Saturday, April 30, 2016

I love my Stitch Fix!

It’s Stitch Fix Day! I love these days. There’s just nothing more exciting than a box of clothes, picked out JUST for you, sitting on the doorstep waiting to be unwrapped. I think this must be my third or fourth Fix, and I am officially addicted!

Now, a quick overview of how it works: Stitch Fix is an online personal shopping website that sends you a package of 5 items as often as once a month or as rarely as you choose. To join, you create an account on their site (use MY LINK and I’ll get a discount on my next Fix!), then take a style quiz to identify your personal style. You select the date of your first Fix and then wait excitedly. When the Fix arrives, it will come with a note from your very own personal stylist, accessory ideas for each item in the Fix, and a pre addressed bag for returns. Anything you don’t want, you send back in the bag within 3 days. There is a $20 styling fee, and it is applied to your total bill – if you return all 5 items, you spend only the $20 styling fee. If you keep all five items, you get a 25% discount on your total.

Some tips to maximize your results.
1. Create a Pinterest style board and link it to your Stitch Fix profile. Sometimes you even get the exact item you pinned!
2. Send a detailed styling note before each Fix. When a Fix is approaching, you’ll get an email, and you can create a note for your stylist, telling them if you’re looking for anything in particular. In this Fix, I told my stylist that I wanted fun warm weather tops, and I got three beauties.
3. Give feedback if you return anything. I love dresses, but my pear shape means that fitting can be very tricky. But after returning a dress I adored, telling my stylist that it was too tight, she sent it in my next fix in a larger size and I now own it!

And now, on to my Fix! As soon as I opened the box and saw these colors, I was excited! This is a great palette for my coloring and for spring and summer. 
I started with this faux wrap dress. It’s exactly the right length, just above the knee, and the pattern is great. However, the dress showed cleavage, something I don't like. Then I remembered the Victoria’s Secret bralette that I bought specifically to serve as a faux camisole. I put that baby on and LOVED the look. No cleavage, but still pretty and feminine. Side note: I pinned that bralette on my board and specifically asked my stylist to find me something to wear with it! Side note 2: While it’s a very cute piece, the bralette is a bear to get on and off, because it pulls over the head. Fortunately, the dress is easy to wear and very comfortable.
 I accessorized the dress with a big pink bangle, pretty silver hoops, and my favorite black sandals.

Next, strappy floral top: When I pulled this out of the box, I fell in love with it, but then wondered what kind of bra I could wear. And that was when I remembered my note to the stylist about my bralette! (See, a Pinterest board is a plus). I was still wearing the bralette (remember, it's really hard to get in and out of). So I popped that top on over my bralette and I think it looks great. I got a pic of the back too to show how well the two pieces play together. Naturally I'll wear my hair up to showcase the details.
I also styled this top with my own bright green cardigan – a look I had pinned on my board with a note that I needed a floral top to go with my cardigan. My stylist nailed it! And bonus, if it’s chilly and I’m wearing the cardigan and top, I can probably get away with a regular bra underneath. 
I'm wearing jeans from a prior fix along with the bralette. 
The white straps are ornamented and very pretty. I cropped and edited this photo to try and show the details.

My only concern with this top is that it’s a big tight through the chest and very loose over my tummy. Is it too blousy for me?

Next up, a very cute pink top with crochet detail trim. I paired it with white jeans and costume jewelry pearls for a fun semi professional look. And then I dressed it down with some floral shorts I bought last year. Not to brag, but my husband walked in while I was wearing the shorts and shirt and he, um, engaged in some husbandly behavior! This is the kind of top I can throw on over jeans, or shorts, and be comfortable and cute – a great easy top for a work at home mom like me. 
 This picture doesn't reflect the color of the top very accurately - the picture with the shorts is much truer.

Next up is the navy blue top and pink pants. I have been avoiding skinny pants for a long time, but ever since Stitch Fix, I’ve embraced them. I accessorized the top and pants with a belt, butterfly necklace, and butterfly earrings. Note: You can get jewelry through Stitch Fix, but I have an extensive collection, so I’ve told my stylist not to bother to send any jewelry. 

