A Few of My Favorite Things

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I have a lot of thoughts jumbling around my head. We just got back from celebrating our 23rd anniversary in San Antonio (such a fun city!), my middle daughter turned 18 AND got engaged last week, and I got some great news from a friend. However, none of it is coalescing to make a profound post, so I’m going with something light and giving you a list of some of my favorite things – things I enjoy in general, stuff that makes my mom life easier and items that I find it hard to live without.

Once a Month Meals

I don’t always meal plan, but when I do, this is the service I prefer. (I tried the emeals app, and it drove me crazy.) Once a Month Meals allows you to use either premade menus in a dozen categories or build your own (that’s how I use it.) You get a shopping list that you can link to delivery services, all the recipes that you can customize to your family size and a prep and cooking list so you can prepare them as freezer meals. You can pay $18/month or a discounted price if you pay for a year. I usually subscribe for a few months, print off a variety of menus and then unsub until I’m ready for more variety.

Cutco Knives

I went on a girl’s trip earlier this year and our hostess had her kitchen stocked with these. I’m a total knife snob, and I was pretty impressed. So much so that I came home and bought some at a discounted rate on Ebay because, you know, budgeting. The company sharpens/refurbishes/replaces their knives for free, so don’t be afraid to buy an older set or single pieces that are deeply discounted. Just send them in, and they’ll come back sharp and pretty.

So Sew English

I sew as one of my primary hobbies, and I like quality fabric without going broke. My most consistent and favorite supplier is So Sew English. They have a ton of super soft “legging” fabric (aka double brushed poly) as well as a wide variety of other knits. If I’m sewing a lot, I get multiple boxes from these guys a week, and I almost always have at least a few a month. Wait until the end of the month, and Bundle Chicken codes let you buy bundles up to 40% off. (Bundles are the best!) They also have an active Facebook page to show your makes and talk sewing.

PDF Patterns

I haven’t sewn with a commercial pattern for years because PDF patterns are so much more accessible and reliable for me. While small designers can be hit and miss, some of my favorites that work really well for me are Patterns for Pirates, New Horizons Designs and Halla Patterns. I print my patterns at home and transfer them onto tracing cloth, but I know a lot of people like to use PDF Plotting. If you want to see what I’m up to with my sewing, follow me on Instagram.

Diva Cup

I pretty much think that any woman not using cups for their monthly visitor is missing out on comfort and convenience. I mean, not all my readers are females, but my Diva cup legit makes my life easier. Get one. If you’re a guy, tell your wife about them. She’ll thank you. (I also have a generic brand that was 2/$10, and they’re just as good. Just look for the medical grade silicone.)

French Press

I have coffee every morning, and I love my French press. This manual coffee maker is quick and easy to use, and makes a great brew. You get a full-bodied cup with a great depth of flavor and less bitterness. I went through several coffee makers before getting this which my hard water handily clogged and killed despite careful maintenance.

Meal Delivery Services

This isn’t something I use as part of my regular meal planning or grocery budgeting, but I have tried several meal delivery services for just the reduced price trial weeks, and they’re great. It’s super convenient to have all the ingredients premeasured and packaged for your meal and delivered to your door. When I get these, I can stretch a 2-person meal to feed me and my 3 youngest kids for a lunch. We’ve tried Home Fresh, Every Plate and Hello Fresh and enjoyed them all.

Instant Pot

I’ve had a crockpot since I was married and pretty much never used it, so I was a tad skeptical about the Instant Pot. That turned out to be unfounded. I use it several times a week. It’s fast and super easy to clean. I have both the 6- and 8-quart sizes, though I use my 6 quart the most. You can throw frozen ingredients in the pot and have a hot meal within the hour – best thing ever. It’s fabulous for soup, roast and potato salad/boiled eggs.

I have a lot more I could list, I’m sure, but this is my list for this week. I’ll have to do this again in the future.

P.S. Um, I like food. Clearly.

P.P.S. None of these are affiliate links. I would have to, I don’t know, have my life organized to have that all in place. Ha!

 

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Faith, Fear and Fundamentalism

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I spent a good deal of my adult life being motivated by fear. I have always been a thoughtful person, someone who questioned and looked for context and nuance and meaning. However, I was raised in a social structure that had very prescribed ways to do, think and be. This was a conundrum for me for many, many years, and it created a dichotomy that I found very difficult to reconcile. In fact, I never have.

Polygamy has been a real spectre in my life. It’s not something I discuss an awful lot because it’s a real part of the real lives of people I really know and deeply care about, and, in reality, it is a very complex issue. However, I have strong opinions about it, and, while I do try to be fair in my assessment, I wouldn’t call them particularly positive. I still look at the influence that this belief has in my everyday life as the “other woman” in my marriage, even though there is really no one else. It is the thing that to this day makes me feel never quite worthy, never quite good enough. I guess that the easiest and kindest way to communicate this is that I fought very hard for several decades to find a way to fit into this box that was so necessary to my religious tradition. One of the scariest steps I ever took was to let myself admit that it wasn’t healthy for me, and I had to just say no to living that lifestyle. I vividly remember that day and the fear that accompanied it.

“What if I’m wrong?”
“What if I really will lose everything?”
“What if I have completely missed the boat here, and I will be alone forever?”

And, that’s the day that fear stopped holding the rudder of my life. Because once I faced those questions and contrasted them with the price I would pay for continuing to ignore my own heart in favor of messages whose sources I wasn’t confident in – because, hey, what if? – it became abundantly clear that I must take the risk. I would rather live in a way that felt true to my spirit and be potentially alone than to follow someone else’s agenda out of fear. I ugly cried for an entire day and half the next, afraid that my husband would leave me, but I have had peace in that decision from that day forward. (I wish that I could say that I haven’t succumbed to the fear again, but I have. The difficulty this causes in my marriage can overwhelm me on bad days.)

