Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Top 10.

In honor of my obsession with lists and to force me to blog on a semi-regular basis, I give you...

Tuesday Top 10!

To catch up with my first (and last) Top 10, hop over to Top 10 Ways to Stay Grounded.

For most of Houston, including our little family of 3, yesterday was Back to School Monday!  I could practically hear the Hallelujah chorus singing in the heavens as millions of mamas dropped their little ones in their respective air conditioned hallways of learning.

In addition to the luxury of a child-less grocery store trip, I am looking forward to a little independent down time where I can devote myself, mind, body and soul to my first and longest love affair.  Reading.


So, without further ado, I give you my....Top 10 Books on my Reading List.

1.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  
I may or may not have accidentally/on purpose gotten myself a pity invite to a friend's book club.  I'm really hoping she remembers she invited me.

2.  A History of Modern Israel by Colin Shindler.
Because who really understands the constant crisis going on in Israel? 

3.  The Locust Effect by Gary A. Haugen.
Super pumped about this one!  I plan on pairing it with this Bible study on justice.

4.  Silence by Shusaku Endo.
Set in 16th century Japan, an historical novel about Portuguese missionaries who travel to Japan during a time of Christian persecution by the hands of Japanese feudal lords.

5.  Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Written by the first married couple to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

6.  Art Briles: Looking Up: My Journey from Tragedy to Triumph by Nick Eatman.  (Foreword by Robert Griffin III).
Because football.  Sic 'em!

7.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
Life, death and hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

8.  Carry on, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton.
This sounds like a pep talk written just for me.

9.  So What's the Difference? by Fritz Ridenour.
A look at 20 worldviews, faiths and religions and how they compare to Christianity.

10.  If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
Ok, technically I have already read this one, and technically it's teen fiction, but this was just an enjoyable book.  A super quick read about a girl trapped between living and dying and her battle to choose between the two.  As a medical professional, I've heard similar stories of experiences from patients in the throes of death and I just find this to be a fascinating subject packaged in a teen romance novel.  

There you have it, folks.  Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mommy guilt

I don't know about all of you mommies out there, but I suffer from a major problem that I'll just call "Mommy guilt."

It is a constant black cloud that follows me around, threatening to rain on my parade.

The minute Henry was born, I became afflicted with this disease.  It started when Henry was less than 24 hours old and the lactation consultant was asking me about my nursing plans.  Knowing I was going back to work, and wanting to set a realistic goal, I told her I wanted to commit to breastfeeding for 3 months, and then re-evaluate at that time.  I could see the judgment in her eyes.  The slight pursing of the lips that communicated that she didn't agree with this decision.

It's this same expression that you'll see on every person that has any involvement in your child's life.  The scrunched eyebrows, feigning concern; the slight eye twitch as they force a smile through their condemnation.  Everyone does it.  Fellow mommies, teachers, check out ladies, family, friends.  I've even recognized the expression on my own face when encountering a parenting idea that isn't to my particular liking.
I am plagued with Mommy guilt right now.  Several months ago, I took advantage of the situation when our nanny quit, and decided to rearrange my schedule, go part time and stay home with Henry.  I am with him all day every day Monday through Friday, and half of the weekends.  I roll myself out of bed after 3, 4, maybe 5 hours of sleep so I don't miss out on anything.  Why?  Because of mommy guilt.

We toured a wonderful Christian school in Pearland that has a Mother's Day Out program several weeks ago.  It had everything we wanted.  A Christian education, loving teachers, small classrooms, and it is about 10 minutes from our house.  Winning!

The minute we walked out the door, it started.  That heavy, oppressive feeling that is mommy guilt.

Is it right for me to send my child to Mother's Day Out, so I can have a few hours to myself?

Is it right for me to miss 10 hours of Henry time every week?

What milestones will I miss?  Walking?  Talking?  

Will he know that I've abandoned him?

Y'all these are not rational thoughts.

I can't tell you how to get over these fears and anxieties because I'm not over them myself.  But I know this: we were not created to live this way.  We were made to live a life encouraged, comforted, loved, not judged, guilty and anxious.

So if you are also suffering from Mommy guilt, practice this with me.  Every time those little voices creep in your head, whispering lies to you, practice speaking these small truths to yourself.

"You're a wonderful Mommy."  "You're the exact Mommy he needs."  "He loves you."  "He needs you."  "You were created perfectly to be his Mommy and no one else's."

