Monday, September 1, 2014

Day One

For the month of September, I'm going to be doing a little personal photo challenge. I tweaked one I found on Pinterest and I'll be posting a photo each day with a different theme. Just something to amuse myself really and keep me shooting. Enjoy and feel free to copy!

Day One: Self Portrait 

Self portraits are my least favorite kind of shot to take. I generally steer clear of any kind of selfie, as I have inherited my grandmother's severe photo-of-self allergy (which I get is ironic, considering I expect everyone else to happily pose for my camera). I love looking at creative and artistic self portraits on flickr, but those photos take a lot of time and practice to create. So, today is not the day I get really artsy with my self portrait, but I thought I'd start simple and work from there. Besides, this one sums me up well.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July Ten on Ten: VBS Edition

Pretending to sleep

Praise Band Orphans

Baby Ian

Junior Highers



Playing at the Park

Great Blue Heron

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Coming Clean

There's a lot of buzz out there about women, especially mothers, comparing and judging each other. I don't think anyone is immune from giving or receiving it. I've been feeling shoved under the microscope of popular opinion lately, which isn't pleasant. I'm not the kind of person to care in the sense that I'll let judgment change my mind, but at the same time, it still gets tiring to have to defend yourself all the time, even if it is just mental responses and reasoning without actual verbalization.

But I feel like being honest, so, here you go. My mom confessions. Judge away.

I let my kids play with electronics. Too much sometimes.

We eat sugar. GASP!

We also eat out at least once every week. We're talking Happy Meals and carbonated beverages here. 

I give my kids Tylenol when they're sick.

I don't force them to eat foods they can't stomach.

My house is often messy. Strike that. Nearly always messy.

I let them stay up pretty late.

I'm going on three kids here not potty trained before age three.

They've received every vaccination their doctor has recommended.

They haven't been to the dentist yet.

They frequently stay in pajamas all day.

I don't make them call me "Ma'am".

They aren't baptized yet and one prefers not to take communion.

Judging by this list, you'd think I have rude, lazy, unhealthy, impolite, spoiled, unholy, obese children. But, that's the problem. This list is not a complete evaluation of our family. You would be judging without having full information.

Yes, all those things are true. And while some may judge those things, they are actually the result of intentional decisions on my part. I don't feel like any of them are compromises I'm making because I just can't make the ideal work. I have a bigger picture sort of plan here and I tend not to sweat the small things in and of themselves.

Yes, we play electronics. But we also read books, together and separately. We take walks. We hike. We bike. We play games. We travel. We imagine. We laugh.

Yes, we eat sugar and fast food. But it's with moderation, as in all things. We don't eat whatever we want, whenever we want. Food is not an idol around here. We don't hate the "bad" things or praise the "good" things. We stress being sensible and not making food a bigger deal than it needs to be. We allow them, especially the one with sensory issues, to embrace the foods they love while also trying new things at their own pace.

Yes, I give them Tylenol for fevers. And rub eucalyptus and olive oil on their feet when they're coughing. And administer Albuterol when they're having an asthma attack.

We stress kindness above manners. Manners are a form of kindness, but they don't address the heart issue of learning to respect people out of love and not duty. I couldn't care less if they address me as "Ma'am", but I care greatly that they have a heart tuned toward others.

I listen to their doctor. I also research other options. And then I make an informed choice about their health decisions. But at the end of the day, I know it's only by the grace of God that my kids are healthy. There are no guarantees.

They aren't baptized, but they do claim to love Jesus. I want their faith to be genuine and not coerced. So, I spend a lot of time talking about Jesus, helping them read their Bibles, answering questions, trying to be a good example, and praying like crazy. Again, there are no guarantees.

Balance is an important thing to me. I don't want to be a legalist or one who chucks caution to the wind. I want to find that sweet spot in the middle, where we can enjoy things, but also learn self-control. Where we can make smart decisions, but also remember that we live in a fallen world and aren't promised perfection. Where we strive to love Jesus and others, and allow people to be different and not look down on them because they aren't living up to our preferences.

I want us to work and play.

To eat green beans and ice cream.

To clean and make messes.

To work hard and to know our limitations.

To dream and to understand reality.

To be sober and laugh.

To be discerning and loving.

To be full of truth and grace.

And hopefully, when we aren't so concerned with the extremes or distracted by man's rules for life, we will be able to see Jesus more clearly and focus on him.

After all, Jesus is the only standard worth pursuing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Reason To Celebrate

Today marks my first Father's Day without a father.

Well, that's certainly a melancholy sentence. I wasn't sure how I'd feel this month. June marks a lot of things--his birthday, three months since he died, Father's Day...And while I knew I wouldn't be a total wreck (that's just not Parsons style), I've also learned that grief can return out of nowhere. Maybe it's tears, maybe it's stress, maybe it's a need to read or write constantly, but it will manifest itself somehow. And that can be a good thing. It gets it out where I have to confront it and pour it into something productive.

