Meditation on Perspiration or 6 AM Worship

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href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/58442690@N00/27404027882/”>Iain Farrell via Compfight cc
I’ve begun getting up at 6 AM to worship. Now I don’t mean that the praise music comes on and the house is awakened by joyous singing. This is a different variety of worship. A meditation on perspiration. I have started training for my first 5 K in the last few weeks. This is not something I ever thought I could do. But our church decided to start a health and exercise initiative to provide community support for an upcoming half marathon festival that also includes a 5k and 10k. I’m supposed to be taking care of my temple and honoring God with my body. But it doesn’t always feel like that at 6 AM.

My album of the week is Tree 63’s self titled debut. Every song is scripture. Right around the midpoint of my run, the strains of “it’s all for you, Father” keep me going. I know in my heart that this isn’t all for Him, yet. Some of this is for me. I want to be thinner, in better shape, prove something to myself and my family about what I am capable of. But at the same time, when the sweat is dripping down my back and I am rethinking the whole idea of a race at all, the words “Earnestly, earnestly, Lord I seek you, my soul thirsts for you. In a dry and weary land, running out of water, God I long for you” have never had more meaning.
The weekly devotion for our running group this week is Isaiah 40:29-31. There have definitely been moments in my training when I feel weary and pray for God to renew my strength. That is when I realize this can be worship. Sometimes just breathing is worship, taking the next step when all we want to do is lie down. Our perseverance can be a form of worship, if we let Him be the focus. Let us all strive to continue in the race set out for us, clinging to words of hope and knowing that each breath is given by Him and for Him who gives us strength.

What I Won’t Wear Wednesday

After 30 years in this body, there are a few things that I have learned. I realize that my body has been under almost constant change during that time, but I still have a few fashion rules that have always applied and will continue to do so, regardless of trends.
Belts
Yes, I know in the current style world, belts are a necessity. But I am petite and short-waisted. Belts have never looked good on me. In fact years ago I read in a style book that short-waisted women should avoid belts as it just draws attention to their lack of a typical waist. Really my waist is just slightly lower than my bust. So empire waist things look nice on me, but they must be styled very carefully or I end up looking bigger than I am, i.e. pregnant. Unfortunately this is also one of my thickest areas, at least currently and, truthfully, perpetually. If I gain weight, the middle to upper middle is where it will be. So I haven’t wrapped my brain around accentuating that part of me with a belt. I have owned a few pants that were lower rise and I wore a belt lower on the hips and that looked cute, but it also requires shorter shirts otherwise the belt disappears anyway and tucking in a shirt almost never looks good on me. So while I have occasionally worn belts to keep that nasty gap at the back of my pants from happening, I don’t wear them for fashion and certainly not the way the current trends show them being used. (One exception, I have and do wear belted sweaters, but I must wear the belt low on my waist, practically around my hips to pull it off).

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Horizontal Stripes
 I don’t do horizontal stripes. This is something that the current trend is forcing me to rethink. I’m actually about the purchase a couple of pieces to see what I think of them, but generally, I think it makes me look wider. The one exception, is a solid color with a large stripe across the bust area, which can be very flattering, but that is really more color blocking than striping. I do like diagonal stripes and chevron patterns, which I think can slim or create the illusion of attractive curves.   I settled on trying the above pictured cardigan even though it breaks my stripes rule. I figured that if I wore it open that would avoid the widening effect that I was fearing. But, sadly, it was a complete mistake on my actual body, but it hasn’t soured me on all patterned cardigans, just horizontal stripe ones.

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Patterns
In the past, patterns have not been my friend. Textures, definitely, but not patterns. They were always too large or bold that they overwhelmed my petite frame or honestly I just didn’t like them. But there are a few items this year with great patterns that I am seriously drooling over. Hence this shirt that I decided to purchase from Lands End. Sadly, the shirt went back. The pattern was too overwhelming in real life and while I loved my colors, my husband genuinely hated it, so I returned it.

