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I love a good story. I have a list of favorite authors. I love the suspense, the details, the journey. So, why am I embittered when I hear of stories like Eat, Pray, Love?

This author, Elizabeth Gilbert, was first mentioned to me because a former colleague attended her lecture. I had no idea, until then, that this woman had written this incredibly popular book. What made me uneasy was the way my former colleague referenced Ms. Gilbert. This lady, who had, clearly, an incredibly life journey, and a fantastic story to tell, was put on a pedestal and idolized by a woman who I thought needed no idols.

I am not directly begrudging Ms. Gilbert’s journey. I love coming of age stories told no matter what the age of the subject. Life teaches us lessons everyday, and when we document those stories and retell them, beautiful things happen. Being able to learn form someones journey, what they did to overcome heartbreak, loneliness, and fear, these all make us stronger more intelligent creatures.

What I don’t like though, is the hero mentality. When I was in fourth grade, I couldn’t think of a hero when the steadfast assignment came up. I meekly mentioned my Aunt Susie because she was the only one I knew who directly worked for and continued to work for something outside herself, in the form of furthering her nursing education. I think the choice was fine, picking a family member, and now I see the relevance of the hard working ethic. But, what about sports players whom we’ve never met? Sure, they sometimes have incredibly hard-luck stories that show determination and guts that many of could only dream about. But, what have they really done for us on the non-celebrity level? Lots of people have hard-luck stories of determination, and they don’t make the headlines for a fabulous 3-pointer.

Shallow. That’s what bothers me about this hero mentality. This looking up to someone when we only know part of their story. Sure, it’d be a good yarn to spin, and sure they’ve overcome a lot – but who is really hero worthy? I guess I’m drawing the line at those who we know. Those who are in our inner-circles. Those folks whose stories we know and can retell. Those folks whose stories we understand because we know the hardships and struggles first hand. We know they are heroes because we’ve witnessed their courage, determination, and drive. A celebrity – we only know their story skin-deep. A celebrity, we only know about the struggles they are telling us. We only witness tabloid-stories outside of the ones the celebrity tells. Either picture isn’t complete. Either picture is from a far off land where we don’t need heroes.

I will watch the movie. I will likely read the book. I will enjoy the story told by the story tellers. But, I will not admire heroes who I do not know.

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Things that won’t get a blog post

I want to voice them, but I don’t want to dedicate 700-1200 words on them.

  • Financial (school) debt
  • Concern over how (financial minister) counselor will help us
  • Familial miscarriage, sadness and hope
  • Anxiety over new job and daycare
  • Food club changes that will happen with new job
  • Missed birthdays, gifts, and calls
  • Familial impending marriages, reasons for and against with limited knowledge
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Coping Mechanisms

How do you cope? This came up in a conversation recently, where a friend and I were discussing different personality types. We both sometimes forget that others don’t do things the way we do. It’s not arrogance, per se, just a simple awe. We are both the type to move on, pick ourselves up and keep on going, after a thing. But, not everyone does that. Not everyone copes with grief or sadness in that way.

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Three Years

The 19th has passed. The third anniversary of my sister’s brutal murder in a murder-suicide performed by her recently made ex-boyfriend. This was my rude awakening into Domestic Violence and its horrors.

It’s like I have a heightened awareness of domestic relations now. My ears perk up listening for clues into controlling behavior while my heart wrenches when I think I see narcissistic-obsessed people living with those close to me.

It still remains, though, as adults we make choices and we must be responsible for those choices. The lessons I am choosing to learn is to pay more attention to my loved ones and to listen better. I can’t call her and say, “Don’t go to that concert, you have no obligation to him.” It’s much too late to send off any warnings, “Cristi, I don’t really like Joe.” Besides, there’s always the argument of whether or not someone will “hear” you when they think they are in love.

There’s something that also seems empty about the anniversary of Cristi’s death. I think it’s because we live so far away. Everyone is in Michigan. The grave is in Michigan. The mourning, it seems, takes place in Michigan. So, the 19th came and went with a phone call and my mother telling me how she and my step-father would visit the grave. But that’s it. We don’t call each other. We don’t discuss our feelings regarding our sadness or sorrow or simply just missing her.

I’m not really sure what we’re supposed to do, either. We have to live, we have to move on. And sometimes to do that you just reflect privately and mention what you’re doing if someone asks. But, again, it seems empty and unfulfilled. But, maybe that’s I still do feel partially responsible even if I logically recognize I am not.

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The Search is Over

Two years and eleven months. About 14 interviews, half of which were second interviews. About 165 jobs applied for. 644 documents in the “resumes applied” folder. One long recession. A few housing market crashes. And now, because one gal wants to get her Masters, I have a job.