Today, I may shed a few tears or at the very least swallow away the burning lump in my throat. I may feel a bit sad that I can't give my dad a sarcastic greeting card and a meal at a buffet. I'll definitely think about him all day long and feel his absence acutely.

But, more than the sadness, I am just so happy.

I've found you can be happy and sad at the same time. It's confusing, but it works.

I'm happy because I had a good relationship with my dad. I'm happy because I truly do feel honored to be his daughter. I'm happy because I had a dad who loved me, loved my sisters, loved my mom, and most of all, loved Jesus.

When I was little, I definitely felt like I was daddy's girl. Our relationship looked different than the usual doting father/adoring daughter, because neither of us were particularly affectionate people, at least not in the "normal" ways. We didn't say I love you or hug and kiss, and truthfully, it has always irritated me that everyone assumes love isn't valid if it isn't lovey dovey. I never doubted my dad loved me. Never. If I needed actual manifestations of his love, I had them in abundance. The twinkle in his eye. The way he gently teased. How he called me "Squirt". The way he photographed and video taped every big and small event in my life...

I wanted to be around my dad. He'd let me help him with his church business. I remember going on many visitations to elderly church members, or stuffing envelopes with his newsletter, or playing in the vacant office outside his office after everyone else had gone home from church. I called him Pastor Dad, which I thought was just so hilarious and witty, and he appeased me by signing my yearbook with that name. He'd let me sit in the front seat of the van (before children weren't supposed to sit in the front), and I remember mimicking him as he drove, trying to figure out what the pedals and gears did. I wanted to photograph like my dad, so for my eighth birthday, my parents gave me my first camera. Then later in high school when I took photography classes, he let me borrow his lenses for the ancient Pentax I managed to buy. When we moved to Ohio, I sat beside Dad in the moving truck for the entire trip. We could both appreciate a comfortable silence, and yet, when I wanted to talk, I certainly did and he didn't seem bothered by my chatter. I felt like Dad and I understood each other. To be honest, I always sort of felt like the son of the family.

My teenage years, as they often are, were a little more strained, but when I look back, I remember the touching things Dad did more than the disagreements. When a certain boy dumped me and I was devastated, he wrote me a beautiful letter about his own break up experience as a young man and how God used it to teach him lessons I was now learning. He told me he was praying for me. I still have that letter. I remember him repeating to me that someone had mentioned that I'd grown into a beautiful young lady. I knew him enough to realize that in sharing that comment, he was telling me he agreed with it--which for a girl who has always thought she was strange looking at best was surprising praise indeed. When my sisters and I fought too much, I remember him hanging a verse on the refrigerator that said "Behold, how good it is for (sisters) to dwell together in unity." His communication might not have been the most obvious choices, but it worked. He taught my English and Bible and Driver's Ed classes. He praised some of my creative writing with notes as he graded, and I can still remember his encouraging words in red ink.On the other hand, I remember once I didn't put much effort into a Bible report and he called me on it. I didn't like disappointing him, because I knew he knew what I was capable of. And when I was eighteen years old, and that same boy that had once broken up with me asked him if he could marry me, Dad didn't hesitate to give his blessing, because he knew that it was what I truly desired and that God had a plan for us. He wasn't going to micro manage my decisions and he trusted me (and even more so, God) even though I was young.

As an adult is when I really feel like our relationship hit its sweet spot. After I became a mom, I found it to be much easier to talk to my parents. And I began to notice that my mom and dad were a great example of letting God shape you no matter how old you are or how long you've been a Christian. They modeled the truth that regardless of where you are in your walk with Christ, you will never reach a pinnacle or stop having to deal with personal sin. They have grown more humble instead of more stubborn, which is not the usual course of events where aging is concerned. Dad would listen to me if I told him he was talking about politics too much on Facebook. He didn't gripe when our church transitioned to more contemporary music in our services--he actually expressed how much he loved it. When our marriage went through a tough time, Dad was there with no judgment, only grace and Scripture. I saw my dad grow more selfless, more friendly, more committed to serving others with quiet humility. Right up to the very end, my Dad was pursuing Jesus. That is a beautiful legacy that I treasure. And now, I feel like I'm getting to know him more deeply even though he's gone, because I have all his journals and essays and photos to hunt through. It's funny how since his death, I can see that each of his daughters carries different traits of his. Mandy--the writer with big dreams, Jenny--the pursuer of truth and right, and me--the purveyor of sense and sarcasm. And all of us love Jesus because we saw in our Dad that Jesus made all the difference.