The navy and pink together are very cute, but the pieces by themselves really spoke to me. Do you have orphans in your closet? You know, a piece of clothing that is just totally great, but you don’t wear it because the matching piece is gone or stained? I do! And I knew these two pieces would be great new partners for my orphans.

Check out the navy blue top with my red skirt:
I love this skirt, but rarely wear it because I don’t have a lot to go with it. But I love this outfit. I accessorized with my Venetian glass bead necklace and beige flats to keep the outfit from being too Fourth of July.
Not pictured: this top with my khaki pants, white jeans, regular jeans. 

Check out this gorgeous top. I bought it over a year ago, to go with a midi length tulle black skirt – the whole outfit from Anthropologie. Beautiful, but too dressy to wear very often. So while I love the top, it has been languishing in my closet.

 All it needed were these great pants to liven it up for summer 2016. 

And the vest. What do you think about the vest? This sad black vest has been in my closet longer than I can remember, and I think it either totally makes this outfit or looks terrible. Opinions?

All in all, another successful Fix for me. I am probably going to keep it all!
Oh, and price? Well, you get to specify your price range on your Fix account. If I keep all these items, I’ll get a discount along with the $20 credit for my styling fee, for a total of just over $200.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Talking to my Four Year Old About Sexting

Last night I talked to my 4 year old daughter about sexting. 

Like many 21st century moms, I am terrified of the Internet and what it might do to my darling little girl. I am determined that she will be fierce about protecting herself and defending her boundaries. And I know that part of that fierceness must come from my teaching.

A lot of people might think my daughter is too young for a discussion about sexting, and in a way, they are right. She doesn’t even fully understand what texting is, much less sex! However, she does understand about her body.

And in the end, the real problem with underage sexting is not sex or technology. It’s a lack of understanding about sexuality and body boundaries.

For a few months now we’ve talked, on occasion, about “private parts.” I’ve taught her what her private parts are and who is allowed to see them. Last night, to begin our conversation, I asked her “what are your private parts?” After she successfully named them*, I asked her who could see them. She replied, “You, Daddy, and the doctor.” Then I asked her what she would do if a friend asked to see them. “I say no.” So far, so good.
My follow up question was this: “What do you say if an adult asks to see your private parts?”
There was a pause, followed by “Say yes.”

And THIS is the problem. My daughter is a well behaved girl. She is polite. She is a people pleaser. She respects authority (although sometimes I don’t see that at home!). She knew which adults were allowed to see her private parts, and she knew that kids aren't allowed. But apparently, there was a gray area for her. She didn't know that she has the right to say NO to any person in the world (except me, Daddy, and doctor. And as she ages, that will change too).

I told her that she would say no, that unless the person is me, Daddy, or the doctor, if an adult asks to see her private parts, she says no, and then she tells me.

The directive to tell me confused her a little. Why tell me? What would I do? I admit, at this point I had to think fast, because I hadn’t exactly planned all this out. I took a deep breath and told her the truth.
“I would go and talk to the adult.”
“What would you say?”
“I would explain that he can’t see your private parts and should stop asking.” 

After a moment, I tested her. I mentioned a trusted adult and asked her what she would say if that person asked to see her private parts.
“I would say no, and then I would tell you.”

I am not so foolish as to think that this conversation has guaranteed my beautiful girl’s safety. 

No pedophile is going to walk up to my child and ask to see her private parts: pedophiles invest a lot of time and energy grooming their victims. But this conversation wasn't about abuse, it was about sexting. Because apparently, asking for pictures of private parts is exactly what is going on in the dating world right now. I want my daughter to know in her core that this is inappropriate: that viewing of her private parts is 100% in her control and no one is entitled to it. And I believe that that core knowledge can only come if I start now, when she is just 4 years old and has zero body shame.

Why am I sharing all this on my blog? Because many of the moms I know understand the need to talk to their kids about sex and privacy, but aren’t sure how to handle it. Or they aren’t sure what age to start out. As a child of the 80’s, who learned the word “virgin” and “sex” on the school bus in first grade, I can tell you that if your child is potty trained, s/he’s old enough to talk about privacy and sex. Just keep it simple. Follow their lead. And most importantly, make it an ongoing conversation. If you read the articles below, you'll see my conversation doesn't cover all the topics. And how could it? It would take forever and be boring! Instead, I chat with her several times a year, working these themes into our regular conversations.

