Thoughts for Tuesday, September 11th

Outside my windows… it’s gotten dark. Funny how quickly we go from light into the evenings back to dark by dinnertime!

Inside my house… I’m surprised by how long the marigolds in the vase on my desk are lasting. Most of the wildflowers I gather up in the summer don’t last more than a few days in a vase.

Counting 1000 gifts… hot tea when the weather starts turning chilly at night.

Prayers of the heart… for upcoming projects and direction for where my writing goes next.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Munchkin is drinking tea and working on writing projects while the boys are playing a game in the living room.

From my playlist… “Three” by Sleeping at Last. Part of the collection of songs reflecting the nine enneagram personality types. I’m not a type three, but I can find things in this particular song that I identify with anyway: “I finally see myself. Unabridged and overwhelmed, a mess of a story I’m ashamed to tell, but I’m slowly learning how to break this spell.”

From my reading list… Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson arrived, and I let myself skim it a bit. Need to finish some other books so I can dive into that one!

From my needlework basket… I’m working on a cardigan for me. Gorgeous purple wool that I knit and then frogged because it just didn’t work with the sweater pattern I’d picked. Here’s hoping that the second time is the charm in this case…

In the learning room… Our first week is in the books, and we’re on to week two. High school is throwing a higher workload at Munchkin, but she’s handling it well. It seems like all of the kids are sort of entering a new “phase” of school and while it’s gone smoothly so far, I do expect there will be a few bumps along the way. I guess part of learning is figuring out how to adjust to new challenges.

Random ramblings… So. I’m considering NaNoWriMo again this year.

It was a lot of work to write that much in a month when I did it back in 2016. However, it was worth it. I’m a little surprised to hear myself say that considering that the draft it produced is DEEPLY flawed and needs extensive re-writing. It was that draft that I got a 10 page professional critique on. That’s what made me realize just how bad it was, but it also revealed some very important things that I need to work on in my writing. I’d hesitated to add too much conflict to a story, or to make things too hard on the characters. While it may be understandable that I just wanted someone to catch a break, it didn’t make for a great story.

The bulk of my writing this year has been non-fiction, and while that’s been good, I really want to write a story. I’m tossing about an idea and trying to plot out some sort of story. We’ll see how this goes, but the more I think about it, the more I want to be on board with NaNoWriMo again this November.

Profound ponderings… “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson

Caught on film…

When to Ditch the Curriculum

No matter how long you’ve been homeschooling, picking curriculum can be tricky. The problem with having so many options for curriculum now, is that there are so many options! How do you pick one, and how do you know when to ditch one? You can do your best to read reviews, get advice, and preview curriculum online, but even doing all of that doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with something that fits.

If a curriculum, no matter how popular, takes a child who previously loved a subject and makes them hate it, then it’s time to seriously consider switching. I started out teaching my oldest to read with a popular phonics curriculum, and it brought both of us to tears on many occasions. It was when my daughter finally declared, “I HATE reading!” that I woke up enough to set the stupid curriculum aside and just go back to reading aloud to her for a few months before trying something different. I now joke that I’m the only homeschool mom who doesn’t like X curriculum! I could add a few others to the list too though. There’s a popular science curriculum that I just can’t make myself like. Two years of it has taken my Munchkin from a girl who wanted to be a chemist, to a girl who doesn’t like science very much. That’s how I knew for certain that I needed to shop for something different to use this fall.

Sometimes, you’ll carefully research, order a curriculum, and then once you have it in hand… there’s a sinking feeling that you’ve made a mistake. That happened to me with the history curriculum I picked out for Munchkin’s Freshman year of High School. I had such a hard time choosing one, but I finally settled on one and ordered it. When it arrived, I was underwhelmed. I set my doubts aside and started planning for the fall. The more I planned and read, the less I liked the textbook. I pushed through and made copies of the worksheets and tests. The more I saw of this curriculum, the more I didn’t like it. At. All. Too many times the text seemed more concerned with pushing their opinion on the reader, rather than actually talking about history. The daily reading assignments were far too short for a high school level course, and there were no projects or writing assignments at any point in the year. The tests… well, there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t like the tests. The thing is, I spent the money and bought the curriculum. I didn’t want to waste the money, so I kept pushing forward. After talking to my husband and trying to envision using the curriculum for a year, I decided to find something better. Yep, it still irks me that I spent that money on a curriculum that I’ll likely never use, but my daughter is going to end up with a much more robust year of history because I chose to pick something different. I can’t bring myself to regret that! I’d rather “waste” a few dollars and have Munchkin keep loving history, than stick with something that’s going to make her start hating the subject altogether. Know when to listen to your gut feeling about a curriculum! You know your kid and you know yourself, and it’s better to pick something else before the start of school than to get part way through the year and have to make a switch.

