Monday, October 21, 2013

A Dream Romance

You all know how much I love Jane Austen's stories. I could gush and rave over them for hours, and I do think they are all wonderful stories with really nice romantic endings and delightful happily-ever-afters. But if I could take one story and make it my own, out of all the stories I've ever read/watched, I would want to be "Anne of Green Gables." (Warning, spoilers ahead!)

I have some striking similarities to Anne - the sense of dramatic, overly romantic and excessively imaginative qualities all fit me. However, I am unnaturally happy with my red hair, and I am perfectly satisfied to be Elizabeth Ann - without an 'e.' No, there's a different reason that I would like to be Anne, more important than our common traits or the characteristics that I admire in her.

Of course, living in the early 1900's would be really fun, and Green Gables is a lovely farm in a beautiful place, but the main reason I would love to be Anne is because of Gilbert. He loves her so loyally, from the very first moment he saw her (as he claims in the movie, it's been way too long since I read the books) when she was newly arrived and first came to school. Unfortunately, he calls her "carrots" in an attempt to get her attention and incurs her wrath. And so begins the long grudge that Anne holds against him.

"Carrots" and mischievous Gilbert.
After breaking a slate over his head, Anne goes on to treat him with coldness and contempt. He is the recipient of her determined dislike for just a bit of teasing, but he continues to work for her friendship, apologizing again and again for that one little mistake that cost him for so long. He has the opportunity to rescue her from a bridge piling when one of her imaginative and dramatic adventures goes wrong, and she is not very grateful, but he pleads with her to forgive him and finally be friends. And to my relief, she does.

But once they are friends, poor Gilbert is "friend-zoned" by Anne, and she can't picture him as her romantic suitor. He doesn't fit her imaginative fancies: tall, dark, irresistibly handsome and melancholy (although I think he fits all but "melancholy"!). He is a faithful friend, and pursues her diligently, through misunderstandings and quarrels. He proposes, and she refuses him. In chorus with Diana, I say, "Oh Anne, how could you?!?" Again, he speaks with her, says he will wait for her, if she'll give him even the slightest chance and yet she just breaks his heart. A year later, he tries to move on and becomes engaged to someone else, but ultimately can't do it, and breaks it off.

At this point, I would be a weepy mess if I didn't know what happened.

Thankfully, Anne eventually realizes that she does love Gilbert, although it takes him lying on what could be his death-bed with scarlet fever. She visits him, he recovers soon after, proposes AGAIN and Anne finally accepts. "I don't want diamond sunbursts, or marble halls - I just want you."

There are so many wonderful things about Anne of Green Gables, but I think my favorite part is Gil. He is such a honest, sweet, loyal guy. I'd be thrilled to have a fellow like him in love with me (and I sure wouldn't want to refuse him twice first, like Anne did)! What girl could resist a man who so persistently and lovingly pursues her, forgiving her many flaws and frequent unkindness? He loved her so steadfastly, and was a true friend to her, no matter what. It reminds me of my Savior, and the selfless, sacrificial love He shows us. I already have my dream romance!

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Linking up with Thankful Thursday at Grace Alone.

My morning routine begins with Bible reading, and my favorite place is on the front porch when the weather permits. It's getting colder, but it's not cold enough to send me indoors just yet. I take a blanket, wear my cozy wool socks and have a hot cup of tea to keep me warm. This morning, some lovely blue sky was peeking through the clouds that have been blocking out the sun for almost a week. I'm thankful for a beautiful, peaceful morning.

Late morning, getting brighter and clearer by the hour! Beautiful day.

Despite the rather gloomy weather, it has been a nice week, calm and a little less busy than usual. Today is one of my least busy teaching days, only 3 students. I'm so thankful for my wonderful students, and a job that allows me to be home so much.

I'm thankful for my family, who are all my closest friends. We don't always get along perfectly, but we're consistently improving, and it's so fun to have maturing relationships with my siblings who used to seem so much younger than me, but now are my equals in adulthood.

