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    Thirty by 30: Installment Eight

    May 7, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    So…how is everyone out there? Enjoying the weather? I have never had a summer pregnancy before, and I have tried to find cute {or even just acceptable} clothes for the season, but to no avail. Yesterday, I found myself wearing pants and a short sleeved T-shirt. It was either that, or the black slacks with the shapeless green sweater.

    I am a fashionista.

    So…any advice, anyone? Anyone? I went to Target. That is where I used to buy maternity clothes. Everything was pretty blah. And the shorts were too short. I don’t even like shorts, but I’m willing to compromise if I have to. However, those would have been embarrassing!

    Okay…on with the list!

    1. There is intrinsic value in doing something yourself. This world tends to see everything in terms of monetary value. For instance, I cut my son’s hair. {Sometimes, Si cuts his hair, too. It depends on who beat whom to the job.} Now, here in town one of the cute little discount kiddie cut places will cost you about $12 for a normal haircut. Add into that the cost of gas to and from and also a tip for the stylist, and doing it yourself might save you $15. For boys, who need their hair cut often, this really adds up.

      Or, as another example, we might take a garden. About a dollar’s worth of tomato seeds might save you $50 in tomato purchases over the course of the summer. That is a guess from almost total ignorance. I am well aware that this depends on how well your garden does, and how many tomatoes you’d normally buy.

      We like tomatoes.

      One of the times the intrinsic value of doing it myself came to the forefront of my humble consciousness was a few years back when there was a fairly major tomato shortage in our area {I have no idea if it was local or nationwide, actually}. What I remember was that I went to a restaurant and ordered a sandwich I like. Usually, they put tomatoes on this sandwich. This time, you had to ask for them. Tomatoes were in short supply, and they didn’t want non-tomato-eaters wasting the precious red fruit for the rest of us. So you only got tomatoes if you were serious about eating them.

      And that’s all fine and well. I like the idea of a generally waste-free life. This is one of the many reasons we compost.

      However, the moral of the story of a tomato shortage is dependence. We are told from early on that money makes us free. That a good career can bring about our own financial freedom. But the rich are sometimes the most enslaved of all people.

      I’m sure you’ve seen those spoiled rich kids out there. {I saw a couple that were full-grown at the park on Monday, actually.} They have money, and they think this is the ticket to everything. But wait until everything isn’t available. No amount of money can buy you a tomato that doesn’t exist.

      Doing it yourself, if we take the gardening example, means that, for the most part, it doesn’t matter to me how good or poor is the nation’s tomato crop. I am not dependent on that crop for things to go well for me. I am dependent only on my own gardening skills, and the Lord God Almighty.

      If we purchased my son’s haircuts, we would be dependent on the stylist. We would worry if she did a good job, we would have to have his hair cut during the hours that she was working, and we might have to wait in line if she was busy.

      Dependence. If I cannot do it myself, or if I do not have a neighbor who can help me {that’s the old fashioned, agrarian model of interdependence that I think was quite healthy}, then I am dependent on others for my haircuts. More importantly, I am dependent on them for my survival.

      But there is more than freedom that gives doing it myself its value. There is a richness that comes with competency. A lot of dystopian novels emphasize the logical outcome of an economic system such as ours. As people become more and more specialized {cogs in the metaphorical wheel}, they become more and more ignorant of everything else.

      This continues until they know nothing about anything other than their very specific job and their very primal, animalistic urges.

      This is why kids today are so shallow. They know nothing about anything interesting. By extension, they themselves are not interesting. And they are caught up in gossip and drama because there is nothing more they are capable of thinking about or doing with their spare time.

      Doing it ourselves builds depth. It builds character. It build competency. And because we are spiritual beings, this means that there is an actual expansion of the soul that is taking place.

      I have a friend who makes beautiful baby slings. They are called Baby Jack Baby Sacks and you can view them in her sidebar. She also makes beautiful quilts and other baby gear items. These things are functional and pretty. I have another friend who has made some baby dresses. I bought one {the prettiest, I thought!} for my sweet and only niece for Christmas this past year. These friends who are competent {or building a competency} in sewing don’t just sew. They make things beautiful. They contribute to their family economy by selling their wares. And I have seen how their souls enlarged a bit through learning a new skill. Sewing became a way they could express love for their families.