Talk to your kids. Here are some great articles to get you started!

I like this kid's book, which I have read many times to my daughter: Because It's My Body!

*I have made sure that she understands that private parts are not just 1 unit: there are distinct parts with proper names. 

Final note: I have disabled comments on this post. If you want to discuss it with me and you have my contact information, please contact me. If you don't have my contact information, then I don't want to discuss this with you.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Story of Martha and Mary: You're Reading It Wrong

I recently overheard a couple of women refer to themselves as "Marthas," in a self-deprecating way. Those of us who grew up in the church are familiar with the concept of "being a Martha." It goes back to the story of Jesus and his friends: Martha, Mary & Lazarus. Jesus was hanging out and teaching in Lazarus' house. Lazarus lived with his two sisters, Mary & Martha, and apparently they were preparing a nice big meal for Jesus and his disciples (and their brother Lazarus). But Mary found Jesus' teachings captivating, and neglected her work to sit at his feet and listen. Martha did not approve, and called Mary out, asking Jesus to rebuke Mary. But instead, Jesus rebuked Martha, telling her that Mary had made a better choice.

The easiest interpretation is the popular idea that "being" is more important than "doing." Jesus chooses to rebuke Martha for being so worried about the details of the dinner, rather than choosing to sit at His feet and learn the way Mary is doing.

It's obvious that in the church, we consider the practical work of ministry as less "spiritual," and therefore less valuable, than the ceremonial work of ministry. One church I attended made a distinction between "outer court" and "inner court" ministry. "Outer court" ministry involved outreach and very practical actions, while "inner court" ministry was anything related to music, prayer, or teaching. The hidden bias of that church was revealed when my own fitness for leadership was questioned - I was completely accepted as a leader in the "outer court" ministries, but when I started an "inner court" ministry, my views were questioned and I was told to put my ministry on hold until the leaders had decided whether I was fit to lead. It is clear that they considered "outer court" ministry less important.

And is it a coincidence that the ministries traditionally relegated to women are "Martha" type ministries? Making casseroles, doing laundry, teaching Sunday School, arranging flowers, answering phones, making coffee, etc.

Are we using the story of Mary and Martha as a tool of oppression, even unconsciously?

I want to suggest that we have, in fact, missed the point of the story of Martha & Mary. I don't believe Jesus was rebuking Martha for cooking dinner. He was rebuking Martha for her critical attitude of Mary. After all, Jesus and His disciples wanted to eat. Without the "Marthas" in our churches and our lives, we would be very burdened. The work they do is essential, because it is work that must be done. At the same time, it is work that is ephemeral. We wash clothes and then immediately wash them again. We prepare a meal, clean up, and then cook a meal the next day. We serve coffee to our congregation, and do it all again the next Sunday. Isn't this endless cycle the meaning of Jesus' phrase that what Mary chose would not be taken away? Mary had chosen wisdom and learning. Martha had chosen food and dinner service. The fruit of Mary's choice would remain in her heart and mind forever; the fruit of Martha's choice would remain in her belly for a few hours at most and then need replenishment.

In addition to this, look at the context of this story. Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, a story about someone doing "outer court" Martha work. The Good Samaritan binds the wounds of the traveler, and takes him to a place of care and rest. If the Good Samaritan had merely offered spiritual assistance through prayer, the traveler would've died. The work of a "Martha" is powerful and precious indeed.

Finally, there is the story of Lazarus' resuscitation. In this story, Martha confronts Jesus as He approaches their home, 4 days after Lazarus has died. As they talk, Martha proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. This proclamation, when uttered by Peter, is seen as powerful and prophetic by Jesus. Martha is not just a busy bee who fails to understand who Jesus is. She is a spiritual leader who proclaims Jesus' identity in the midst of her despair.

Let's stop using the nickname Martha to downplay our own work. And let's remember that the real issue wasn't the question of "doing" v. "being." It is the question of judging others.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Top 20 Dos and Don'ts for Talking to Women with Post Partum Depression

People want to help. But sometimes, when we helpfully open our mouths, we make things much worse. Here are 10 things which are guaranteed to make a mom with post partum depression feel 100% worse.

