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Another post about clothes

I know you so love my reflections on my wardrobe, so I have yet another. I honestly don’t know why this is such a “thing” for me, but it keeps coming back up. So, again…

I’ve lost almost 50 pounds in the last 5 months*. This means none of my pants fit anymore. Lots of my shirts are too big (although, being a child of the 90s, that doesn’t bother me too much, except when I want to look put together.) The issue came to a head right before I had ankle surgery in September when I finally pulled all of my jeans out of my drawer to donate.

I haven’t been great about sticking to the capsule wardrobe, but I’ve still got dramatically fewer clothes than I’ve owned at other points in my life (having almost no storage in our house helps). But, considering I’m needing to buy almost everything, I’m trying to be really deliberate about replacing only what I really need, and reducing the volume again.

I found this article about fair-trade and eco-conscious clothing brands. I decided I was going to only buy high quality (even if it was a little more expensive) and, when possible, buy from companies I can feel great about supporting.

And then Old Navy had a sale.

I am still losing weight, so spending for quality/consciousness seems like it might not be the best option right now. I bought a pair of $15 jeans. They’re so comfortable.

Gap is having a sale now. 50% off everything, no exceptions (jeans are almost always excluded from their sales.) My favorite Gap jeans are 2 sizes too big right now. I spent the weekend debating with myself whether to just replace them for $35, or stick to my new convictions and buy $100 jeans from a company I knew was paying it’s sewers and suppliers fairly. I couldn’t justify the price of the $100 jeans, especially not knowing how long they’re going to fit. But I also want to be aware of not just buying new… So, today, Lily and I went to three thrift stores. I bought a pair of jeans and a great tshirt for Christmas (Griswolds, anyone?) I also realized, in the umpteen pairs of jeans I tried on, my underwear (purchased 2 months ago from Target) are really way too big. I was going to buy from PACt but in looking at other retailors to justify the price, I realized the 50% off sale at Gap counted for underwear too, making them $3 per pair vs. $13 per pair for PACt. I ended up ordering the underwear (and the jeans) from Gap.

I can’t figure out if I made a smart financial decision or sold out to the system that has us feeling like we need more more more so we buy cheap cheap cheap crap that has to be replaced more often.

It can all be returned, so I have some time to decide.

When you buy, do you worry more about price or will you spend more on a company with better practices? How do you balance it?

 

*This is very exciting, because, as many of you know, I had thyroid cancer in 2010 and no longer have a thyroid. I can blame about 35 lbs of weight gain over the last seven years directly on thyroid/medication issues (as in, oh, wow, we changed my meds and I gained 10 pounds last week. Yep, super fun.) So, for the weight loss to actually be working right now is pretty exciting in and of itself.

New interpretation

This started out as a Facebook post, but it was just too long for that, so I moved over here.

What if the story of Jesus waking up and calming the wind and the waves isn’t a story about Jesus making everything better?

At our Jacob’s Well gathering on Sunday morning, we wrapped up our “Inner Selfie” series, in which we’ve been talking about ways to make space for our souls, and creating practices to help our outer selves and our inner selves to be more in synch. The passage we looked at was Mark 4:35-41:

35 Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” 
36 They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. 
37 A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. 
38 And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?” 
39 Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.
40 Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” 
41 They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”
I’ve heard this story about 19 million times. Jesus wanted a break from the crowds, so he told the disciples to get in the boat, and he fell asleep. A storm came up, they all thought they were going to die until he woke up and saved them all, then scolded them for not having enough faith in him.
On Sunday, Greg gave a different interpretation of the story: There was a place Jesus wanted the disciples to go (the other side) so he got them all in the boat. He fell asleep, woke up because they were freaking out, and took pity on them by calming the wind and the waves.
BUT: here’s where it gets interesting
They were in a SAILBOAT. What happens to a sailboat without wind and waves (and even storms)? IT STOPS MOVING.
They were no longer going anywhere because the water had calmed. Jesus wasn’t making everything all better. He was giving them a break, but the wind would need to pick back up again before they could start moving again. THE STORM WAS NOT THE ENEMY.
And that scolding at the end? That wasn’t about faith in Him. It was about faith in the journey.
The reason this is so striking to me is because I was always taught that if we had enough faith, Jesus would calm our storms. That’s just not how my life has worked out. Today, for instance, I’m four weeks out from ankle surgery, dealing with ankle and knee pain, plus I caught the sinus infection everyone else in my family has had, plus I’m dealing with some other medical issues all stemming from the thyroid cancer I had seven years ago. This is all no fun. Jesus could make it all better. Why won’t He wake up and calm my storm????
Maybe…maybe it’s because there’s a destination and the storm has to get me there. Maybe there’s something to be gained from this period of forced downtime.
This is just a very surface-level reflection on the message and this passage. There are much deeper applications of it when I look back through my life and change the question to “Why didn’t Jesus wake up and calm the storm” to “Where was the storm taking me?”
I just wanted to share.

