Saturday, July 7, 2012

The gift of a gift not given

Do you have a gift for which you can't find a purpose? I have a few of them. I can quack like Donald Duck. I can learn languages easily, particularly German and Spanish, but I am too self conscious to actually speak them when I meet a native speaker. And I remember music. You know how some people remember the first line of a song, then hum the rest? I keep on going when I start singing an old Disney song with friends, but then they trail off, and I'm dangling with my cracking voice, singing a song my vocal chords can't keep up with.

It is a blessing, I think, to have these random gifts without explanation. It shows us the kind of potential we have: so much so that we don't even need to have a purpose for everything we do. I have done nothing much to foster or develop these abilities: they are just there. We were created in such a way that there is room for skills to exist purely for giggles, interest, or even a larger purpose that may or may not be revealed to us.

There is another important sort of gift I've noticed. It's the gift we aren't given. My mind is not the sort that can remember how to do a simple thing like read and play music or remember numbers. When I meet someone who is clearly especially abled in this arena, I am dazzled by their gift, partially because it so incredibly not mine.

My friend had a graduation party for her exchange student and one of his friends was there. He sat down to play elaborate and beautiful songs from memory. You could see the feeling in his fingers and the way he sat in such a relaxed way at the bench. How many years of lessons had he had? "Oh, just a couple." Because I have the seemingly purposeless ability to remember and tune into music, the experience of his gift was very meaningful to me.

Then, a few Sundays ago, a guest pianist at church played mesmerizing music, all from memory. She had been an orphan and her brain had been labeled damaged. She was adopted and brought to our country, and was severely delayed in many ways. But out of that brokenness emerged a kind of genius that stops people in their monotonous thoughts. We are compeled to marvel instead at the design of the human mind. Her ability inspired and encouraged me.

Two years ago I was inspired to run. I loved it. I was actually kind of good at it. It was a way for me to focus on nothing but the beauty of the world around me, the wonder of the body I lived in and the Creator who made all of it. I could push my body beyond the arbitrary limits my mind had set: 3 miles...6 miles...9 miles...13.1. Books about marathon running, then ultramarathons began to stack up on my bedside table. I was officially hooked. It felt like I had found a gift and was running with it. (literally!) 

Then, after my second half marathon, I was injured and sustained an atrophied muscle in my leg that puts strain on my achilles tendon and plantar fascia in my foot. It felt like a death sentence. So now I don't run. It takes about a half hour of stretching to feel ready to run, and I don't have the patience for it, nor do I feel like the selfishness of enjoying a good run should make me willing to risk a ruptured tendon that will disable me.

So the ability to run is a gift I don't know why I had for a short time, but it was beautiful. Having been a runner, I am able now to encourage new runners in specific and helpful ways. My husband, an exercise induced asthmatic, is now running 5 days a week. This was something unheard of in the days when I was running. He wants me to try to run, so he perseveres. He is probably in better cardiovascular shape than me and he is inspiring our children. My obsessed period of running was a lone act, but my period of bench sitting has allowed my family to step forward. Maybe someday I'll run again, but if I do, it'll be with my family by my side.

Are you frustrated by your inability to do some things, no matter how much you may love them? Maybe it's actually a gift in disguise, helping you to truly appreciate the world around you and the talents that other people have that you may not. Do you have a gift that you cannot find a purpose for? I'll bet there is one, so don't hide that gift. Share it. You may be inspiring someone more than you know, because your seemingly insignificant gift may be the perfect match to one they have.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

My friend's son made his own flag for the parade
It's Independence Day, the day we celebrate our country becoming its own, no longer under the governance of another.  I am reminded that my children too, will one day need to break free of me, and it's coming sooner than I wish.  I must remind myself that I should move with them through this process, instead of putting arbitrary or foolish limitations on their lives.