I am not in my twenties anymore. I don’t want just any old job anymore. I want a career. I hope it works. I hope the synergy in the interview extends, well, throughout the career. I want a place where I can say I’ve been there 10 years and it’d been great.

I start August 2nd. It’s two weeks off. There are things to do. Secure daycare, set up Noris for the first two weeks in August. Pray Levi’s confused nap schedule won’t make us all bears. Get better organized on Steering Committee things, because I might only be able to attend half the meetings now!

I am humbled. But, I have a job.

[poll id=”5″]

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Parenting Styles – Skeptics Please Stand Up

San Galgano, Church

I am including San Galgano as a bastion of simple Catholicism. Beautiful, authoritative, long standing. Image by Michelle Lasley via Flick

I’ve written previously about my skepticism towards magazines that give advice. Given a magazine’s typical audience, I think this was sound advice. I’ve done enough research papers to want to see the studies behind a given claim or something attributed as fact. I may not understand the tables and techniques used to devise one study over another, but I have enough sense to be able to figure out the gist of what the panel of authors is trying to tell me.

As parents, we are given a lot of advice. It comes from non-parents, grandparents, our parents, pediatricians, general practitioners, OBs, chiropractors, teachers, clergy, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, foes, strangers at the super market! Some days it’s enough to make me feel a little batty.

There seems to be one (set of) Doctor(s) who appears to be the leading sage on kiddos: Dr. Sears. He advocates attachment parenting, has an answer for everything, and goes against “mainstream” parenting ideas. Warning bells ring in my head.

OK. Many (many) of my friends like Dr. Sears. They find what he’s saying to fit their needs as a parent. I am glad they have found something that works for them. Please, if you are reading this, know that I am. I have seen your parenting style, and you are firm and affectionate, and I respect, appreciate, and admire that.

View from Church

But, I am a skeptic. A self-identified Catholic, I don’t agree with the church on many things (Hello? Women? Priests should be defrocked for thinking of ordaining one of us? Seriously, get with the times). And, I get really skeptical when another human is held up on a pedestal where upon he cannot be struck down – well – I get really skeptical. has my skepticism on their FAQ. Remember my frustration in Momma Bear? When parents don’t do anything to “teach” their children that a behavior is wrong? Attachment Parenting apparently advocates this approach when addressing toddlers who hit:

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you let him hit other kids. By remaining close by and engaged in his play, you will often be able to intervene before your son lashes out at another child. In the event that he does hit another child, you can model empathy and issue an apology to set the example for him. You can help your son put his feelings into words and continue to work with him on sharing (or “taking turns,” which is sometimes an easier concept to understand). By staying calm and comforting his distress, you help regulate his emotions and model empathetic behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions 3rd Principle: Respond with Sensitivity, Attachment Parenting International

As an adult, I have difficulty expressing how I feel to many, including my closest loved ones. I have always been this way, although I am closest to my mother and my sister whereby my difficulties are lessened dramatically. I trust them, implicitly, even if I don’t agree with their decisions or advices for me. For others, I generally start off guarded and slowly get to know folks, treading carefully to see if I can fully trust someone. My mother was an authoritative parent. She was raised by authoritative parents. My husband is an authoritative parent who was also raised by authoritative parents. Part and parcel of being authoritative, from how we were raised, was being shown consequences for our actions. The simple idea behind this philosophy was to get us to think before we acted. If we pushed our siblings we likely would have been spanked and/or had something taken away, a favorite toy, to show there is a consequence for our action. Again, the idea being that repeated demonstrations of actions and their consequences would lead us to think before speeding, for example, as a young teenage driver. We would have been told as we got older that speeding could lead to reckless driving which could lead to death. Our deaths would cause sadness and grief for our families, so please think before putting the pedal to the metal.

The above example is a demonstration of articulating feelings. While I appreciate the attempt, it is short sighted and one sided. It only asks the hitter, the child acting out, to display his feelings. It says nothing of the child being hit. The child being hit only receives a half hearted apology because how sensitive are those 2 year olds (yes, I have met some who have genuine, real feelings, but many seem quite underdeveloped).

This half-hearted parenting actually does a disservice to our children. This type of parenting is the type of parenting teachers complain about when they get into schools. First, the parent modeled the apology but didn’t ask the child to respond. This would only teach the child that their parents will fix their problems for them, which is the problem many of my teacher friends complain about. The child received a poor grade, for example, on a test because they goofed off in class and didn’t pay attention. The consequence for their action was the poor grade. The angry parent demands the grade be fixed because their child couldn’t possibly have received a poor grade.