I could have made the history curriculum that I ordered work. I could have added in supplemental reading, created writing assignments throughout the year, and written new tests to go with the text. It would have been a significant time investment and I still would have had a course that I wasn’t fully happy with. I honestly considered that option and even started making a list of documentaries, books, and other resources that I could add into the course. I looked at a few of the chapters and tests and tried mentally writing up a new test. If we had already started the year, then I may have done just that. Discovering the issues with the curriculum this summer, before we started school, gave me the option to find something better though. (This is one reason why pre-reading the curriculum that you ordered is a good idea!)

There are times when a mid-year switch is unavoidable. When Munchkin was in 6th grade, the math curriculum that I’d used since she was in 1st grade just wasn’t working anymore. Six weeks into the year, my husband and I agreed that it was time to switch. That’s the only time so far that we pulled a mid-year swap in curriculum, but I don’t regret it for a moment. There was a lot of discussion put into that decision, and we told our daughter that she’d have to put in a fair amount of effort to make sure she finished the new math curriculum in the time left. I can’t tell you the relief it was to her and to me, when we made the decision to switch. In that case, it’s not that the curriculum we had used was “bad”, it just required a lot more hands-on teaching time that I could devote at that point. That coupled with the lack of adequate review in that level just made it something that no longer fit our needs. Jumping to a new curriculum mid-year is definitely not my first choice, but in some cases, it’s the best one.

While there are circumstances that warrant a mid-year change, it should be the exception and not the rule. First, take a look at the reasons why something isn’t working well, and see if there’s a way for you to modify part of it and make it work for the rest of the year. If you’re not making a habit of curriculum hopscotch and you honestly can’t make a curriculum fit with your family’s needs, then make the switch and don’t feel guilty. If you discover serious problems with a curriculum before your academic year starts, then so much the better!

The Best Things on My Desk

Note: I do work for Well Planned Gal, and one of the items featured in my post is their On the Go planner. This post is completely independent of my work for them, and I was not asked or compensated in any way for featuring this planner on blog. I was using the Well Planned Gal planners long before I ever dreamed I might have a chance to work for the company. None of the links in this post are affiliate links.

I spend a lot of time at this white Ikea desk of mine. The writing, working, lesson planning, grading tests, and all of the other things I do at this desk add up to a fair number of hours each week! I thought it would be fun to do a post about some of my favorite things that inhabit my desk. Some are on my desk for sentimental reasons, and others for practical ones. All of them make me smile though!

There’s this block of clear acrylic that sits next to my computer. It has butterflies and flowers engraved into the back and there’s a neat 3D effect of butterflies being suspended in the block. I can’t recall where my mom first got the piece, but it sat on her kitchen windowsill for many years. I can’t count how many times a stiff wind blew it off the sill, but it never broke! I keep it on my desk to remind me of Mom.

I couldn’t write about the things on my desk that I love without mentioning my On the Go planner and Frixion pen! My planners and calendars are my second brain, and the only way that I keep my schedule remotely organized. Since I’m a huge to-do list fan, I love the fact that every week day in this planner has its own to-do list – with check boxes. Have I ever mentioned how much I love check boxes? I also prefer to use pen in my planners, but life happens, and I don’t exactly like how messy my planner looks after crossing stuff out or using correction tape. Erasable pens from back in the 80s never erased cleanly. FriXion pens DO! It’s thermos-sensitive ink though, so if you set your mug of tea or coffee on your planner, there might be a few things missing. (If you inadvertently erase stuff that you need, popping your planner in the freezer for a few minutes will make the missing ink magically re-appear. The only thing that would make FriXion pens better, is if they came in a fountain pen option!

Why yes, that IS an arc reactor on my mouse pad. The funny story behind it is one of friendly sibling rivalry. My sister, is Team Iron Man, while I’m firmly Team Cap. As a result, she gets me Iron Man merchandise for Christmas and I get her Captain America stuff. It’s one of those fun, accidental traditions that started along the way, and I sort of hope it keeps going!

