Category Archives: Holidays

Christmas Politickle

Those who know me know that I am not really too into politics.  Usually.

That is to say, I do like comparing politics with the Bible. Typically this is just a messy hobby, kinda like how I assume painting abstract art would be. In fact, I often just use politics for my own activist agenda, and then don’t care. I might as well be slapping mustard and ketchup onto the governmental canvas, adding my minuscule sway just in case it makes the painting look better. Most of the time, though, I only get annoyed by things I don’t like on each side of the red-and-blue political spectrum. This frustration is similar to how football players generally get annoyed when they think they see a good play hidden within a Jackson Pollock painting (but then get angered because it’s not really there). Why is it not there, you may ask? I assume it is because Pollock did not really care about football. At least not enough to hide secret cool football game-moves inside of his paintings. I guess I should do a little research to back that last statement up, but if you are so interested (or know a Red Skins player who is) feel free to get back to me with any notable findings.

My point is that I think politics are annoying and interesting at the same time. And that it is hard to justify religious beliefs in politics, even though in reality that is the foundation of all politics: Values. And, if you don’t know, values come from worldviews, which are pretty much a mash-up of cultures and religions, blah, blah, blah. And luckily, I can back that statement up because I studied it for years in college (I know you were concerned).

Therefore, I find it fun to make fun of politics (in fun). So with that said, I share this Merry Christmas politickle-me-laughing clip with you. Even so, I do have to say that Colbert’s last couple sentences in this were pretty much exceptionally thought-provoking, if not totally right-on. Note: No disrespect is intended towards my more right (double-meaning?) republican friends or for Baby Jesus by re-posting this (whom actually isn’t a baby anymore).

 
Because WordPress won’t let me embed the video- CLICK HERE – to listen to Stephen Colbert’s “Democrats Don’t Get Christmas.”

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Earth Day: Being Green, Trendy, and Advocating for a Cause

I once heard some very smart person say that the people whose beliefs are most suited for celebrating Earth Day, are Christians. Why? Well, because we believe we are given a gift of creation. We are part of that creation which has purpose, while the opposing view is that chance made us part of an earth that apparently exists and is still evolving. Yet, we have a gift we are challenged to be good stewards of. We believe in life. Whether this is saving a baby, saving a whale, or saving a baby whale, it is our responsibility. So, Happy Earth Day!

Now, let me make myself clear. I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, even though I like to shop at farmer’s markets. I believe God gave us this earth to use its resources. But using is different than misusing. Sure, you can call me a tree-hugger. In fact, in an hour or so I am going to be planting baby trees with some teens. I sometimes use reusable shopping bags and I use cloth diapers on my baby’s booty. I grew up in California, where we think the whole world recycles in perfect harmony. Its something kids do for fun on a Saturday morning, instead of watching cartoons. We also like to save the whales on Saturdays. Saturdays are busy days in California. Really, though, I should confess, I can be obsessive about recycling. In fact, just the day before yesterday I was fuming mad because our new recycling service will not take “clam-shells” (the plastic things that strawberries and such come in). The audacity! Lastly, in effort to prove where I stand when it comes to being “green,” I hate pesticides, and harsh chemicals (besides bleach) because I have had bad experiences with them. I am far from a green activist, but I would say I am more green than the average Joe. Or Josephine.

And then, one day, I realized everyone else thought being green was cool. The cheapest shirts I can find for my kids from Target or Walmart have “Save the Earth” written on them. I remember having a distinct conversation with my cousin about how we were grossed out by how being green became a trend. But, since I believe I am at the front-line of the trend (whether true or not), I am okay with it. You see, I don’t mind being a trend-setter.  I only mind being a trend-lager. Which, mind you, is not a type of beer.

Some characteristics of human nature influence the way we are green, besides just flowing down the trend-pipe. Psychology has a term for when everyone doesn’t do something because they think someone else will. I don’t know what it is, although I can assure you I have studied it. For example, if there is a crime, and there are many people to witness it, its more likely that no one will actually call the police. Also, in CPR training, we are taught to direct a specific person to call 911, or else that too likely won’t happen. On a similar, although different stream, humans tend to do another illogical thing I don’t know the term for. This is an example: if I feel like I did a good job running a mile today, I will happily go home a drink a 900 calorie milkshake.

