The right way to make a New Year’s resolution

Dear Daughter,

I’m back! I had to take a break from blogging for a while to tend to some other things, plus to get some sleep, since I’m now nine months pregnant, and getting a full night’s sleep is as unlikely as finding the end of a rainbow. I think God makes sleep difficult for pregnant women as a way of preparing us for the sleepless nights that come with a newborn. I consider myself fully prepared!

ANYWAY…

Today I want to talk about New Year’s resolutions. I’ve written before about making New School Year Resolutions, which are important for students. But now is the time of year when everyone—young and old—sets new goals and hopes to achieve them. Most resolutions deal with diet or exercise, inspired after stuffing ourselves to the gills during the holidays. Others are more life-improvement-related, like reading the Bible more or getting out of debt. And still others are self challenges—traveling to all 50 states in a year, or running a marathon.

It’s so tempting to want to have multiple New Year’s resolutions. After all, every one of us desires self-improvement in more than one area of our life. But to expect a major overhaul in each of those areas is unrealistic and will only lead to disappointment. So I recommend choosing just one resolution, and make it something that’s specific and feasible. Some of my past resolutions are:

1) Call my grandmother at least once a month. (Doesn’t sound like much but I hate talking on the phone, so it was a big deal.)
2) Take photos at every possible opportunity.
3) Always be reading at least one book.
4) Eat a fruit and vegetable at every meal.

As you can see, these resolutions are concrete and measurable, which made it easier to be intentional about them. (They say that such a method is what works for losing weight, too, by the way. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds,” say, “I’m going to do 30 minutes of cardio exercise six days a week.”) It’s the small, specific goals that lead to the fulfillment of the big-picture goals.

I’ve been going back and forth about what I want this year’s resolution to be. I have several to choose from (one of which is, not saying the word “cool” so much. I realized the other day that I use that word all the time, usually in response to someone telling me something interesting. It makes me sound young and inarticulate, so I need to stop.) But because I’m committed to keeping up with this blog and writing a book, I know what my resolution needs to be, and that is…

To write something—anything—every day of the week.

Even if it’s just a single sentence! I need to make writing a priority and a habit. I will cut myself some slack on this during the first couple of weeks after the baby’s born, but once I’m settled with all of that, this is what I commit to. And I’m excited about it.

Daughter, I look forward to hearing what your goals are for this year, and to helping each other achieve our goals.

Love,
Mom

This week…

Dear Blog Readers,

Sorry I’ve been MIA this week. I’ve had other things to tend to during my typical writing time. I’ll be back next week for sure, so please check back then.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

Love,
Mom

What not to wear

Dear Daughter,

So I’m totally stealing the name of this post from the TLC show where two fashion experts help poorly dressed people get a new look. We all love a good makeover story, so this show is kind of addicting.

I’ve written before about how you shouldn’t wear PJs to the final exam and that you shouldn’t leave the house without lipstick and earrings. It’s safe to say that I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to personal appearance. But I think anyone would agree with me that the following items are things people (particularly women) should eliminate from their closets, or at least should not wear in public.

1. Pleated pants. It takes a special woman to pull off pleated pants. If she has a single curve in her waistline, forget about it.

2. Leggings without a dress or long shirt. Leggings are meant to be like tights, not like pants. If we see any part of your derriere while wearing leggings, you’ve gone too far, my friend.

3. A scrunchy. The name itself explains why these hair bands should not be a fashion accessory. Scrunchies were wildly popular in the late ’80s/early ’90s and thankfully are pretty much extinct now. But every once in a while I’ll see a woman wearing one and it makes me cringe. It doesn’t even hold the hair well, so it makes this loose ponytail, all bound by this blob of denim or American flag material.

4. Oversized sweatshirts. I’m not a big fan of the sweatshirt in general, though if it’s the right size and occasion, it could work. Lots of women, however, wear sweatshirts that are too big for them, which does not flatter the figure at all. I can appreciate the desire to be comfortable, but it is possible to do so while wearing something that you don’t swim in. On the other hand…

5. Undersized t-shirts. There are just as many women wearing shirts that are waaay too small and clingy for their frame. You see this in young women especially, who are probably trying to look hot but instead it has the reverse effect, by showing off every roll in their upper body. There is a way to look good without having to squeeze into a tight shirt.

6. Short shorts. I’ve said my piece about this. I’ll say no more.

7. Carhart jackets. These are okay if you’re going out hunting or farming. Not for a trip to the mall.

8. Crocs. Some people might disagree with me on this one, but I’ve never understood why these goofy-looking shoes are so popular. They’re ugly, they have holes in them, and they come in weird colors. I’ll admit it’s kinda cute when little kids wear them but if you’re not 5 years old, the Crocs should be replaced with real shoes.

9. Nightgowns. Obviously these shouldn’t be worn in public but not even at home. They’re frumpy, clumsy and can’t be comfortable to sleep in. Opt for the PJ pants instead. (But don’t wear those outside of the house either!)

