Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Love Your Neighbor

My cousin, Lacey, has deemed 2017 to be the year of decluttering. In addition to being my hero, she is one of my main sources of humor: she texted me a photo of a $10 my mom wrote to her for her birthday 17 years ago, and asked if I could relay the message that she would not be cashing it. Her words: "I guess I was too good for her $10 back then. I am not now".

I've always been a fan of decluttering, organizing, minimalizing, categorizing, and consolidating. Everything should have its place, and you should only have what you need. My parents might not believe that I have this belief, based on the state of my room as a child, but trust me: my things had a place. It was when I cleaned my room that I couldn't find what I needed. I knew that binder was under my shoes by my desk. That's where I was keeping it! ... Said every teenager ever.

There's just something about that feeling of accomplishment when you are able to donate a bag of items to Goodwill, toss a hefty bag out to the trash, or recycle a pound of shredded, unnecessary papers.

But it is not easy. I'm so conditioned to think that I need all of the things I have around me, even though I have less than most of my friends. I work as a nanny, my husband is a teacher, we don't buy big-ticket items unless they break, and even then, we typically buy them second-hand. We often take what others toss aside, and we don't have much sense of fashion or style, so we're not picky about what gets handed to us. Still, I've been convicted lately that I have too much. I've been torn between wanting a tiny home to force myself to only keep what is essential, and having a huge house with multiple guest rooms so that we could keep exchange students, refugees, whoever needed a place. And with all my anxiety, when I become torn on an issue, I just stay stuck and there's much ado about nothing.

One particular concept that Christ teaches about keeps getting stuck in my mind: the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself. In Mark 12:30-31, a man asks Jesus what the most important commandment is, and instead of just telling him the number one commandment, to love your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, He goes on to reveal the second as well: love your neighbor as yourself. On the surface, it's simple, but uncover it and there are multiple interpretations. For instance, most believe that the verse plainly means you need to love everyone that you come in contact with. Some flip it, and think it means to love yourself, give yourself as much grace and forgiveness, as you grant to others in your life. I've been focusing in on the word "as". What if Jesus' meaning was not just to love others and yourself too, but to love your neighbor, as in, everyone you come in contact with, as much as you love yourself, in the same way as you love yourself. What does that really look like?

What if that's spending as much of what you have on you as it does on others?


I've been struggling with this for months now. I will continue to struggle with it for the foreseeable future, because I want with all of my being to be not only obedient, but loving, conscious of my choices, and wise with my decisions. And as Americans, we tend to throw out most of what the Bible says about money. My preacher said it best in a sermon when I first started attending: "It's hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of Heaven... It's hard for a person who lives in Sugar Land, TX to enter the kingdom of Heaven".

Our family sends $38 a month to four different children through sponsorship with Compassion International. When I received a letter back from my sweet girl in Mexico, there was a photo attached, showing what she had spent her birthday money on: milk, cereal, and shampoo for the family. I broke down in tears. Her birthday money. She shared it with her family to buy what we thin of as necessities. So, as I adjusted our budget at the start of the year, I decided to do something radical: exactly what the Bible says, or what I think it might say: I started trying to love my neighbor as myself. I budgeted $38 for each person in my family, to cover outings, clothing, makeup, toys, whatever. It is not easy. In fact, I've exceeded my budget for myself each month. For Brooklyn, too. It sure is easier for guys to stay in budget in this country. There's so much aimed at girls as far as what we need and can't live without. But I'm trying. And isn't that all that can be expected of us?

Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it is, and when we are hoarding what we own for ourselves, is that not loving money? Some may say that they tithe, or give 10% to their church. Others claim that they donate to various charities or associations. I do this, too. You know what else I do? Fall asleep to the audio version of Jesus' sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) most nights. Matthew 6:1-4 reads:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
If claiming tax deductions are not "practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them", I don't know what is. When I give to the needy, I deduct it all. We donated our van to Wheels for Wishes last year. $500 tax deduction. Boom. I donated lots of clothes, toys, books, etc. over the course of the year to Goodwill, the women's shelter, the Purple Heart, and received tax receipts for them all. Even my church offers a tax deductible charity sheet at the end of the year to make my taxes easier. My left hand always knows what my right hand is doing, and I know it shouldn't.

It's no coincidence that this is coming to a head during the season of Lent, which many Protestants don't celebrate. I never did, until college. I've given up soda, chocolate, and politics in years past, some seasons more successful than others. This year, I decided to participate in the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge: fill 40 bags of stuff to get rid of during the 40-day season of Lent. Rather than having a specific item to give up, you choose to give up the idea of stuff as a whole. I was energized, pumped up like I've been before about decluttering, organizing, categorizing, minimalizing, and consolidating. And just like I've done before, I started itemizing it.

I just deleted my list.

I'm saying it one time, and not to make myself look better. I know that it actually makes me look crazy, unconventional, like a fanatic, and some may even say cruel. To deny my children things they want because I'm consciously trying to spend only $38 or less on them a month? What a terrible mother I am.