All of these things can apply to being green. If everyone is doing something for the planet, its okay if I don’t do something. Or, since I bought Seventh Generation soap today, I can justify cleaning my bathroom with the unknown ingredient death killer cleaner. Therefore, the way the human mind thinks mixed with being green solely for the coolness factor, doesn’t necessarily change much to make our planet better. It might a little; it is better than nothing. Yet, if you actually care about creation, challenge yourself to take a next step. Especially if your motivation is it to honor God, rather than be part of a trend.

I read this article today that my husband sent me which I mostly fully agreed with. Take a skim:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/236722/page/1

Often, what this article is talking about can be applied to activism in general. Activism is an art. You motivate for a cause, which many people just don’t really care about. They might care, but not enough to really do something about it that is meaningful.  I read a study the other day which was talking about how the whole cause to end genocide in Darfur has almost single handily been brought about through activism. This is amazing! This proves that in our global, technological world, being an advocate for a cause makes a difference and can actually start a global movement. Everyone has heard of Darfur, thanks to awareness campaigns, new organizations that have been birthed, and just everyday, grassroots movements coming from average people like you or me. Even so, the main people who really can make a serious difference, by forcing change, are governments and international organizations. Who haven’t done too much.

Why do I bring this up? Thanks to people advocating for Darfur, there is money, political pressure, prayers, and support networks for those in the Darfur region. The good ol’ activists have made a difference. And, at the same time, for a greater difference to be made, those with the most power (yes, bureaucracies) need more pressure.So, if you want to make a green difference, the same principle applies. You can’t justifiably be claiming to make a serious difference unless you are also trying to create peaceful political pressure. I am not saying you need to write your congressman, but I think we do need to have our veil of ignorance fall off. The veil which allows us to pose as being trendy green while we really aren’t willing to take the steps which are shown to have impact. I think it is okay if being more earth friendly is not your passion; its not mine. But I do want to honor God. Therefore I want to be responsible. And I want to use my minimal greenness to portray to my green friends about how Jesus probably didn’t hate environmentalists (as so many cultural American Christians instead seem to portray, being very anti-“save the earth”).

So, what are the lessons to be learned? Support a cause. Support caring for the earth (although, I highly suggest caring for the people of the earth, prioritizing that). But, as you support it, pick it up a notch. Do something more, something than has more value than just buying an overpriced piece of recycled paper that you can write on and throw in the trash. More importantly, move from just doing or being something because of a trend, to doing so because you care a smidgen. As you do that, you will rub off on other people. These other people might be doing it just because of the trendiness of it at first, but someday they might care about the cause, also.

Thank you God for this beautiful world you have blessed us with! Let your creation sing of your glory until Jesus comes back again, and makes a new world which will not fall apart on us! 

Surprise Baby Shower

I must say, I was extremely impressed with the baby shower that was thrown for me this Saturday. I don’t think I ever have had a surprise party, so it was a new experience along with just being totally fun. I kept thinking that morning that life was just too good, and that I should appreciate all the goodness I had been blessed with while things still are “good.” And that was before the shower!

Josh and I had a great morning together, I got to sleep in, take a shower while Avi was awake, and I just chilled out upstairs with a glass of juice and bowl of strawberries Josh brought me. He purposefully kept me upstairs, and I completely just thought he was being all nice giving me a break from Avilynne. He brought me my journal and Bible just to chill out next to the sunny window to spend time with God. He told me we were going to eat brunch together and he had arranged for Jill to watch Avi. When I eventually came downstairs, I realized we weren’t eating brunch at home and kinda wished I did my hair or put on makeup. But, hey, at least I had taken a shower!

I thought it was odd that we were going to drop Avi off a few doors down together, when one of us could wait in the car. And why weren’t we locking to house door? He didn’t want me leave my purse on the car, even though I figured I could still see it from Jill’s doorway. But, hey, I am a risk taker (often needlessly) so I brought my purse with me after all. Jill had me come in, and then I saw a cake and all this delicious food. I was like “Oh my goodness….its a surprise party for me- I think! But I’m here early as there is no one else here.” I was then ushered towards the living room and I saw everybody hiding in the corner. They were all happy and I was all embarrassed for some reason while totally thrilled and happy. My initial thoughts were that they invited Abbie, a teenager who I mentor as well as girlfriends who weren’t just from church, which I thought was cool. I just was impressed that whoever invited people invited people I’d want to come, not just people from one area of my life.