Scrolling

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling

Looking for something

Wondering

Missing

Scrolling, Scrolling, scrolling

World on pause

waiting

Wandering

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling

Looking for change

Difference

Newness

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling

Now that I’ve had some time to process this election…

Now that I’ve had some time to process this election, I have some (conflicting) thoughts and I feel the need to share.

First: I was a Hillary supporter. Not because I am a capital-D Democrat (although, in general, I do favor the party’s policy positions on most issues) or because I’m against Republicans. I didn’t support her because I LOVED her, and I didn’t oppose Trump on the basis of the fact that he is a reality TV star with no public service experience.

I supported Hillary because I opposed Trump’s rhetoric. His hate filled, agitating, bullying, “Build a wall”, “Grab them by the pussy”, “Knock the shit out of ’em”, rhetoric. Because he is a man who thinks inciting violence is okay. Because he didn’t renounce the KKK immediately. Because he thinks it’s constitutional to ban an entire religion of people fleeing for their lives from coming to our country. (As if it’s our (white people’s) country in the first place. I mean, let’s be real here. If anyone has a leg to stand on in the “Make America Great Again” argument, it’s the Native tribes that we’ve effectively decimated, not us white folks.)

I don’t know where Trump stands on most issues because, honestly, I stopped listening. You speak the way he did and I shut you off. I didn’t watch the last two debates, I read about them the next day. Hillary lied some, Donald lied a lot. There was no point in watching live, reading the fact-checked versions seemed to be a better use of my time.

But now we’re here. Donald Trump has been elected to be the next President of the United States. And we are freaking the f*** out. Lifelong friendships, family relationships that were otherwise fine, are over. Hate and fear have been flying from both sides all week, although, finally, in the last two days, I’m starting to see people try to understand.

I have family that (I assume, we don’t talk about it because we want to be able to still like each other) voted for Trump. They voted to get jobs back. They voted to kick out the powerful political elite. They voted for him despite his rhetoric, not because of it. (I believe that James Comey’s last minute announcement of new investigations unfairly influenced the election. But, honestly, I don’t know if anything can be done about that at this point.) What it really comes down to is: Just as I was able to overlook the flaws in Hillary that they couldn’t get past, many Trump voters were able to overlook what I couldn’t.

And just as I would have made my voice heard on the issues that I disagree with Hillary on, I trust that they would make their voices heard in opposition to the hate rhetoric.

I signed the change.org petition to get the electoral college to vote Hillary instead of Trump, in reflection of the actual popular vote rather than the state EC vote breakdown.  But now, I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. Removing Trump from an office he won through– at least what appears to be– legal means would disenfranchise the other 50% of the country. It wouldn’t end the protests/rioting/hate that has filled our country since Tuesday, it would only increase it. Putting Hillary in office would not make Muslims/Women/Disabled/Trans/LGBTQ/Latinx etc people safe, I believe it would put them in more danger. Right now, hate groups feel validated. If we did somehow switch the election, hate groups would feel vindictive. Ready for vigilante justice.

Trump needs to come out and denounce the hate (not the protesters) immediately. He needs to address the concerns the protesters have. He needs to MAN UP (because, really, this whole post could be about why the country would rather have this MAN than that WOMAN) but that’s a whole other issue) and admit he was wrong to say the things he said. He needs to immediately surround himself with advisers from these disenfranchised groups (not his supporters that meet these demographics. Actual people who disagree with him on rhetoric and policy.) He needs to STEP IN, DENOUNCE and DEESCALATE the actions of his supporters who have seen this victory as a call to arms. He’s got until December 19, when the electoral college, casts their ballots to prove that he really is going to President of all of us. If he does it, I think we have to give him a chance. If he doesn’t, my daughter and I may be in Washington to protest the inauguration.