So, yeah, I'm sad. And happy. (Sappy?) Every day, I thank God that He gave me the perfect dad for me. The dad I needed. The dad that needed me. Not everyone can say that they had a gem of a father. I don't take it for granted. Not one iota. So, I won't dread this day, or curse its existence, or let it only be about my loss. I will let it remind me of how richly I've been blessed.

Because of Jesus, and because of my Dad's relentless pursuit of him, for the rest of my life, I will have a reason to celebrate Father's Day.

So, let's hit the buffets.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

No Soliciting

Hello! I'm Kathy, and I'm a registered, certified skeptic with extensive experience in avoiding bandwagons. I'd love to be your personal skepticism consultant and show you how to avoid marketing schemes in a way that will enrich your family's life!

But seriously, what is with all the bandwagoning lately? ("Bandwagoning" is owned solely by Sethswife of Tongue Tied Inc. All rights reserved.)

Fads aren't new. There have been millions of them throughout the ages. Seances in the Victorian Era. Bell bottom pants. Justin Bieber. But it seems that with the age of social media they have gotten out of control. I can't open  Facebook without feeling like I've been sucked into an infomercial, and I'm not talking about the paid-by-FB ads.

Today's fads, like many diets that have faded into the annals of history, seem to center around health. If you just try this product, your life will change! Dramatically! And you'll use more exclamation points! And I'll be happy to sell it to you!

This tactic, regardless of how valid the product is and how much you personally believe in it, will always make me take a slow, cautious step back with my hands in the air.

And I'm not the only one.

I've been accused of skepticism or disregarding a product without a reason other than just the fact that so many people like it. (In my head, when people say this, I'm always like, "....and this is a bad thing why?") And since I'm so awful at actual talking, please allow me to sum up why I tend to resist fads and popular things.

1. I absolutely hate being the subject of a sales pitch. It makes me so uncomfortable. I feel used and fake. It's not real life, it's someone trying to make money, my money, selling a product. That is not how I shop. When I buy something, I want to pursue it. I want to read reviews, research it, weigh it's pros and cons on my own. I really believe in research--unbiased research that doesn't come from the company selling me something. If you're only learning about a product from the company selling it, you're potentially putting yourself in danger. When I was a kid in the days of sales calls, my parents had a standard expression: "We don't buy things over the phone." Today, I've expanded it to be "We don't buy things over the phone, off the television, on our front doorstep, or off of social media." About five or six years ago, I also stopped going to "parties" completely. Social interaction is hard enough for me, and it's extremely unpleasant to add the pressure to buy something I can't afford and don't really want to the scenario. In other words, don't call us, we'll call you. Because if you call us, I can guarantee I'll be turned off by your pushiness.

2. I do not believe in brands or products. Sure, some things are great. Some things have turned your life around. Some things have really improved my own. But I won't jeopardize relationships by making selling a product my main form of dialogue with people. For example, I really love homeschooling. It has changed our family's life. But it would be naive to believe that everyone should be homeschooling. Sure, I'll answer if someone asks a question, or maybe I'll write a blog post about it, but I'll never be a salesgirl for it. I'll never post a comment on someone else's status about their difficulty with the public schools saying "You should TOTALLY homeschool!!! Message me for details!!" People don't want your product, they want a relationship. And if all they hear you talk about is a thing, they're going to feel like you're not really interested in being friends or genuinely discussing actual life with them, they're just going to feel like the subject of a sales' pitch. See #1.

3. Honestly? My life is pretty great. I don't sit around thinking my life would be so much better if... Now, I understand people with chronic illnesses or problems will get frustrated and seek solutions. But those solutions will never be the same for everyone. No one product can cure all life's ails. Because people are more than their bodies. Everyone is a unique individual. There's no one size fits all. People who disregard that at the expense of pushing a product fail to help someone with a real problem cope. But, back to my original point, I'm not looking for solutions. I don't self medicate very much. I don't get a headache and immediately try to cure it. I don't look at the scale and rail at the heavens about it. I don't devote my entire life to making myself feel good, (or "healthy", as a sales person would say). I'm far too busy homeschooling, mothering, wifeing, and being on Pinterest for that. And at the root of it, I know that life on this planet will be marred by physical suffering. There will never be a cure for everything, and I honestly think it's a little short sighted for people to be so passionately pursuing perfection, especially Christians. The answer isn't a product, it's Jesus. And even Jesus never tries to sell you a perfect life with no struggles or pain.

Expressing these thoughts will probably get me some backlash, but I've come to find that I'm not the only person who is a little tired of the constant selling. I don't mind people liking a product and being happy with it. Just be careful how you sell it, because oversaturation or talking too much about it will only backfire for you. Here are some good ways to keep people from being turned off by your product:

1. Don't post about it on other people's pages or statuses.

2. Don't talk about it in a way that makes it sound like it's THE answer for everything. Be rational about it. Don't use excessive enthusiasm. Don't make promises that it can't keep. Avoid the words "never" and "always".

