Friday, September 30, 2005

Advice for Young Unmarried Women

Recently a group of young ladies from one of the societies asked of the older women what advice they would give them concerning preparation for marriage and which things they wish they had done. Many of the older ladies responded with some very sage counsel about Biblical role models, submission, and character development. Since they covered those bases so well, I decided to cover some other aspects. What I wrote follows....
My advice will focus on education.

Take advantage of the time you have before marriage to STUDY and LEARN. You will never have this much time for doing this ever again. By this I mean practical things like how to grow a garden, good financial principles, and time and home management. You can learn these things later, but it is a lot easier to learn this stuff when you aren't puking your head off in the toilet due to pregnancy.

Most people eat a lot of prepared, processed foods. If you don't know how to cook from scratch, you will end up providing less than nutritious and more expensive food for your family. If your mother is willing to let you cook in the kitchen, take advantage with her oversight. Borrow good books on whole foods cookery from the library and learn to do it right so you aren't having to learn as you go like I had to do.

If you aren't in good physical shape and don't have a regular exercise routine, get one. Also learn to eat properly and develop good sleep habits NOW. You want to be in the best health possible for bearing children. Pregnancy can be enough of a challenge when you are healthy, let alone when you are not. I know a lot of the young people in our church keep weird hours and are sometimes up long past midnight . This disrupts your circadian rhythms and makes you more susceptible to diabetes, obesity and other bodily ills because you are supposed to be resting and allowing the body to repair itself during the wee hours. If you have this bad habit now, do what you can to get yourself to bed by 10:30 at night. Believe me, you won't be able to sustain yourself if you try doing this later on when you have children.

Read books like Don Aslett's Clutter's Last Stand and Is There Life After Housework and practice the principles in keeping your own rooms tidy, and if your parents permit, in helping with organizing the household better. This is good to do even if you have a job, because having children is like getting a full time job on top of the already full time job of keeping a home. If you can learn cleaning principles that enable you to do the work efficiently and well, you will have more time for your children and other things. One of the best cleaning principles to learn is how to tell the difference between clutter (which is a form of covetousness) and valuable stuff worth keeping. Clutter consumes valuable time, energy, and money to sustain. Read books on how to economize and cut corners. Learn to sew and do other handcrafts. The time before marriage is the season of learning so that you can do all l these things easily when you finally are married.

Read books on childhood development and child training. Learn about how your body works, pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding. It is better to do this reading before you actually need it. Most women are very uninformed about their menstrual cycles, pregnancy and having babies. (I didn't know how to change a diaper when I had Patricia! -- this is NOT a good way to start life as a mother!)

Don't rush into courtship with the first guy who offers. If you can't have a solid friendship with mutual respect *before* you court, then forget it. The glamour and sizzle can wear off in a marriage quite quickly once the bills come in and reality takes over. If all you had going for you was a similar position on covenanting and a bit of physical attraction, well, you might be left with just a mutual position on covenanting. Time and childbearing has a funny way of changing where the sand in your hourglass figure settles. Marriage can be hard even where there is a meeting of the minds. You don't want to start out with a deficit before you barely get started.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever got from anyone came from Pastor Price. He told me after I had had a severe disappointment with a family member that we need to look to Christ for our joy, happiness and satisfaction in life. All our human relationships are prone to fail us because they involve sinners. Christ, however, never fails us. If you look to Him for joy instead of your husband or children, you will be able to weather the storms of life, marriage, and family much better.

Another good piece of information I read comes from Douglas Wilson's book on courtship. He said that young women should plan to be involved in some sort of work or education or volunteer work before they are married. It is the job of young men to interrupt those plans. IOW, don't sit around waiting for your knight in shining armour to come and sweep you off your feet. You dont' know when he's going to show up on the horizon. While you are waiting for him, do what you can to develop yourself either through work or education. Women who desperately search the horizon for that knight drive them off because of the desperation. Far better to be like Rachel, watering camels and going about her business when a marriage proposal gets dropped in her lap.

Lastly, listen to your parents. I dare say there are a few of us older ladies who didn't seek the counsel of our parents, or else ignored it or flaunted it when it was offered and are still paying for it. Marriage is serious business. The decision you make about who you will marry is an important one with the potential for impacting generations. You don't want to be a dud, and you don't want to be married to a dud. Allow your parents the opportunity to guide you in areas of your own growth and in evaluating any potential suitors. Life is too short to learn everything yourself by experience.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This is It.