And lastly…

10. Tattoos. There, I said it. I don’t like tattoos. Especially on women. I’ll leave it at that.

Love,
Mom

**Disclaimer:** I realize this post comes across as a tad judgmental. It’s just that, women are beautiful creatures. And we should display that beauty in a tasteful but still flattering way. It saddens me when I see a woman wearing something that hinders her true beauty. Get pretty, girls! Dress well, ladies! You’ll look great but more importantly, you’ll feel great!

More adventures with Jan and Marsha (which is actually Marcia)

So I totally wrote the word “Marsha” about 50 times in yesterday’s post, only to find out later that the Brady Bunch character’s name is really spelled “Marcia.” I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t check on that before writing the post. That’s like Proofreading 101! And I call myself an editor…

Oh well, you live, you learn.

Anyway, I came across this video clip of a classic Jan vs. Marcia moment and thought it perfectly summed up what I wrote about yesterday, with some good advice from Mr. and Mrs. Brady at the end.

How to be a Jan amongst Marshas

Dear Daughter,

Yesterday a reader of this blog asked me for advice on how not to feel inferior when one of your friends seems to have it all. This is something that a lot of young women struggle with, so I decided to dedicate a full post to it.

It’s what I like to call The Marsha Effect. There’s an old TV show called The Brady Bunch, which was about a family of six kids (three boys, three girls). The middle girl was named Jan and her older sister was Marsha. Jan was the smart, clumsy, kind of nerdy one who wore glasses and had a plain appearance. Marsha, on the other hand, was beautiful, popular, charismatic, and seemed to do no wrong in the eyes of her parents or anyone. Jan was almost always jealous of Marsha, and one of the popular sayings from the show is when Jan would stomp her foot and say, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”

These moments in the show were comical but are a hard-hitting reality for many women. We all have a “Marsha” in our life, the one for whom everything works out, the one that everyone loves and focuses their attention on. And we want to be happy for the Marshas. After all, it’s not like they don’t deserve the throne of greatness. It’s just that, in their greatness, we feel inferior, like there’s nothing we can do to rise up to her level. Next to her, we feel overlooked, ignored, not special enough to be noticed.

Such feelings of inferiority can cause a downward spiral of insecurity, which can lead to other dangerous things like depression, bitterness and maybe even the desire to sabotage the Marsha in your life.

I don’t have a secret potion on how to handle such a situation. But here are some ways to stand out as a “Jan” amongst Marshas:

1) Don’t ever, ever try to be someone you’re not. This is very important. You may find yourself wishing you were like Marsha but you’re not. You’re you, and you’re awesome. Don’t try to change your appearance or personality simply for the sake of getting Marsha-like attention. People will catch on to the fact that you’re a phony, and you’ll be alienated even more because of it.

2) Focus on your strengths. There was one thing Jan had that Marsha didn’t: intelligence. And in Jan’s strongest moments, she used her smarts to stand out, to get the credit that she deserved. Similarly, you have a gift that no one else does. Whether it’s your singing voice or artistic ability or your humor… figure out what it is, work on perfecting it, and when you feel inferior, remember you have this amazing gift that makes you unique.

3) Smile more and practice good posture. It seems silly but these simple physical gestures, which actually are not very simple at times, exude oodles of self-confidence. It’s hard not to notice someone with a warm smile and a tall posture.

4) Give, give, give. Instead of dwelling on your own inferiority all the time, turn your eyes outward and see where you can help others. Use your aforementioned strengths to serve those who truly are inferior in our society, or simply to help a friend who is hurting. Taking the focus off of yourself (and off Marsha) and shifting it to others will serve as a reminder that this world is bigger than you, than Marsha, than all the people who worship the ground Marsha walks on. You can make a contribution to that big world, and doing so is far more rewarding than being the most popular girl in the room.

We all have a little Marsha in us. We just have to find it.

But being a Jan is pretty cool, too.

Love,
Mom

How to truly appreciate Christmas

Dear Daughter,

In exactly 20 days, it’ll be Christmas Day. That seems like an eternity to you, but trust me, it’ll go by quickly. And it’s my hope that in the next 20 days, we will fully appreciate this season.

Christmas is special in that it’s celebrated not just on the one day but throughout the whole month. Yesterday we got our Christmas tree (a real one!) and came home and decorated it. Now our home feels all warm and cozy and festive, like it has purpose. We sang Christmas carols at church and probably will do the same every Sunday between now and the 25th. There are Christmas movies on TV, and our iPods are fully stocked with our favorite yuletide tunes. It’s so easy to get into the Christmas spirit, because it’s everywhere we look.

And yet, every year it flies by so quickly, and once it’s over, we have a tendency to think, “That’s it?” Each year’s Christmas memories blend into each other. Some of that is inevitable, a natural result of the passing of time. But it also happens because we adults run around like crazy during this time of year, more wrapped up in consumerism and our to-do lists than in the reason behind why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

I want to make a point this year to cherish every moment, feeling grateful not just for the gifts we’ll receive but also for the true beauty of the season as a whole. That means spending time in prayer, thanking Jesus for coming to this world in the first place. It means allowing the warm and fuzzies come over you when you hear your favorite Christmas song or when you see a beautiful Christmas tree. It means purposely spending more time with family than with anyone or anything else.

Daughter, let’s make the most of the next 20 days.

Love,
Mom