My actions as a mother should be as deliberate as those of our mother hen, who is now teaching her little chicks to roost.  Fear and selfishness can play no part if I am to help them thrive and survive in this big world.  It is for their good that I slowly allow them to go to new and loftier places.  If I rein them in, they will only yearn to break free and distance themselves all the more.  No, I will do my best not to make the mistake the mother country of our nation did.  Instead, I will gently teach them what I can and then learn to let them grow and go.

I hope you enjoy some snapshots of our day with family for a BBQ and ending with a hometown parade.

Salad made by Brandon's cousin

Grandpa's Oysters

My dear and wonderful sis-in-law and niece 

Trying to get eva to be in a picture, Uncle Danny goofs around with intimidation with stink eye.

Enjoying the 65 degree pool.
Waiting to march in the parade with our school.

Cousins by the side of the parade.
Great grandpa can't see anymore, but he came to enjoy the parade just the same
parade candy
The kids' cousin.  It was hot for the first time in a LONG time today

My feet.  Dirty from gardening, but OH So happy in the sun

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wash your hair with baking soda and vinegar!

Sometime over the past year, I heard about people giving up shampoo. Instead, they used baking soda and vinegar to get the extra dirt and oils out of their hair. For me, this could be a big benefit, given that when my 4 year old and 6 year old get a hold of shampoo, they think it is bubble bath, then proceeding to squirt the entire contents of the bottle into their tub. Also, I've been trying to make things myself and to avoid petrochemicals in our cleaning and self care products when I can.

From what i read, when people started to use baking soda and vinegar, their hair took a week or two of looking awful before it actually looked good, and I wasn't interested in doing that. So I decided to transition slowly.

My friend bought me one of the shampoo bars made by Lush. I used that until it ran out, then bought some experimental shampoo bars a soap making friend had recently created. They were superfatted with shea butter, so my hair ended up looking like I was a surfer girl every morning with chunky hair sticking out in gravity defying poses. I guess the residue of the soap was staying on my hair.

This was when I decided to try a vinegar rinse to see if I could remove the residue of the soap. I mixed water and vinegar in equal parts in an old Sriracha Chili Sauce container. It has great small squirty nozzle, so I could squirt all over and right into my roots. The vinegar water did a great job at removing the residue of the shampoo bar.

I decided it was time to try this baking soda stuff. I read online that 1/4 cup of baking soda mixed with about 16 oz of water seems to not leave a residue and rinses well from the hair. I had saved another sriracha hot sauce container and used that. I mixed the 1/4 cup of baking soda with a little bit of water in a mason jar, then poured it in, adding water until I filled it to the top.

And it worked! I found this system worked best when I washed my hair ONLY when it was starting to look a little oily. If I do it more often, residue of the baking soda tends to build up. This ends up being about every 3-4 days. On other days, I just leave my hair alone when I take a shower. I found I really didn't have any transition time of my hair looking very awful, but this may have been because I already went through the gawky stage when I was using the second shampoo bar my friend made.
I've been using this method for several months now and have even received comments on how nice my hair is!

So here's a recipe, if you're one for recipes.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Hair Washing System

*1/4 baking soda mixed with enough water to equal 16 oz. in a squirt bottle

*8 oz. water mixed with 8 oz vinegar in a different squirt bottle

First, wet your hair well, tilting your head back scrubbing your roots with the tips of your fingers, allowing extra oils to wash away with the water.

Next, squirt the baking soda mixture all over your hair, especially getting it right into the roots, scrubbing again with the tips of your fingers.

Go ahead do your other washing while you allow it to soak in, but watch out, it'll hurt if it gets into your eyes, so be sure to wipe the excess liquid off your forehead.

Rinse well.

Repeat the process for the vinegar water mixture, then rinse well. The vinegar is smelly, but it doesn't stay in your hair. No one has complained of a pickle smell on me yet. It does leave the bathroom smelling like vinegar though! You should notice that when you do the vinegar rinse, your hair feels almost immediately smoother as the water washes over it.

Enjoy your beautiful hair and very affordable method of maintaining its cleanliness!

This is how my hair looks on an average day.  This is probably 2 days after the last washing and a half day since bring brushed.