2015 Recap

 

2015 Dream

Achievement

2016 Plan

Publish another book Completed drafts of two new books and completed outline/began draft of third I am not going to rush the publication process. These books have lived with me a long time, we’ll get along as long as we need to until they’re ready to survive on their own.
“Do” two short stories a month (one drafted, one completed) One short story published & one award won! I removed this goal from my 2015 plan, and I’m not bringing it back. I like writing from prompts sometimes, and sometimes those become short stories. If it happens in 2016, great.
Draft two more novels Completed 2 and started a third! Rewrites for Home and Clouded, continue to work on Reality
Read at least 96 books Oh geez. This is one that I need a swift kick in the pants with. I’ve finished 20. 2 books a week is too many for me. So, I’m revising it down to 78 (1.5 per week.) Even with this, I’m 10 behind. But I’ll make it. Summer is coming.
Complete 12 new paintings Finished 4 paintings I’m incredibly proud of. With everything else I have going on, painting has fallen by the wayside. I’m okay with that. When I want to paint, I will. But I’m not going to force it.
Get Spiraling Forward Jewelry into 3-5 boutiques Sold Spiraling Forward at my favorite boutique for about six months. I won’t be making jewelry to sell, at least for the time being. However, I will continue to make it as I want it.
15-20 gym visits/month Averaged 15.5 for the year! Continuing. This is going to be a bit harder this year because we no longer have the accountability of an insurance credit for gym attendance. But my body craves it.
4+ yoga/Pilates classes/month Discovered the POWER of Hot Vinyasa, the grace of Slow Burn and the mindfulness of Yin Yoga. Continue attending at least three classes a month. I love it.
One vegetarian day/week Discovered ways I can make mushrooms so everyone in my family will eat them. Modified a favorite childhood recipe to be vegetarian. Lily’s favorite food is now “Salad.” Continue to focus on plant-based nutrition for my family while also offering meat occasionally from farms I trust. (Yay meat CSA!)
Speak at 2 conferences I spoke at UtopYA conference in July and did an Author Talk at Hennepin History Museum. I will continue to look for natural connections where I can teach, but I won’t be spending time actively seeking them out.
Continue to reduce clutter I’m really proud of the simplicity we’ve been able too create in our house. Removing. It’s not trackable, but we’ve been doing really good with it and I don’t need a monthly reminder.
1 artist date I didn’t do this most months I struggle with this, because I feel that it is important to refill my creative well, but for some reason I feel a lot of pressure around this goal.
Attend 2 book/writing events I let this one get away from me in the last few months of new job craziness. This is my artist date– going to events like this. I’m going to not focus on that and instead focus on making this happen.
1 real date with hubby Hooray for Parent’s Night Out! This is important

Do you take time to recap your year? What did you find? How does it effect your plans for 2016?

Book of the Week: The Signature of All Things

Book of the Week for September 27 – October 3

The Signature of All Things

signature_page_03

Why it’s interesting:

This is going to be blasphemous, but I’m going to say it anyway. I am not, in general, a fan of “Classics.” Quite honestly, I find them a bit long and boring. I’ve never read Great Expectations (I gave up on the audiobook when it felt like nothing was happening for days on end), I haven’t read anything from Jane Austin that I found particularly amazing (Pride and Prejudice was, for me, just okay) and I was slightly relieved when Anna Karenina was hit by the train (until I realized it was suicide, because that felt to me like the author gave up on finding resolution.) But I love me some Liz Gilbert, and the prose in this book was just so gorgeous when she read from it at the reading I was at last fall, so I thought I’d give it a try. The audio version.

I LOVED it. It is long. And sometimes tedious, but in the best “this is life” kind of way. I was so sad when it was over.

It makes me want to try those old classics again…maybe I just needed to grow up?

The blurb:
A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

What are you reading right now?

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

I am writing this with the caveat that, while I technically have a minor in Biblical Studies from the time I spent at a Christian College, it wasn’t on my diploma when I graduated. I spent a lot of time leading Bible studies and doing small group sermons once upon a time. I don’t do that anymore.

The church I attend, Jacobs Well, has this really doable Bible study program called SOAP. I started SOAPing this summer, stopped, and recently started again. SOAP stands for Select, Observe, Apply, and Pray. Yesterday’s reading was Acts 2:1-14.

Before I say this, let me just preface (once more) with: I understand that you shouldn’t take any section of the Bible completely out of context. I don’t feel like I’m doing that here, as I have studied the Bible extensively, and while I’m going to talk about a specific passage, I’m not disregarding the rest of the Bible in any way, shape, or form.

