Monday, December 31, 2007

Don't forget to vote for your favorite 60's style inspiration....

Wouldn't it be great if we could reinterpret some fifties/sixties classic and feminine fashions for our day?

I do think there is something wrong my mirror, though. I'm sure that I am a dead ringer for Audrey, Grace, Doris, or June Cleaver. However, the image that stares back at me is definitely Aunt Bea. And, I can't seem to find the "Change the Channel" button on the mirror to tune into the right image.

At any rate, I did vote for Audrey and Barbara (June). Though I didn't vote for Aunt Bea, I do have a soft spot in my heart for this lady, with her cheerful and kind domestic ways, her apron and her strand of pearls, and her neat appearance. May we all age so well! Being from the South, I can relate to Mayberry. The characters may be fictional, but we've all met them in real life. Those Mayberry folks are just like my peeps!

Who did you vote for and why?

More Products to Consider -- Share, Share, Share your Experience!

Happy New Year, Everyone!! DH and I just got home from a party, and we're checking email before ringing in 2008 together.

In the comments section of my earlier post, Porkchop's Mommy,
suggests a line of natural products -- Holy Cow -- that she found at Wal-Mart. She included the link to their home page. Apparently, the Wal-Mart prices are lower than what is listed on the home page. Read her comment for more information.

I haven't tried these, myself, but they sound interesting, and I thought I'd throw them out there for discussion. I'd love to get a bottle in this line and compare the ingredients, price, and effectiveness against the Chlorox Green Works.

Thanks, Porkchop's Mommy, for telling me about this line.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

My verdict's in, but I still want to hear from other users of Chlorox Green Works...(See previous post)

Tonight, I wiped down my upstairs bathrooms with the Chlorox Green Works All-Purpose Cleaner, and earlier this day, I used it in the first floor powder room.

Here's my first impression:

PROS: Wonderful fresh and safe all-purpose cleanser.
Fantastic for areas such as kitchens, bathrooms.
All natural plant-based products.
Scent is fresh without bothering my asthma or respiratory allergies at all. Sometimes, other products -- even "natural" ones -- do bother my lungs, so this is a big plus for me.

CON: Great for tidying up areas that are basically well maintained, but I think you need
a stronger product to tackle stains or mold or some other tough project. Of course,
all-purpose cleaners aren't meant for deep cleaning, anyway, so that might not be an issue. Even so, I think that there are some other all-purpose products on the market that would outperform
the Green Works cleaner when it comes to stubborn cleaning problems.

CONCLUSION: This will definitely become a part of my cleaning arsenal, provided that it stays in a price range that doesn't bust my budget.



Trying a new product by Chlorox...

I don't know if I'm the last person in the U.S. to come across Chlorox's new line of "green" cleaners, or not. Yesterday, however, when I ran to our local Neighborhood Wal-Mart Market for a few items, I saw Chlorox Green Works products on a display that was separated from the rest of the cleaning products. Of course, displaying a line of products in this way is marketing ploy to inspire you to pick up an item without going back to compare it against other lines. It's also a way of calling attention to a new line of products.

Well, yesterday, the marketing ploy worked for me! I was intrigued by the idea of Chlorox offering green products, and I decided to give their line a try.

I bought the all-purpose cleaner, though there are a number of other offerings in the Chlorox Green Work's products. It cost me about $2.98 for a 32 fluid ounce bottle. The label claims the product is natural and all-purpose.

The ingredients listed on the bottle are largely plant based, and the spray has a wonderful nice clean smell. I did a quick little clean-up, and it worked fine. However, I haven't used it enough yet to know how it will hold up long-term on tough germs and dirt. But, if it works, I may end up liking this line of products even better than Mrs. Greenday's. I think it will be a less expensive option than Mrs. Greenday's, too.

I don't always buy green cleaners. One reason is that they can be pricey, though that is not always so. Another reason is that I've researched the issue and have found (to my surprise) that some regular, traditional cleaning agents -- such as bleach -- aren't so bad for our health and the environment -- provided that you don't overuse them and you do follow the directions.

So, I treat myself to certain "green" cleaners, but I don't use them exclusively. However, if given the option of buying safe "green" products at reasonably competitive prices, that might change my buying habits.

Have you ever used Chlorox Green Works products? If so, how do they work for you? How are they priced in your area?


Friday, December 28, 2007

Gift Cards

Speaking of gift cards (See the previous post), I guess we've all heard by now that Consumer Reports suggests that gift cards do not make the best presents. The thinking is that many people never use their gift cards. Businesses actually count on selling far more gift cards than are actually redeemed. From the consumer's point of view, that's like walking into an establishment and handing money over for the fun of it, without receiving anything in return.

One other thing to consider with gift cards is that they must be chosen carefully, with the recipient's needs and likes in mind. Otherwise, a gift card can seem like an impersonal gift. The recipient may get the feeling that you just popped into one of those gift card kiosks and grabbed something, rather than taking the time to choose something especially for them.

Now, in our household, we do appreciate and use gift cards. This is especially true now that our children are grown, and we're long past the days of "Toys R Us".

Besides, dear hubby's and my personal budget and our children's budgets are such that any of us can always use a gift card. It would be foolish and ungrateful of us to toss one aside and never claim it.

We also have some elderly members of our family. They don't have much as much shopping stamina as they used to. and they aren't always up on things that teens and twenty-somethings like. We find that gift cards are an easy way for them to give something to the younger generations in our family.

Having said that, dear hubby's birthday is in January, and so we often end up with some larger Christmas gift cards and several birthday gift cards for smaller items at places we love -- such as Starbuck's or Cracker Barrel. We've found that we can forget the smaller cards, even though they are generally to some place that we greatly enjoy.

My husband figured out that we are better at redeeming these cards if we stick them in our wallets as if they were credit cards. That way, we always have them with us when we pop into one of our favorite establishment. At the cash register, we see the gift cards in our wallets, and we use them.

I know that some of our friends and extended family enjoy receiving gift cards, just as we do. Since I have a pretty good handle (I think) on the gift cards that our nearest and dearest would enjoy, I do sometimes give them as Christmas, birthday, baby, or wedding gifts.

So, I'm pretty much in favor of gift cards having their place in giving to our friends and family. If chosen thoughtfully, they can make some of the most useful presents. Still, I think it's wise to keep Consumer Reports' advice in mind. Before giving a gift card, we need to be sure that the recipient will actually enjoy and use the card.

