Container Garden Week 7

Almost everyone is doing pretty well! We’ve got some baby zucchini and quite a few tomatoes. Unfortunately, the bell pepper plant is trying its best and failing miserably. Probably going to write him off soon. Still keeping hope alive for the cilantro, my only seedling pseudo-success. We had a gully-washer of a storm come through a couple weeks ago and the tiny shoots haven’t quite recovered.

Can’t wait to see some red creep into the tomatoes! And (perhaps the most exciting win) Eva is anxious to eat some of her zucchini! A 4 year old pumped about veggies? Yes! Thank you, Garden.

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“Brave” Lacked Conviction

I don’t normally write movie reviews, but I feel so strongly about Pixar’s newest release, I’m making an exception–especially since a recent post centered on the value of princess stories.

We were incredibly excited about Brave. Pixar Studios has consistently released films that are not just fantastic movies, but challenging tales that reach both children and adults. Up, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3 (just to name my top 5) have taken us on unexpected adventures with characters we love to places we never thought we’d go. Pixar has been a pioneer not just in animation, but in story-telling as well. I grew up with these films. Toy Story was released when I was in 5th grade; Finding Nemo, just weeks before I graduated high school (and you better believe I saw it in the theater). I love sharing these stories with my daughter because these movies tell stories as well as a novel (and BETTER than some popular novels _cough cough *Twilight* cough cough_)

souce: xerxy.com

Stories like those, no matter what the medium, need to be told.

My deep appreciation and love for Pixar films obviously led me to have extremely high expectations for Pixar’s first female protagonist and princess, Merida.

Brave" poster

The posters looked compelling.

The trailers felt compelling.

“If you could change your fate, would you?”

The tagline is compelling.

We were ready for an epic princess adventure.

But it wasn’t compelling. Instead of a vibrant, fresh approach to what Disney has been doing for nearly 80 years, Brave felt forced and flat.

Really, Pixar? Why even produce this movie? It clearly panders to the merchandising department…”Oooo, now we can sell bows and arrows on the girls’ aisle, too!” and perhaps was an attempt at capturing young female and male viewers.  Brave was far more violent than I expected it to be. (Concerned mothers: the 4- and 5-year old girls I had with me were frightened by the bears of which the previews make no mention.)

What purpose did the story serve? A “feminist” attempt at a princess story in which the princess doesn’t end up married? You don’t have to see the movie to know it won’t end with the traditional happily ever after. There aren’t any prince dolls on the shelves with Merida at Target, thus there couldn’t be a prince in the movie. (Merchandising 101)

I’m perfectly happy without the prince. Smash the stereotype to your heart’s content, John Lasseter. But the “fate” of which the tagline speaks is marriage. There’s nothing wrong with marriage! Forced marriage, sure. But not marriage itself! Do we really want to teach our little girls that turning their moms into bears and nearly causing a tribal war is what you have to do to get out of marriage? Really?

Unfortunately, though the visuals were stunning and it was certainly different than anything they’d released before, the characters were one-note and the story lacked depth. Merida was her own antagonist and they didn’t explore the issues enough to make her struggle convicting.

It was a huge opportunity to shift the paradigm and all they managed to do was make me appreciate Tiana, Rapunzel, and the traditional princesses more.

Silence

I get really irritated when God is silent.

There, I said it.

We were doing really well there for a hot minute. Thoughts were churning, mind was turning, heart was burning… then POOF. It all went a bit flat. Maybe it’s my fault. I can be a tad manic with projects. I’ll get really, really excited to begin and then just lose all my oomph. Perhaps the product of never training myself out of procrastinating? In college, I was always a wait-til-the-last-possible-moment kind of girl. Deadlines–and nothing else–made me move.

Now, without enforced due dates, without anyone to impress, and without grades to earn… I kind of fail. Unfinished blog posts in my queue. Ideas for businesses, non-profits, and books. I have not finished one of them. (Although, to be fair to myself, once this is finished, I will have a finished something. Yay?)

Admittedly, the majority of the responsibility rests on my shoulders. But on top of that, the past week or so, I’ve just had a sense of silence. I had moments of, “Ok, here we go…” that felt like the precursor to a “big” moment. But, no. I was wrong. It’s been quiet. Quiet with no indication the Big Thing I’ve felt approaching is any closer.