Dave is the cute little succulent that has taken up residence on my desk. He promised that he’ll help keep me sane during the winter months when the outside landscape is awash with snow. I was originally going to call my little plant friend Bob, but my daughter talked me into Dave so that each morning we can say, “Good morning, Dave.”

This lovely blue glass vase was a gift from my in-laws. They enjoy antiquing, and know how much I love colored glass pieces. They found this beautiful little vase and decided it needed a home with me. I’ve enjoyed filling it with flowers from my yard this summer, but I need to figure out whether to find something to fill it, or simply leave it empty during the long winter months. It’s too pretty and precious not to keep on my desk though!

2018 is the second year that I’ve used Powersheets by Cultivate What Matters. I love their Write the Word journals, and decided to give the goal planner a try. I can’t say that I achieve every goal that I set, but I do get more accomplished than I would if I didn’t try. The monthly re-evaluation and check-in is something that I look forward to as well. I love one of the quotes, “Progress, not perfection.”

One of my cousins made a mug rug for me a couple of years back, and it’s got a permanent place on my desk. You’ll often find a mug of coffee or tea resting there, and sometimes, a whole pot of tea! There are some tea stains from the drips and spills, but perhaps that just gives it character.

The Logitech speakers on my desk, and the Bluetooth earbuds were both gifts from my IT staff. I use the speakers for the times when everyone wants to listen to Mom’s music while we work or study. The earbuds are exactly what I need for those times when I have to drown out the background noise that comes from a house where six people and a German Shepherd live! I’ll never be the musician that Aaron is, but I appreciate being able to listen to the music I love with speakers and earbuds that produce good sound.

Those are some of the best things on my desk, and now I want to know what the best things on your desk are!

Teens and Work

To work, or not to work? That’s a question that everyone has an opinion on! When it comes to whether or not teens should get a job, the options are as diverse as the opinions. Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to homeschooling, neither is there an answer to this question that’s a perfect fit for every family and teen.

 

When navigating the question or working during the teen years, the best place to start is by having a conversation with your teen. Discuss their goals, dreams, and their plans for the years after high school graduation. All of this will help you both zero in on which options will best support those plans.

 

Also important is helping your teen understand their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and how those relate to the best kind of work for them to pursue. Someone who is outgoing and good with people may shine in sales, while a more reserved, quiet person would bloom in a more behind-the-scenes job. Ambitious teens whose “stubborn streak” gives them the perseverance to keep working hard through difficult circumstances just might be the next successful entrepreneur. One with a real talent for music and a desire to make a career out of their passion could be best served by signing up for extra music classes instead of that part-time job. Share your own observations with your teen, and help them look at themselves and their abilities objectively.

 

With so many options to explore, your teen is bound to find one that works for them.

 

Traditional Job

There’s something to be said for a job that allows you to “punch a time card” and collect a steady paycheck. Learning to be on time for your shift, accepting direction, and receiving feedback about your work gracefully are all benefits of working in a traditional job situation. If your teen works best when following instructions and receiving guidance from someone else, then a traditional job with a manager directing them and setting their work schedule is a good option.

 

Advantages:

  • A job provides steady hours, usually with a schedule set ahead of time.
  • A consistent paycheck allows teens to save up for a car, college, travel, etc.
  • Opportunities for advancement are available based on performance and hard work.
  • A teen is able to explore a particular industry further before committing to further training or education.
  • Companies may offer full or partial reimbursement for college courses taken by employees.

 

Disadvantages

  • Schedule may not be flexible, thus limiting the ability to participate in other activities.
  • Minimum hours required by their employer may not leave enough time for their studies.
  • Transportation to or from work may be problematic if your teen does not have their own car, or access to public transportation.

 

Odd Jobs

How many of us gained our first work experience by babysitting or mowing lawns? There’s always someone who’s willing to pay for services such as this, and picking up odd jobs allows a young person to work as many or as few hours as will fit into their schedule. If your teen works best independently and has developed strong time-management and scheduling skills, then odd jobs may be the perfect fit.

Advantages

  • Odd jobs provide flexibility in scheduling, allowing a teen to work more or less based on their needs.
  • This type of work allows a teen to translate skills they already have into a profitable work opportunity.
  • Teens can gain experience in scheduling and negotiating rates with clients.