Take heart, dear friend.  The days are long, the years are short.  Love and be loved.  Don't waste your time on anything else.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fresh food Friday

And now, for your reading pleasure....here is a look into my mind, my grocery cart, and my kitchen.

Confession: I'm not really a fad person.  Add my medical background to that, and I pretty much hate any fad diet right from the get go.  Anytime there is a new eating philosophy that it is supposed to magically fix everything, I mentally (or actually) roll my eyes.  Not to say there's not good intentions behind each and every one.  

All this to say, I'm a little late on the natural foods band wagon.

I've done a lot of (internet) reading, which these days basically qualifies me as an expert, and I've felt a strong urge to start incorporating these concepts.  Let me save you some time, if you're not up to speed.  There's some evidence that processed foods have very negative effects on our bodies: from cancer to heart disease to ADD, there are articles linking artificial everything to each and every physical/mental/emotional/psychological problem.

So, here are the things that we are trying to stick to in the Johnson household:

1.  Try to stay on the outside of the grocery store.
This means mostly fresh produce, meat and dairy.  I do saunter into the scary middle aisles for a few things like all natural peanut butter, rice, etc.

2.  Read the label.
For those things that come out of the middle aisles, if the ingredient list has more than 5 ingredients, it's probably not going in our cart.

3.  No artificial sugars.
I gave up the Diet Dr. Peppers when I was pregnant, but they tempt me every now and again.  Sometimes I just splurge for the actual thing, but this is mostly when I'm needing a caffeine pick me up at work.

4.  Avoid fast food.
Restaurants aren't always much better, but at least you can imagine your food is cooked to order instead of sitting under a heat lamp.

So what does this all look like?

Here's an example of our menu list this week:

Mediterranean Pasta
Cilantro Lime Chicken with Tomato and Avocado Salsa and Cilantro Lime Rice
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Salad (and homemade Greek Dressing)
Oven Roasted Citrus and Herb Chicken with Vegetable Rice and Green Beans
Tuscan Chicken Skillet and Caprese Salad
Greek Chicken with Couscous Tabbouleh and Greek Salad

Yum!  We have been very happy with our food choices and are loving the abundance of fresh food in our fridge.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I hate change

...and how I threw a huge stinkin' fit over a computer.

I am writing this post from a brand.new.computer.  I should be happy, right?  I should be drooling over its new features and spending way too much time customizing it to my liking.  Except that I hate it. 

I don't hate the actual computer so much as I hate the concept of a new computer.  My old computer was 6 years old.  Practically Stone Age, huh?  It took me through our first years of marriage, PA school, pregnancy, Henry's birth and four Houston 1:8's.  It had countless pictures, documents, spreadsheets, etc.  (So much, that I was actually close to capacity and didn't know it...who would have thought?)  I could type the first two letters of any of my frequently visited websites and it knew what I wanted.  And now I will take a moment to shed a single tear over its loss.

Picture this: Henry was down for his morning nap, which is my time to watch a Gilmore Girls rerun, check email and spend some time on Good Ol' Faithful.  I was done perusing various blogs and websites and had no email to return, so I casually set my computer on the back of the couch where it meets the wall...I know, I know.  Not the best idea, but this is where it has been for literally months, if not years.  And all of a sudden...WHAM!  It fell to the ground with a sickening crash.  After quickly making sure the baby was still asleep (which is the most important thing after all), I reached down the wall to pick up the computer and prayed a silent prayer. 

All I got was a continuous loading screen...you know that blue Windows screen that shows a circle going around and around and around?

So I grabbed my phone and frantically called my technically-minded husband.  I was FREAKING OUT.

"All of Henry's pictures are on there!"

"All of my contacts are on there!"

"All of our Sunblossom documents are on there!"

Despite the fact that he assured me he could recover the data even if the computer wouldn't turn on, I was just beyond consolation.

Henry woke up about this time and I was literally weeping.  I took Henry his milk and my shoulders were silently shaking while he gulped his milk.  He took one look at my crying face and started LAUGHING.  See?  Even my one year old thinks I'm ridiculous!

All this to say, everything is safe and recovered and transferred to a brand new computer.  I know, I bet you were glued to the edge of your seat wondering, right?

So, learn from my mistakes, people.

1.  Back up your dang hard drive! 
2.  Don't perch your computer on the precarious edge of the couch.
3.  Have someone in your life that can fix your technical computer issues.  If it's your husband, good for you, you married up!

So, take note of the fact that this ridiculous post immediately follows a post about staying grounded.  Irony, anyone?