What do you think? Do you like to receive and/or give gift cards or not?

Don't worry...I didn't buy these!

This photo is of a Marc Jacobs spring 2008 shoe. I'm not sure if it's intended for anyone to actually wear, or if it was designed to be an attention-catching item at fashion week.

At any rate, it's a good thing that I'm no super model. If I had been handed that shoe to wear down a runway, I'd have spent forty-five minutes back stage just figuring out how to put my foot in it. And, if I had managed to get it on, I'm sure I'd have taken only a few wobbly steps forward before tumbling into the audience.

I'm too old-fashioned to be a true fashionista, I guess. I like the heels of my shoes to be at the...well...where the heel of the shoe is supposed to go.

But, each to his own taste, and there may be some graceful readers who really love the shoe and who would find it easier to get around in than I would.

I did, however, go shoe shopping with my Christmas gift card last night, and I found some great deals. I brought home some forest green suede AK Anne Klein pumps with kitten heels, Naturalizer wine colored ballerina flats with matching grosgrain ribbon, ivory ballet flats with a black toe and little black ribbon, and a wine colored leather bag. I got these items for great prices, and I still have money left over on my gift card.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Five Fun Fashion Links.

I received a gift card, which I want to use to buy some investment shoes -- the type that I will keep for some time and use often. So, I figured I'd better check out the fashion scene, as I do want to at least look like I know what decade it is. :)

Here are a few fun fashion links that I found. (Please note that just because I link to a certain article, that does not mean that I endorse the whole blog):

1) Here's some great information about trends for 2008. I had to laugh, though, at one article that showed jewelry for "real people". I don't know any "real" people who would wear the chin- to-collar-bone bronze necklace in the accompanying illustration.

2) The Budget Fashionista weighs in on the colors that will be popular in 2008. It looks like there will be two color groups to choose from this year: bold, jewel type colors and pastels. If you have vibrant or dark skin tones, you may do well in the bolder colors. With my light coloring, I'll be looking to the pastels. If you don't look your best in either of these groups, don't despair. There will be something out there for you, if you keep looking. For those of you who do a lot of thrift shopping, using 2008's colors as a guide can help you pick selections that will look fresh and up to date.

3) Here's a blogger who's compared several styles of shoes at four different price points each. Whether or not these price points fit into your budget, it does illustrate how you can re-create a look at different price levels.

4) Dress fans and vintage fans will love this one:

5) The top ten fashion must-haves for 2008, otherwise known as ten reasons why I will choose classic style over fashion fads this year. (They're bringing back the tent dress! Don't tell me that it come to that!)

Oh well, at least, at least it looks like American women's passion for wearing low jeans with too short tops is finally over. We have to be thankful for small things.

Once again, let's run through the definitions of style, trend, and fad. It always helps me to keep them in mind.

Style (at least in the Merry Rose dictionary): a woman's personal fashion stamp. While our style does evolve somewhat as we mature, our basic style generally stays with us for life. Some examples of personal styles are classic, traditional, romantic, artsy, sporty, crisp, soft, etc. Also, the colors that flatter your complexion the most will likely become part of your personal style. You'll also gravitate towards fashions that flatter your body shape, though this is harder during some fashion cycles than others.

Trend: a fashion silhouette that lasts anywhere from five to ten years or so -- usually ten years.
The trend has to do with how garments are cut, and it affects hair and makeup as well. For example, are jackets basically longer or shorter? Are skirts A-line, tulip shaped, pleated, or sleek? Are shoulders padded and broad or are they more natural? Are hairstyles "big" or are they sleek? Is jewelry bold or dainty? Does makeup emphasize the eyes or the lips?

Fads: a fashion offering that lasts about a season or maybe even a year. Seldom will a fad last more than two years.

Fads are seldom worth chasing. On the other hand, taking note of both your personal style and the season's current fashion trend will help you dress in a way that is up-to-date and approachable.

Sometimes, we over-thirty ladies get stuck in old fashion trends so long that we start looking dowdy. It's easy to do for reasons that range anywhere from having a tight clothing budget, to being too busy with life to notice changes in fashion trends, to feeling comfortable in what made us look good when we were younger, to thinking older styles are more modest, etc. Younger women can be put off if we look too out of touch. They can think we look unapproachable and as if we don't have anything relevant to say to their lives. Of course, we don't want to dress like teenagers. And, mature-minded younger women will look past our outward appearance to our character. But, keeping within the current fashion trend is one tool can help us to inspire a greater number of younger women, particularly if we lead the way in wearing current trends modestly. Our husbands also enjoy it when we put in the time to keep a fresh appearance.

Remember, there is nearly always a way to interpret current fashion trends in a way that preservers your modesty, your femininity, your dignity, and your age-appropriateness -- not to mention your personal style. You just have to be creative about it.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sam Walton and Homemaking?...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, as we did. The day after Christmas, I always get the urge to spring clean -- a tad early, I know. I'm slowed down this year, as I contracted a bad cold. And, happily, there are even more family festivities to come.

Last night, when I was searching for some little bit of a Christmas movie to watch, I saw a few minutes of an article about Sam Walton. For good or for ill, he turned Wal-Mart into the empire it is today.

Here's the little snippet about Sam Walton that interested me. He once begged the head of a council of businesses to let him have ten minutes of the man's time. The head of the business council reluctantly agreed to see Sam -- for those ten minutes only, as he was squeezing Sam into a very busy day. He ended up being so mesmerized by Sam that he was still talking to him two hours later.

The council head, who is still alive, commented that he realized that Sam would do something "great". The reason he cited was that Sam always looked for people who had some expertise, and he learned everything from that person that he could. He was more interested in finding out what somebody else knew than in expounding his own opinions.

He carried this over to the "associates" (clerks) in his Wal-Mart stores. He believed that they had the best pulse on how to make Wal-Mart the best company it could be. So, whenever he traveled to a store, he spent lots of times talking to them. As the associates dealt directly with the customers, their input usually was right on target, and his willingness to listen to them was part of Wal-Mart's early success.

Sam's goal was to improve just one thing a day in his life, mostly regarding his business.

So, how does this apply to homemaking?

Well, the home keeper is vice-president and manager of a mini-economy. If we continue to look at our home management as an evolving, growing process in which we are continually improving, we will mature in our role. That means talking to women we see doing things well in the home, learning from them, and putting at least one thing from their example into practice. It also means talking to the people who actually live in our home -- our husbands and children, for example -- to make sure that we are really meeting their needs.