 

Disadvantages

  • Unpredictable income makes it more difficult to budget spending and saving.
  • Availability of work is dependent upon word of mouth referrals or advertising.
  • One unsatisfied client can negatively impact a teen’s ability to pick up more odd jobs.

 

Family Business

A family business offers a rare opportunity to gain experience in multiple aspects of an industry. In a given week, a teen might be working in accounting, management, customer service, and more! If your teen has an interest in areas of your business, and they work well with family, this could be a good option.

 

Advantages

  • This option provides more flexibility in scheduling than a traditional job, while maintaining the accountability of working scheduled hours.
  • Teens have opportunities to learn and explore various aspects of business without switching jobs.
  • This option provides good preparation for a teen whose career goal is to take over the family business one day.

 

Disadvantages

  • Pay may not be as high as an outside job.
  • Working with the people who you already see all day, every day may cause extra friction in family relationships.

 

Starting a Business

This option has a lot in common with picking up odd jobs, but would include sales, manufacturing, and other options that don’t quite fit in the odd jobs category. For teens with an eye on entrepreneurship, this is an excellent way to test the waters before they have to rely on their income to pay the rent! If your teen is disciplined, organized, and has the perseverance to not give up when the going gets tough, they may be an excellent business owner. It’s not a good fit for teens who need a lot of direction and tend to procrastinate.

Advantages

  • Anything from jewelry-making to raising chickens can be turned into a business venture.
  • A teen gains valuable, real-world business experience.
  • Local business associations may offer mentoring programs or scholarships for young

business owners.

 

Disadvantages

  • Typically, capital must first be invested to get a business up and running.
  • There’s risk involved, and a business may not make a profit, or even recoup the initial investment.
  • The time required to run a successful business may not leave adequate time for required studies.

 

Temporary Job

Holidays and summer months frequently provide temporary job openings. If your teen wants to earn some extra money and gain job experience, but can’t commit to a regular part-time job schedule, then a seasonal job might be just right for them.

Advantages

  • A temp job allows for trying out various types of jobs over the course of the teen years because each employment period is short-term.
  • Temporary openings may lead to a long-term job in the future if an employer is impressed by a teen’s work.
  • A fairly predictable income amount allows for saving towards a particular expense.

 

Disadvantages

  • Scheduling for seasonal employees tends to be the least flexible. If employment is over the holidays, this may mean a teen won’t be able to participate in family plans for the holiday.
  • As it is short-term, a temporary job may not be sufficient to cover expenses if your teen’s goal is something along the lines of purchasing and maintaining a car.

 

Volunteer Work

This is one of the options that won’t earn your teen a paycheck, but that doesn’t mean there are no benefits! If your teen is passionate about a particular cause or industry that they can’t find part-time employment in, then a volunteer position might be their best option.

Advantages

  • Volunteer work looks good on college applications, scholarship applications, and even a resume!
  • Teens can gain experience and make contacts in the field they desire to have a career in.
  • Some organizations may place priority on applicants who are volunteers when hiring paid positions.

 

Disadvantages

  • There’s no paycheck attached to volunteer work. This is problematic if your teen needs an income or wants to save for college.
  • Some volunteer positions require a sizable time commitment that may interfere with studies. It may be tempting to justify letting education suffer because the volunteer work is helping others.

 

Academic Focus

There are valid reasons to eschew working or volunteering in favor of keeping a focus on academics during the teen years. If your teen struggles with health issues or learning disabilities, then concentrating on their education without the distraction of a job may be best for their health and their future. If a teen’s plans for college are dependent on receiving large scholarships, then it may make more sense for them to focus solely on academics.

Advantages

  • A focus on academics can result in less stress due to overscheduling.
  • Teens have the ability to focus on music classes, sports, or other interests.
  • Dual enrollment courses require a significant time commitment that does not always fit well with a side job.
  • Better grades and test scores increases opportunities for scholarships.
  • More time may be spent applying for scholarships and studying to improve SAT or ACT scores.

 

Disadvantages

  • An academics-only focus doesn’t allow for saving towards a car or college tuition.
  • It may be more difficult to find a job in college or after college due to lack of previous work experience.

 

Your Decision

Look at all of the options, and help your teen brainstorm how each one might benefit them. Keep in mind that what works for one teen may not work for their sibling. A combination of more than one of the options listed here could be ideal for your teen, or maybe even something that’s not on the list. Don’t be afraid to let them explore various ideas, and maybe even fail at something! There’s nothing that says you can’t change course mid-way through the teen years if it turns out one option isn’t working, or if your family’s circumstances change.