I’ve heard people talk about the Mormon traditions surrounding the afterlife as “sad heaven” because the fear message of separation from friends and loved ones if you go off-script is so prevalent. (In fact, it was strongly reiterated from the pulpit of LDS General Conference just this last weekend.) Mormonism is built upon the principles of agency and personal responsibility as well as a strong emphasis on knowing the truth for yourself. Yet, if you don’t follow the herd in lock step or your revelations aren’t the right ones, we’re told that you will be not only damaging yourself but damning your family unit. I find these messages difficult to reconcile. I think, in fact, that they are quite contradictory and it’s not really possible for religious people to have it both ways. Is God’s priority our heart even if he has to wander the wilderness to find it? Or, is God’s priority following the rules even if our heart isn’t really in it?

I talked last week about how we teach each other how to be better and how grace and connection are the currency of persuasion. I am really not sure why this approach often seems to not translate in religious structures because human nature doesn’t change based upon our environments – it’s quite universal and consistent. I get that motivating with fear works, at least for some people and for a time – it did for me. But, it was temporary. It was an empty faith that owned me more than me embracing it. It wasn’t authentic let alone powerful.

I don’t know what it takes to bring people back to religion because I’m not there. I would imagine that it is unique to each individual and that, for some, a different path will always be more healthy for them. I can say that it isn’t fear and judgment and shame. Those things brought me to my faith crisis, and when I put them down by the roadside, it was a blessed and blissful relief. When I recognize them around me, I shy away in concern that they will overwhelm my life again. What I can say is that, if I ever do change my perspective and decide to participate in religion again, it will not be motivated by fear. You cannot be bludgeoned back into the fold, but I think you can be loved back into the fold.

I am under no illusion about the certainty of my position – I know I could be wrong. However, I believe in a God that knows my heart and knows that my life choices continue to be made in integrity. I am doing the best I can with the knowledge, information and resources that I have. I believe that God wants my heart above all else and that the wilderness is likely the only place we can meet. I no longer fear that.

Social Media and the Stupid Things We Say

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A few weeks ago, I said something really stupid. It was insensitive and thoughtless. I do this sometimes. We all do. I was at a wedding, and my sister had just showed me a photo she’d taken of me when a very dear friend of mine walked up and gave me a massive hug. I criticized the picture of myself using the “R” word. This isn’t a word I consider part of my vocabulary, but I was raised in a different era, well before political correctness, and it slipped out before my brain registered that it was inappropriate. It did register that, but it happened too late, and I said it. In front of my sweet friend. Whose child died from a severe handicap. (Yea. Let that sink in. :/ ) Luckily for me, my friend is kind and forgiving, but most of all, my friend knows me and that this thing I said and did is out of character. She could have called me out, and I would have deserved it, but she didn’t. That fact was humbling, and I made a silent commitment to try harder to not say hurtful things.

I have thought a lot about this and how it moves in our world lately. I have witnessed two separate incidents in the last two weeks where someone publicly said or did something that other people perceived as inappropriate and hurtful. Upon being called on it, the people and/or organization in question apologized sincerely, but continued to be attacked as not enlightened enough, not sincere enough and just overall not worthy enough for the offended parties. Dozens of people jumped on the bandwagon to magnify the offense and loudly lament what cesspools of humanity we all wallow in. I was deeply bothered by both incidents. I think the biggest factor in things like this happening is that we are, more and more, interacting with people that we have no relationship with. People have always had hard conversations that resulted in both personal and social change. But, the construct where this is happening divorced from actual knowledge of your opponent, at least on a basic level, is historically quite new.

I believe that we should all work for a better world. I believe that we should all have the right to express what we think that should be. But, the fact is, that we don’t all agree on those ideas. And, none of us can dictate to the other side of the conversation what they should think and how they should react. That, by definition, makes it not a conversation at all. Yelling louder to drown out another’s opinion is not only ineffective but also quite a weak approach to promoting change. Because, while bullying can alter what people feel comfortable expressing, it can never change someone’s heart. In reality, resentment will merely bury things that could be better addressed more gently in the face of light and love. Kindness and humanity change perspectives; meanness merely makes people not like you.

I posted this on my Facebook page last year, and this train of thought brought it to mind again:

Every social interaction is a mutual and usually unspoken contract between the people or group involved. Therefore, no one person, regardless of their status in the group, gets to unilaterally decide or change that contract. If you don’t want to engage in that contract, that’s your call. But, you can’t demand that other people comply with interactions they haven’t agreed to. You can unequivocally do whatever you want, but you may find yourself yapping at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day. If your goal is to engage with people in community, those people ultimately get to decide if they agree to that relationship.

I can have strong opinions. I post them here. My husband, my friends, and my family definitely know this about me. I also genuinely try to be a kind and caring person. These things are not mutually exclusive. I have had some pretty intense conversations with left-leaning friends about things as controversial as abortion. Because we have a relationship and know some of the ins and outs of each other’s lives, we were able to dialogue about it without them implying that I don’t care about women in difficult situations and without me implying that they are baby killers. Neither of those positions would speak to our mutual respect and understanding that we both have good intentions behind our beliefs – things that allow an actual dialogue to happen that helped us both to genuinely understand an opposing position.

I don’t have all the answers on how to fix all the complex social issues that we face in today’s world. I struggle with them myself. What I can say is that things that seem impossible to reconcile seem to quiet down when we experience them on a personal level. It can be hard to love a faceless group, especially when they aren’t like you, but it’s much easier to connect with a person through a story and a life you can touch. I think that if more people approached hard things this way, on both sides of the aisle, the world would be a better place, whether our disagreements be religious, political or personal.