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The blog will self-destruct in one week. I have waited for direction in what to do with One Thing for a long time now, and I believe it is time to close up shop. It has been the source of a lot of joy (and probably equal parts angst) over the years to me as I have alternately wrestled with big stuff and laughed about little stuff. I hope it has blessed a few people along the way, but I no longer see myself as someone who can keep up with the tap-dance anymore.
I will still be writing, but this time it will be less snap-crackle-pop and more of a slow burn. You can find me here.
Thank you for the support and encouragement over the past five years. It’s been fun.
Exterior scene: night. Camera pans slowly over a vast open field of freshly tilled earth. The mournful sound of the wind accompanies the following words:
Many moons have come and gone.
Many seasons have worked their will upon the fabric of time.
The blog, it lieth fallow.
But no more.
Behold, the dawn! It approacheth! At long last the weary fingers stretch forth to the keyboard! The spirit of longsuffering mankind revives at the sight! With bated breath the earth awaits the falling of the first word! Oh, blessed be the fallow ground, to receive such auspicious seed, and blessed be the seed, to fall upon such willing and eager soil! What news, what information, what shimmering jewel of inspired thought shall be the first to plant itself upon the consciousness of waiting humanity? A deep breath is gathered and the collective ear is stretched forward, straining to hear that blessed word….
It’s been a while. How the heck are ya?
I’ve been doing some things.
Been a little bit busy, actually, since last June 30th. June 30th?? That’s like, a hundred and million years ago!
I think it would be easier to just show rather than tell. So here goes.
Whew. That was a lot! So….how about you? Tell me how the last six months have been treating you!
I forgot something?
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Lately, I’ve been reading some stuff. This stuff has lodged in my cerebral cortex and, as I have been going about my business, cleaning my bathrooms and teaching spelling and watching Robert Downey Jr. play Tony Stark in Ironman2 (more on that later), this stuff niggles. It pesters. It demands further review.
Here’s the deal: there have apparently been several different studies published over the past decade that have all come to one resounding conclusion:
Having children decreases your overall happiness in life.
Well. Tie me to an anthill and fill my ears with jam.
You can read more about the studies here, in the April 2009 issue of The Psychologist in an article written by social scientist Nattavudh Powdthavee. It’s a very thought-provoking article, or at least, it provoked many thoughts by yours truly. Don’t worry, I will share them with you. I know you were worried.
Obviously, the idea that children will increase your happiness is inherently flawed. Happiness, as everyone should know (at least intellectually), comes from within, and if you are an unhappy, negative person as a non-parent, you will certainly not become a happy, positive person when you introduce a demanding little suckling into your life.
However, the suggestion, or–seeing as how it has been settled by the intractability of empirical data–the fact that child-free couples are happier than those with children is a bit of a startling concept to those of us, well…to those of us who have ’em, frankly.
Four different studies have apparently shown that, once children arrive on the scene, happiness levels decrease, and marital satisfaction, life satisfaction, and mental well-being all take a serious hit.
Oh my stars and garters, what have we done? I checked my kids; there’s no return address label!
But let’s back up a little bit before we start researching time machines. I’m not arguing with the results of the studies at all. I truly do believe that they are correct, for what it’s worth. It’s just that they beg a few important questions.
First of all, how do we define happiness?
If we are ranking how happy we are, shouldn’t we seek to ascertain if we are all on the same page first?
I would hazard a guess that if your criteria for happiness includes things like a clean house, a peaceful, quiet existence, a toned and fit body, plenty of spendable income, minimal stress, and maximum free time, then having children is almost certain to make you less happy than if you remain childless.
I’m not in any way saying those things are bad, or selfish to want. But thinking you can have them ALL and children too is unrealistic, which I believe hits close to home in the “happy” arena. Many people go into parenthood with a grossly unrealistic view of what it will entail.
The studies were concentrated in Europe and the USA, which is also telling. What other cultures are as steeped in the have-it-all mentality than we are? We are told daily and repeatedly that a certain body and a certain lifestyle will make us happy. Happiness is defined continually for us by the billboards and advertisements that bombard us every moment of our lives. Children are diametrically opposed to that definition.
Let’s look at the facts.
Children will affect your pocketbook. While I do not hold to the popular “how much will it cost to have a child” statistics, it is undeniable that adding children to your life will require certain expenses to increase. Period. You might have to give up weekly pedi-manis. You might have to sell your boat. You might have to give up your home office to make way for the little tyke. You might have to choose between glasses for jr. and the latest home entertainment center.