Yes I'm still a human, living in the first world, suffering first world problems.  This is perhaps the hardest lesson of all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top 10 ways to stay grounded

...in a culture that is all about selfishness and greed.

1.  Eat only when you're hungry.
It dawned on me last week when I was fasting during lunch, how much I eat when I'm not even hungry.  I'm not naive, readers.  I know that food I don't eat doesn't go directly to starving children.  But we are looking at our grocery budget, and considering donating the money we save.  It's amazing to me that for around $40 per month, you can feed, educate and minister to a child in a 3rd world country through Compassion International.  

2.  Consider passing up the latest and greatest and settling for what you already have.
Do you really NEED the newest edition of everything?  Could you skip this year and wait until the next upgrade?  I am still rocking my iPhone 4S and although I am impatient with it at times, it works just fine and gives me more technology than I can handle, honestly.

3.  If you're a believer, recognize that your stuff isn't really yours.
I keep remembering a missionary we stayed with in Guatemala who kept reminding us while we invaded their home, that nothing we saw belonged to them.  Not only is this a great motto for hospitality, it puts things in eternal perspective.

4.  As much as I love house decorating, it's just eye candy, y'all.
I couldn't say it any better than this article, right here.

5.  Teach your children (and yourself) to wait.
We have been noticing a new quality developing in Henry...a little thing called impatience.  Now that he is able to communicate what he wants, he gets frustrated if he doesn't get it right. that. second.  It's easy to laugh at him and his feeble little infant mind, until you realize that we are programmed exactly the same way.

6.  Clean out your closet.
Needing something new to wear?  Clean something out of your closet first,  One thing in, one thing out.  Are you frustrated with a household appliance and really want an upgrade?  Donate your old one as you purchase a new one.  I know lots of refugee ladies that would love home furnishings or appliances.

7.  Get out of the country.  
Mission trip, vacation, it honestly doesn't matter.  You can't fully appreciate how much luxury we have in the US until you leave.

8.  Stay up to date on current issues.  
I am a fan of the international section in the NYT and follow CNN on my newsfeed.  While there is certainly some fluff to sort through, it might change your perspective on your current meltdown once you realize that there are real problems out there.  This ISIS crisis?  I can't handle it, y'all.  I have no words.  There is no better way to keep life in perspective than reading about children being decapitated.

9.  Understand your purchasing power.
Consider buying things that pay living wages and are purchased through fair trade.  You can find amazing jewelry that supports international artisans here and here.  I'm not much of a coffee or chocolate addict, but these are some of the most exploited goods in the world.  For more info, see http://fairtradeusa.org/.  

10.  Last, but not least, you aren't the answer for the all of the world's problems.
Seriously, don't get weighed down over this.  This is meant as encouragement only.  Jesus himself said we would always have the poor among us.  Recognize that you are only one person, and you can't do it all.  You can't care about every issue.  Denying yourself everything won't cure the world's problems.  

That's all I've got, folks.  I don't pretend to be an expert, and I am humbled by my own list, but our family is a work in progress.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Are you in need of a spiritual pep talk?

I loosely follow Beth Moore's blog, so when I found out she was doing a new summer Bible study, I was encouraged to study alongside her.  I reached out to some friends, and a new(ish) friend offered to do it with me and I was so excited!

Beth Moore is not my absolute favorite, but I have enjoyed several of her studies, and I love the camaraderie she promotes among women.  Being a mama has shown me a HUGE need for female companionship that I frankly never knew was there.

So when I saw that her study was on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I figured this study would be a great one for me to jump in on.  I mean, who really knows anything about 1 and 2 Thessalonians?  Well, now that I am about 3/4 of the way through the study, I can proudly say "This girl!"

Today's study was light and fluffy...which is great because I have been feeling tired and heavy.  There wasn't a lot of word study, examining the original Greek, or deep spiritual concepts to unpack.  The following verses are just a great go-to if you feel stuck in your walk, if you're feeling discouraged, or if you just need a little reminder of why we're all here.

So here goes...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
"Rejoice always! Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  Don't stifle the Spirit.  Don't despise prophecies, but test all things.  Hold on to what is good.  Stay away from any kind of evil."

As a checklist-kind-of-a-woman, these verses just really jive with me.  

Not that any of these exhortations are easy.  If this were translated into Megan-ese, it would read more like, "Rejoice sometimes, pray when you feel like it, give thanks when you remember."


So enjoy some light reading, friend, and I hope that you feel a bit encouraged today.