Of course, being a keeper at home is not a self-improvement project. There are times to just enjoy our families. Plus, we have to depend on the Lord to mold us and shape us in our role, as we need his help in everything.

Still, following Sam's example with regard to our homes can help us greatly improve as keepers of our home.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Fun and Progress on my House Sprucing to Boot!

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I'm on a campaign to do the little extras that need doing to make our house clean and well-cared for. I had put that aside for the holidays. However, yesterday was warm, so I seized the day and spent an hour or two, puttering about yard and neatening things up.

This afternoon, our son arrived for the holidays, bringing a cat and a bonsai tree. In a few hours, our daughter and her husband will be here, and they will be bringing a dog. Tomorrow, my dad is coming to stay with us for a few days. That, plus dear hubby and I and our own cat makes for a full and happy house! Well, at least the people will be merry. I can't speak for our kitten, who is being a pet hostess for the first time. I think we have little work to do on her feline hospitality. :)

Christmas arrangement: If I get around to it, I'll take a picture of my stab at a creative Christmas arrangement. First, I draped a Christmas lace mantle cover over the antique dresser in our entryway. Then, I placed the larger of two silver bowls on the lace. I turned a little glass bowl upside down and placed the smaller silver bowl on it.

I got the idea of using the upside down glass bowl as a stand for the smaller bowl from the blog Like Merchant Ships.

Then, I placed silver-looking ornaments in both bowls, enough to make both bowls look full and to hide the upside-down glass bowl. I had plenty on hand, because I hung them from the chandelier over my dining room table last year.

Finally, I added little bits of Christmas tree branches that my husband had trimmed off to make the tree work in our living room. I can't decide if I like the arrangement better with or without the little bits of Christmas greenery, but I've decided to keep the greenery, anyway.

My original idea was to do a centerpiece of lemons and herb sprigs in a white pedestal bowl, loosely modeled after an example I saw of a holiday table setting in Southern Living. I put one together, and I thought it looked very pretty and fresh and cheerful. The only problem was that, on my table with my other decorations, it didn't look very Christmas-y. So, I took it apart. I'll do another one later on in the winter or in the spring.

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving, by virtue of its name and history, is a time when we all remember to be more grateful -- or, at least that's the idea.

It's important to keep this thankful focus throughout the holiday season. Of course, for the person who walks with the Lord, gratitude should be a 365 day of the year way of life. In some ways, this is even easier during December and early January, because this time offers so many opportunities to experience joy.

On the other hand, the holidays can be a trying time. For me, the temptation is to fret about how much I have to do and about unexpected family needs that keep popping up, despite my efforts to keep things running on schedule. You'd think I'd remember that God has always been gracious to me and I that He always works things out. In twenty-seven years of Christmases together, dear hubby and I have never had a holiday ruined because of something on my to-do list that didn't get done.

Without realizing it, I've been following one of Mrs. Fussypant's sure-fire suggestion for making yourself (and others) miserable: constantly remind people about how overloaded your schedule is. What do you know? It works. But, who needs misery? It's time to repent.

For other people, holiday stress may come from missing loved ones who cannot be home for the holidays, not being able to go home yourself, dealing with old family hurts that need to be healed, wondering how to work out holiday plans to please both sets of in-laws, or loneliness that seems all the more hurtful because everyone else is surrounded by family and friends.

Even secular psychologists recognize the value of taking a few minutes each day to be grateful. Last year at this time, an expert advised people who were feeling holiday stress to spend two minutes a day reflecting on the good things in their life.

Because God knows our nature and the nature of our temptations, his word if full of commands to praise Him, to rejoice, to be thankful, and to fix our thoughts on him. If we thank and praise God only when things are going well, then we are really praising our circumstances and not the Lord's essential glory. God is God, whether whether our current lot is easy or tough. He is worthy of our praise no matter what is happening in our lives. If we learn to praise him consistently, we will be training our minds to focus on him, instead of letting our thoughts just drift along on the winds of life. He promises that if we keep our minds stayed on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace.

This post came about because I noticed my neglected gratitude journal lying on my desk. Now, my journal is not the only venue that I use for thanking and praising God. However, there is something about the act of writing a gratitude list that cements it in my mind. So, for the next few weeks, I'm going to take it up again.

Singing is another great way to express our gratitude. And, what better time is there to sing than at Christmas? Don't we all want to be the wife and mother who hums or sings as she goes about her day, filling the house with music rather than whining. To this day, I remember the way my mother often sang when she performed some little task, such as washing the dishes. A woman's songs can have a powerful impact on the mood of her family.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's not pretty, but it worked!...

I needed some unleavened bread in a hurry for a communion service for a small group. I had intended to buy unleavened crackers, but couldn't find any in the store. So, I looked up recipes for unleavened bread, and I found this one on

The recipe was so quick and easy to make. I wasn't sure from the directions how thick to make the loaf. The recipe just said shape in a round loaf. So, I patted it down just a bit to be on the flattish side. It came out looking a little funny, but it did bake well.

Actually, the unleavened bread tasted pretty good, though that was not the purpose. I might even prepare this recipe some time just to enjoy.



More on Detoxing the House:

Alas, air fresheners are on the doctors' list of things to avoid if you don't want to sneeze, wheeze, or otherwise pollute your airways. Apparently they contain certain gaseous chemicals, which are not the best for us to breathe.

Walk down any cleaning aisle of any grocery store, and you will certainly find an array of alluring air freshening products. I can't imagine that every single one of these many products would be harmful, but, given the docs' advice, it would be good to do your research before purchasing one.

I read in the real estate section of a our local paper some years ago that one reason air fresheners are so popular now is that people of today spend less time cleaning than our counterparts of fifty years or so ago. So, today's manufacturers oblige us by creating new ways to cover up smells that Grandma would have just cleaned away.

That's probably true. But, if you go back even further in time, people used natural fresheners -- flowers, potpourris, and such -- to cover up odors in dirty city environments. Those cities of yore would make even today's worst slob shudder. This was before personal and collective hygiene was properly understood and before items like soap were readily available to the masses.

Of course, potpourris and other natural scents have become popular again today. Next to cleaning, they're probably our best bet in the war against odors.