New Things I’m Determined to Try

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Cardigans, both solid and patterned
I’ve never been much of a cute cardigan person, more of a bulky cardigan girl. But we’re talking bulky for heat due to seriously cold temps in my house come winter, not for looking stylish. But I’ve begun to realize that cardigans can be a great year round layering item. So I’m adding more to my wardrobe.
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I love this Lands End cardigan, though I’m unlikely to be buying it anytime soon because the price is a bit more than I usually spend. Though if I knew that I was likely to wear it almost constantly this winter (as I believe I am likely to do) it might be worth it. (Secret: I actually bought this cardigan using a Lands End coupon last week. I absolutely love it and now I have to decide if I’m allowed to keep it. So far I’m leaning toward yes.) I also purchased two different colors of the above solid cardigan, plantation (which is kind of a greenish brown) and eggplant. I’m still waiting to decide whether I’ll be keeping either one, as they are nice and serviceable but I’m still a little nervous about colored cardigans vs. my usual safe neutrals.

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This chevron pattern from Lands End is unique and I think it’s a lot of fun, but my husband has informed me that it “doesn’t look like it’s designed for someone young.” Since I have an unfortunate habit of picking clothes that my mother would wear (as stylish as she is), I try to avoid things that fit into that category. I am open to classic pieces because of their longevity, but I also want to look my age, or at least a stylish version of my age.

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Casual Dresses for Everyday
I’ve always gravitated away from dresses and skirts for everyday wear, even before I became a mom. It just didn’t seem practical. But during a heat wave this summer I read up on how to stay cool and everything I read said, skirts, especially maxi skirts. I have a few yards of jersey knit still sitting on my dining room table waiting to become my new skirt, but these dresses also caught my eye. It may be a mistake, but I’m was willing to try dresses as everyday wear before summer came to an end.
I ended up loving and keeping both dresses. The maxi dress beat all the odds and looks amazing on me, even though it’s not a petite size and has horizontal stripes. The midi tank dress is super comfortable. I ordered it in two colors and now I really don’t want to return either one. A fun scarf tied loosely at the neck helped to disguise any cleavage when I wore it to a park playdate last week.

Things I’m considering

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Bulky, interesting sweater
Not sure if this will make me look too bulky because I’m so short, if it will cover my problem areas or just make me look big all over, but I’m willing to consider it. The reviews of this particular sweater give me pause and the others I’ve seen are so expensive so I may have to wait until fall and winter are in full swing and try a few bargain stores to find what I’m looking for. I do have a couple of bulkier cardigans that I didn’t wear much last winter because they weren’t super convenient for breastfeeding, so perhaps I’ll try them out again this winter.
A Mom Backpack
I’ve been carrying the same backpack diaper bag for more than 4 years now and I’m working on finding an alternative. So far everything I’ve seen is too small and too expensive, so I may have to settle for looking like a bit of a pack mule with my overloaded backpack and purse slung over my arm. I’ve thought about getting a stylish tote of some kind, but I love being hands free for putting kids in car seats, and a backpack is one of the only ways to do that well. I also worry about the long term effects of a heavy tote being carrier on my shoulder.

So what about you? What are your style no-no’s and what previously uncharted territory are you willing to pursue fashion wise?

Here are some great websites I’ve discovered to help me find my mom-fashion style.

Ain’t No Mom Jeans

You Look Fab

J’s Everyday Fashion

Join me next week as I work my way through Frump to Pumps, a one-month motivational for getting dressed.

It’s OK to Admit It’s Hard

I apologize for my absence during the last week. My laptop has failed, as well as no small part of my sanity, and I am in the process of trying to transition to using a tablet instead. I’ve been dealing with a number of different large stresses in my life lately, which I won’t go into now, but I finally found something that really encouraged me. Hopefully I’ll be back later this week with more posts, but until then, I suggest you check out the amazing blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Why I Recommend Wii Fit

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Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Two years ago, my husband and I sold things on E-Bay to purchase a Wii Sports bundle and the Wii Fit. My husband is a longtime Nintendo fan who had loved the Wii from when it first came out. But the cost was more than we could even consider. So we waited And waited. Until finally, the price dropped, by half. At the time we had to search around for something who still had the Fit Sports package instead of the Mario Cart package that was currently being featured, but we found one. Then a month or two later, we also purchased the Wii Fit with Wii Fit +.

