Friday, December 22, 2006

Secondary Gripes

Because I’m not yet finished complaining about this book, I have to point out two other things that really burned me up (or at least made me understand that the authors’ values are not my values, as if that wasn’t obvious from their insistence that I must “get it all.”)

1. Spirituality. One of the things the authors emphasize is that GALs (SAHMs who are Getting it All) have a strict daily regimen broken down into fifteen minute segments. That’s fine with me. I’m Type A. I like schedules. But they insist that in order to be a GAL then you must dedicate an entire fifteen minutes per day to “spirituality.” Their first instruction is to create a “sanctuary” at home (it should be easily set up and taken down) with whatever accoutrements you might need to feel peaceful and relaxed. Next, spend fifteen minutes in your sanctuary repeating the mantra of your choice, and, voila! You can check off your spirituality box for the day. You have now fulfilled your daily spirituality requirement and are well on your way to being a GAL. Isn’t that great?!? Say your centering mantra for 15 minutes and be on your merry way. Don’t get me wrong…I love centering prayer, but it seems cheap to insist on spirituality as just another thing to do on your way to getting it all. Don’t even get me started on the fact that they cite “elegance” as a spiritual discipline. Gag.

2. It’s All About Me. Despite the fact that GALs are supposed to be spiritual people (a spirituality perfected in 15 minutes per day), there doesn’t seem to be much room for selflessness. In the chapter on finances they claim that “doing generous, selfless things will bring wealth to you” (270). They then tell the story about how one of the authors gave a ten-spot to a guy selling a newspaper in an intersection and told the vendor to keep the change. That afternoon the authors got a call from a publisher wanting to publish their book. Why? Because the author was so generous to the newspaper vendor, they claim. So always be on the lookout for opportunities to be generous, not because being generous is a good thing, but because it will bring you the good karma in the end.

They devote a lot of space to sex and ways to nurture intimacy. Not a bad thing at all, but ultimately they advise that doing good things for your husband will pay off for you in the end. Apparently GALs don’t do nice things for their husbands because they love them. They do nice things to get nice things in return. They suggest offering a foot rub or a shoulder rub because that will help you get in the mood when the time comes. “Remember, it’s not just for your husband, it’s for you!” (222). They also suggest offering compliments to your husband because “When you compliment him, he will compliment you back.”

So to sum it up, to be a GAL, I have to remember that it’s about me, me, me, me, me! Great! Let’s get started!

OK, I think I’m done. I feel better now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On Not Getting It All

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was reading MomsTown Guide to Getting it All: A Life Makeover for Stay at Home Moms. Normally I would not have even considered something with such a title, but someone in my SAHM book club chose it as our November book. The woman who chose it hadn’t actually read it, but thought it looked interesting. When she began reading it, however, she found it an utter waste of time and recommended that we choose another book to read instead. Not being one to let a book go unread, especially one that I’ve paid for, I decided to read it. It ended up being a quick read, mostly because it was insipid garbage and I was able to skim through it.

The crux is that there are two kinds of stay-at-home moms, “ordinary SAHMs” and “GALs.” GALs are SAHMs who are “Getting it ALl” Clever, huh. I’ll save my secondary rants for another post, but here is my primary aggravation: When are we going to stop trying to convince people (moms, in this case) that they can get it all? I realize that these two women make their living by making women believe that they can get it all, and that if their argument wasn’t convincing they’d be out of a job.

But it simply isn’t realistic.

When you make one choice, you automatically eliminate a whole host of others. If you choose to stay home with your kid(s), your career is most likely going to take a hit. If you choose to go to work and leave your children in the care of someone else, you’re going to encounter a whole host of other issues. For me it was not feeling completely present in my job because I really wanted to be with my kid. For other women I know it’s feeling that they never have enough time to spend with their children. For others it may be something else. But I don’t believe for a second that we can “get it all.” We create our priorities and we make decisions based on those. Not everything can be our top priority. Such a notion sets us up for failure. It makes us believe that if we don’t live up to that “getting it all” standard then we’re not doing the best we can. It’s hard enough being a mom without having someone telling us that unless we’ve “got it all,” we’re “ordinary SAHMs.” I was especially amused by their constant reminder that while we pursuing our passions in order to "get it all," we may find that we need to utilize child care during the week. Um, if I wanted my kid in child care, I wouldn't be staying at home with him. It's that kind of logic that made the book so aggrivating.

The irony is that the book we chose to read instead of this one was Little Earthquakes. One of the plotlines is about a woman who tries her best to “have it all” and realizes that it isn’t possible, that you have to make choices, and when you choose one path you have to accept the fact that you’ve eliminated the possibility of many other paths. It was refreshing and much more real than the “get it all” myth.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Get It?

Jay obviously needed to blow off a little steam last night. He was at school until 9:00 p.m. finishing writing his finals. He started baking as soon as he got home. When I woke up this morning this was on the counter. The pumpkin pie and pecan pie are both in the refrigerator.

Don't worry, they're not for us. We're taking them to a dinner for the engineering and physics faculty tonight, which explains the bit of "nerd" that Jay had to throw in for good measure.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Run, Barack, Run!

Word has it Obama's on his way to New Hampshire.

I told Jay the other day that if he runs for President in 2008 I'd actually volunteer for his campaign. I'll make phone calls, stuff envelopes, deliver yard signs, whatever.

I said that I even consider--consider--putting a campaign sticker on my car.

Jay wants to know what's happened to the real Mary Beth. I say, how can you turn down this face?