The verse I selected was:

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

This was my observation: Do our churches speak in a language people can understand these days?

I’m going to say, in general, no. We don’t. The King James English isn’t often used anymore, and the words may be words everyone knows, but they’re so often spoken in a way that’s completely un-relatable for people who don’t already follow Jesus. The flip side is, when we do use relatable language, it’s not often done to describe God’s mighty works.

Even though it’s not always our intention (sometimes I think it absolutely is) we, as Christians, like to use language that separates us from the world. Language like that isn’t welcoming new people to the church. When a service starts with Father God Jehovah, we exalt your might name. Descend your holy fire on us this morning. it may feel good for the faithful in the room, but how do you think it feels to the person who didn’t grow up in church? (I’ll tell you: to them, it feels, at best, weird, at worst, like you’re crazy or scary. You want Jehovah’s witnesses to burn the church down?) That might be an extreme example, but I don’t think it’s that far out in left field. I have visited A LOT of churches and something along those lines happens at the beginning of most Evangelical/Pentecostal services.

 

There’s a lot of ways to take this wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray out loud in church. We absolutely should. But maybe in a way that someone who hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid yet can maybe understand, and maybe even want to try at home.

I’m not saying if If flowery, formal language is how you connect with God, there’s no place for it. There is. You can pray that way privately, or with the small group of believers you meet with each week.

I’m just saying: maybe we need to think more about what our language sounds like to the ears of the listeners rather than to our own ears.

The apostles didn’t continue to speak their own languages and get mad when the Jews didn’t understand what they were saying. God gave them the ability to speak in the language of the people they were trying to speak to, to describe His mighty works in language they would understand. I think he’s given us that ability to. We just need to use it.

The Genius Bar Made Me Cry

Today, for the second time ever, I got bad service at Apple’s Genius Bar. And, for the second time, I cried about it.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t cry easily. I’ve been treated poorly by customer service people before, and I never cry about it. But I’m batting 1000 with the Apple Store. A bad experience = tears.

So now I’m thinking about how I respond to customer service. Why do I react so strongly to Apple? Is it because I have such high standards for the Apple Store that it’s harder to stomach when it’s not good?  Have I grown so used to being treated badly other places that it just doesn’t bother me as much?

I think it’s a bit of both, and it’s sad. Both that I hold the Apple Store to such high standards (seriously, people mess up. It sucks, but tears? Come on!) but also that I have such low standards in other situations that this would have urked me, but I wouldn’t have been that mad about it.

In case you’re not familiar, the Genius Bar is really not a bar at all anymore, but a group of Apple employees that are there simply to help you with your products. They trouble shoot, do little maintenance things, and handhold. All for the low low price of nothing. Zilch. Even if your machine is out of warranty and four years old (in computer years, that’s like 150) they’ll help you out. Even if you’re still rocking the original iPod. If it can be fixed, they’ll do their darnedest to make it happen.

Except when they don’t.

The first time I cried at the Genius Bar was in Nashville. Austin was two weeks old (he’d spent the first week in the NICU, so he’d only been home for a week) and I had to start working again. Remotely, but still, I had to be available to serve my clients. And the monitor of my Macbook laptop had died for the second time. The computer was still under warranty. When the screen died the first time they told me if it happened again the computer would need to be replaced. That day, though, I was told the computer needed to be sent in for repair that could take up to two weeks.

The man went in the back, I put my head down on the counter and cried. (To be fair, it was mostly because I was exhausted and stressed about going back to work, and not so much about the computer.) When he saw me, he said, “Be right back” and came back with a new machine that he kindly swapped out. It was kind of like crying to get out of a ticket, except I didn’t do it on purpose, I was just genuinely sad.

Today it was much less dramatic. Last week I took my computer to the Genius Bar because it was shutting itself off (super fun) and the only solution was to wipe it. Rather than being able to restore from a backup, I had to manually rebuild it because there was no way to tell what program had been causing the problems. Then I could pull the few things I needed (Microsoft Office and My Documents) from my backup disk. Except today, when I plugged in my backup disk, it wouldn’t let me pull anything, so I made an appointment and headed to the store.

I’m not going to go into everything that happened, because, honestly, it’s boring and doesn’t matter. The gist is, they were short handed, someone who didn’t know what he was doing told me to do something (and, because I was at The Genius Bar, I listened) and it caused my computer to be wiped clean again. So now I’m looking forward to an evening of re-setting up my computer from scratch, again. (There’s no backup of the new system because I was afraid to overwrite old backups.) I don’t think the person that “helped” me was purposefully rude or condescending, but he was. He was the keeper of the schedule, and he had the actual Geniuses skip me. He told me, in so many words, to suck it up and re-buy Office because “it’s not that expensive.” And through it all, he never once apologized.