This week I am going for a check up with Cal, my mentor, teacher, friend, and main healthcare provider. My thyroid and metabolism has done its usual postpartum flop, so I need to get on some stuff to crank it back up again so I can begin to lose the postpartum weight I have accumulated since Jamsie was born. My hair is coming out almost by the handful at the moment, and although my energy is fairly good, I still need to get with the program.

Accordingly, I shall be starting a new program for health this week. It is a combination of the Total Health program by Dr. Mercola, and Paul Chek's Eat, Move and Be Healthy approach to healthy living. I have long wanted a systematic approach to diet and exercise, and on Dr. Mercola's recommendation decided to check out Chek's way of doing things. I have the book from the library and will be purchasing my own copy now that I have had a chance to look it over.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Teens -- It isn't Hormones, It's Brain Reconstruction

Ok, this is sort of cool and helps to explain a lot of things. I like to read about how the brain works and someone recently handed me an article about teen brains. It reiterated some information that I had heard on a science program on CBC. Basically it says that there is a period of time in adolescence when the brain undergoes massive renovations. So it isn't just hormonal surges causing your teen to be moody, emotional, irrational and hard to manage.

It used to be thought that when the brain stopped its massive growth by age 2, it was pretty well done for the rest of life. However, recent research in Canada and the US is revealing that previous notions of the adolescent brain are wrong. Adolescent brains go through a biological remodelling as part of human development that is as profound as that which babies experience. Virtually every part of the teenage brain is under reconstruction. Nodes, lobes, neurons, synapses, long strings of axons, which are the pathways for electrical signals from one part of the brain to the other, dendrites, etc., all feel the effects of this change.

Basically, what is happening is that the body is physically restructuring the brain so that it can operate as an adult. During this processthe higher reasoning processes of the front brain are somewhat interrupted or short circuited, and the amygdala, that part of the brain responsible for emotions, tends to be where they operate from.

Dr. Jay Giedd of the US National Institutes of Health was looking at the results of teenage brain scans and realized that the brains he was looking at were undergoing major changes. The grey matter was thickening and over-producing cells and then dramatically thinning down -- something that was previously thought to be over by kindergarten.

Dr. Giedd's work combined with that of Tomaz Paus of Montreal Neurological Institute and the University of Chicago's Peter Huttenlocher has found that teens experience literal short circuits in their neural wiring to their memory function and have difficulty interpreting facial expressions, instructions, and jokes during this time. This is because they are using the brain's primal fight or flight center to operate from rather than the rational center for decoding social signals, with resulting misinterpretations. Brain scans of teens who were shown a picture of a man whose face was contorted with fear showed that the amygdala, rather than the prefrontal cortex (the center for adult rational judgement) was lit up during the "reasoning" process.

Research is also suggesting that the connections between the right and left hemisphere of teens' brains is incomplete which affects their abilities to link speech and written language to thought. Synaptic gaps in the brains of younger teens makes abstract thinking, such as algebraic equations, puns, and the "grey" areas of life difficult for them to grasp.

Brain chemistry is also responsible for their desire to stay up late and sleep in late. For whatever reason, a teen usually doesn't start producing melatonin until around 10:30 at night -- just as their parents are starting to crash. They also need about 10 hours of sleep, which is two more hours than their parents need. Sleep deprivation can't be doing their brain power any good if we insist of seeing them bright and early every morning.

Think of the prefrontal cortex as the software responsible for risk assessment and impulse control. It is the last region of the brain to reach full development, and doesn't do so until their owners are past 20. Now do you know why your teens take risks and do things that make you go grey?

The disorganization of their rooms, lockers, and backpacks is a mirror of the brain disorganization in their heads. At the same time that some areas are growing rapidly, other areas are being pruned. Here is where the "use it or lose it" effect really takes hold. Teens who are allowed to become couchpotatoes with well developed video game abilities are going to lose parts of the brain that could be used for acquiring knowledge or understanding. It is therefore important to keep teens stimulated with music lessons, sports, learning languages, and other activities that will stimulate the brain and keep it making neural connections. In other words, stimulate them with the same dedication you showed in stimulating your babies and tots to maximize brain power.

I've already requested the book from my local library that discusses the research in this area. If you want to read it too, get ahold of The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids by Barbara Strauch.