This example highlights my skepticism of attachment parentings. It sounds like cuddling without the consequences. If we just cuddle, everything will be all right. Well, you may have a nice time cuddling with your child, but my kiddo was just pushed by your attached child.

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Logo of General Motors Corporation. Source: 20...
Image via Wikipedia

Living in Portland is kind of like living in the land of foreign cars. We have lots of Japanese models to choose from: Subaru, Toyota, Honda. And, then there’s the European branch of Volvos, VWs, Saabs. And of course the other Asian market of Hyundai with their Kias and Souls. My husband is convinced that Subarus outrank American (made?) cars 3 to 1. An old boyfriend claimed the West Coast just had more variety.

So, all car companies have their problems. My theory is that the younger the car company the less likely you are to hear about problems because they haven’t been around long enough for any to really make news. GM has been around, what? 75  years? Toyota has been around for 50 years. Just now Toyota makes the news with all their recalls, cars not stopping, and whatnot. Anyway, all cars have to be maintained, and if they aren’t, they’ll break.

We happen to be an American-kind-of-Car company. Some of it has to do with growing up in Michigan and your choices were one of the Big Three lest you be chastised from your family that worked for the Big 3. As it stand, my husband’s father (my father-in-law) was a GM Engineer. Now, we happen to own GM cars because my husband knows them inside and out (he’s the house mechanic like I’m the house chef). But, he’ll be the first to complain about GM engineering and explain why they are in the shit hole they are today.

Okay, that all said, this post is really about ridiculous marketing. So, Toyota’s image has been tarnished with all their recalls, right? So, they have been employing what looks like a massive ad campaign to keep the positive spin on their image going strong. I enjoy watching the Boob Tube at night to wind down my mind. While watching The Mentalist a Toyota commercial came on. They have these actors pretend their families who’ve owned their cars for 200,000 to 400,000 miles, and express how they’d never trade it in for anything except an appropriate upgrade. So, this one family in this one commercial talks about how the car went through the parents for a few years then the girls each drove it for a really long time. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear that they bought the car new in 1997 (I was in my first year at Michigan State University). The first girl explains she got it when she was 16 and drove it for 9 years. So, if the parents drove the car for a year, that means she had from 1998 to 2007. Then, the next girl got it when she was 16, and the family upgraded to a hybrid Camry. Yea family, now the boy wants the Hybrid when he turns 16.

We have three cars. One was purchased as a project car, and it will liekly be turned into my commuter with my new job (yea!). The newest car is the Bravada (Olds) 1999. The other two are white, Pontiac Grand Ams, 1994. Both have around 150,000 or 130,000 miles on them. We are fortunate enough to live in Rust-Free land, so we expect these cars to get at least another 5-10 years out of them so we can give them to Levi has his first car. Beat that Toyota ad campaign.

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Our Family Budget

Credit cards
Image via Wikipedia

Budgets. Budgets. Budgets. I never knew how to live on a budget growing up. My parents, like many, did the household finances, and for the most part kept it to themselves because it’s personal. I know my mother spent $150 a week on food at the local grocery store for our family of 6 and 7 every other weekend and every other holiday. We had limited resources for new clothes before school, and the jeans I picked out couldn’t be more than $20 a pair, and I was limited to 2 pair. In elementary and middle school, I qualified for the helpful but embarrassing “free or reduced lunch” and couldn’t take a fashionable paper sack with a homemade PBJ tucked inside.

Fast food in Nepal & the Disposable Income Calculator.
Image via Wikipedia

When I got a job in high school, I blew it on instant gratification clothing I deemed trendy, smelly lotions, and fast food because I had no concept of the value of money. This went into my young adult years, where I maxed out credit cards issued to me as an 18 year old, with $300 credit limits. I easily picked up school loans because I couldn’t imagine how I would pay for college otherwise. So that now my debt is my family’s burden.

When Peter and I got married, his Aunt Isabel gave us some nice kitchen items and some books on finance. The one I enjoyed most (and am currently lending to a friend) is Larry Burkett‘s Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples.

I started writing this post 18 months ago. We tracked our expenses, figured out what went where, and loosely discussed what we could spend. We were in basic agreement, and this was January 25, 2009.

I am so excited about our expenses.  Who would have thought?  We spent $316.22 on food last month, including Thanksgiving dinner.  That is about $100 per person for the month, or about $3.50 per person per day!  Who would have thought we could eat on less than $4 per day each!  Unfortunately, it’s not all organic, but it’s mostly local.

But something happened shortly after that. I stopped consistently tracking our expenses and comparing them to our loose budget. Peter got into the apprenticeship, and a raise, and while we “talked” about money spending we didn’t ask ourselves if it was a want, need, or desire. We simply spent the money because it was there and it was loosely defined as a need.