Anyways, I was starving by this point, and there was an amazing spread of breakfast casseroles, the most awesome sweet french toast (of which everyone was begging Tori for a recipe), strawberries and homemade whipped-cream, and all sorts of other beautiful and delicious foods. It was soooo very “ummy” (as Avi would say)! And then there were all these nice people around me who wanted to talk and be baby-showerishy-girl-like (though not awkward too dressed up baby-showerishy-girl-like). Deborah, Jill and Becky did an awesome job putting it together. There were all these games, from measuring my belly to guessing the time when an ugly plastic doll was “born” (meaning the ice defrosted around it into water), and a questionnaire about me and another one about nursery rhymes. I personally was entertained and I didn’t even get to play half of the games : )

Then, of course, there was a massive plethora of presents which I was totally not expecting. Long ago I had come to the conclusion I wasn’t going to have a shower, and so have just been assuming I had to get whatever we needed for a boy. It was very happy, though, to receive all these gifts, mostly the type of stuff which I won’t buy myself as its not “necessary” such as extremely cute clothing or baby blankets or “rocket” stuff which I was totally impressed people found. I was really surprised by all the gifts I received, and, thankfully, I really liked them too. They were beyond tractors and footballs, to my glee!

Apparently, I had made it pretty difficult on the people putting it together. Deborah moved her car on Saturday morning because she told me she was going to be gone and wouldn’t be able to hangout. That was smart on her part because I actually looked for her car to see if she was home and could hangout after all. I went with Becky to Costco on Friday, where she had to pick up the cake. She hid it in her cart, but didn’t know how to get it in her car without me seeing it. So, she arranged a whole complicated pick-up with our other friend Amber which seems like it was just too much work to be worth it. That night I was really bored so I hungout at jill and stacy’s. Yet, that kept Jill from being able to get anything done like she had wanted to because I was around (really, someone did say I should join them playing rockband, so it wasn’t entirely a self-invite). I thought it was weird Deborah came in dropping stuff off, acting odd and freaked out that I was there. She told me she was bring stuff for the Needs Network, which later I noticed was only three pairs of socks. Um….I am pretty sure it doesn’t take two trips between our houses for her three pairs of socks.

I was somewhat suspicious because of that. Almost two weeks ago Becky also made a comment to me, trying to keep me from buying diapers. I didn’t get why because she was saying maybe people would give them to me. And I said, yes, maybe they would after the baby was born, but I would need diapers ASAP. I was trying to figure out why I should bother counting on someone else to give me diapers who knows when, when I really didn’t want to have to stop at a store on the way home from the hospital. She thought I should wait a week before I bought some. I was kinda suspicious then that maybe she was having the other girls in our lunch group do presents or something for me, yet nothing big. But as nothing happened after her comment I had totally given up on the idea. But then on Friday night the possibility that maybe someone was trying to surprise me came up again; this was more so in a way in which I’d just keep my eyes open for other clues. It wasn’t something I suspected or expected at all, especially not late Saturday morning.

I really like being surprised. I really enjoy being with people. I love eating good food. I don’t mind getting presents in the slightest. I was very impressed by how put together and how nice the shower was, especially with me having no clue and it being put together so close to the end of my pregnancy. In generally I guess you can say I really felt loved by the whole ordeal. And who doesn’t like to feel loved? Ahhh….my heart is bursting with affection! Thank you so much, guys!

Home Again!

We have arrived at our NOVA home once again after an almost two week vacation. By the end of the first week I was thinking I was ready to come home. Yet sticking it out for another day or two threw me into my “I live from a suitcase” mode and I went into thinking that I didn’t actually have a stable home. Its kinda like how animals revert into hibernation although it is nothing like hibernation. I’d call it “Hobo-mode” except that reminds me of the name of a computer program. Anyways, by the time we started on our way back I was mostly incredulous that we have a place to live. Walking into our front door was even weirder. I was sure I had never lived in a place that looked like it, let alone put together by me to look the way our home does. Or maybe it was because our house was spectacularly clean (thanks to Deborah and family!) and the floor was unusually toy-free.