I talked to the manager, but there’s really nothing that can be done. I don’t want the poor guy fired or anything. There’s no fee to be refunded, there’s nothing they can do to make the setup faster. I came home, and started working on setting up the new computer. Then something came up for work, and the idea of trying to find all my passwords and get into what I needed to  do was too much. I started crying.

 

Learning to deal with it

I just sat down at Starbucks with my decaf coffee and was about to begin writing in my journal, but decided to share this on here instead.

I’ve written quite a bit here about my wardrobe issues — namely, going from a bazillion clothes to an almost-capusle wardrobe. It took a lot of work, and, truly, some feelings of withdrawal,  to learn just because the jeans fit doesn’t mean I need them and yes, the dress is cute, but I don’t need it and many other lessons about not buying just to buy. I still get the Gap and Old Navy emails because, let’s face it, the four people in my house do need clothes, so it’s good to know when things are on sale. But I no longer open every. single. one. and check to see what new items have been added to the clearance section of stores.

My clothes. That’s as far as the lesson had gone. Until recently.

My computer, a 2011 Macbook Air that I love, except for the minuscule hard drive, has been acting up. My trackpad sometimes works just fine, sometimes it acts like an invisible person has taken control. My cursor moves and clicks randomly, completely by itself. It’s awesome. Not really. At the Genius Bar, they cleaned it out for me and told me I can send the computer in to get it fixed for about $300.

Our bathroom faucets recently stopped shutting off. Sometimes they drip, sometimes they trickle, sometimes they full-on run. When we called the plumber, we found out that “all new pipes” in our house meant “all new except the one in the tub. To fix our faucets, we have to have the piping replaced. To do that, the tile, vintage 1950s or 60s blue ceramic that we actually kind of love, has to be ripped out. Another wall of the shower has severe water damage—last year tiles started falling off, but we were able to put them back up and re-grout around them, plus the window has a rotting wood frame (yes, a wood framed window inside the shower)— so if we’re ripping one wall out, we might as well rip the other two out too and get it redone correctly.

I’ve been going to yoga at our gym a few times a week. One of my favorite classes is Hot Vinyasa, even though it’s truly one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done (if it was two hours long, I might even say it is harder than the triathlons I did) and, because she loves or hates us, our teacher usually picks one terrible pose to hold for an insane amount of time toward the end of class. Vinyasa means movement, so this hold is to help us get our breathing and heart rate back under control, but also, as she often says, for us to “deal with it.” Whatever comes up, during the plank or chair or warrior, (for me, it’s often sweat and shaking and limps falling asleep and muscles giving up) we need to deal with it. “If you fall out, get back up.” “You can do anything for five breaths. And five more.” I freaking hate it. But when it’s done, it’s ahhhmazing.

There’s a lot of things I want, but I don’t need. A new computer would be great. A fully renovated bathroom…that would be awesome. A walk-in closet full of clothes that I love and make me look amazing. New pots and pans. A kitchenaid mixer. Brand new bikes for my kids, and rollerblades and gymnastics classes and every lego set ever made and, for Chris, the new Star Wars Droid. But none of that is what I really need.

We’ve never carried interest-bearing debt other than our mortgage, car loan and student loans. We budget carefully, do our best to stick to it, and figure stuff out. We “deal with it.” Right now, that means buying an external mouse for my computer, and getting our shower, but not the rest of the bathroom, fixed. It’s teaching our kids to appreciate what they have (if anyone has advice about this, I’d love to hear it) and save their money for what they want. It’s learning what we need, and realizing the rest might be inconvenient, but it’s not going to kill us. It’s learning to lean into the discomfort and deal with it. Because, sometimes, we learn things when we’re most uncomfortable.

It’s hard to do in our society. We see something like a billion marketing images each day. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has what they want and I’m stuck with this. I’m lucky to have friends that have chosen to live this way also- not monastic by any means, but considering what we need, considering what we can afford. In learning to deal with it, to learn what we really need and what we just maybe kind of want, we also get the opportunity to see other ways we can serve and be of use to other people.

This is what I’m thinking about this Tuesday morning. I know it was a bit ramble-y.