I'm thankful for fall, the crisp, cool weather and the yummy honeycrisp apples that are now available.

I'm thankful for my God, who gave us all the beauty in this world, showing us His majesty, and who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us, so that we could be saved and spend eternity with Him.

"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." -Psalms 90:14


Monday, October 14, 2013

Piano Is(n't) My Life

I suppose it's odd that I've never written a whole post about piano until now. I have mentioned before that I teach piano lessons and that I decided not to pursue a college degree in music. I'm studying with my own piano teacher in what I'm calling an "apprenticeship" to improve my teaching abilities, while continuing to learn new pieces myself. This, obviously, is counter to what our culture and society expects, and I suppose that part of the reason I don't like bringing it up is because when I am forced by polite and well-meaning conversationalists to explain what I'm doing with myself, I'm never sure exactly how they will respond. Mostly I get puzzled or blank looks and a confused "that's nice..." Rarely do I ever get the "What?!? You can't do that, you really must go to college!" but that's always what I am most afraid of receiving because it provokes me to rant about the lengthy thought process that went into my decision, and who are they to decide what I must do with my life anyway?!? Often, I am surprised by how encouraging people can be though, and I so appreciate the kind and thoughtful responses. I firmly believe that college was not the right route for me, but that does not mean that I think it's wrong for everyone! 

Piano and I had a sort of rocky beginning when I was 8. I liked it, but I didn't really like to practice much (I still think it's more fun just to sit there and play things I've already learned!) and I mostly just wanted to play outside with my friends and siblings. By the time I entered my teens, though, I was much more serious about piano. For the first couple of years of high school, I was planning on going to college, and I was so happy that I already knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I loved playing piano, but I didn't enjoy performing, so I definitely wasn't going to be an aspiring concert pianist. As a big sister, I liked to teach my siblings anything they would let me, so it was easy to decide that combining piano and teaching into a career would be perfect. I had my top choice colleges picked out, worked hard in math so I would be able to get a decent score on the SAT and made sure my piano teacher knew that I intended to go to college as a piano pedagogy major. But something happened in my sophomore year, when my teacher presented me with the college audition pieces she wanted me to begin preparing. There was this weird, cold, sinking feeling in my chest that I couldn't shake. It wasn't fear, it was just lack of peace. In Christian terminology I suppose it would be called "a check in the spirit." It wouldn't leave.

I began praying very seriously about college, and thinking about the possibility of skipping college. Until then, it hadn't even occurred to me that I might not attend college - everyone went to college, and I wouldn't be a "successful" homeschooler if I didn't prove to society that I could out-perform my public-schooled peers in the higher education system, right? Wasn't that actually the only way to become a real piano teacher? I had already begun teaching a few beginners piano lessons (it's pretty popular in the homeschool community to have high school students teach music, art, etc. to younger beginning students) but that was with the approval of my teacher, and she often gave me tips. She once told me that she believed it should be illegal for anyone to teach music without an appropriate degree, but then went on to assure me that since I was teaching under her guidance, and since I intended to go to college, what I was doing was okay. That was burned into my memory. 

The first decision that I made was to postpone my potential college entrance so I would have more time to make my decision. Taking a "super"-senior year was also popular in my homeschool group, and since my birthday fell in the right range, I could continue to compete on the homeschool swim team an extra year if I waited to graduate. The next step I made was to quit lessons with my piano teacher. I suspected that I wouldn't end up attending college, and since I didn't want to face her wrath for teaching without that degree, I left. I took a whole year off from piano lessons before I found a new teacher, and that's when my vision for a college-free future finally started to become clear. 

