one party ... a time.  Somehow, we'll find our way and hopefully we will raise better kids in the process.  That's my hope anyway.  Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas if you'd like.

~M




Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"The Oak Inside the Acorn"

I just read a wonderful book to my children last night. It is one of many books that my daughters received for Christmas. The book is called"The Oak Inside the Acorn" and it is by Max Lucado -- need I say more ... He is such a wonderful and inspiring author!

Inside this book, after the dedication page, Mr. Lucado writes a brief letter to the parents. This letter has a powerful message that stands on its own even without the book.
Here is that letter:

"Dear Parent,
God prewired your infant. He scripted your toddler's strengths. He set your teen on a trajectory. God gave you an eighteen-year research project. Ask yourself, your spouse, and your friends: What sets this child apart? Childhood tendencies forecast adult abilities. Read them. Discern them. Affirm them. Cheerlead them.

You've been given a book with no title -- read it! A CD with no cover--listen to it! An island with no owner -- explore it! Resist the urge to label before you study. Attend carefully to the unique childhood of your child.

Uncommon are the parents who attempt to learn these God-given abilities-- and blessed are their children.

Blessings,Max Lucado "


If you have a small child read this book to them. If you have an older child read it with them. It is a wonderful story that gives hope and may just bring a tear to your eye and make a connection with your child.

Enjoy and God Bless!


~M

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Raising Kids for True Greatness"

I am reading a new book by this title. It is by Dr. Tim Kimmel and so far it is pretty good.

I hope it has a chapter in there on sibling rivalry! Sibling rivalry and fighting have been going on a lot here since the holidays. It's enough to drive you crazy at times. Sometimes I want to give my kids all blow-up bats and just let them go at it and get it out of their systems! : )

Anyway, one of the things that Dr. Kimmel says at the very beginning of the book is this:

"Success looks inward; true greatness looks upward, then outward.

Success is about my agenda; true greatness is about God's agenda.

Success accommodates selfishness; true greatness celebrates altruism.

Success is about receiving; true greatness is about giving.

Success worships what it sees in a mirror; true greatness grieves over what it see through its windows.

Success pays off for now; true greatness pays off forever."


These are truly words to live by!

This really struck a chord with me, so I thought that I would share them. I'll let you know how the rest of the book goes.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy 2007! Hope the new year is treating you well thus far and that everyone had a blessed holiday with friends, family and loved ones.

Keep it real in 2007 and remember to be humble. That is my "New Year's Resolution" for 2007. To stop running around like a crazy person trying to check things off of endless lists. To slow down enjoy the moment and just listen.

This outlook has truly given me a sense of inner peace and hope. And I feel that I am on the right track. I read this in our church Christmas bulletin after Christmas Eve mass:

It is an excerpt from a letter from the priest in our sister parish in Honduras . . .

“ The simplicity of the Christmas scene dominated the event. Poverty triumphed preaching the lesson of humility: the etched out cave, the lack of furnishings, the poor couple which could not find rest in the Inn and the curious shepherds who lived in the fields on the outskirts of town. The poor alone are free to approach the poor Christ. They alone entered into the humble dwelling of the Holy Family, without being ashamed of the poverty which surrounded them. They alone on that day were capable of tears and joy, of privations and sweetness, for them alone the angels made haste, to them alone was peace announced.”

Yes, the universe is constantly reminding me in one form, or another, to be humble! And in my "old" (age is relative) age: I’m finally getting it. Some days I still have to be hit over the head a couple of times – just to be reminded -- but I get it now ... wish I had gotten it in my 20's, but better late than never. Of course, it would be easier if everyone got it, but I suppose that’s Heaven -- and it will come soon enough.

Have a humble day. God Bless and inspire you!