We are going to Crown Financial Ministries for guidance. It’s free. It’s Christian-based. It’s the group Larry Burkett started. I’m skeptical, to be sure, because part of the problem is I don’t want to be told what to do. But, we need to get on the same page somehow. And this is one step.

Other Posts About Budgets
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Good Enough

Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Image via Wikipedia

“You should control your kid.” I said this. To my uncle. I was 10 talking about his 6 year old. My mother took me aside and strongly scolded me, “You never tell someone how to parent their kids.” That stuck with me, to this day. So, much so that I am embarrassed to write about my behavior as a 10-year-old. But, I am writing in reflection… in understanding what it’s like to be a parent as a parent.

My mother often says to me in our phone chats when I explain how I’m doing something differently that it’s my right as a parent to correct those things I view as mistakes. She reminds me that Levi will have the ability to do the same. To me, the point is to make “new and different and more interesting mistakes” so that Levi can in turn make “new and different and more interesting mistakes” with any offspring he may have. That’s evolution in a nutshell, isn’t it?

So, I criticized my uncle for his imperfect parenting. Now-a-days it seems we have so many parents really trying to right the mistakes their parents made, but some advice, it seems, borders on attempting perfection. Why are we trying for perfection, though? Don’t we know we’re not perfect? We can’t do it all at once, so why do we burn ourselves out trying? This is a struggle for me in many avenues, so I’m not trying to question folks who do try to be better, I certainly do daily. But, when do we realize our boundaries in parenting? When do we say, “You know, this has to be good enough.”

Sure, we want our kids to grow up and be bright, polite, well read, educated, with the ability to follow their hearts, implement boundaries, stay safe, explore, be courageous, compassionate, generous, thrifty… but it doesn’t all come when they are 3 years old. We’re always learning, turning to our parents and friends for counsel and advice… why wouldn’t our kids do that to?

Upper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Mic...
Image via Wikipedia

There are some different methods of parenting out there. In fact, folks have written books on them. Several years ago (12-15), I was visiting my relatives in the good ole U.P. (Yooper land, the Upper Peninsula, Michigan), and I was chatting with one of my aunts. She made the comment to ignore the magazines and baby books and encouraged forging your own path. I’m not sure I could do this entirely because I have found some books to be very helpful. For example, I wouldn’t have had a clue what milestones were if it weren’t for the USDA nutrition/health pamphlets I received before Levi was born (likely because we were on W.I.C.). I don’t know what I would have done, though, if all I had read encouraged breast feeding when breast feeding wasn’t working for me. I was uninsured, even if Levi wasn’t, so going to a Lactation Consultant wasn’t something I was going to do because we couldn’t afford any out of pocket expenses. I didn’t find out until 6 months after we went on formula that it was likely my Grave’s Disease telling my body to take the proteins that would have otherwise been in the breast milk and keep them for my own use.

Levi likely suffered failure to thrive because I was adamant to breast feed. Breast is Best as they say. While that may be true for many, what happens when mom is so sleep deprived the irritability, memory loss/forgetfulness overwhelm the days? So, a trip home, and another aunt who recognized the kiddo wasn’t sleeping, suggested formula. And he ate. And we didn’t fight. And it wasn’t a sob fest of frustration. And he started to sleep, but not completely.

A friend suggested a “Low-Cry” method. A method where you let the small one cry in increments before soothing, starting with one minute and increasing one minute a day until the small one can fall asleep on his/her own. I know we’ve been blessed with a child with a decent temperament, but this method is one of the reasons people say, “He’s asleep? Through all this noise?” I also had the story of my youngest maternal uncle, when as a sleeping infant my grandmother encouraged noise making to ensure the kiddo could sleep.

Good enough, not perfect. No thank you parenting magazines, I’d rather have conversations with my friends and family to trade stories of what worked and what doesn’t. Trying to take care of my basic needs so not everything is put aside to others, including sleep to achieve some semblance of balance where irritability doesn’t cloud our days so Levi can grow up to be all that he can be.

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Levi the Mechanic

So, Peter has now assured me that impact guns are designed to not bite back, unlike drills. So, my fear when watching Levi use it was… not unfounded as much as uneducated.

Levi the Mechanic

Anyway, Levi enjoyed himself. And I want him to grow up without disabling fear of these things. Peter has modeled this parenting style by having Levi try whatever he’s afraid of so that he learns how to use it instead of being afraid. Together, we use this approach in grinding coffee, using a screw driver to fix a fan, helping with a drill, using the vacuum cleaner, etc. Education is empowerment.