10. Remind her of all her blessings. Yes, she may have a healthy baby, a supportive husband, a great support system of friends and family, health insurance, enough money to stay home from work, a nice car, a nice house, etc. But reminding her that she has no rational reason to be depressed ignores the illness aspect of post partum depression. Women with PPD aren’t depressed because of their situation: they are suffering from a disease.

9. Point out all the good things about her baby. Even if she has the perfect child: sleeps through the night at 8 weeks, nurses every 3 hours with no latching issues, never cries, poops rainbows that smell like marshmallows, this is not the time to talk about that. Again, she is battling a disease. A person with a tooth abscess can be grateful to have teeth at all, but that gratitude doesn’t stop the pain of the abscess.

8. Ask her if she can relate to how hard it is to be a mom. Very few women go into motherhood thinking it will be a walk in the park. Even if they do, post partum depression makes motherhood a million times harder, just the way having 2 broken legs would make motherhood a million times harder. She knows that all moms have a hard time – that’s one of the reasons so few women get proper treatment for PPD.

7. Offer her cures/solutions/treatments. Especially if she is going to therapy or taking prescribed medications to treat her depression, she doesn’t want to hear about how a XYZ totally solved your cousin’s best friend’s depression. If you aren’t an expert in treating post partum depression, don’t offer treatment suggestions.

6. Ask her when she’s having another baby. A mother struggling with post partum depression often wonders if having this baby was a mistake. The last thing she wants to consider is doing it all again.

5. Suggest how she can improve her feeding method. The whole issue of breastfeeding v. formula is a major source of guilt for most moms. If she’s using formula, she doesn’t need your opinion about how she should be breastfeeding. If she’s breastfeeding, she doesn’t need your opinion about how using formula will be better for her mental state.

4. Tell her she just needs to decide to be happy. A person can’t just decide to not have a broken leg or a tooth abscess. And a person can’t just decide to stop being depressed.

3. Tell her that it took you a long time to lose your baby weight too. I can’t imagine how anyone thinks it’s OK to talk to a woman about her weight these days, but some people do. Very few women can get their bodies back into pre-baby shape, especially without a lot of money and time. If you can't say anything nice, tell a white lie!

2. Remind her how much harder things could be. She doesn’t need to hear about how hard life was before disposable diapers, or before powdered formula, or before car seats. She also doesn’t need to know about how moms in Africa have to take care of a baby AND haul all their water for the day from a well. Reminders that her life is easier just reinforces the falsehood that she is ungrateful and her depression is her own fault.

1. Remind her that the days are long but the years are short. One of the problems with post partum depression is an inability to bond with the baby. Telling her that her time to bond with the child is limited adds to her stress.

And now, here are the Top 10 things you CAN do to help a woman with post partum depression.

10. Babysit for free. As long as she's not doing something destructive in her time away (like robbing banks or drinking bleach), giving her some time away from home is priceless.

9. Clean her house. Really any housekeeping task that she dislikes is a good one to take on for her, with her permission.

8. Listen to her talk. She spends most of her time with a nonverbal infant, and probably most of her conversations with her spouse are about the infant. Let her talk to you about anything and everything, and just listen without offering suggestions, solutions, or criticisms.

7. Find ways to make her laugh. Send her funny jokes or cartoons or videos. Buy her tickets to a funny movie and babysit while she’s watching it. Send her funny books. Sit down with her and joke about life.

6. Point out her accomplishments. Is she dressed? Remind her that even getting dressed is a challenge. Is she working out once a week? Congratulate her for making that effort. This is tricky, because it can easily veer into reminding her of her blessings, so make sure you are paying close attention to her reactions when you talk. 

5. Hug her a lot.

4. Pray for her. You don't have to do this when you're with her, unless she asks. Just praying for her during your day whenever you think of her is wonderful. You don't even have to tell her you're doing this - God's got it handled.