Josh helped me visualize our Christmas vacation through a Google-Earth lens. Zooming into various locations throughout Michigan and then out again, seeing the people, personalities and activities in each place really helps you mentally capture how small our worlds really are in the grand-scheme of the world. And now I am zoomed back into my Northern Virginia world, where I shop at the same stores, drive the same circuit and often talk to the same people. Its all rather odd, really. It seems trite. Yet, this blog entry is not to discuss my thoughts and feeling since being back (although, in case you couldn’t tell that’s REALLY what I actually want to be writing about now). I figured its only fair to give a brief overview of our trip first, as some have been asking.

Firstly, we had an amazingly easy trip to Harbor Beach, MI. Avilynne was an angel on the 10+hr. drive in between two snow/ice storms the Saturday before Christmas.

We stayed in Harbor Beach with Josh’s adoptive family, the Hill family whom he went on a missions trip to Guatemala with when he was a teenager. Since then he has enjoyed spending the holidays with them when he can, and I was able to enjoy the experience. And no, I am not just saying I enjoyed it because I know they might be reading this, but I really did. It was fun, relaxing, connecting and all those good things. They might have adopted Avilynne even more effectively than they adopted Josh. And I am pretty sure Avilynne adopted their cat, to Waffle’s chagrin. I learned how to play Aggravation, we made snowmen (and women and pigs), had some jam sessions and I received a plethora of Christmas presents from Josh (to my amazement). The week went by quickly (as all good weeks must go).

After I had officially convinced my wise family (who learns from previous experience) that this time, really, we really really weren’t coming to visit……the weather cleared up and we decided to see the Fox family (my aunt, uncle and cousins) in the Upper Peninsula. The trip to the arctic wasn’t as nice as the one to the Hill’s. There was terrible fog all the way there, equal to a good-day’s fog on the central coast. Much of the time you couldn’t see a few car lengths in front of us. Avilynne also thought it was a good idea to stay awake when very tired, so she wasn’t the most pleasant child. But we made it, and once again we had a lovely time. I am pretty sure its impossible to not have a lovely time in the UP, no matter how cold it is. The people are just to great (along with the REAL Mackinaw Island Fudge Ice Cream). Of course I always delight in spending insane amounts of time with Brittany, my fair maiden, whether in deep conversation or just laying around together. I’m pretty sure she was the only one who said anything of value, because I only remember jibber-jabbing about really important things like depilatory cream at 2 a.m. and wondering why I didn’t really have much more to say. Anyways, it was still superb.

On the 30th, we finally got into our car to leave around 5pm and very bravely attempted to make it to Kalamazoo, to Josh’s grandparents that night. It was snowing and not so nice of a drive, but we did get there at 2am or so. We stopped for a nice anniversary dinner in some ski-resort looking bay town. It reminded me of a frozen Santa Barbara, and I think I might like to check it out at day-time someday. The time with Josh’s grandparents was short, but good. We were also able to see some of his extended family, cousins, aunts, and other relatives whom are somehow relatives as they had a New Year’s get-together while we were there.

On New Year’s Eve we drove to a Detroit Suburb were we hung out with the Hill family and their extended family for their annual awesome shindig. We were able to see another good friend of ours there, which was sweet. Although we didn’t stay at the party until the ball dropped, it was more than well-worth going to.

Lastly, we stayed at this amazing hotel that night. Josh was trying to surprise me, staying at the same Victorian Inn we stayed at last year for our anniversary. Instead we stayed at the Victorian Inn right next door (which was yellow instead of pink). Yet this hotel too was also awesome; the biggest difference being that we traded a full-body massage chair (pink hotel) for a fireplace (yellow hotel). I’m a sucker for huge hot tubs, so I was without doubt a happy camper that night in luxury. I am pretty sure if I become rich someday I will get a massive hot tub before I give the rest of my money to the poor. Because, of course, I am noble like that. Its a nice thought, anyways.

Then we came home.

Okay, for all of you who skipped reading the above description, just look at this map and all your questions will be answered. Maps are sorta like genies. They answer questions, sadly just not with the phrase “Your wish is my command.”

Christmas Thoughts

I have felt slightly stressed about Christmas. The travel plans were especially the problem, but now that is seeming more hopeful as josh and I decided we want to make each other happy and be good together as we try to travel with a toddler and an overworked person and a mono-infested 20 week pregnant person. Yes, much more hope! In fact, we might even have a tentative plan (that is pretty impressive for us… really impressive).