Also, with scented candles, air fresheners, potpourris, and the like, allergies can be a factor here. One woman's favorite scented product is another woman's trigger to sneeze.

Another item to avoid are those blue blocks of cleanser that you place and leave in the toilet. They, too, produce chemicals that aren't the best. It's better to clean keep toilets clean with some other cleanser and a little elbow grease than to rely on the blue stuff.

I love those new scented candles that have the wooden wicks. The wicks crackle as they burn , and if you listen closely, you will hear a faint sound like that of wood popping in a fireplace. In light of the doc's information, though, it's probably wise to check out the chemicals even in scented candles. Many candles use "natural" ingredients. But, some do seem to have a heavy odor and may give off irritants.

What's your favorite body-friendly, environment-friendly air freshener?


Favorite Quote for Christmas:

From a Christmas Carol --

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

De-Toxing the House...De-Tox your Heart

A good de-toxing of the house begins with de-toxing our hearts and minds.

We are alert to the toxins outside of ourselves, such as germs and harmful chemicals. If someone offered any one of us a glass of water with just one teeny, tiny drop of poison in it, we'd shrink back in horror.

But, how easy it is to accept just a teeny tiny amount of sin. Sometimes, we do this without even realizing how damaging this will be to our relationship with God. We also don't foresee the hurt it can cause to our relationships with family and other, our own souls, and our physical health as well. We allow seeds of worry, bitterness, gossip, doubt, lack of trust, discontent, envy, irritability, lust, and unforgiveness to take root in our hearts.

At first, we are scarcely bothered by these seeds, but if we nourish these seeds to maturity, we reap a bitter harvest. If we sow to please the Spirit, however, the harvest will be sweet.

Keeping the air, water, and food in our homes clean is vital to our family's physical health. Moreover, we should we try to be faithful stewards of the good earth that God has given us. There's no doubt about that.

However, the wise woman keeps this in perspective, for she knows that spiritual and emotional purity is even more important than environmental purity. Right now, our culture places a premium on creating and following rules to eliminate physical toxins from our environment, as well as putting great emphasis on eating or not eating certain foods. Paradoxically, we regard striving for purity of heart and soul as being old-fashioned, irrelevant, or even restricting.

We can all get swept along in our culture's mindset to some degree. It's always easier to focus on some outer threat than it is to deal with the condition of our hearts. Yet, it's only when we get our priorities right with the Lord that we find true life and peace. Saving the environment and keeping our homes clean will do some real good for a finite period of time. Godliness, however, has value for eternity.

This sort of reminds me of Jesus words when the Pharisees got on him for not observing their tradition of ceremonial handwashings:

"Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean."

There's a saying that helps me with this: If you bump a cup filled with pure and sweet water, only pure and sweet water can spill out. God often shows me by how I react to the little "bumps" in my life whether I've allowed the Lord to fill my heart and my mind with pure and sweet things or if I've been filling them with things that are bitter and impure. If the first words out of my mouth are testy, I can always trace my irritation back to negative thoughts that I've been nursing at the back of my mind.

Similarly, if I've been focusing on the bitter, all the house cleaning in the world won't soothe my soul. If I've been focusing on the sweet, then whatever I turn my hand to flows from better motives and is more satisfying.



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Addendum to question in prior post...Otherwise known as, "What's up with that?"
In my post below, I asked for your input about how you work safe household products into a thifty budget.
Here's a pondering for you...
Perfumes and dyes in detergents aren't the best for my respiratory allergies or for my dear hubby's skin. For years, I have used an unscented, natural, very economical laundry detergent. The detergent is made with a certain natural ingredient that is a skin-soothing laundry freshener.
Recently, this company that makes my favorite brand of laundry detergent has started marketing several variations of their product, each one with a different type of added bleach and/or a different scent with an enticing name.
Of course, the company charges a little bit more for these new variations of their detergent. I can understand that. After all, it does cost them something to ADD to a product.
However, in light of our needs, I continued to look for the good old original detergent -- without fancy scents or other new additives. In my way of thinking, adding other ingredients to this detergent takes away from the fact that it already has a very natural laundry freshener added to it. "Why mess with nature's cleaning agent?" I ask.
On my last excursion down the laundry aisle of my local market, I stared and stared at this company's display, looking vainly for the same detergent that I've always bought. Finally, I realized that the original detergent is now marketed as the company's special "unscented" detergent. And, suddenly, this "unscented" detergent costs more than it used to!
I suppose some marketing person is thinking, "This detergent is great because it has no irritating additives! Shouldn't the consumer be willing to pay for something so wonderful?"
Huh?! This "unscented" detergent is just the company's basic product, before scents and bleaches are added. It doesn't cost them any extra to market it as is, without adding anything to it.
I suppose this was just the company's way of raising the price on their entire line of laundry detergents, including their original formulation. I suppose it was time for them to charge a little more, as their prices had hovered about the same low point for a long time.
Even so, I miss my good old ordinary, additive free, natural, lower-priced detergent.

De-Tox the House: The Kitchen

1) Within reason, avoid consuming too much aluminum -- Did you know that the brains of Alzheimer's patients contain more aluminum than is normal. Scientists and doctors have gone back and forth about whether this is a cause or an effect of the disease. In other words, do people contract Alzheimer's disease at least, in part, becuase they have consumed too much aluminium over a life time? Or, does the disease itself cause the body to build abnormal aluminum deposits in the brain?

When the link between Alzheimer's disease and aluminum was first recognized, experts naturally urged people to limit their exposure to aluminum ingestion. Later on, the consensus changed. Doctors decided that avoiding aluminum had little real benefit in stopping someone from developing Alzheimer's disease.

A book I'm reading on aging, written by Drs. Oz and Roizen, has brought back up the idea that if we want to preserve our memories -- particularly as far as Alzheimer's disease is concerned, we do need to limit our exposure to aluminum.

As a lay person, I tend to come down somewhere in the middle of this controversy: I would not use aluminum cookware. However, I haven't been too picky about other sources of aluminum. Perhaps, I should pay a little more attention to this.

What are the sources of aluminum exposure, you ask? Well, aside from cookware, you can ingest aluminum in many antacids, nondairy creamers, and canned foods. Also, experts suggest that the skin can absorb the aluminum that is found in many antiperspirants.