The teen years are full of change. You get to see your child take their first steps towards launching into their own career and becoming more independent. Whichever path your teen chooses, your guidance and encouragement are still needed in these decisions – even if that looks a little different than it did when they were younger. Enjoy the journey!

 

Never Unwanted

A few nights ago, I was settled on the couch knitting and watching some of the videos from the American History course that Munchkin will be taking in high school this year. In one of the first video lectures, the teacher said something that stuck with me. He said that God didn’t create us because He needs us, but simply because He wanted to. I paused the video, walked into the kitchen, unloaded the dishwasher, and pondered this.

I’ve spent the better part of my lifetime trying to make up for not being wanted by making sure that I was needed. That burden of not being wanted always colored how I thought God viewed me too. It’s an awful thing for a child to feel like they have to justify their existence, and when you carry that into your faith, you wind up with a works-based view of salvation. Sure, it’s by Jesus’ sacrifice that your sins can be forgiven, but you still have to prove that you can be good enough to warrant that redemption. You never can. I know this now, and I know that my salvation is not contingent upon me “earning” it.

And yet… there’s still that spot in the back of my mind that can’t quite shake the label “unwanted”.

I put plates in my cupboard and hung mugs on cup hooks. I wondered if there was something to what that history teacher said. Dare I hope that God created me simply because He wanted to? Wanted me?

It’s hard to put into words the deep sense of shame attached to being unwanted by a parent. There’s something about that label that just sticks to you like crazy glue, no matter how much you try to scrub it away. Always thinking that maybe, if you can scrub hard enough, be good enough, and prove that you’re worth loving, then you will be wanted. It doesn’t matter how much you try, how hard you work, or how long you wait, it’s just not enough. You’re not enough. Even if you can get past that a bit and understand that you can’t possibly earn your redemption, there’s still that label, stuck to you, convincing you that God only tolerates you. He couldn’t truly want you. If your earthly father didn’t, then why would your Heavenly Father? The lie that comes with that label is a powerful one. Perhaps it can be countered with a more powerful truth:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27 ESV

The fingerprint of the Divine on each of us, even me. Not a mistake needing to be fixed, but rather an image-bearer of the Creator. Not lesser, and certainly not unwanted. Redeemed and refined because I am already valued.

Despite the scars left by labels and lies, the truth soothes old wounds. I was never truly unwanted after all…

Thoughts for Tuesday, May 1st

Outside my windows… there are some really loud frogs! None of the windows are open, and I have music playing, and I can still hear them! Not that I’m complaining though. I really do love to fall asleep to the sound of the frogs once it warms up.

Inside my house… my workspace got a little spring refresh. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make when you move things around a bit and toss out some of the clutter on your desk.

Counting 1000 gifts… kind people. Social media would have us believe that kindness is all but extinct. That’s not true, and I’ve been on the receiving end of some of that kindness this past week. I’m grateful for that!

Prayers of the heart… for the busy season coming up, for the friends and loved ones who are grieving, and for the amazing folks I swap prayer requests with every Monday.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… would you believe they are all sleeping? At 10 PM, it’s just the frogs and my playlist making noise.

From my playlist… “Adams’ Summation” from the Amistad soundtrack by John Williams. The soundtrack is amazing, and the movie is a must-see in my opinion.

From my reading list… The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk. I can’t read science fiction all the time, after all! Watch for a review of this book coming later.

From my needlework basket… I’ve been bouncing about between socks, a nearly-done sweater, and a lace vest. It depends on my mood and whether I want knitting that I’ll have to pay attention to, or one that I can do on auto-pilot.

In the learning room… the kids are getting oh-so-close to finishing out their math curriculum for the year.

Random ramblings… “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take that sunshine away.” When I hear that song, I think of Mom, because she used to sing that to us when we were growing up. I also think about the family reunions back when I was a kid. It was my grandmother’s family that would get together each summer, and at some point during the reunion, there would be a sing along. All of my grandmother’s siblings have since passed away, but I will carry a snapshot in my memory of them gathered around singing, “You Are My Sunshine”. As much as I miss them, I will still treasure the memory.

Profound ponderings… “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” – C.S. Lewis

Caught on film…

Thoughts for Tuesday, March 20th

Outside my windows… the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and I’m staring at a pile of snow that’s 12 feet tall. I’m not even kidding.