Presents are another stressful part of Christmas. I realized mid-week that if we leave at the end of this week, I should figure out Very Very quickly what I will do about Christmas presents.

I love giving presents and getting presents. Really. Its nice. Honestly, though, I hate feeling forced to get a present for someone when I don’t have an idea what to get them, or just because I have to. I like giving presents when I feel like they will like it, its not just something that must be given so I will find some crap to give them just for the sake of it. As that is the case, I generally don’t want to give presents to whoever I can’t find the right present for. Which doesn’t leave me much time as I generally forget its near Christmas until its near Christmas. Or that its some one’s birthday until the day of their birthday. Even if they are my closest friend or family member, I personally would prefer to not give anything than it not be the RIGHT thing. This doesn’t always work, because socially sometimes I can’t get over the “not giving” a present to whom I feel I MUST give a present to. And so I do give something to them that they’ll probably re-gift next year. And then I feel I wasted money (because I did). Yet I am starting to come out of that and am believing that its okay if I don’t get a present for whoever. That’s WAY less stressful. Its just stuff anyways, right? Oh wonderful stuff. Yet, in reality, finding the “perfect” gift for someone is such a happy happy thing. I love that. Therefore, its almost worth it to spend all my time finding the “perfect” gift for the few people I would like to get presents for.

I also don’t really feel the need to spend a lot of money. Unless I really believe they will love it. But still, if that is the case, I would probably only spend that on my husband as I don’t have very much free money to spend on gifts. But, even if I did spend a lot for my husband, he’d probably get mad at me for spending a lot of money on something that isn’t what he absolutely needed even if he wants it really bad. He’s so funny. Therefore, I almost never ever do that (and don’t think I ever have). And hence this paragraph is officially pointless.

I do get sick by the “I deserve” a present mode. Christmas consumerism makes me sick. I greatly enjoy staying away from stores and TV this time of year. I mean, I like presents. I want them, though I am okay with not having a ton. Generally when I do expect gifts I only expect them from close family or friends. And since they are my close family, I feel like they have the right to not give me a present also because we are supposed to be very understanding and I don’t want them to get me crap just cause they feel like they have to. Because then they would feel like how I hate to feel, and besides, I don’t need crap. Last year my parents gave me a small ethnic rug. It was a nice rug, I liked it. I thought that was all they gave me. Part of me was slightly sad, because if I got a bigger present, it would be from them. But the other part of me was happy that they didn’t feel the need to give me something. And I liked that even more than I felt sad. Later, I found out they also gave me a gift-card to get a whole bunch of new clothing. It must have gotten lost in the wrapping and was thrown away. A waste, very true. But all to say, it was a good thing because I was happy thinking that they knew they didn’t have to do something special because its Christmas and we are forced to give gifts then.

I like being able to give freely, not forced. Of course, this is my husband’s worldview, which drove me mad in the first couple years of marriage. But I think I might be adopting it (though I don’t think I can fully do so). I love it that he gives me flowers all year long, but heck, can’t you give me flowers on Valentine’s day too even though it is forced on you? But maybe I agree, even if I don’t fully always like it.

I guess to me Christmas is more of a season than one day. And that season is wonderful because of the people in it, the smells, lights, foods, and music associate with it. I like the traditions that go with it, especially the “religious” ones, as some would call them. I love the nativity story and I hope that the joy of that is passed to my daughter, the joy of the “light of the world” as opposed “I deserve gifts” because its Christmas. Knowing how to do gifts with my kids is a whole new territory I am not too sure I want to set a standard in. I love the fact that my Grandmita never sets a standard with gifts. Sometimes she gives large gifts. Sometimes she sends a card. It reduces the expectation that “I deserve” a gift from her, and it makes it so much more real and heart-felt. I might want to do that with my children. Yet, on the other hand, getting a “big” present once a year like a bike or a doll house was wonderful too, because when else would I ever get something like that? Its an opportunity to give something large and make my kid happy. Yet, the values and expectations I want my children to have has nothing to do with getting presents, so therefore giving to them becomes a fine balance between loving them (which sometimes comes out in the form of giving to them), not spoiling them, and really, teaching them how to love others and be thankful for the blessings they have.