Monday, September 19, 2005

My New Career

Unfortunately, it doesn't pay at all, if you are thinking in terms of monetary rewards. I have no pension, health benefits, or unemployment insurance from it. Nor is it really a new job -- it is an old one I have had for many years but never really enjoyed. What is it? Homeschool mother.

This is one of those instances where you know that a change for the better is not because of any intrinsic wonderfulness on your own part, but rather a work of grace in the heart by God.

I think one of the means that God used for the change of heart was the switch to E-Bus last year. We decided to stay with the program and this year I started off with confidence, thanks to the kudos that I got from the distance ed teachers I worked with last year. As another mother I was talking to recently said, the passing years don't necessarily engender more confidence, and may even begin to weigh on you. It is a scary thing to have the educational and vocational future of your children resting solely on your own nonprofessional teaching shoulders. Sure, dads may help out a bit, but let's face it: most homeschools are run completely by the moms who buy the curriculum and implement it. It is a constant worry as to whether or not you are doing an adequate job, wondering if you have missed something, etc.

When the burden is shared by someone else, like a distance ed teacher, then all of a sudden, there are standards outside of that of Mom that the kids answer to, and Mom gets an indirect grade that shows her whether she is being adequate in her teaching.

Last year was a bit of a learning curve for all of us and things were not done to my satisfaction -- mostly due to my own weaknesses, a pregnant brain, and not as much organization as we could have used. This year I got off to a good start, we are in a routine, and there is room to add in a few other things that I wanted to cover. I am pretty certain that if we can maintain what we have started, I will be very satisfied with what we have accomplished this year.

So now I am treating homeschooling as a career into which I am pouring all my efforts and brain power, rather than just a painful duty to get through. I have the feeling that this will be our most satisfying and productive year yet.

Friday, September 16, 2005

table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="2" width="350" align="center" border="0">Your Brain's Pattern
Your brain is always looking for the connections in life.You always amaze your friends by figuring out things first.You're also good at connecting people - and often play match maker.You see the world in fluid, flexible terms. Nothing is black or white.
What Pattern Is Your Brain?

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Parable

This commentary comes from Dr. Mercola. You can read the actual article here.

Mike Adams of Newstarget writes a parable comparing art to healing.

In his story, doctors attempt to create art by analyzing what it is
made of. They analyze the inks, the colors, and the fibers of the canvas, but
when they try to create art with these methods, all they do is create colored
ink on canvas. Eventually, they declare that art does not exist because it
cannot be measured.

He concludes by pointing out the similarities between healing and art:
Neither comes from the physical matter, chemicals, and molecules, and neither
can be measured or understood as an inventory of parts.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Personal Navel Gazing

Just for fun, I took this test to find out what my personality type is. Turns out I am an Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging sort of person, or INTJ for short.

It was rather funny reading through it because so much of what the results had to say really does tend to be true of me:

INTJs are perfectionists, with a seemingly endless capacity for improving upon anything that takes their interest. What prevents them from becoming chronically bogged down in this pursuit of perfection is the pragmatism so characteristic of the type: INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion "Does it work?" to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms. This in turn produces an unusual independence of mind, freeing the INTJ from the constraints of authority, convention, or sentiment for its own sake.

INTJs are known as the "Systems Builders" of the types, perhaps in part because they possess the unusual trait combination of imagination and reliability. Whatever system an INTJ happens to be working on is for them the equivalent of a moral cause to an INFJ; both perfectionism and disregard for authority may come into play, as INTJs can be unsparing of both themselves and the others on the project. Anyone considered to be "slacking," including superiors, will lose their respect -- and will generally be made aware of this; INTJs have also been known to take it upon themselves to implement critical decisions without consulting their supervisors or co-workers. On the other hand, they do tend to be scrupulous and even-handed about recognizing the individual contributions that have gone into a project, and have a gift for seizing opportunities which others might not even notice.

In the broadest terms, what INTJs "do" tends to be what they "know". Typical INTJ career choices are in the sciences and engineering, but they can be found wherever a combination of intellect and incisiveness are required (e.g., law, some areas of academia). INTJs can rise to management positions when they are willing to invest time in marketing their abilities as well as enhancing them, and (whether for the sake of ambition or the desire for privacy) many also find it useful to learn to simulate some degree of surface conformism in order to mask their inherent

Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ's Achilles heel. While they are capable of caring deeply for others (usually a select few), and are willing to spend a great deal of time and effort on a relationship, the knowledge and self-confidence that make them so successful in other areas can suddenly abandon or mislead them in interpersonal situations.