Whatever. When you get called to do something, you do it. This is where I am, and I don't expect anyone to be here with me. But I'd love to talk about it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Disney Prep

Walt Disney World is so close I can almost taste it.

We are taking the kids with us to celebrate our 10th anniversary, Peyton's 5th birthday, and Brooklyn's 7th birthday (never mind the fact that her birthday is in October and the other two events are in January- we're doing it big this year and celebrating all at once).

So really, it's like 9+ months away, and it makes a lot more sense to countdown to our family trips this summer to Colorado or Alabama instead, but how can we not be ridiculously excited about finally taking our kids to Disney??

And I know I'm not the only one who gets like this. Over a year ago, my mom put cute Mickey and Minnie stickers all over mason jars with a slit in the lid and called them my kids' "Disney banks". Now, whenever they find any change, it goes into their Disney bank for our trip.

Today, Brandon and I decided to take the kids to Disney on Ice next month when it comes to Houston. It'll give them a small piece of magic to hold onto until it's their time to see it full-blown. Also, it'll give Peyton an opportunity to stop being afraid of "mascots". Last thing I need is a boy who sobs when he gets close to Mickey Mouse. There is no crying at Disney!

But wait, there's more! We realize we are incredibly dorky (and awesome) for doing this, but our family has started watching every single one of the Disney animated classics. In order.

Yes, you read that right.

And, of course, there are rules.

We are including only what is known as the Disney animated classics, meaning other classics like "The Parent Trap" are not included, because they are not cartoons. Also, "Mary Poppins" and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" are excluded because they are not entirely cartoons, though they do feature some animation. Also not included are films like "Planes", because that was made through a branch of Disney animation, known as DisneyToon Studios, thus not making it officially part of the Disney animated canon. Lastly,  direct-to-video films are also excluded, so there will not be any "101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure" on our viewing schedule (I should note that Brooklyn and I both prefer "Pocahontas II" to the original, and while "Peter Pan" is forever the GOAT, "Return to Neverland" is worth watching. But, I digress).

So, here they are, in chronological order:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -1937
  2. Pinocchio -1940
  3. Fantasia -1940
  4. Dumbo -1941
  5. Bambi -1942
  6. Saludos Amigos -1942
  7. The Three Caballeros -1944
  8. Make Mine Music -1946
  9. Fun and Fancy Free -1947
  10. Melody Time -1948
  11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad -1949
  12. Cinderella -1950
  13. Alice in Wonderland -1951
  14. Peter Pan -1953
  15. Lady and the Tramp -1955
  16. Sleeping Beauty -1959
  17. 101 Dalmatians -1961
  18. The Sword in the Stone -1963
  19. The Jungle Book -1967 (Walt's last film)
  20. The Aristocats -1970
  21. Robin Hood -1973
  22. The Rescuers -1977
  23. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh -1977
  24. The Fox and the Hound -1981
  25. The Black Cauldron -1985
  26. The Great Mouse Detective -1987
  27. Oliver and Company -1988
  28. The Little Mermaid -1989
  29. The Rescuers Down Under -1990
  30. Beauty and the Beast -1991
  31. Aladdin -1992
  32. The Lion King -1994
  33. Pocahontas -1995
  34. Toy Story -1995
  35. The Hunchback of Notre Dame -1996
  36. Hercules -1997
  37. Mulan -1998
  38. A Bug's Life -1998
  39. Tarzan -1999
  40. Toy Story 2- 1999
  41. Fantasia 2000 -1999
  42. Dinosaur -2000
  43. The Emperor's New Groove- 2000
  44. Atlantis -2001
  45. Monster's Inc.-2001
  46. Lilo and Stitch -2002
  47. Treasure Planet -2002
  48. Finding Nemo -2003
  49. Brother Bear -2003
  50. Home on the Range -2004
  51. The Incredibles -2004
  52. Chicken Little -2005
  53. Cars -2006
  54. Meet the Robinsons -2007
  55. Ratatouille -2007
  56. Wall-E -2008
  57. Bolt -2008
  58. Up -2009
  59. The Princess and the Frog -2009
  60. Toy Story 3 -2010
  61. Tangled -2010
  62. Cars 2 -2011
  63. Winnie the Pooh -2011
  64. Brave -2012
  65. Wreck-It Ralph -2012
  66. Monster's University -2013
  67. Frozen -2013
  68. Big Hero 6 -2014
  69. Inside Out -2015
  70. The Good Dinosaur -2015
  71. Zootopia -2016
  72. Finding Dory -2016
  73. Moana -2016
  74. Cars 3 -2017
  75. Coco -2017

Italics= we've watched it during this chronological film-watching game. Bold=we don't own it. Yep, we own all those obscure cartoon-collage films from the 1940's. We're big fans of "The Three Caballeros". Technically, we also own "The Black Cauldron", my kids just don't know about it yet. It's so scary! I've been hiding it in my closet since one of our Blockbusters went out of business. Man, I miss those days... the days that Blockbuster was open, and the days they were closing and all their movies were a dollar. We helped clean out at least 5 stores. The legend of Blockbuster WILL live on, if only through our children and their psychotic movie-loving parents.