Drs. Oz and Roizen also recommend switching to sea salt instead of table salt, which is processed with aluminum to avoid caking. I have not yet taken that step. I might investigate this -- not just because of the aluminum, but for other reasons, as well. However, as someone who is hypo-thyroid, I'm going to do some research before I try this out. Table salt is one of the major sources of iodine in the American diet, and I don't want to fool around with my iodine levels without asking my doctor first.

2) Check your cookware. Many types of cookware deposit fine particulates in food. As mentioned in suggestion #1, there is some fear that using aluminum cookware will cause you to ingest more aluminum than is healthy for you.

Did you also know that in times past, doctors observed that people who cooked with iron cookware were less prone to anemia than those who didn't. Why? Because some ingestible iron actually deposited in the food.

In the case of iron cookware, the consumption of iron particulates has a potential benefit. I use a cast iron skillet, myself, and I also have a cast iron mold for making cornbread cakes. However, even with iron, there is such a thing as consuming too much, for excess iron can deposit itself along the walls of your arteries, constricting your blood flow. This is especially true for men and post-menopausal women. If you use cast iron on a daily basis, you're probably fine. But, be sure to have your blood levels check before you take vitamins with iron or iron supplements. It's possible that you are getting enough iron from the cooking process, and you may not need any extra.

While iron cookware might have a beneficial effect, think twice before microwaving food in plastic contaiers. I know, we've all done it. But, Drs. Roizen and Oz state that the plastic actually gets into our foods.

Additionally, my husband heard about studies indicating that chemicals used to harden plastics are harmful to the endocrine system. This means that the plastic sports water bottles many of us carry might leach some harmful particles into the water. I haven't thrown all of my plastic water bottles and pitchers away. However, I am giving this issue some thought.

If you use Teflon cookware, I'd toss it if the Teflon coating begins to flake or if it looks scratched.

Again, we don't want to be neurotically fearful, here. We have to cook our food in something! Most cookware is probably safe. However, it does pay to give your pots and pans some thought. Whatever type you use, keep the items clean and in good shape to cut down on particulates that might contaminate your food. If you ever need to buy a new pot or pan, do some research before choosing what type you will purchase.

3) Toss your sponges and use dish rages, instead. Wash the dish rags with bleach. Try as you might, you will not be able to keep sponges as clean and sanitary as dish rags. This is true even if you stick them in the dishwasher. Because sponges naturally hold water, they attract germs as they dry.

Cheryl Mendelson, the author of Home Comforts, says to sanitize your scrub brushes in boiling hot water, rather than sticking them in the dishwasher. I have to confess that I still pop mine in the dishwasher. However, I do understand her reasoning. Scrub brushes tend to hold little tiny particles of food that either get stuck in the bristles or land on the other items in your dishwasher.

4) Know your food safety rules. Know about how to maintain your refrigerator. Keep your fridge and freezer clean. Toss out food before it becomes science experiments.

This is one area where I need to step up. At Thanksgiving, my dear son scrounged in our fridge for a snack, and he pulled out a few bottles of condiments with expired sell-by dates. Oops.

5) Dr. Roizen and Oz recommend using dishwasher soap without phosphates or chlorine or nonylpheol ethoxylate (NPE). NPE is known to "feminize" fish in the waters where it is dumped. I'm not sure if scientists know the effects it has on human hormones. But, why take chances?

Anyhow, I've never given much thought to the chemicals in my dishwasher detergent. So, I'll have to check this out.

Now, I have a question for you: How do you buy "green" and/or "safe" household products and cleansers, while staying within budget? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.



Monday, December 10, 2007

De-Toxing the House:

A good place to start fighting toxins is by improving your and your family's immune system. A healthy immune system is better equipped to fight off germs and other toxins than an unhealthy one.

Here are four things that you can do to improve your and your family members' immune systems:

1) Laugh Often -- Yep, you read that one right. We've all heard that laughter helps lower blood pressure. According to the book I've been reading by Drs. Roizen and Oz, laughter also increases cells that kill tumors and viruses, and it produces disease fighting antibodies, to boot. It also increases oxygen in the blood, and helps counter the effect of mental stress on the arteries. Tis' the season to be merry!

2) Help each member of your family get the required amount of quality sleep. Among other benefits, snoozing soundly through the night supports the immune system's work.

Here's a chart your can look up to see how much sleep a child needs for each year between the ages of 2 and 8:

Don't forget about your teens, who need more sleep than many parents' realize. There is a theory that this is because hormones that deal with teens' growth and sexual maturation are produced mostly at night. (See ) This means that teens need more hours of sleep than adults, who have -- we hope -- reached full maturity. I've read different figures for teenagers, but your teens will probably do ok on anywhere from 9 to 11 hours of sleep.

When my children were teens, they used to love to tell me about all of the studies that said that teens need to sleep later than adults. There is some evidence that their sleep cycles are slightly different than adults. For that reason, some educators advocate later starting times for high schools. That's probably a good thing. If you home school, you can keep that in mind, as well. But, rural teens have been getting up early to do farm chores for centuries upon centuries. So, it's my lay person's opinion that you can find a way for your teen to get the sleep he or she needs, even if you just can't avoid an early wake-time.

If all else fails, your teens may need a short afternoon nap to compensate for sleep deprivation. A nap can be helpful. But, napping isn't as beneficial as getting a good night's sleep. It can also backfire if your child naps so long that he or she is wide awake when bedtime comes.

Please note that parents often mistake signs of sleep deprivation in children and teens for behavioral and attitude problems. A lack of good quality sleep can lead to moodiness, sluggishness, poor concentration, falling asleep at inappropriate times, sleeping really late on the weekends, and having difficulty remembering things. Also, oddly enough, if you are sleep deprived, it can interfere with your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep, which leads to more sleep deprivation. If you detect these signs of sleep deprivation in your child, please note that his or her immune system may be being compromised, as well.

If you experience some of these symptoms, yourself, check your own sleep habits. We adults have our own issues with snoozing through the night -- from nursing babies to dealing with the changes that come with aging. So, for your own immune system's sake, do some research about how to improve your quality of sleep and take whatever steps you need to make sure you stay as rested as possible.

3) Breathe correctly and relax: These two elements help your vagus nerve, which is highly affected by both stress and by shallow, tense breathing. The vagus nerve is one of the most important and largest nerves in the body, and it controls many things in our bodies. In this article, we're talking about one of the vagus nerve's many duties: helping to regulate the immune system. It not only helps with the body's defenses, it keeps those defenses from getting out of control. It's not good for your immune system to be on red alert all the time, so the vagus nerve tells it when it's ok to relax for a bit.