Children will increase your stress levels. Sure, they bring immeasurable joy to our lives that we would never experience otherwise, but let’s face it: sometimes they can bring levels of grief we never thought possible, too. If you protest that your children have never, ever qualified for that equation, then get out of here. No, seriously. Go away. I don’t want to know you.
The more children you have, the greater your chances for that grief, in the form of sickness, emotional upheaval, or, God forbid, death. You have more to worry about, for pete’s sake. If you don’t worry, you’re some kind of android and, once again, I wish you well, but leave now. Most of us run into issues with our kids, and suddenly it becomes apparent that our superpowers are not going to be sufficient to protect them from everything. And what parent in the world would claim to be “happy” if one of their kids is hurting? And the more you have, the more your chances that one of them is not going to be blissfully content every moment of every day.
Along those lines, can I just say? Having children is cripplingly humbling. Think about your opinion of yourself before you had kids. You were patient. You were cool. You were intelligent. You were loving. You were kind. Frankly, you were ten shades of awesome. Then kids came along and proved that all previously established levels of the aforementioned descriptives were grossly unchallenged and thus inherently erroneous. In other words: ya never knew just how great you were until you were incessently forced to prove it.
So there you go. The three reasons kids make us less happy:
- We can’t have all the crap we want.
- We worry more.
- We aren’t nearly as bodacious as we thought.
But hold on one minute.
When I see this list, two words come to mind.
Now, no psychologist in the world would argue that personal growth is not something to aspire towards in our lifetimes. Sure, our yearbooks all have “don’t ever change!” written in them by our classmates, but who truly wants to remain static, stagnating in immaturity and boredom?
And yet, can I just suggest that personal growth isn’t always a “happy” experience to go through? Frankly, growth is painful, often to the point that it makes you want to lay down and die rather than go on with it. No one going through a trial will say they are “happy”, although once they are through it they will probably assure you that it was for their greater good to have been there. Trials and testings produce character we never could have found in a peaceful little cloister of our own making.
I’m not saying that the child-free have no opportunities for personal growth, just that those with children are prone to daily re-evaluations and personal assessments that might never occur otherwise (should the parents choose to accept such challenges, which is a whole ‘nuther issue).
So, do the results of these studies simply boil down to one real question?
Is happiness, after all, the be-all, end-all goal to life?
It’s a good question. One that we probably don’t really consider on most days. We spend an inordinate time seeking to preserve our well-being, establish a status-quo that ranks considerably above “just okay”, whether we have children or not. But, especially if we claim to be Christians, we are called for quite the opposite: to give our lives away for a greater cause. Happiness was never meant to be an earthly pursuit; our Lord has plenty of it for us where we’re going. Delayed gratification is a concept our culture will never embrace as a whole, but if we individually do not, we will most certainly be desperately unhappy, no matter what lifestyle we choose.
I was pondering something today, and I wanted to get a little feedback. Given that a blog is a public forum (that is, unless it is private, in which case never mind), one expects and hopes for a fair amount of comments from those who read. However, knowing that more than a few troglodytes populate the internet ether, one also might expect to get the occasional nasty comment, too, especially if one ever posts anything of a controversial nature.
My question is, if you have a blog, have you ever been the unfortunate recipient of an outright hateful comment? If so, was it in response to something you wrote, or was it basically the ravings of a lunatic? How did you handle it? Respond? Delete? Go private?
When I started this blog, I was braced for ugly comments here and there simply because I have an obscenely large family, and that right there can be like waving a red flag in front of the proverbial bull. However, in two and a half years, I have never received anything resembling vitriole. I have been misunderstood, to be sure. I have been challenged. But as for outright ugliness, notsomuch.
If I ever did receive such a comment, I think I would pretty much shrivel up into dust and blow away. I’m not exactly thick-skinned. But tell me true…what would you do?
Being as how it’s my birthday and I already celebrated in grand style by scrubbing the bathrooms and taking the recycling to the center,* I thought I’d forgo typing my fingers to nubs and instead present for your approval a recent post of my daughter, Rose’s.
Rose is my eldest; married to Tim and mother to my one grandchild, whose descriptions, by the way, run the gamut from cutest to most brilliant and all the superlatives in between. Here’s a recent picture of the little nipper.
(meet mr. dimples)
He’s only 4.5 months old, and he’s already speaking Mandarin Chinese, scooting around the room, studying
Ancient African cultures, sitting up for entire moments at a time, stealing everyone’s heart clean away, and reading Hebrew.
Okay, so he’s doing 3 out of the 6 items mentioned. I’ll let you figure out which three.
Rose’s blog is private and locked away from the general poopulace populace, but I secured her permission in copying here a piece of her most recent post because I thought it was an example of excellent writing with well-fleshed out descriptions and character development.