Inside my house… I’ve lit a garden rose scented candle. If it’s the first day of spring, then I’m going to at least pretend that there will be flowers blooming soon!

Counting 1000 gifts… words on a page.

Prayers of the heart… for the right words.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… finishing up school assignments and chores around the house.

From my playlist… Angel by Aerosmith. Yeah, I have eclectic tastes in music!

From my reading list… finishing up Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. It’s been a reading of starts and stops, and a bit of pondering. Good reading though.

From my needlework basket… alternating between a couple of cardigans. One I’m knitting to a pattern, and one that I’m using a pattern as a jumping off point, but charted out lace and cables from an inspiration photo.

In the learning room… It’s surprising me how much of the school year we’ve gotten through already. This year is going by fast!

Random ramblings… Story is a powerful thing. Whether it’s in the realm of fiction, or a real-life narrative, stories can impact us in remarkable ways. Maybe that’s why I love stories so much…

Profound ponderings… “Please underline this sentence: what you have in Christ is greater than anything you don’t have in life. You have God, who is crazy about you, and the forces of heaven to monitor and protect you. You have the living presence of Jesus within you. In Christ you have everything.” — Max Lucado from Anxious for Nothing

Caught on film…

Red Lipstick

Grammy Vivian was a tall woman with dark hair, and I’m told she was always stylish. She passed away when I was only two, and the only memory I have related to her is the hospital bed at our house. Still, I imagine her as one of those tall, effortlessly elegant women like you’d see in the “golden age” of films. My sister is like that too. Tall, gorgeous dark hair, blue eyes, and definitely stylish!

I’m sort of the exact opposite. At 5’ 7”, I’m a tall-ish woman, but not remarkably so. My once-red hair has faded to more of a medium brown with a healthy dose of gray thrown in! If I have a personal style, it’s closer to weird and quirky than effortlessly elegant. I’ve made attempts to look more “grown-up” over the years, but it always left me frustrated and feeling like I needed to be someone that I wasn’t.

Now, I’m a firm believer that Mom was right in the sentiment, “Beauty is as beauty does.” It’s far more important to cultivate our faith, and to be kind to people, than it is to look pretty. We can definitely go overboard and become too obsessed with appearances too. On the flip side, I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with taking some care in our clothing. While I don’t agree with the sentiment that makeup is necessary for all women, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing it if you want to. (If you feel like you have to, then I think it’s a good idea to explore why you are so uncomfortable if you’re not wearing it.) Like so much of life, there’s a balance to be found!

I find myself wanting to make an effort in this area again. Blame it on the gorgeous red lipstick that I got a week ago. My mom’s makeup routine consisted of Oil of Olay and bright shades of fuchsia or mauve lipstick. She totally rocked the bright lipstick! In a fit of nostalgia, I decided that I was going to try wearing red lipstick. I hate having to fuss with touching up typical lipstick, not to mention lipstick smudges on my teacups! That led to trying out a popular brand that a number of friends had raved about because it truly stayed put. It’s a bold lip color, but I really like it! Maybe it’s OK to put a little bit of effort into how I look after all. My goal is to develop a simple, pared down wardrobe and a basic makeup routine that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

My makeup routine is never going to be complicated. My eyeshadow palette and this stay-put lipstick are the only things I’m interested in keeping in my makeup bag. If Mom could get away with Oil of Olay and lipstick, then just pick the makeup I like to use and skip the rest.

My clothes style is going to be a bit harder to figure out I think. I can’t even walk on high heels. Skinny jeans are absolutely not going to make an appearance in my wardrobe. I don’t like most make-up. When it comes to jewelry, I’m definitely a minimalist. I don’t care if chocolate brown and pumpkin orange are my most flattering colors, because wearing them doesn’t make me smile. If it can’t be tossed in the washer and dryer, then it doesn’t belong in my dresser. (Hand knits are the exception to this rule!) I’m definitely keeping my bright teal crocs, tie-dye, and my favorite graphic tees. Most fashion trends end up looking ridiculous on me. Can we talk about the lack of any kind of rhyme or reason to women’s clothing sizes?!? Not to mention the appalling lack of decent pockets…

As you can imagine, I’m no one’s first choice to take clothes shopping. Unless you want someone to commiserate with you about how much we both hate clothes shopping while on our way to the ice cream shop, that is. In that case, let me know when we’re going out for ice cream!