My new piano teacher was recommended to me by a friend, who mentioned that this lady had not
attended college either. When I contacted her to ask if she would take a new student, I mentioned that I would like to have a sort of "apprentice" relationship, and learn from her about teaching piano as well as studying pieces with her. I told her that I already had some students of my own, and that I was considering not going to college for music, but that I loved teaching piano and wanted to continue learning myself. She accepted me, and we began my "apprenticeship" almost immediately.

At that point, I had not completely decided that I would forgo college. It seemed easier just to pay for those 4 years and that official sheet of paper, fulfilling everything society expected of me, and then continue with my piano teaching unhindered, and with a conscience unburdened by my former instructor's opinion of degree-less piano teachers. I didn't want to drop my piano students to attend college, however I knew that if I did go to college, I would have to be completely focused on school, at least at first. I still wanted to go to college, to avoid the effort of going against the current and experience the whole new world of college but that cold, "wrong" feeling in my heart still weighed on me, and I was becoming more and more convinced that I wasn't meant to attend.

Finally, as my "fleece" (Judges 6:36-40) in my senior year I began to pray that God would use my own students as a sign. If He wanted me to go to college, he was going to have to make all 6 of them quit. If He continued to let me have students, I was going to believe that was His approval for my teaching without a degree, and I would continue teaching until (and if) He ever gave me a new direction. Most of all, I wanted that weird, cold feeling to go away, and for peace about the right decision to fill my mind. 

By the end of my senior year, none of my students had quit, and I realized that I did feel peace about staying home and apprenticing with my wonderful new piano teacher. She is such a sweet Christian lady, who encourages me in more than just musical pursuits, and I never fail to leave inspired and invigorated by my lesson with her. Each year, my own studio has only grown in number of students, and I feel such delightful confidence knowing that I am doing what God means for me to do. Without the burden of classes, papers, exams and studying, I have had time to be part of my family, to learn more about health, cooking, money management and many other responsibilities that go into a household, besides continuing to study piano and enjoying the part music has in my life. 

I don't mean this to be an attack on those who did attend college, and I hope those who did choose college don't feel that they must reprimand those who make different decisions. We are all different people, and God has different plans for all of us. I love piano, and greatly enjoy teaching, but piano just isn't my whole life. I always want God to be my focus, and college isn't part of His plan for me. This turned into a extremely long post, but this is my entire heart on the subject, and I am relieved to have it all said. If you made it through this whole post, I am impressed!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The GAPS Diet: What I Learned

We've officially been on Full GAPS for two weeks now. I am really glad that we eased into it earlier this summer, because the only thing my brothers have been really complaining about is the restriction on chips (no corn allowed). Now that we're back to our "normal" diet, the main points I took away from the strict Introduction were these:
Scrambled eggs, spinach, kimchi and cheese sauce.
1. Eat lots of cultured, fermented, pro-biotic rich foods. I have been trying to include our raw yogurt, sour cream, sauerkraut, kimchee juice or kimchee into almost every meal each day. 

2.  Make your own stock/bone broth. It was easier than I thought, and so much more nutritious than buying! (Probably cheaper too, though I haven't calculated the price.) This winter, when we're making soups more often, I plan to continue making our own stock rather than buying the preserved, carton-packaged (albeit organic) varieties. Mom and I made about 7 quarts (some we froze) with about 15-20 minutes worth of prep time (chopping vegetables) and then the stock just simmered on the stove until 5pm. We made chili with a little less than two quarts last night, and it was great!

3. Listen to your body. Okay, so this one wasn't specifically learned by the GAPS Diet, it's something I already sort of knew, but after the cleanse of the Intro Diet, I felt more in tune with the specific nutrients and foods that my body wanted. Your body is designed to desire the foods that will give you the nutrients you need. Our problems start when our bodies' requests for nutrient-dense, healthy foods are drowned out by the screaming demands of sugar addiction and other cravings. On Full GAPS we are still strictly avoiding processed sugar (honey is allowed), and we're completely off grains and starches (no rice, oats, corn, potatoes, etc.) so I feel confident that what I want when I'm hungry is actually the best thing that I can eat at that moment. I actually have no cravings!