Also, it made me sniffly.
I hope you enjoy it too.
On our way home [from a walk] we were waylaid by a person small in stature but huge in terms of personality, joviality, general friendliness, and boundless energy. A little girl who stood no higher than Tim’s hip stood excitedly in the sidewalk as we approached and called out when we were still a good half-block away: “Hello! Is that a baby? Ohh it’s a baby! Can I see the baby? I want to see the baby!”
I squatted down and let her wake Mr. Dimples from his slumber. “Ohhh it’s a cute baby!!” she cried delightedly as she busily patted him and brushed stray hairs out of my face. Her mother apologized profusely for her enthusiasm, while she and her husband watched from the safe distance of their front porch steps. The girl’s younger sister came to have a look as well, and together they made an adorable pair; chattering eagerly about their tiny smidge of a puppy and all the little things in life that children so new to it find so captivating. The mama dog’s name was Tater (and she looked like a tater, too), and the puppy (no bigger than a guinea pig and just as squeaky) was called Annie Oakley due to the dark patches of fur on her back legs that bore an uncanny resemblance to assless chaps.
Shortly after our meeting, the little girl grabbed hold of my hand, shook it up and down vigorously and declared, “Here’s your present!” I thanked her, laughing, and she moved on to Tim, who was trying to say something to her parents and not paying quite as much attention to her as he had been previously. Not to be deterred, she hopped up and down insistently in front of him; “It’s your present! It’s your present! Hey! Hey! Here’s your present!” her small voice piped as she grabbed hold of his shirt and shook it to get his attention.
“Oh! Um, thank you!” came the desired response, as her parents explained, ever apologetic, that she likes to give pretend gifts to everyone. They “don’t know where she got it”, but they seemed somewhat mortified by her unusual habit.
It’s a rare thing to come across a person who radiates sunshine so very bold and bright. It fairly burst out of her as if she was the sun itself. I, for one, was every bit as delighted with my invisible present as I would have been with mounds and mounds of real ones. Tim remarked as we were leaving, “I wonder what it is that she’s giving people…maybe it’s joy.”
The only thing that I found sad about the encounter was the comment from her mother as we were departing. I told her how adorable her offspring were, and she responded without hesitation: “You can have her! Both of them! Do you want them?”
I have to admit I was somewhat taken aback. How can she think that it’s okay to joke like that? And within hearing of the same dear little girls that she’s freely offering to a complete stranger? No. Never.
But if the offer stands…
Hell yes, I’ll take them. In a heartbeat.
*don’t worry, I’m getting a real day out tomorrow. yippee!
I hope you guys don’t mind the sudden appearance of several bloggy carnivals in which heretofore I had not been a regular participant (whoa, check out that gnarly grammar!), but life being as draining as it is lately, they are giving me much-needed thought-fodder!
In other words, they are easy.
I’m sure eventually I’ll get back to my normal pattern of blither, but for now, it’s DIY day again!
My kitchen sink sits in the corner of my kitchen, with two windows framing a view of our back yard. The windows are ancient aluminum, and the countertops are ’80’s country blue. The type of blue that was usually accompanied by geese wearing matching ribbons around their necks.
Ah, the 80’s. When geese were synonymous with “welcome”. Because geese are so welcoming. Sort of like rhinocerouses.
Unfortunately (?) I have no “before” picture. I am absolutely terrible about taking “before” pictures. I think it’s because I don’t WANT to remember how hideous things were previous to their improvement. I want to forgive and forget. Which is admirable when applied to humanity, but not so good for DIY projects.
At any rate, we have no dollars for new windows, or new countertops, so waddayagonnado? Work with it, that’s what. Employ the age-old method of distraction–of smoke and mirrors–so popular with every successful magician the world over.
First of all, the windows were half-covered with some drapes bought on sale at Wal Mart. I think they were $7 each. Then I propped my little ocean paintings on either windowsill. I figured I might as well accent the blue rather than fight with it. After that it was a matter of buying a cute little ivy plant, propping it up with a cake plate, tossing on some seashells and whatnots, and augmenting with roses.
(please excuse the photo quality. It is remarkably difficult to get a properly exposed picture when taking against bright windows, apparently!)
Roses that, I might add, were EIGHT. DOLLARS. ($8!) at Wal-Mart. Could the $40 types at the florist be any pretttier? I think not.
The little vases were picked up at garage sales for $1 each. The avocados were considerably more expensive.
The final and most wonderful part of this scheme was the little chandelier. Oh my, it just makes my heart smile. It was $80 at Lowes, and worth every penny. At first, it sported a hideous “rusty” finish, which I know some people like, but I quickly slathered it with creamy white paint. Installing it was like indian wrestling with an octopus, but it was worth it. It’s exactly what I envisioned.