See my archives for articles about how to breathe correctly.

4) Eat foods such as yogurt, keifer, buttermilk, and sauerkraut that have helpful bacteria in them. I know it's yucky to think of bacteria and fungi taking up residence in our digestive systems. The fact is, however, that they do. Some of these little critters are friendly and some are not. We want enough of the friendly infection fighters in our system to keep the unfriendly critters from taking over.

It's important to replenish the helpful little bacteria often, as they are short-lived. This is doubly true if you have been on an antibiotic for a bacterial infection. Antibiotics can save our lives by fighting off the bad guys. The only trouble is, they can't distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. They fight any foreign substance living in our bodies. So, it's vital to re-populate the good guys asap after finishing your prescription. If you can't get the helpful bacteria from foods, supplements can help.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

While we're at it, let's just de-tox the whole house...Otherwise entitled, "It ain't easy being green".

Part I -- The Introduction.

In my last post, I explored how to eliminate the health concerns and the environmental concerns connected with dry cleaning. In the process of researching that, I found information about dealing with other potential toxins.

There are many of you who are way more savvy about these issues than I. But, I thought I'd share what I'm learning, and you can post your own tips in my comments section if you like.

Before we launch into that subject though, I wanted to explore a few ideas:

First, let me say again that we can never avoid exposure to every potential toxin in the world. Nor, should we attempt to have a 100% sanitized home environment. Our immune systems need some challenges in order to grow and stay strong, just as our muscles need work and exercise to grow and stay strong. Plus, as important as it is to be a wise steward of this good old glove, it will not be our permanent home. So, there's no need to become neurotic in our quest for a cleaner, greener home on earth. In fact, the best thing we can do for our family's health is to create a household that's relaxed and happy.

Second, let me point out that some of the guidelines concerning home and environmental toxins are not black and white. There are many areas where the research either isn't clear, or it's subject to change as people learn more.

Plus, the types of toxins that threaten our health and our environment have a way of changing as conditions change. Way back in the 1930's, the city I live in was heavily polluted from coal, which was the main source of heat for many houses. That coal residue in the air was cleaned up long before I was even born. Yet, in the 2,000's, there are other pollutants in our air.

So, in light of changing conditions and changing ideas about what's healthy, it's wise to have a flexible attitude about our choices.

If we keep these two things in mind, it will help us stay balanced as we de-tox our homes. We can take simple steps to protect our family's health without letting the process consume us.

Winter is probably a good time to tackle a home de-tox project. During cold weather, we keep our homes more tightly shut against the elements. Thus, whatever toxins are in our homes' atmosphere are trapped inside, and the levels of indoor irritants rise. Plus, we spend more time inside, where we breathe that recycled, irritant-rich air. Not only that, but we are exposed to seasonal illnesses, such as the flu.

Of course, with the holidays coming up, you may be too busy right now to start a new home project. A few weeks from now, after the holiday rush is over, you may be ready to give your home a fresh new start to the new year.

Note: During this short series, I'm defining toxins as anything in a home's air and surfaces and materials or any home product that could be harmful to our health. This would include germs, chemical irritants, pollutants from new carpeting and furniture, molds, etc. We'll also consider allergens. Allergens may not be toxins in and of themselves, but a sensitized immune system might wrongly perceive them as a toxic threat, producing an allergic reaction in certain individuals.



Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dry Cleaning...Who knew?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Country Girl at Heart is hosting a book club in which we are all reading "Adventures in Thrift". The book, which was written in the early 1900's, is available online. While some elements of the book are outdated, I've been surprised how similar our "adventures in thrift" in the early 2,000's are similar to the challenges faced and lessons learned by the characters of hundred years ago.

Though the book is as timely today as when it was written, there are a few little historical details that make one ponder. One such item is that the main character in the book talks about cleaning her daughter's white coat with gasoline!

What? You can clean a garment -- a white garment, no less -- with gasoline? You can do this yourself, at home?

You would actually put a child in this garment? What about fumes? What about the risks of catching fire?

Being curious -- OK, being a history nerd -- I decided to find out more about dry cleaning.

Guess what? Wikipedia confirms that dry cleaning in that era did involve lots of petroleum:

Dry cleaning uses non-water-based solvents to remove dirt and stains from clothes. The potential for using petroleum based solvents in this manner was first discovered in the mid-19th century by French dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly, who noticed that his tablecloth became cleaner after his maid spilled kerosene on it, and from this observation developed a service to clean other people's clothes in this manner, which he termed "nettoyage à sec," or "dry cleaning" in English.[1]

Early dry cleaners used petroleum-based solvents, such as gasoline and kerosene. Concerns over flammability led William Joseph Stoddard, a dry cleaner from Atlanta, to develop Stoddard solvent as a slightly less flammable alternative to gasoline-based solvents. The use of highly flammable petroleum solvents led to many fires and explosions, which resulted in heavy regulation of dry cleaners.

Aren't we glad things have come a long way since then? Well, today's dry cleaning chemicals are safer -- with regard to flammability, that is. However, modern dry cleaning chemicals have come under scrutiny because of health concerns.

Until recently, most dry cleaners used trichloroethane and/or perchloroethelyene (PERC). According to Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz, (Those M.D.'s that Oprah made famous) these chemicals have been connected with damage to the kidneys and nervous system, as well as to cancer. This is true not only for those who work around these chemicals all day, but for people who wear dry cleaning, as well.

According to Wikipedia, there are also environmental concerns for PERC. For that reason, California has outlawed this chemical and all cleaners in that state are working towards a mandated deadline by which they must convert to another cleaning solvent.

So, in light of these concerns, what should you to protect your family and the environment? It's difficult, if not impossible, to avoid exposure to every possible toxin, and it's probably not wise to loose too much sleep over every chemical-related warning that comes along. However, since there are simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure to dry cleaning chemicals, it only makes sense to put them into practice. Below, I've listed three suggestions from Drs. Roizen and Oz, along with some extra tips to help you carry them out:

1) Ask your cleaner what chemicals are used on your clothes. Look for cleaners who have switched over to other solvents than PERC and trichloroethane.

2) Limit dry cleaning to only those things that truly do need dry cleaning.