The idea of these capsule wardrobes where you stick with a limited color scheme and fewer clothes appeals to me though. I prefer to keep my wardrobe pared down enough to fit in just one dresser. Sticking to colors that will pretty much go together has a lot of advantages too. It would be nice to be able to pull together either a casual or dressy outfit out of the same few basics. I’m still not touching skinny jeans or heels, and as much as I’m told I should pick “flattering colors”, I’m going to pick the colors that make me smile when I wear them instead. When I started pruning the clothes in my dresser, I saw a bit of a color scheme emerging. It appears that most of my clothes are black, gray, or navy, with a splash or two of red. I think I’ll add a few basic pieces following this color scheme. Maybe a couple of teal or deep purple items too because those are colors that make me smile!

Munchkin was intrigued by this capsule wardrobe idea, so we spent Sunday afternoon going through her closet. We cleared out a LOT of outgrown clothes, and pared the rest down to reflect her chosen color scheme and a good variety of pieces that she could easily mix and match. It was surprisingly fun, and she was thrilled when she discovered how much easier it was to find the items that she really liked to wear when we cleared out the rest.

I started thinking about what kinds of messages about beauty that I want to pass along to her. I want her to know that you don’t have to have a huge wardrobe with lots of fancy and expensive clothes to look nice, because a few carefully chosen pieces can let you put together an outfit appropriate for just about any occasion. I want her to enjoy experimenting with makeup and hair to find what sort of style she likes, but I don’t want her to ever feel like it’s necessary to wear makeup daily. I want her to be comfortable letting her personal style reflect her personality. I’ve taken a page from Mom’s book too and told her often, “Pretty is as pretty does!” I’ve told her that the prettiest women aren’t always the ones who look traditionally beautiful, but are the ones who have a beautiful faith, and show kindness and compassion to others.

Ultimately, our outside appearance is of much less importance than how our heart looks. It’s our heart that God looks at after all! And while we should take the Bible’s warnings about vanity seriously, thinking a bit about the clothes we wear and using makeup doesn’t automatically mean that we’re flirting with vanity or obsessing over our looks to a sinful or unhealthy degree.

Now I want to hear from you! What’s your favorite wardrobe or makeup tip? How do you keep a balanced view of beauty in your life, and keep it from taking over your life?

White Shores

This week will mark nine years since we celebrated Mom’s last birthday, and also nine years since we said goodbye. I can’t help but be a little sad this time of year. Sometimes more than just a little.

Yet, as the verse in 1 Thessalonians says, I don’t sorrow as one who has no hope. I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago when watching Return of the King with my older kids. There is a scene where the hobbit Pippin and Gandalf the White are in the midst of a battle they have little hope of winning. Pippin remarks, rather sadly, to Gandalf that he didn’t think it would end this way. What Gandalf said next has stuck with me.

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… then you see it! White shores… and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.

That sparked my imagination and painted a lovely picture of Heaven in my mind’s eye. Hope. And in Mom’s case, I could quote A Tale of Two Cities, “…it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

If I must miss my mother, then at least I can take solace in knowing that she is at rest, in a place that I could only begin to dream of. That’s why we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope.

As for me, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b NIV) I’ve been redeemed for a reason, and there’s still more here that He would have me do before I reach the white shores. I will press on, missing Mom, yet reminded that her journey didn’t end here nine years ago.

Thoughts for Tuesday, February 20th

Outside my windows… a bit of rain today has made the icy driveway extra-slippery.

Inside my house… this month-long cold has been winning, but I’m hopeful that we may be over it by the time March rolls around.

Counting 1000 gifts… lovely surprises in the mailbox!

Prayers of the heart… that maybe next week won’t be too hard.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… playing cards while pasta boils for dinner

From my playlist… A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman soundtrack.

From my reading list… Coiled by H.L. Burke. I won this e-book in a giveaway!

From my needlework basket… working on this month’s installment of the year-long knitted blanket project.

In the learning room… We’re halfway through the school year! 🙂

Random ramblings… You know those friends who you’ve known forever and they’re basically family? One of my friends like that is a playwright. We’ve been reading each other’s writing for the past 20 years now, and today I received a copy of his latest play in the mail. He mentioned me in the dedication, and I’m just so, so honored by that. There’s something special about seeing published work that was written by one of your friends.

Profound ponderings… “Is there any tea on this spaceship?” — Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Caught on film…