4. Make meal plans. I sort of did this during the week we did Intro Diet, but we did not do it last week or this week. It's hard to implement because Mom and I often share the task of figuring out dinner, so we really need to do meal planning together or it doesn't quite work. I like the idea of meal planning, and when we take the time to sit down together and try to figure out some ideas it usually goes pretty well. It's just hard to find the time. If I ever have my own home, meal planning is definitely something I would need to keep myself organized. There's nothing worse than dinner time coming around and you suddenly realize you have no idea what to cook, and there's nothing ready to throw together (Oh dear, I forgot to thaw some hamburger meat!) and hungry family members will be complaining soon...

It's also really difficult to figure out healthy meals that the guys will want to eat. Like typical guys, they could happily eat pizza, hotdogs, any kind of chips and dip (queso is their latest favorite), potato chips, hamburgers, anything fried, and all kinds of dessert. They ate everything we fixed pretty well during the Intro Diet (probably only because they knew it was limited to one week) and I was hoping that it would magically fix their taste buds and cravings for sugars, starches and everything grains. I guess it didn't yet, because one guy in particular been complaining any time that we have stew or soup that it's "diet food" but he can't come up with anything he wants to eat that doesn't include pasta or chips. Finding healthy things that guys want to eat might be the most difficult challenge I've ever faced.

So my fifth and final tip: never give up. Becoming healthier is a long, slow process... and I'm pretty sure you never really reach an arrival. There's always new things to learn, new things to implement. Being as healthy as I can is just another part of life for me, and some seasons in life are just healthier and easier than others. Try to have fun with it!

I am terrible at that, but I am trying to take my own advice. I tend to go overboard and get too strict with things like this. Healthy eating doesn't do you any good if you undo all the good by stressing and being miserable yourself. I keep reminding myself (and others in my family help remind me too) that I need to lighten up. Don't get discouraged by slumps, and enjoy the journey. It's taken longer than I hoped (I tend to have unrealistic expectations) so if I treat is as something I have to "survive" through, I might sink into despair, but if I enjoy it, and don't impatiently look for the end when we can go back to occasional (sprouted, soaked or soured) grains and such, then it might just be pleasant.

I think it's definitely been a great experience. I feel great, I think this has helped my digestion a lot. I didn't think I had much to fix, but I've noticed a lot of improvement in how I feel after meals. Satisfied, but not sort of heavy or bloated, which was a feeling that I had begun to associate with fullness. I feel like I digest my food much more quickly, and don't need to eat quite as much. I think this is mostly due to including plenty of cultured pro-biotic foods, and I plan to continue that, dare I say, for the rest of my life!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Surprise Basket Day

Yesterday morning I got a surprise free day. All five of my piano students for the day cancelled (for various reasons) and after a brief grocery trip to Whole Foods, I had the entire day free. What does one with a free afternoon on a very cold, gray, somewhat wintery October day? How about make a basket!
My first egg basket!
 My mom has made many baskets, and I had been asking her to teach me for several years... since I was 6, in fact. She put it off then because I was much too young to handle the work (as I clearly understand now) but I have been capable of learning for many years, and we never really found a good chance - until yesterday!

In her box of basketry supplies, Mom just happened to have all the materials I needed to make this cute little basket. I began at 3:30pm in the afternoon (after making some GF zucchini bread) and finished in about 5 hours, with a few breaks. It was supposed to be flat bottomed, and it's not quite flat, as you can see from above picture. It also isn't shaped quite as prettily as it could be, as the sides are a little lumpy. I also left out a few pieces....

These two sets of ribs just didn't want to fit...
I had a great time making it though, and I'm pleased with how it turned out, considering it's my first. Mom said I can also try soaking the whole basket again, and reshape it a little now that it's completed, and I may try that. Basket making is so much fun! Next on my list is an herb basket.