Even without the Wii Fit, Wii sports and Wii sports resort have the potential to be great exercise tools. It can be hard to have high level exercise if you stop too often, so if you are playing for exercise, I recommend choosing your game order in advance instead of spending a long time between rounds searching through menus. This works well for some people because it’s fun and it doesn’t seem much like exercise. When my husband’s doctor told him to exercise he said whatever he chose was fine, as long as he would actually do it. Well, while the Wii was supposed to be for my husband, he has never been very consistent about using it. But it ended up being a great tool for me, especially the Wii Fit.

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Yoga tree pose in the early second trimester.

While I loved my Pilates DVD’s and still miss using them regularly, the Wii Fit really worked with my J side. I could keep a record of exercise schedule, it recorded my approximate calorie burn and let me set weight goals. One of my favorite features is setting a calorie burn goal. You pick a food item (mine is a soft serve ice cream cone), and it tells you how many calories it is. Then your goal is to burn that many calories when you exercise. This helped motivated me to pick the more aerobic activities on days when I felt like playing easy games.

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My daughter using the Wii Fit to do yoga. She loves the doing the warrior pose.

Things I didn’t like about the Wii Fit. You can only log Fit credits on the current day. When you exercise other than on the Wii Fit there is a feature that allows you to log the duration of your exercise and estimate difficulty and it gives you approximate Fit credits that show up on your bar graph. Sometimes I would go for a walk and then forget to log the credits until the next day, so it put it on my current day. This is annoying but not the end of the world. I liked being able to look at the chart and see how often I was exercising at a glance. So it was annoying when it looked like I had gaps, when really I just forgot to log the credits.

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My daughter and I doing Wii Fit boxing in my third trimester. (Notice she is pretending parts of her doctor kit are the Wii remote and Nunchucks)

Now, I realize that the Wii has been replaced by the Wii U, however, that means that there will be more Wii’s on the market and they will be cheaper than ever. If you don’t have space for something like a treadmill and you find workout videos boring, the Wii Fit can be a great option. I had never even done yoga before we got the Wii Fit it was hugely helpful in keeping me active during my last pregnancy. In fact, using my Wii Fit played a huge role in helping me to maintain my blood sugar when I had gestational diabetes. I used to hop on the Wii Fit for 15-30 minutes after every meal (at least until towards the end of my pregnancy) and it really kept my blood sugar balanced.

So if you love technology, and like having a system that will tack your exercise patterns, weight loss goals and calorie burn, the Wii and Wii Fit may be a great option.

 

Learning to Appreciate Smallness

IMG_2090Tiny hands that have surprising strength. Little feet with minute toes that can kick and scratch with the best of them. Voices that carry with wispy coos or guttural screams, the sound of which can comfort or strike fear, depending on the day or time. They are so small and yet sometimes I have to remind myself that I am bigger than they are. From the moment each of them was born, I became their slave.  I love them so much it hurts, other times, it just hurts.

IMG_2081From stretching belly muscles to the prick of a lancet four times a day to make sure he grows safely. Nights without enough sleep that don’t seem to stop, even during the preschool years. Short tempered mornings that see me become an ogre I don’t want to be, forgetting how small and fragile their little egos can be as well. When we look each other in the eye and fight the battles for parental authority, never quite sure if I’ll win, I realize how familiar all of this is. They are smaller than me, but not by much. My Father and I have these same arguments and clashes of will. But He is the perfect parent, extending grace with one hand will dispensing loving discipline with the other. I am exhausted from trying to be in charge, in control and the boss of my own life. I want to be small again, returning to his loving arms, so that I can again experience being the beloved child.IMG_2023IMG_2069

What Will I Wear Wednesday?