Can I also mention what dark times it was for Disney animation once Pixar came in and started showing them up? Seriously- "Home on the Range"? "Treasure Planet"? "Chicken Little"? Not good, Disney. Not good, at all.

Also, how crazy is it that by the end of 2017, there will be 75 Disney films, and yet "The Little Mermaid" is number 28? In my mind, that movie still isn't very old. Of course, I'm 31, and that film was released when I was 3, so my judgment on what is old and what isn't is clearly not trustworthy. Still, it's neat to see how much technology and animation have come since 1937. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is 80 years old this year, but only 25 Disney movies were made before my lifetime, from 1937 until 1986. Animated films get churned out left and right now.

How about the fact that Walt Disney lived for and worked on only 19 of these 75 movies? Yet, this dude will never disappear, and therefore never really die. Immortality through a mouse. Incredible.

Anyway, back to our little project: if we watch one movie every 4-5 days, we'll be able to see them all by the time we leave for our own Disney vacation. Not only are we watching these movies together, but at the conclusion of each film, Brandon asks what we thought of the movie (Bad, Okay, Good, Very Good, or One of the Best), what our favorite scene/character/song was, and records our answers on a Word document, along with a photo of us watching. Would you expect anything less from the man who has kept a log of what movies we have watched together, where, when, who with, and all other pertinent details since before we started dating? He was clearly made for me.

We will be SO ready for our trip to WDW. Possibly the most prepared family in the history of vacationing. Now all we need are our mandatory matching shirts.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Genetics are interesting. That's actually the understatement of the year. The argument over nature vs. nurture has been going on for hundreds of years. A loving home can overcome most everything. but when the genetics predispose someone to a physical condition or mental illness, there's just no denying it.

I take medication for anxiety and depression. This is common knowledge. What isn't, is that my 6-year-old daughter will soon be seeing a therapist for the same mental illness as me. Well, the anxiety part, anyway. She knows it. We talk about it all the time. How can we not? When it's so present in our lives, we have to call it what it is.

Anxiety comes in waves, for me anyway. I feel fine for weeks on end, make lofty goals and great improvement on my overall habits and way of living. Then, I can't sleep. And when I can't sleep, I worry more. I get impatient. I say things I regret. I get frustrated with myself for not being patient. I continue to get snap at others around me.

And boy, do I fight it. But more often than not, I just can't, and I end up crying and at a standstill with myself.

Today was one of those days.

I didn't fall asleep until about 4:45 this morning, so I was up a creek already. I didn't get a nap, I was riled up by my two kids and the two I nanny, and I was still looking ahead to the rest of my night: allergy shots, dinner, church. I had to make it to church because I was teaching the 9th grade girls. Brooklyn ended up having a meltdown when it was time to get her allergy shots, stressing me out and making me feel bad. Then, to top it all off, Brooklyn got her arm caught in the automatic door, so she started screaming and I had to wedge it out and its bruised and awful looking, and I couldn't hold it in anymore. I sat with her on the floor of the entry way, then carried her to the car and completely lost it. All I could say was, "I'm sorry". I'm sorry for not reminding you to be careful where you place your hands. I'm sorry you have so many allergies that you have been taking shots to try to control them for the past 2+ years. I'm sorry that you get nervous and worried about everything, so much so that you are debilitated and freeze up. I'm sorry that you're just like me, and it's all my fault. 

I tried to push through, but Brooklyn said it for both of us: I don't want to go inside Wendy's. I don't want to go to church.

We sat in the Wendy's parking lot tonight staring inside at families that we knew enjoying each other's company, eating their dinners. No way was I heading in there. I'm too tired. And I mean tired in mind, body, soul. And she was, too.

Poor Peyton. He started crying because he wanted to eat inside Wendy's, and I refused. I couldn't even bring myself to take him inside when he needed to use the restroom. I had been crying and I didn't feel like explaining myself. No, more than that, I didn't want to see people. I didn't want to BE seen.

Brooklyn says that all the time. She doesn't want to dress up, have us do her hair, wear accessories like headbands or purses. Well, she DOES like all of those things, but she doesn't want people to see them or comment on them. She and I are exactly the same.

I bawled in the Wendy's parking lot waiting for Brandon to come get Peyton. My sweet little boy snuggled up next to my driver's seat, hugged me, and gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek. It just made me cry more. Peyton is just like Brandon. They both love us and want us to be happy, but just don't understand why we are the way we are.

I'm about to pass out as I write this. I'm not going to bother with proofreading or editing. I'm going to bed so I can try to start over again tomorrow.

Genetics are interesting. Understatement of the year.