This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the
social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less
understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation (which most types
consider half the fun of a relationship). To complicate matters, INTJs are
usually extremely private people, and can often be naturally impassive as well,
which makes them easy to misread and misunderstand.

Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense. :-) This sometimes results in a peculiar naivete', paralleling that of many Fs -- only instead of expecting inexhaustible affection and empathy from a romantic relationship, the INTJ will expect inexhaustible reasonability and directness.

Probably the strongest INTJ assets in the interpersonal area are their
intuitive abilities and their willingness to "work at" a relationship. Although
as Ts they do not always have the kind of natural empathy that many Fs do, the
Intuitive function can often act as a good substitute by synthesizing the
probable meanings behind such things as tone of voice, turn of phrase, and
facial expression. This ability can then be honed and directed by consistent,
repeated efforts to understand and support those they care about, and those
relationships which ultimately do become established with an INTJ tend to be
characterized by their robustness, stability, and good communications.

I have to tell ya, I think that this is a pretty good assessment of me. I can be a dunderhead about relationships unless I work at it. I frequently read books about human behaviour to enable me to figure out what is going on with people, rather than just "knowing" how to do it. I also am not good at making small talk -- a skill I need to work on.

The fact that I am in alternative healthcare, especially that which deals with meridian based therapies is also a testimony to the fact that I tend to approach things in an unconventional manner. I want to know why things work, and if they can be made to work in other ways. This has lead to some interesting discoveries with application as to how I treat people with problems. Makes life interesting and fun.

This probably is of no interest to anyone outside of me, but I thought it was kind of cool.

Sorry for the mess ups on the formatting. I can't seem to fix it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hardness of Heart and the Insatiable Nature of Coveting

I have been busy in my attic in the past week, organizing and cleaning and getting things ready for school. The attic has a large room lined with bookshelves down two sides and has a chalkboard and bulletin board on the end wall, a large desk for me, and two very large tables for the children to work at. All this activity has meant that I haven't had much time for being on the computer, watching tv (not that I watch it much) or even listening to the radio. My activities have limited my exposure to what is happening down south with those who have suffered from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

There is nothing like a tragedy or even a near tragedy for making the important things in life stand out.

So here I am, sitting in a comfortable home, surrounded by so much stuff that keeping it in order is a challenge, able to eat enough food that I am overweight, and having enough clothing that could keep me clothed for several weeks before I ran out and needed to wash them. Is my heart happy? Am I satisfied? I should be, and when I stop to think on all these things, I am. But how easily I forget and fall into the sin of covetousness.

We tend to think of coveting as an inordinate desire for more things, at least I used to. But it is more subtle than that. Look at what the Westminster Larger Catechism has to say about it:

Question 146: Which is the tenth commandment?

Answer: The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Question 147: What are the duties required in the tenth

Answer: The duties required in the tenth commandment are, such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.

Question 148: What are the sins forbidden in the tenth

Answer: The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate; envying and
grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

It isn't merely wanting something of our neighbor's, or even wanting more that we can get legitimately; it is being discontented with our own estate. For me, this discontentment often takes the unhappy form of murmuring and complaining about my housework, nagging the children to clean up, and being generally grumpy while the work is in progress. I also fail to encourage where I should because I am harder to please than I ought to be. Then I get upset with the children for being the same way when they do their own chores.

I have been trying to imagine what it would be like to be without a home, food, decent shelter, water, proper sanitation, and exposed to the elements and criminal acts, as well as seeing my children in a similar situation with me, or worse yet, not knowing where they were or if they are alive. When I think on this, it makes me so thankful that life is so good for us, and I am humbled because of the mercy and lovingkindness of God to such undeserving people as we are.

And then I get busy and forget again.


No wonder we are told over and over in Scripture to remember God's benefits to us. We all have attention deficit disorder when it comes to the kindness of God and the gratitude we owe Him because of it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Children and World Tragedies

Barbara Curtis, a mom of a large family, always has worthwhile things to say. I recommend going to her blog and reading this post on ways to help explain Hurricane Katrina to children.

I have the feeling that this is going to rival last year's tsunami in impact. I want my children to have compassion for those who are suffering, and Barbara's suggestions provide practical means for doing this.