IMG_2002So in fairness I’ve been comprehending this a lot longer than just today. In fact the last few weeks it’s been on my mind. Over the weekend I reread The No-Brainer Wardrobe for the third time. It has inspired me to slowly rework my wardrobe, mostly because most of the time I feel just plain blah. (More on my attempts to work through Frumps to Pumps later). My children are 4 and almost 18 months and most days find me in my workout shorts, sports bra and t-shirt, with the intentional of actually exercising, but it rarely happens.

I’ve struggled with my weight somewhat since I weaned my son, mostly because I don’t like to diet. Frankly I don’t like to weigh myself either. For the first time, I’ve finally started to buy my husband’s philosophy that it’s just a number. But I do want to be healthy and feel good in my own skin. Part of that is trying to work regular exercise back into my life. The other part is actually getting dressed, preferably in clothes that are comfortable, and look good on me.

Why is it so hard to get dressed?

I got into an unfortunate habit of putting on what I call temporary clothes. Most mornings I roll out of bed as my kids are both waking up and wailing for attention. I try to at least run a brush through my hair, pull it back in a head band and throw on some clothes, any clothes. Anything that wasn’t what I wore to bed the previous night would do (even if it was something I would usually wear to bed).

I told myself that once the kids were settled with their breakfasts I would dash back upstairs and put on “real” clothes. But most days it didn’t happen. Other days I would get up early to exercise, but not have time for a shower before my husband leaves for work and I never change out of my workout clothes. The hot weather was not motivating. Why bother to look nice when I’ll be sweaty and gross in an hour or so?

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My neighbor snapped this shot while we were hanging out in the backyard. It’s 4 p.m. and I’m still wearing my workout clothes.

My wardrobe is also sadly lacking in stylish tank tops, mostly because we only have a month or so of really hot weather in our area, and at least some of that time is spent in overly cold air conditioned locations (my car not being one of them). So during the super hot weather I ended up wearing the same four or five tank tops, most of them barely being suitable as workout wear, let alone be seen in public in.

I have made an effort in the last year to update my wardrobe with a few pieces I love. I’m realizing that my style is a little bit complicated. I don’t like a lot fuss, though I like feeling put together. I love jewelry and having lots of pieces that coordinate with different outfits. (So when I put on a particular outfit I immediately know what goes with it without having to think). But some of the pieces I really like (like bangle bracelets and large dangly earrings) are just not practical for me, at least at this stage of my life.

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This is a perfect example of why jewelry and stylish clothes don’t always seem practical.

I think the one of the hardest parts for me is trying to feel at least somewhat “in style” while still developing your own personal style. I had become a jeans and t-shirt girl (when I could find jeans that fit), not so much because I wanted to be, but because other things didn’t feel practical. In fact, even when I had nice clothes that I did like I found myself saving them for special occasions for fear of ruining them in the everyday grind.

Our family budget for clothing was small, most of it going to my kids. I’ve also made my peace with the fact that I almost always require a petite size. This makes the selection considerably smaller, more expensive and shopping second hand very difficult.

I was never someone who had a lot of shoes. (My husband would disagree with this, but he has no idea how atypical my small collection is by comparison). I don’t own any shoes that aren’t brown, black or on a rare occasions white. I tend to buy shoes when I need them, and not having much money they end up being cheap and uncomfortable. On the rare case where I find a pair I love that are in my price range, they usually fall apart quickly because I wear them all the time. Plus, I had certain shoes I wore to work (more than four years ago), most of which have now seen better days, and everything else was sneakers.

Last winter I got tired of wearing sneakers to church so I bought a pair of wedges, really comfortable mary jane flats and some clogs. I realize clogs are really cliché, but I wanted a brown shoe that wasn’t a clunky laced boot (which is what I previously had) that I could wear with jeans, corduroys or khaki’s, basically a step up from sneakers. I do regret it a little bit now, but they are still really comfortable and I wear them a lot.

I also wanted some attractive tops for church that fit we really well. I discovered a feature that I love in almost all clothing now; faux wrap and ruching. I don’t actually want shirts or dresses that wrap (with my luck my kids would manage to unwrap them in a public place). But the faux wrap with a v-neck and some side ruching is really flattering. If it’s the right fabric, it is comfortable and if the cut is just right it makes me look slimmer too. I now own four wrap shirts (two short sleeve, 2 elbow sleeve), two faux wrap sweaters and two long sleeve dresses as well. I love finally having solid practical dresses with longer sleeves for winter. These dress up or down really easily and I absolutely love them. I even took a risk on a bright color, which is unusual for me.