3. Give her permission to be imperfect. If she’s criticizing herself about something, remind her that it’s OK to be imperfect. It’s OK to formula feed. It’s OK to let the baby cry occasionally. It’s OK if a baby gets diaper rash. It’s OK to eat fast food or convenience food. It’s OK to not get dressed for 3 days in a row. It’s OK to wear her hair in a ponytail for a month at a time. It’s OK to eat emotionally. It's OK to have no sex drive. It's OK to gain weight. It's OK to have a messy house.

2. Hold the baby. Even if you can’t babysit, hold the baby whenever you get a chance. Babies love to be held, but a mom with post partum depression may not want to hold the child. You can give the mom a break AND nurture the baby just by holding it.

1. Validate her feelings. Post partum depression tells a lot of lies, and invalidating her feelings (“Oh, you don’t really hate your life, you just think you do”) adds even more uncertainty into her life. Validating feelings doesn’t mean agreeing with her. It just means acknowledging her emotions as real and offering sympathy and empathy. 

Post partum depression is an illness, not just situational depression or baby blues. Bottom line: Imagine how you would act if the mom were in a full body cast after a bunch of broken bones. Because that is how paralyzing post partum depression can be.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dethroning the Bible

I grew up venerating the Bible. I was taught at an early age to read the Bible, memorize the Bible, study the Bible, and always go to the Bible. But the more I did that, the more I realized how much of what I was taught was not, actually, IN the Bible. I mean, look at the story of Satan, jealous of God, fighting a war and falling from heaven. Not in the Bible. There's a couple of verses in Isaiah that are prophetic and can be seen to "refer" to this story, but the story itself is NOT there. Or the concept of Heaven - a place in the sky where we are happy all the time and wear white and worship God all day. Not in the Bible. We are promised time with God, but in the context of a new heaven and a new earth. The Christian prohibition against words like fuck, shit, and damn. Not in the Bible.

My extensive reading and studying of the Bible has always led me to a healthy respect for the complexities and nuances of God's Word. And while I believe it is God's Word, I don't believe it is divinely dictated.

When I recite the ancient creeds of Christianity, I see nothing about a divinely dictated written word. Jesus is the Word of God, but He spent most of his time contradicting the common understandings of Scripture and infuriating the religious experts.

When I see Christians defending divine inspiration and Biblical inerrancy, I usually see them turn around and use those arguments to justify excluding, condemning, and hurting other humans. (Non heterosexuality, women in ministry, premarital sex, yoga practice, divorce, cremation, wearing pants, peeing sitting down, etc.)

This all came to clarity for me this morning as I read the Bible to my 4 year old. A few weeks ago, I said something about Mommy God and she told me "God is a boy."

I don't believe God is gendered. Many Christians don't. I intend to teach my daughter that God transcends gender: that God is both male and female. So I set about teaching her.

I explained to her that while we refer to God as "he," God isn't a boy or a girl. God is God. After all, a river isn't a boy or girl, it's a river. We also call God a rock, and an eagle, so God isn't just a boy. She looked at me, a bit unconvinced.

As a way of countering the endless onslaught of the male pronoun that she is exposed to, I now use the feminine pronoun when referring to God.

So this morning I was reading the first chapter of Samuel. And I simply changed all the divine pronouns to feminine ones. As I did it, I thought, "hmm, am I corrupting Scripture?" And I concluded, I'm not.

Because even though God uses Scripture to change us, and even though the Bible is a vessel of divine transformation, a tool of the Holy Spirit, it is not inerrant. 

God did not dictate the Bible. Men wrote it. And those men, in those times, saw God as MALE. They did not use the male pronoun to refer to both genders, they used it to imply that God is a man. And that is simply not true. How could God divinely inspire a false word?

So there you have it. I'm dethroning the Bible. I worship God: Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit. I don't worship the Bible.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thinx Underwear!

On my Facebook feed, I saw an ad for Thinx underwear, with a note that a friend of mine liked the product. I'm suspicious of these kind of FB assertions, but there was a blog post attached, so I read the post.

Thinx underwear is underwear with built in pads to absorb period and other discharges. I normally use pads, so I was amused by some of the comments on their information page and on reviews. "It's like sitting in your own blood!" Well, no, of course not. I mean, I used cloth diapers, so I'm familiar with advances in technology that allow us to sit on absorbent materials and not feel damp. (I used the diapers on my baby, not myself. I'm not sure why I'm clarifying this).