What does it mean when God is silent? He’s not less present. He’s not punishing me (I think) and He’s not abandoning me. So what is this about?

I don’t know. Honestly. I don’t get what this is about. What lesson am I supposed to be learning? Trust? Faith? Perseverance?

Are my desires getting in the way? I have a deep, deep longing for a home right now. A little house with a big yard where I can plant a big ol’ garden and have play-dates and sleepovers and dinner parties. I’m also just really, really losing my interest in working a traditional job (call me crazy, go ahead). It’s time to start thinking about where Eva will go to Kindergarten (cue mommy tears). I’ve sort of come to terms with staying in North Carolina (now you can really call me crazy). There’s a lot of stuff to think about right now!

Is it that none of the stuff matters? No, I don’t think it’s that extreme. The details of life can be just as meaningful in our interactions with God as the big picture is.

Is that I am going the wrong way? No, I don’t think it’s that either but it could be that I am getting ahead of myself (happens all the time).

Is it that I just need to be still? Yeah, could be that.

Am I not listening hard enough? Maybe? Ok, ok… PROBABLY.

I don’t think God begrudges me my irritation but He probably does take issue with my worry….

Man, that really bites me in the butt every time! Worry! (insert lightbulb clip art here)

Worry gnaws at joy, ruins productivity, stifles creativity, and is just an all-around buzzkiller. Who’s got two thumbs and is guilty?? This girl!

Worry also interferes with worship. Do I believe God cares about all the little details in my life? Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt. Do I also believe that He is way bigger than the  details? Absolutely, without a shadow of doubt. Worry is like making a to-do list for God. “I need _____, _____, and ______ dealt with and while you’re at it, could you please take care of _____ and _____, as well? Thanks.” That has been the majority of my approach to Him lately.

Worship puts everything in perspective. Worship is that part where I step back, lay my concerns aside, and just wonder at the splendor of creation, the unfathomable depth of grace, and the limitless reach of love.

When I think about Him that way, I feel kind of silly complaining about… all of it. And when I think about silence in terms of worship, it all comes together. Be still and know: be silent and learn.

Alright, Lord. I see where you’re going with that. Well-played, sir.

I’m going to go enjoy the sounds of crickets chirping now, thanks.

Raising A Princess

This blog was originally written for and posted on my friend Kate’s site. As I am currently drafting a handful of other posts and guest blogs, I thought I’d use it as a cover for my otherwise disappointing lack of new content…

Enjoy!

http://kateelizabethconner.com/raising-a-princess-guest-post-abby-wilson/

I’m a self-identified feminist in that I believe women are equal to men, but each gender—and more importantly, each individual person regardless of gender—has innate value and distinct identifying characteristics.

That said, I am also a girly-girl and so is my daughter.

Eva loves lip-gloss, dresses, jewelry, and having her hair done. Thankfully, she also loves to run around outside, play with sticks, and dig in the dirt so I’m not too worried about her becoming too prissy, but there was a time when I was concerned about her love of princesses.

Eva started picking out princess toys, wanting to play dress up, and asking for my make-up almost as soon as she could speak. Maybe she was born loving princesses or maybe I let her watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty too many times. (It has a GREAT soundtrack, ok!) As the Cinderella, Snow White, and Tiana toys began to accumulate, I stared at our toy box and wondered,

“Do I really want my daughter growing up believing that marriage is the answer to her problems?”

Uh, no.

Isn’t that what most modern women think of fairytales: just a beautiful woman waiting on a man to save her from a life of misery? I certainly thought so, especially after growing up in a very Protestant, very Southern community. I was taught marriage and eventual motherhood are a woman’s highest calling, so as an adult I viewed fairytales and princesses as prime enablers of that stereotype.

But in fairness to my daughter’s preferences, I gave the animated ladies a second look.  I found that when you step past their unrealistic body dimensions, pretty faces, and the inevitable crown in the final sequence, you find women who share one rare and precious character trait: integrity.