You don't get the complete picture here, but this is one of my favorite winter shirts.
You don’t get the complete picture here, but this is one of my favorite winter shirts.

So I’m in the process of developing my own personal style. I’ve decided that I like scarves. I used to knit decorative scarves to go with some of my outfits when I was working, mostly by necessity, my office was cold. But also because I enjoyed the kind of bohemian look that went with them. Now my style is much more minimalist and preppy, but I’m learning to embrace accessories. I read somewhere that an outfit should have at least 3 pieces to feel put together. So when I’m just wearing jeans and a simple t-shirt, a scarf can really dress it up.

Is it a breastfeeding friendly shirt? When paired with a nursing tank, why yes, it is.
Is it a breastfeeding friendly shirt? When paired with a nursing tank, why yes, it is.

So please join me on this journey. If you’ve never read The No Brainer Wardrobe, I recommend it. It will help you learn to only buy and keep clothes you love and avoid purchasing items just to have something to wear. As moms we spend tons of time pouring out into our kids lives and so little time on ourselves. Don’t feel the need to dress like someone else or even replicate trends. Find clothes that look good on your body, are comfortable and that you generally enjoy wearing.

Not a fantastic picture of me, but you get a great image of my new favorite dress.
Not a fantastic picture of me, but you get a great image of my new favorite dress, at my son’s first birthday party.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be providing updates on my progress towards a functional wardrobe that makes me feel comfortable and confident; including reviews of chapters of Frumps to Pumps as I work through it.

Make a Debt Free Plan: Working Through One Bite At A Time

I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post. Mostly because I didn’t know how. We’ve been struggling with school loan debt for years and despite living very simply and forgoing most luxuries (a few small exceptions) we were making hardly any progress. So finally we sat down with our mentor couple who did our premarital counseling and talked about options. Things could not stay as they were. Income Based Repayment on our loans was allowing us to afford the payments, but not actually pay off the loans. Only a few dollars of principle was being paid each month, everything else was just interest. We were driving two old cars and we really didn’t want a car payment, but eventually something was going to have to change. We reviewed all our options including me going back to work, my husband getting a second job and looking for other ways to increase our income.

Without going into personal details I’ll just say that we were able to increase our income in some unexpected ways and we will now be making full loan repayments. At this rate it will still take us 10 years to get rid of the loans. But we are also committed to continue to live simply and resist lifestyle inflation wherever possible. However, we also know that we have future expenses coming that will need to be addressed, such as a new vehicle, so we can’t just put everything on our student loans, but we still think that if we continue to live simply and look for extra opportunities to put additional money towards our debt repayment, we can shorten that time frame.

Our current goal: repay the student loans in the next 5 years. That still feels huge and very difficult. But it has enough attainability to give us a challenge that we can work towards. I also feel that it is important to note that this came after years of prayer on this topic. There were so many times that I felt discouraged, as if nothing was ever going to change. But God has blessed us, and I can take no credit for it whatsoever. It wasn’t because we were the most faithful, there were times I doubted. It wasn’t because we followed a magic formula, we just honestly expressed our needs, desires and frustrations to God.

So I would encourage you to stay strong toward you goals of living debt free. Even if you are in a time where it seems like you aren’t making any progress, look for ways to increase your income, not just lower your expenses. Sometimes you’re already as low as you can realistically go. Pray continually about your situation and ask God to open your eyes to options you may not have previously seen. If nothing else, try to actively avoid taking on any additional debt. When you already have a lot of debt, sometimes it seems like the easiest way to survive is to keep taking on debt. Try not to. Try to discipline yourself to live within your means, preferably below them if that allow you to pay off you debts sooner. Make a plan. Some kind of plan. Even if the goals you set are tiny, because at least it is some kind of progress.