So here I am, just now finishing up my period (not perfect timing), and I have received my first 2 pairs of Thinx. Why did I decide to try Thinx?
1. I have a very light flow, so I figured this could be a handy alternative to pads.
2. I use pads, but they have their flaws. Thinx underwear has no adhesive, so no painful ouchies. Also, I'm hoping Thinx underwear will eliminate the occasional positioning issues I face with pads.
3. I'd love an option to wear days and nights just before my period starts, so I don't have any more oops stains.
4. Some of the money for each purchase goes to help women in impoverished areas.

So here's the beginning of my product review!
First the underwear. I ordered two pairs, the hiphugger and the sport.
Here's the packaging. Nice. I measured myself and ordered the size recommended by their size chart. I noticed that it is a wee bit bigger than my normal underwear, but that's not a big deal. 

There's also a photo here of the underwear itself. You'll notice I ordered the beige color. I didn't realize the inside would be black, but that's probably for the best. I mean, let's be honest, there's going to be some staining.

The "sport" pair is on top and the "hiphugger" is on the bottom. I like the lace detail.

I didn't photograph it, but the inside of the packaging shows a drawing of the coverage of each pair of underwear. The hiphugger coverage extends all the way to the lace in the back, which makes it better for sleeping in. The sport coverage does not extend all the way up.

I'm currently washing my underwear. Washing is pretty basic. After use, you want to soak in cold water, then wash on gentle cycle on cold water. Then you let them air dry. This may seem like a lot of work to some of you, but it's exactly how I wash my bras: gentle cycle, cold water, air dry. So adding in the cold water soak is no big deal - I would have to do that if I was washing a fresh stain anyway.

By tomorrow, my Aunt Flo will have gone away again, so you'll have to wait about 3 weeks to get my final review of Thinx. I know you can hardly contain yourself...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

5 Things I Gained From My Facebook Fast

During Lent, I gave up Facebook. I've been back on ever since Easter, but I have to say, my time away was good for me. Here are 5 things I gained from my Facebook Fast.

1. Detox of my Newsfeed. Now, I can't say for sure that Facebook deliberately put items in my feed that it knew would make me angry, but I suspect it did! Inflammatory memes relating to politics and religion were always showing up, and sometimes I admit, I took the bait. But reading Facebook to increase my blood pressure is a losing proposition, so after 40 days of freedom, I have detoxed my feed. For 40 days, Facebook had no idea what I "liked", so my feed became neutral again. And now I'm hiding posts that I find inflammatory, which keeps my feed nice and light.

2. Appreciation of Groups and Custom Lists. One of the biggest reasons I'm on Facebook is the awesome group 10 Minute Novelists. How awesome is this group? Oh, it just made Writer's Digest list of best writer's sites out there! Spending my Facebook time perusing my group feeds is much more interesting and uplifting than just accepting whatever Facebook dumps into my newsfeed. In addition, I've been using custom lists for a while now to stay informed about the people I'm truly interested in.

3. Back in the Twitter World! I've been on Twitter for a long time, and one benefit of cutting out Facebook was spending more time on Twitter. I had forgotten how much fun it could be, especially twitter chats and live tweeting TV shows!

4. Peace about the election. This is no small thing. Almost everyone I know is tied up in knots about the upcoming Presidential election. And I'll admit, the candidates are pretty awful. But limiting my election chat interactions to IRL encounters has kept my blood pressure at normal levels. It's so much easier to understand each other when we are talking face to face. I can toss off a joke about Bernie Sanders without a bunch of people assuming the worst, and the same about Donald Trump. What is the worst? I don't know, what did you just assume? Staying off Facebook has greatly limited the amount of propaganda from all sides that I've seen, and that is just wonderful! If you want real change in your community, forget about re-posting election memes - try actually voting in local elections and changing your local actions.

5. More time for my truly important hobbies. Facebook is a crazy time suck. It's like a black hole. Just as you finish going through your notifications, Facebook gives you new ones, and then new ones, keeping you online well past your intentions. By cutting this time suck out of my life, I found more time to cross stitch and read. Win all around!