Cinderella and Snow White both remained sweet, loving, and caring despite years of abuse and enforced servitude.
Ariel knew that humans and their culture were her passion, not just a passing fancy.
Mulan may not technically be a princess, but she cared for her family and her country over her own life.
Jasmine probably had the most overt stance in that she wasn’t going to marry a pompous narcissist, her voice and opinion mattered.
Tiana proved that hardwork mixed with commitment and love goes a really long way.
Rapunzel trusted her own intuition before she trusted Flynn Rider and found her way home.

Each princess had to show enormous amounts of integrity and commitment to their values to overcome their respective obstacles.

When you look at it that way, they really are beautiful.

The stories our daughters hear from our lips, from books, and from movies are the stories and the memories that will guide them when experience hasn’t yet led the way.  I hope Eva learns from these stories and from my example that compassion, strong self-esteem, and resilience in the face of danger and disaster help a woman hold her head high.  Especially considering when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she answers,

 “A Princess!”

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 1-6

“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Draw a long breath and shut your eyes. What do you see?

I see a house on a farm. Inside the house lives a brave little girl who happens to be coloring and singing to herself right now. Her mother’s in the backyard feeding the chickens. The goats are farther back on the property. There aren’t that many acres but their first harvest will probably be decent. On Saturday, they’ll host a middle school class to visit and learn about how to grow the right produce and ways to cook inexpensively. There are herbs drying on the back porch for homemade spice mixes and seedlings just starting to sprout in the greenhouse. It smells of fresh bread and sweet breezes and the sun is playing peekaboo with the treetops.

That’s the first impossible thing. It’s the first thing I see when I close my eyes because it is the hope filling my heart. I know, I’m too girly to live on a farm, but that’s kind of the most beautiful part of the picture.

Second impossible thing: I could overcome my pride and my flaws enough do whatever crazy thing it is God is calling me to.

Third: Everything will turn out okay in the end.

Fourth: If I never get married, I will not waste time regretting it.

Fifth: We will somehow find a way to provide Eva with everything she needs.

Sixth: I can stop procrastinating.

What impossible things can you believe when you close your eyes and breath?

Setting a Table of Plenty

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. –Virginia Woolf

A good meal is one of life’s greatest pleasures. In a world of fast food, quick service, and complimentary bread baskets, we can quickly lose sight of the joy in planning, preparing, and sharing a meal with others. Having worked in the restaurant industry for a number of years, I’ve seen this first hand. Parents neglecting their children in favor of their iPhones, friends talking to each other without actually having a real conversation, and kids coloring on the windows (even my child has snuck an errant doodle past me). It’s discouraging to see the way people interact with each other in restaurants. Don’t even get me started on their interactions with servers. Many days I left work with no hope for humanity because I’d seen such rude and insincere behavior.

One shared meal banishes thoughts of restaurants and always reestablishes my love for people: church Potluck.

I have vivid memories of potluck meals at my grandparents’ church. A tiny church in a tiny town. Their congregation couldn’t have been more than 100 people of whom the average age was well over 50. But there was always plenty of food, home cooked food. Five kinds of bread, rolls, and biscuits. Three kinds of potatoes. Fried chicken. Casseroles. Green beans. Deviled eggs. And dessert to end all desserts. My mouth starts watering just thinking about them. But the most striking part of the meal wasn’t just how great the food was, but that there was always more than enough. There is nothing more disappointing (even as an adult) than being at the back of the line and finding all the macaroni and cheese pans empty. Never happened there. They made plenty.

Our current church home won us over with their potluck. They share lunch together every Sunday, I don’t know of another congregation that does that. Our first visit, people introduced themselves and made sure we stayed for the meal. Immediate and meaningful hospitality to me; kind words and food. I saw the huge bounty of food prepared and could instinctively gauge the health and vigor of the church. Big potluck = big hearts. They planned on having visitors, on having enough to give to whomever walked through the door. They made plenty.

This past Sunday, the sermon was actually about potluck and how sharing a meal expresses Christ in so many ways. Which initially caused me a little guilt; I’d made cupcakes Saturday from a new recipe and did not take them to church because I thought (a.k.a. my pride and perfectionism told me) they were overcooked. Once I got past that little pang of conviction, I sat through the rest of the message absolutely buzzing.

Remember how I said here the last sermon I heard was one of those indirect answers to my prayers kind of sermons? Well this one was the arrow to my heart, the frying pan to my head, and the chord at which I resonate.

God has not just made me enough, he has given me plenty.