      This doesn’t mean, by the way, that I don’t believe in tools. I have a mixer. I have a washer. I have a dryer. I even have a sewing machine that I don’t know how to use! But one of my goals for my thirties is to get to where I do not need my gadgets in order to survive. This is why I make bread without a bread machine: I have a fear that I would never truly know how to make bread of I acquired a machine early on.

      In summary, doing it myself builds competency. It also builds a bit of tenacity, as I have to learn not to quit when I fail the first five or ten times. It isn’t wrong to hire out our work. But surely allowing ourselves {and our children} to become incompetent is a threat to our good character.

    2. I should accept help when I need it. When Si and I first married, we felt invincible. Barely out of our teens, with most everything going our way, we never imagined that one day we would need someone else’s help. Fast forward a year, and we had a very rude introduction to parenthood.

      The only reason we made it through such a trial was that we had a community of people who helped us. Some of the help was easy to accept, like when our church provided meals for three weeks. But other help was humbling to accept. Like when a former roommate of Si’s, still a senior in college, dropped by to give us a hundred dollars to help with the hospital bills. We wanted to refuse it. We felt terrible that we, the “responsible” married couple, needed money from a starving college student.

      But he needed to give it. God had put such a deed in his heart. And we needed to receive it. We truly needed the money, but we also needed to allow him to do the good thing God had asked of him.

      Life has gone on, and it seems to be a cycle. Sometimes, we are the ones doing the giving. Sometimes, we are the ones doing the receiving. We try not to keep score, but we also try not to be guilty of taking more from the community than we give.

      This lesson is a good balance for #22, doing it myself, because it gives a bit of perspective. In general, competency is a good thing. Not needing help is a good thing. Being in a position to give is a good thing. But sometimes, we need help. And that is what community is for. The Bible, after all commands us to carry our own loads, but bear each other’s burdens. Some things are my job to carry, on my own. But other things are too big for just me. And that is okay.

      Sometimes, I need to accept help.

    3. Don’t ignore Proverbs 7. Christian women are all about two Bible passages: Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31 tends to be the guidebook for becoming an excellent wife. Which we all want to be, especially since she is a rare find. We know we have to work at it, that not everyone will achieve it, and yet if we even begin to attempt it, our husbands and families will be blessed.

      And then there is Proverbs 7. Si and I have a whole list of jokes based on Proverbs 7. It’s a great chapter.

      I look at these passages {Proverbs 7 & 31} a bit differently now that I am the mother of a son. This is not to say that I ignore what I myself can learn from them, but I also see their original intent. Proverbs 7 was a warning while Proverbs 31 set up the ideal. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother is telling him what to look for in a wife. Proverbs 7 is like the antithesis: don’t marry this kind of lady! We always think of this lady as “the harlot” because that is how most Bibles label it. But verse 19 makes it very clear that she is married, and acts immorally while her husband is away from home.

      And her ways lead to death for her victim, the poor, naive youth who was clueless about women.

      So when I encourage my son to begin looking for a wife, I intend to go over Proverbs 7 with him also. He’ll have two categories. One will be what to look for and admire in a woman. The other will be what to avoid, among which characteristics will be an unwillingness to remain at home {7:11}, a certain restlessness {7:12}, and using flattery to gain his attention {7:21}.

      And as far as learning some things myself, I have considered Proverbs 7 a warning. We all get that inner restlessness from time to time. We all get the urge to have feet {and hearts} which do not remain at home. Proverbs 7 reminds me what kinds of character qualities that might be revealing about myself, and encourages me to correct them.

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  • Reply Jennifer May 9, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    I am truly honored that I got a shout out in your Thirty by 30. Thanks for the wisdom.

  • Reply Kansas Mom May 7, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I have also had a hard time finding clothes in the past. Ones I bought at Kohls and Target when I was pregnant over a summer back in 2006 did not last until the end of the pregnancy, let alone this one. I’ve had the best luck this year at Motherhood Maternity and with their less-expensive line at Gordmans. I have two cute skirts, each for $15 or less, and three cute tops, also around $15. (My mom generously bought most of the clothes.) I think everything was on sale, so I’m not sure what the regular prices are, but I’m very happy with the quality.

    And skirts are the way to go for summer pregnancies. Not only are the cooler than pants, they’re more feminine than shorts (I hate shorts, especially when pregnant.) and they fit all the way to the end. My jeans are already too tight and I’m only 30 weeks!

    I’ve also found a few things at the local children’s resale shop. Most of them have maternity and nursing clothes as well.

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