Note: After looking over this post I realized that it sounds like I'm a fan of Obama because he's an attractive guy. In fact, I have been overwhelmingly impressed with everything he's had to say, from his World AIDS Day speech at Saddleback to his article in Sojourner's. He gets it and can articulate it in a way no one else can.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Yesterday I was able to participate in an Advent mini-retreat with some other women from my community. It was at the (unbelievably gorgeous) home of one of the staff members from my church. There were six of us total and we were all connected by knowing either our hostess or the leader of the retreat. I was really excited to go as I haven't exactly been feeling "Advent-ish." It was easy to feel "Advent-ish" in Chicago. The weather was cold and blustery. The outside was dark and uninviting. I really did spend all of Advent waiting for the "light of the world" to appear. It's hard to get into that mindset when it's still sunny and warm enough to play outside with Joshua. Not that I'm complaining a bit! I'm thrilled! But it makes it harder to get into the Advent spirit.

So I was looking forward to a time to help me really feel like we're starting the Advent journey. Jay took the morning off from school and stayed home with Joshua so that I could go. We began the morning listening to the words of Henri Nouwen and sharing a litany from the Northumbria Community. Then we went off by ourselves (there was enough room in the house that each of us could go to a separate area and not even know that anyone else was there!) and spent an hour and a half in silence. An hour and a half of silence!!! Those were the most glorious words anyone had said to me in awhile. What would I do with an hour and a half of silence? I started with some mindful meditation, moved on to an abbreviated time of lectio divina using a passage from Isaiah, and just sat in the quiet.

To my surprise, I actually started to get a little antsy. After being home with a baby/toddler for the last five months I'm a little out of practice at sitting still and 75 minutes is a long time. I like silence much more now than I used to, however. I used to have the television on all the time, even if just for background noise. Now the television is on, at maximum, three hours a week, and those are all after Joshua is in bed. I love the quiet, I love the absence of sensory input, I have to have quiet these days to stay sane.

But I realized yesterday that the sound of silence is my background noise now. I realized at the that, more than silence, I need intentional quiet...quiet that allows me to listen to God and listen to what's going on inside of me. It's not exactly something I'm good at (and I don't like things that I'm not good at) but I need to try.

After the quiet time we had a wonderful lunch together and I got to know all of these great women a little better. One is a university administrator, one is the Director of Discipleship at my church, one is a radiologist who is now staying home to homeschool her oldest daughter, one is a spiritual director, and, to tell you the truth I'm not sure about the last woman but she's really into alternative medicine and eating for healing so that was really cool.

I was honored to be part of it and glad to remember my need for silence.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Joshua has no use for us anymore.

This week he started walking, really walking, as in, it's now his preferred mode of moving himself from one place to another. And he wants to do it all the time.

Before he was walking our days were spent playing with his toys, puzzles, games, books, etc. No more. He just wants to walk. He'll spend a few minutes after getting up from either his morning or afternoon nap playing with me, pulling all of his toys out of his toybox or off his shelf, or pulling things out of drawers or cabinets. Sometimes he'll stop at his activity table, sometimes he'll stop and bang on the pots and pans, but not for a terribly long time. What he really wants to do is walk. I've tried following him around, but I think it just annoys him.

So I have to find other things to do since my little playmate is toddling about the house. I cook or fold laundry and every once in a while he shows up in the room where I am, just to make sure I'm still around, and then he leaves again. It's funny but a little disconcerting. I'm not quite sure of my role anymore and he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to clue me in.

As a side note, all this newfound walking has convinced him that he's a big kid. I dropped him off in the nursery today and he immediately walked up to a girl twice his size and pulled the pacifier right out of her mouth (I'm not sure why he wanted hers. We could never get him to take a pacifier). When we went in to pick him up he was in the middle of a group of four or five three-year-olds who were playing together. He was just standing there, waving his arms, like "Look at me! I'm big too!" Just as we walked in Jay saw the girl whose pacifier he had stolen earlier body check him. He landed right on his bottom and started to wail. We explained to him that if you steal a girl's pacifier she's gonna beat you up, but I'm not sure he understood.

He will one day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

OK, so not at my house yet, but how about a little red and green for the blog?

(Shamelessly stolen from Anna. I left a few out.)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, depending on whether the gift is shaped to oddly to be giftwrapped.

2. Real tree or artificial? We've had an artificial tree since our second year of marriage. We bought a real one our first Christmas in southern California and it was shedding needles by the time we got it home. After that we lived in Chicago and it's pretty hard to haul a live tree up to the 23rd floor! This year we'll buy a live one and plant it in our yard after Christmas.

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever we get around to it! Usually a few weeks before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down? Whenever we get around to it! Usually after New Year's.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, and the Amish dairy farmers at the Farmer's Market are selling both egg nog and custard. I'm in heaven.

6. Do you have a nativity scene? A small glass one that we received as a wedding gift. It sits on our piano.

7. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail! We didn't get around to them last year because of the new squirmy person living in the house, but we're almost ready to mail them this year!

8. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course!

9. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Sugar cookies

10. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear

11. Favorite Christmas song? "In the Bleak Midwinter" I sang it to Joshua last year until I was hoarse.

12. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Both. This year we'll be home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my dad, and then we'll travel to see the rest of my family.

13. Angel on the tree top or a star? We had an angel when I was growing up. Now we have a star.

14. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? It depends on the schedule. I think we've done it differently every year for the past few. This year we'll open presents on Christmas morning, I think.

15. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Shameless consumerism.

16. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Whatever someone else is cooking!

How about you?