Wait, what crazy thing did I just say? I, single mother living with my parents because I can’t afford an apartment, I have been given plenty?

I have never gone hungry because there wasn’t food available. Thank the Lord, Eva has never gone without a meal because we couldn’t afford it. There are people in this country and many others that go hungry every day. And I just can’t live with knowing that and not do anything about it any longer.

Feeding the hungry is one of the most basic and most loving things I can do. I’m sure it could be as simple as volunteering at the Food Bank but I think God may slowly be revealing something bigger. And it starts with me setting a table of plenty.

It’s been so long since I could visualize my future and now these hopes are bombarding my mind. I have been so hungry for purpose! I thank God for the walk in the desert that has made me long for His plenty. The closer I get to sitting at His table and seeing the bounty there, the more equipped I feel to set my fear and pride aside and say, “Ok, let’s go where you want me to go.” And the more I can affirm that, the more clearly I can see a way.

Help me set the table. I need your support, your thoughts, your prayers and your love. I am terrified of the crazy obedience this journey requires. I’m tired of the bad rap Christians have because not enough of us live in the radically loving way Christ calls us to live. I want to go there even though it’s scary. Once the plans I’m working on come together a bit more, I will share more, but for right now just hang with me and pray that I am going the right way.

I’m Not Daddy Too

How many times has a single mom somewhere said, “I have to be Mommy AND Daddy,” as a means of explanation?

Probably hundreds of times of day. I have definitely had those moments. I could list all the things I’ve never gotten from Eva’s father…but the list of what I did get is much shorter:

1. Sperm
2. A Headache

He doesn’t pay child support. He lives hundreds of miles away. He doesn’t send Eva presents. He doesn’t call. He does text, but they are all about the same as the one discussed here. He is virtually nonexistent.

To some degree, I have allowed that. I don’t wonder when he’s going to step up. His name is not on her birth certificate. I have never asked for money. I do not fight or rebel against his lack of interest. In fact, on some level, I prefer it this way. It’s simpler, not necessarily easier, just less complicated. (Which is specific to my situation and should not be misconstrued as a recommendation for other single mothers.)

I do everything I possibly can for Eva. My parents help. My sister helps. My friends help. All things considered, I am raising Eva well. We make it work even though sometimes that is a gigantic, nearly insurmountable challenge. Even though sometimes I feel like I am failing miserably. I’m not a superhero, I’m just a mom.

But I am also only that; just her mom. I am not Daddy too.

Eva doesn’t have a Daddy. I don’t know how to explain that to her. I don’t know how to make it bearable or understandable. She hasn’t asked about it, but I know it will happen soon. She is old enough to make the correlation that the other kids have pictures with their daddies and she has a picture with her grandfather when they make Father’s Day cards at daycare.

What can I tell her? That he’s far away and can’t see her? In my mind, that only explains why she doesn’t have her father around, not why she doesn’t have a Daddy.

I would give her that if I could. I would be another parent to unite with her against Mommy when she’s tough. I would give her extra kisses after Mommy’s kisses when she falls down. I would tell her yes when Mommy says no. I would scare away the ambitious 3 year olds trying to flirt with her when Mommy only laughs. I would show her how a man is supposed to treat a woman, instead of just telling her. I would be the rational one when Mommy gets too emotional.

But I am just Mommy.

I carry a responsibility that two people typically share; that does not make me equal to two people. Am I a great mother? Yes. Do I struggle with this burden? Yes. But I don’t see the point of placing an additional weight on my shoulders by attempting to fill a role I was never meant to have.

I certainly don’t fault any single parent for saying they act as both parents; it’s certainly the most succinct way to describe something that no married parent understands. No, that weekend that your husband spent away for a friend’s bachelor party does not even begin to compare. But I don’t exactly understand how you make your marriage a priority when you’ve got little ones to watch either; I’ve never had to do that. I’ve never lived your life and you’ve never lived mine. Single parents provide on one income with one pair of hands, one pair of eyes, and emotional support from a network of loved ones instead of the one you love most.

I’m sure my choice mom friends may see this issue a little differently. I definitely see (ahem, hope for) adoption in my future regardless of whether or not I ever marry. But no matter how many children I have, be it just Eva or a handful more, I will always choose to just be Mommy.