So there’s my little corner of dish-washing happiness. If you can use those words together in a sentence, that is. It certainly makes the chore more pleasant if you have something pretty to look at!
Be sure to check out Kimba’s homeplace for more DIY delights!
I’m sitting here, during our lunch-hour-slash-run-around-the-house-like-possessed-people break in our homeschool day, and I want to write something. My fingers are poised over the keyboard in anticipation of great thoughts breaking forth like tsunamis over a sea wall.
Unfortunately, my mind is more like a kettle of sludge at the moment.
Ah, homeschooling! How you drain my circuits!
Still, the urge to send something…anything…out onto the internet sea in the hopes that someone will pluck it from the foam and communicate back to me is vital to my sanity. Knowing that someone might be out there, finding my humble little cork-capped bottles of thought, is a great comfort.
So, how are you?
I do have one tidbit to share. I watched a movie. Another movie. This one was a rental. And I was so thoroughly delighted with it that I thought you should know. I want to preface this bit of info with the fact that part of my enjoyment may have to do with the fact that I did not expect to enjoy it at all.
You see, it happened to star an actor whom I have always considered devoid of any talent besides a winning smile. Frankly, he’s just too cute. And I assumed that this cuteness, this overwhelmingly delightful adorability, was the key to his face being in mine every time I turned around. Overexposure, it’s called. And I was determined to roll my eyes at his every appearance.
He proved me very wrong. And I’m happy to admit it.
Can you guess to whom I am referring? And do you know which movie?
Okay, I’ll tell you.
There were a few tedious moments, but overwhelmingly, it was just plain sweet. Not saccharin sweet, but sweet like a salted caramel; the kind of sweet that leaves you wanting more. And much of it made me laugh out loud, which is never a bad thing for me.
My time is up. Gotta put the cork in this one and fling it over the ramparts. It’s been refreshing standing for a moment and smelling the free air…
to remind you that there is a purpose, a plan, and a Perfect Planner.
…that sparks a word study…
the word? “Perfect”
The comment was meant most kindly, and the implication was that, while God expects perfection, we all know that He gives grace when we fall short.
But it was like an arrow to my heart; the thought that God expects perfection. I wanted to lay down and die right then and there…I am so far from perfect, so astronomically distant from that goal that it isn’t even visible on my radar. If He expects perfection, even just once in a while, I’m doomed.
And yet, as I wallowed in my hopelessness, the Holy Spirit still nudged. He poked me in the back of the head and said eversosoftly perhaps you need to look at that a little closer
So I did. I looked at it quickly at first, like fingers testing a hot iron, afraid to get too close lest it turn out to mean exactly what it appeared and sear me forever.
Matthew 5:48…Jesus said it…Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
It sounds like a command. It surely does. And the fear grips my heart that He’s so very, very, very disappointed in me. So disgusted at my failings. Holding up the big Olympic Judge numbers:
But I read elsewhere that Jesus Himself corrects someone for calling Him “good” saying that only God is “good”…if He wouldn’t allow others to call Him “good” then is He truly telling me to be “perfect”? As in, expecting me to perform without mistake, frowning upon me when I falter, tsk-tsking me when I sprawl flat on my face?
So I studied that word…Perfect…yes…it does mean without blemish, spotless, faultless, pure. God Himself is surely Perfect. But in this verse, I found the word to be teleios which means “having reached the end,” “term,” “limit,” “complete,” “full,” and there the light began to dawn on my weary heart.
Perfection. As a process. Not as something I effect by a force of my will. But by His power alone, from glory to glory, as I am submitted to His will.
It would not be error, I believe, to think of this verse as “Be perfectED, even as your Father in heaven is already perfected”
It’s less of a command and more of a promise. It’s not expected, it’s anticipated.
Be perfected. Allow Him to do the work. Galations 3:3 shows Paul confirming this idea when he chastises the church of Galatia for trying to curry favor with God through works: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Uh. Why yes, as a matter of fact, I thought I was.
But I am slowly learning that slowly learning is part of being perfected. It’s in the not giving up. It’s in the staggering forward even when your knees are bloody from the falling. It’s in the knowing that from glory to glory is sometimes…really…gory.
But God is not afraid of gory. He who hung naked on a cross does not turn away from our wretched disfigurements. He binds the wounds and heals the hurts and gets His hands good and filthy in the process.
And oh. How I do love Him.
For the next week or two as I begin to school my brood. I expect to spend most of my time on my face before the Lord, begging for mercy and compassion and a hefty helping of humor as we get this party started…..