For one thing, don't be in a rush to take items to the cleaners. This is especially true of clothing, which needs cleaning more often than household fabric items. Too much dry cleaning is hard on garments, anyway. Learn how to air out wearables in order to keep them fresh. For example, hang a dry-clean-only dress on a padded hanger, with plenty of room around the garment for it to breathe, and stuff the sleeves and underarms with tissue or non-acid paper. Also, learn how to spot clean garments to cut down visits to the cleaners. Be careful even with that, though, as some spot-cleaners have chemicals in them that are equally as concerning as dry-cleaning.

It goes without saying that stretching out the intervals between dry cleanings is not only better for your health and for the health of the garment, but it's good for your budget, as well.

Also, note that some items that have labels that say "dry clean only" can be cleaned at home, using water and a delicate soap. You may not want to risk this unless you can either stand to toss the garment if something goes wrong or you are sure of your results. Before you attempt the process, be know what you are doing. For example, in the case of washing a sweater, review how to block it so that it will retain its shape and size.

Similarly, look for the cleaning directions before you buy fabric, clothing, or a household fabric item. If it says dry clean only ask yourself, "Do I really want to bring this home?" In the case of a well-made item of fine fabric, the answer might be "yes". But, for something of synthetic fabric and indifferent construction, you'd do well to walk on by -- even if it is in your favorite color and it's on sale for one-fifth of the original asking price. When evaluating a dry-clean only item, consider both the costs of dry-cleaning and the time spent doing step #3 as part of the total expense.

3) When you do have something dry-cleaned, remember this: The plastic that protects the item until you get it home also traps particles from the dry cleaning chemicals. Take off the wrap and hang dry-cleaned items outside, in a covered place, to let them air for a bit before putting them away. This is especially important for items that will be placed in a closed closet or drawer, where particles from dry cleaning can accumulate.

While you're at it, reconsider using mothballs if you have them in your home. There is some thought that they are carcinogenic. Cedar chips are one alternative you can try.


Check This Out...

Few people can get across a message with as much humor as Mrs. Fussy Pants. Check out this light-hearted, but to-the-point article, "Five Ways to Be Unhappy." Read and do the opposite!



Monday, December 03, 2007

Delaying first childbirth until mom is past age forty?

The other night, I saw a TV news feature about Hollywood actresses who are delaying having their first child until they are past the age of forty or even past the age of forty-five. I'm sure the feature caught my attention as I had two mid-life miscarriages, myself, despite having had healthy, full-term pregnancies earlier in life. I love to hear of other "older" moms whose outcomes were more successful.

I think it's wonderful that so many mothers today do continue to have babies into their late thirties and into their forties. There was a time when many mid-life parents were made to feel silly for announcing that they were going to experience another happy event.

I also think it's great that we have a climate that is encouraging to parents, who, for one reason or another, do not or can not have children until they are over thirty-five.

When I was carrying my second child in my late twenties, some-one's grandmother said in my presence, "You know; they say you should have all of your children before you turn thirty."

Later, I came to wonder if this might have been a commonly held belief of that generation. If so, this was despite the fact that their mothers and grandmothers commonly became pregnant in their late thirties and in their forties. Back in the day, women generally had children for as long as they remained fertile.

Lest we are too hard on the older lady's generation, we must remember that she and her peers lived during a time when medical science made the greatest leaps forward of mankind's history. She was born in an era when many women died in childbirth or lost their vitality through repeated pregnancies. Few women received what we now think of as adequate prenatal care, and the infant mortality rate was high. Similarly, healthy young people often died of diseases that we can cure easily today -- such as pneumonia and strep throat. Not only that, but outbreaks of childhood diseases -- such as whooping cough -- often struck down more than one child in a family at a time. Plus, there was a real danger of being killed, crippled, or forced into iron lungs by polio.

During that lady's lifetime, medical science conquered many of those dreaded killers. The medical advances of the twentieth century changed the world in ways that people my age and younger find hard to appreciate.

If we are ever tempted to forget the wonders of antibiotics, vaccines, and of modern maternal and infant care, we would do well to stroll through graveyards from the 1700's and 1800's and even early 1900's. I've personally found that such strolls are a lesson in thankfulness for some medical advances.

So, we can understand why people of a few generations before mine embraced "modern" and "scientific" ideas about childbearing and child rearing. Based on their experiences, they thought it best to have fewer pregnancies, finishing by age thirty, and with a higher probability of favorable outcomes than might have been common in prior generations. Whether you agree with their reasoning or not, that kind of thinking did permeate our society.

I've even heard a few women of my age and younger speak with pity or censure of a woman who finds herself pregnant in mid-life. Often, you can tell that some one's first gut reaction is, "Oh no! What were they thinking!", instead of "Isn't it wonderful that God is sending that family a new gift?"

However, I'm concerned in a different direction these days. It seems that the opinion has swung so that many women expect to delay having their first child into their late thirties and even early to mid-forties. They want to have a career first and, then, to have a baby. They are confident that if they follow this plan, everything will turn out just as they dream it will.

These days, we have an opposite line of thought from that dear old lady. A favorite sentiment of our culture seems to be, "You should have all of your babies after age thirty".

That was the gist of the news feature that I watched last night. The message was, "Hollywood's forty-something moms-to-be not only reflect the new trend towards later childbearing in America, they send a positive message to young ladies. These women show that you can "live your own life" during your twenties and thirties. Then, when your career is established in your forties, you can add in that one thing that's missing from your life -- a baby." The article went on to imply that waiting until you are in your forties to have your first baby is good for the child, because the mother in her forties has "finally figured out who she is", and, thus, she will have a more mature outlook as she raises her child.

I loved seeing the shots of glowing mothers and children featured in this article, as well as the positive encouragement for older women who want to become mothers. However, I also felt this TV feature was misleading for a number of reasons.

For one thing, the feature (which was supported by an interview with a glamorous-looking Hollywood gyn/OB) made it sound as if the woman who delays childbearing until she reaches her fifth decade will automatically and easily get pregnant -- once she decides she wants to. Sadly, despite advances in fertility treatments, women cannot count on this to be true.

Sure, some women naturally retain some degree of fertility all through their forties. And, we all know that the Lord can send blessings no matter what a woman's chances appear to be. Haven't we all met the happy woman who thought she was in menopause, only to discover that she was, in fact, pregnant. In fact, I heard about a woman who conceived naturally in her fifties!