3. Don't insert it into every conversation, especially when someone has politely declined.

4. Research your product from the outside. Don't only listen to what corporate headquarters tells you about it. Google is the easiest thing in the world to use. There's no excuse for being uninformed. I recently researched a popular company's product and found that the sales people for this company were telling people to use it in a way that directly conflicted with medical and expert recommendations for its use. I don't think these people are doing it intentionally, but a simple, unbiased internet search would have made them more informed, thereby making their advice more valid. I'm much more likely to trust someone who tells me the cons of a product along with the pros. If you can't think of a con, then most of us will not believe you.

5. When someone says no, obey Elsa's advice and let it go.

I don't expect to change anyone's mind about a product and you are welcomed to love what you love, just like I'm welcomed to be skeptical about it. But maybe we can find a better balance in our relationships, so you're not always disappointed and I'm not always frustrated. How about we talk about "safe" things instead?

Like politics.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May Ten on Ten

It was a dark, rainy, perfect day. The kind of day where the rumbles of thunder and the patter of rain just make the couch even more inviting than usual. A day for introverts everywhere to put on their sweatpants and watch a documentary while enjoying leftover birthday cake.

It doesn't get much better than that.

(Unless, like my husband, you are an extrovert. Then you'd probably prefer something more action packed.)

Anyway, here are my ten:

Saturday morning Minecraft

A chocolate thief
Leftover Ham & Cheese Potatoes and reading about Iceland
Watching the rain
A birthday treat from a sweet friend
May flowers
Sibling silliness
Fun at Daddy's fire station
Why brothers shouldn't do hair
Kids are in bed. Mom time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Being Brave

This feels like a year of big change. Some changes, like losing dad, aren't all that welcome. But the funny thing about traumatic circumstances is that they ignite a fire within me. I have felt a ton of motivation in the past month, motivation to do. Things I once thought I didn't want or that I couldn't make myself do, I'm now fully immersed in. Things that a few months ago terrified me are now things I really enjoy and look forward to.

The first is photography. Before, I enjoyed it, but didn't really want a business. Nor did I want to invest the time and money in really getting serious about it. But, lately, it's all I can think about. I've actually started studying it, learning all the nuances and terms I thought I'd never understand before. And I'm thinking about making this fun hobby work for me. I don't really think I'm interested in shooting portraits all that much. I'm more interested in getting into stock photography. Of course, it can be a tough scene to break into, because like every other area of photography since the invention of the affordable digital camera, the market is saturated. Plus, the standards are pretty high as far as quality goes. I'm going to have to start shooting in RAW a lot more, which means I'm going to have to get better processing software, which means I'm going to need a better's a slippery slope. I'm not interested in having a full time job or making $50,000 a year. But if I could make enough to pay for my kids' eventual tuition to a Christian school, I'd be happy. So, for the time being, I'm studying and practicing and working on getting better. Perhaps over the course of the year, I'll be able to upgrade some of my equipment before I really jump in. Photography ain't cheap.

The second is music. The night before dad died, I had a strange burst of creativity, and before I knew it, I'd written a song. I've never completely written a song before. Lyrics I've done, but not music. It was so strange. About a week later, I played it for Seth, and he told me that I had to perform it in church. This was terrifying for me. Singing, no problem. But this involved playing the piano. In public, something which hasn't happened since I had to play Minuet in G during a fifth grade recital and totally bombed the whole thing. But since he was so supportive, I decided to go for it. And I'm so glad I did, because I've heard from a few people whom God has been reaching with the song. That makes all the nervousness and awkwardness worth it. So, now I'm thinking of getting it officially copyrighted, and maybe writing more. This could spur us on to getting started on our youtube videos that we once talked about.

And writing, the third ingredient in my creative trifecta. The changes here are less dramatic and more personal. The thing about my dad was that he wrote. He wrote a lot. He wrote insignificant things and later turned them into significant stories. He journaled, jotted notes, blogged, and updated his facebook status far more than necessary. But now, I feel like we have a vast treasure of everything he wrote, so as we find things, we can laugh and learn from him still. So, while I don't think I can reach the level of writing (and honestly, packratting) that my dad attained, I do want to be more intentional in writing as much as I can. I've started a daily journal. I suck at journaling, so we'll see how long it lasts. Having a nice book and pen does help though. ;)

So, for me, this is the year of being brave, trying new things, and making intentional plans (and doing something to progress those plans!) My deepest goals for these areas are that they be things God can use to reach others. Honestly, I really want that most of all. That motivation is what is giving me boldness, because if it was left up to my natural tendencies, I'd just stay in my introverted hamster ball and not let anybody see the things I hold closest to me. But after memorizing Romans 12 last year, I know that's not what God wants. Our passions are not for private use. They are gifts we are meant to share for God's glory.