But, we also hear often of the woman who hoped to have a child in her forties, only to be told the devastating news that her window of fertility has passed. The statistics are just not in favor of waiting to conceive for the first time -- with your own eggs -- until you reach your fortieth birthday. The stats are even more dire for the woman who has passed her forty-fifth birthday. In fact, the numbers show that the average woman's fertility begins declining in her late twenties. Sometimes, even women who try to have their first child after age thirty-five have unforeseen troubles.

While it's seldom mentioned in the media, I did read an article that said that many of
Hollywood's older moms achieve their pregnancies by using donor eggs from younger women. Also, I've read a few mentions of actresses who suffered repeated miscarriages on the way to successfully giving birth.

I don't know how reliable that bit of news about celebrities really is. But, in doing some research for this article, I did happen upon the web site of a fertility clinic. It stated unequivocally that for a woman past age forty, her best chance of having a child is to use eggs from a younger donor. This is not only because the older woman's fertility has declined so dramatically, but because she has at least a one in three chance of miscarrying if she should beat the odds and conceive with her own eggs.

In light of this, I wonder if it's fair for so many media articles to imply that it's no big deal for a woman to wait one or two decades before trying to conceive? Should women be led to believe that they can easily become pregnant with an egg of their own, once they reach the age of forty and beyond?

Shouldn't young women be made aware of the risks of waiting so long to start a family? It's one thing for a young woman to take a chance with her fertility if she understands what her future odds of success and failure will be. It's another to make the same gamble based on false hope.

Similarly, Hollywood's older moms are applauded for setting this example: Have your career first and, then, have your baby. But, these high profile actresses have advantages that the average working woman does not. They can afford to pay for expensive fertility treatments. They have nannies and secretaries and chauffeurs and press agents and physical trainers and stylists and cooks and maids and gardeners and other people who handle the personal details of their lives. They can afford live-in nurses, if needed for mother or child. Their work demands that they stay in shape, and they enter mid-life having spent a lot of time and money on their health -- time and money that the average working wife cannot afford to spend.

Plus, here's the kicker: Unless it's on the front page of the Enquirer, we never see Hollywood's mid-life mamas throwing up from morning sickness or with bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. Even if she has now happily come to terms with using donor eggs, we don't necessarily hear about the heartbreak a particular actress felt when first told that her days of true fertility are over.

What we see are carefully photo-shopped cover shots of a beaming mother and baby. Likely, both of them were dressed, groomed, and made-up by a team of professionals.

Now, I'm not saying that actresses have an easy life; I imagine that pursuing a career in the entertainment business can be quite stressful -- perhaps even more so for those at the top. I also don't envy the fact that if high profile entertainers do have children, they will be raising them in the Hollywood environment. Worse, they will raise children with all of America -- even the whole world -- watching their every move. That's got to be hard!

But, I am also imagining the slightly out-of-shape forty-five-year-old accountant in Hoboken, New Jersey, who is either struggling to get pregnant or who is adjusting to first-time motherhood in mid-life. Is it realistic for her to form her expectations of conception, pregnancy, and motherhood based on how easy it all seems to be for celebrities? In fact, is it wise for a mom of any age to compare her situation to what she thinks a star's experience might be?

Most women hear the message today that it's important to get your career going before you have children. Actresses, however, are under extra pressure to build their careers in their twenties and thirties. The TV article suggested that actresses forget to have children in their twenties and thirties. They are simply too busy to think about children one way or another during their youth. Also, since their livelihood depends on both their appearance and their availability to work, some actresses are reluctant to experience the body changes of pregnancy in their twenties and thirties. Once their career is established, they have time to remember that motherhood is missing from their life. So, voila, they simply add a child into their schedule.

Again, I ask is all of this really a great message to send to younger women? Hollywood has an incredibly young "sell-by date" for actresses. True, there are more roles around for older actresses than there were a decade or so ago. Even so, most actresses experience a great slowdown in their career by the age of forty. Then, they do have time to reflect on what they might have missed in the days when their careers demanded all of their attention. It's not surprising that many seek to fill this hole with a child.

Yet, most other careers play out over a longer span of time. Women who have invested their youth in building a career may find it harder and harder, not easier, to take time out in their forties to have children.

Also, do we really want to teach younger women to value appearance over having babies? What are a few stretch marks compared to the wonder of carrying and raising a child? God made women to be beautiful, but isn't part of our beauty the fact that we can carry and nurse children? Besides, if you think that not having children preserves your youthful looks, you're in for a shock when you hit middle age. Time eventually touches our faces and our bodies whether we have children or not.

Moreover, do we really want to teach younger women that they must, somehow, "live their own life" for at least two whole decades before having children? And, must we wait until we reach age forty before we "have figured out who we are" to the point that we can now think about raising someone else?

Sure, there are advantages to maturity. I've learned some things through over two decades of parenting, and if I could go back and raise my now-adult children over again, I would do lots of things differently. On the other hand, I might make other mistakes if I were just starting now on the adventure of motherhood.

There was a time in my youth when it would have been disastrous for me to marry and to be a mom. But, the issue wasn't that I hadn't found out who I was. The issue was that I hadn't yet found out who God is.

I've never seen children as an impediment to "living my life" or a hindrance to "knowing who I am". Of all my endeavors in life, I have found motherhood to be among the most satisfying - far more satisfying even than my enjoyable writing career. True, I could have achieved more career-wise if I had chosen not to have children and to be a keeper at home. But, for me, no amount of success in my chosen field would have been worth giving up the joys of marriage, parenting, and making my home my primary vocation.

As far as figuring out who I am, motherhood is the classroom where I, personally, have learned the greatest lessons. Not every woman is intended by God to be a wife and mother, and that's OK. He operates many schools in life. But, for me, parenting has has been a huge part of my education in life, in who I am, and in learning to know God more deeply.

Finally, do we really want to tell younger women, "Having a baby is all about you -- about whether it will hinder your life or about whether it will fill a hole in your life at this present time?" Of course, we all think about these things when we are on the brink of having children.
Parenting is a responsibility that requires sacrifice and change on our part. By the same token, parenting adds richness and meaning to our lives. I'm not saying that we should never ponder these issues.

However, there's a larger picture here. Parenting, should it be the Lord's will for our lives, has its true meaning in the context of a life lived for Him. The fact is that having children is not all about us. It's about the fact that we are stewards of precious little lives, lives who ultimately belong to their Creator -- just as we also do, ourselves.