Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poodle Reviews: Walking with the Women of the New Testament

One of my favorite bloggers, Heather Farrell, has a new book out: Walking with the Women of the New Testament, and I was sent a copy to review. It is a beautiful book, and it looks much better on my Ikea coffee table than the newsprint Harbor Freight Tools ads that pollute my mailbox ceaselessly and somehow never make their way to the recycling bin.

Besides the gorgeous cover and beautiful photographs inside, this book is filled with amazing stories and insights into the lives of women of the New Testament. I'm sometimes frustrated by how the scriptures are dominated by the stories and reflections of men, but this book offered a wonderful collection of scriptures, ideas, and historical contexts that all shed light on the immense value Christ placed on women throughout His ministry, as well as the important roles those women played in their Savior's work.

The book is divided into sections profiling nearly all the women mentioned in the New Testament. In each section, Heather Farrell provides scriptural references to the woman's story, offers clarifying historical context and insights into how the translation of the text can increase our understanding, and includes her well-constructed thoughts on what we as modern women can learn from our ancient sisters in the gospel. Her reflections often go much deeper than the Sunday-school interpretations we hear over and over--you can tell that she has pondered the lives of these women as real people rather than mere characters in a morality play.

This book has been especially moving to me as I prepare for the upcoming birth of my third child (I feel especially thankful for insight into Mary's story--I'm due the day after Christmas!). While this collection of stories makes it clear that Christ also values women for their contributions beyond the sphere of motherhood, there is a prominent theme of women being central both physically and symbolically to doctrines and events surrounding birth, nurturing, and resurrection. I've felt a greater connection to my Savior as I've read about the respect and compassion He had toward mothers.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is how the provided historical and cultural contexts add significance to the Savior's interactions with women. A small section dedicated to menstruation and the concept of being ritually "unclean" added a lot to my understanding of the story of the woman with an issue of blood, as well as to the symbolic meaning behind that part of the Mosaic law. Sections on marriage, death, divorce, and other topics were interesting and informative. Understanding the low social position of women at the time helped me appreciate how radical Christ's interactions with women must have been at the time as He taught them, treated them as equals, and invited them to contribute to His ministry.

The stylized photographs in the book are stunning and helped me imagine the women as real people. I felt better able to relate to their stories when I could picture them as women similar to myself. One critique, though: nearly all the women who modeled for the pictures are Caucasian. Personally, I felt like all the models should have been either historically accurate (Middle Eastern, Greek, black, etc.), or else should have represented the entire spectrum of races. I wonder if the latter option would have enhanced the book's ability to present these stories as relevant and relatable to the New Testament's diverse, modern, global audience. Otherwise, I did appreciate the variety in the models' ages, shapes, and physical features. The posing and costumes were also lovely.

I love this book, and I'm excited to add it to the "women and the gospel" section of my library. This would make an excellent addition to your own library, a great "welcome to Young Women" gift, or a wonderful Christmas present for anyone (men should learn about women in the scriptures, too!).

Amazon has a 30% deal on books going on right now, with the code HOLIDAY30. Use it to get a copy of Walking with the Women of the New Testament!

*I know this glowing review isn't written in my usual dorky, satirical style, but I didn't want there to be any confusion about how I really feel about this book--it's beautiful and inspiring and I legitimately recommend it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jogging Stroller Craigslist Ad

Besides this blog and my eternally-unfinished novel manuscript, I don't have many opportunities to write anything but boring "I'll be at playgroup, too" emails. So when I finally decided to let go of my first jogging stroller, I decided to take the chance to have a little fun. I'm reposting it here because I've sold the stroller, and I'm tired of getting texts asking about it so I'm taking the ad down.

Baby Jogger Jogging Stroller--$25

If you're looking for a bare-bones, threadbare, seasoned jogging stroller, then look no further. This jogging stroller will not teach your baby how to speak Korean, it won't play music to motivate you as you push through the sleep deprivation, but it will keep your baby snug in a lovely sling-like cocoon as you jog (or "jog"--I'm not judging). It even has a hand brake and safety tether if you are worried you'll lose control of your precious cargo while running down one of Houston's legendarily steep hills. A simple foldaway canopy will provide your wee babe the protection from the sun that your pediatrician has totally stressed you out over, and a handy pouch is available behind the seat for stowing your water bottle, grody sweat towel, and fitspirational photos of a postpartum Gwyneth Paltrow.

This stroller would be perfect for someone who has lofty ambitions about running off the baby weight, but would like to prove their commitment before investing in something with more bells and whistles.

Buy this stroller for little more than the cost of three Chick-fil-a runs. It will eventually feel great to run again, you will eventually stop leaking through your sports bra, and when you can finally run three miles like you're the Beyoncé of 5ks, you will get pregnant again and upgrade to a double BOB. Until then, here's the perfect set of wheels for you.

I sold the stroller the day after posting the ad, and have since gotten at least ten other inquiries. I'm kind of kicking mysef for pricing it so low, but at least it's out of my garage and some other parent is enjoying the constant guilt of having an unused jogging stroller.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Pinky Beige Nightmare

There are only a few things I don't like about our new house:

1. The toilets.

2. The street name. Phonetically, I love it. Unfortunately, it's spelled like a Utah baby name. I won't tell you the whole street name (because creepy internet), but it includes the word "Peper." That's right--pepper without the double p. According to neighbors, the pronunciation is still that of "pepper," though.

The first time I saw it I thought the listing realtor had made a typo. What else could explain such an awful spelling of a perfectly good spice? It's not even a well-known European spelling, which would at least lend some posh snobbery along with any confusion. Apparently it could be "pepper" in Dutch, but I don't think the neighborhood development company employee in charge of picking street names had this in mind. I think they were smoking the pepper, if you know what I mean. Now I will be doomed to spelling it out and explaining that it's "pepper with one p" (even though there are still two p's). On top of my rare first name (wait, Timber?) and problematically-spelled surname (Albrechtsen), I estimate I spend 30 percent more time on the phone with customer service people. Crisis.

3. The interior paint color. Like any self-respecting young, modern, super-hip homeowner of the 21st century, I would have preferred exposed brick, or at least whitewashed reclaimed wood paneling upcycled from the local organic rhubarb farm. I got pinky beige instead.

Your computer screen probably doesn't capture the pinky beigeness properly ... mine sure doesn't.

Obviously, it was not a deal-breaker. We bought the house, and in the morning light the living room actually has a nice glow, reminiscent of a Band-Aid before it collects gunk around the edges and finally falls off at the park where a toddler will find it and try to eat it.

It is not intrinsically an awful color. The problem is that pinky beige does not play well with other colors. Apparently the red undertones (quoting my google-acquired knowledge here) make it unexpectedly clash with a lot of other colors. I found this out when I put my yellow beige sofa in the living room. Who knew beige could clash with beige? Now I know. In my pinky beige living area, my sofa takes on the hue of dijon mustard mixed with cement.

Oh, wonderful Craigslist couch, how you've failed me!

If all the interior design blogs I perused yesterday are to be believed, pinky beige is the leper of the color wheel and the scourge of homeowners across the world. But we don't want to pay to have almost the entire house repainted, and goodness knows I'm not hauling my prego self up a 20-ft ladder to do it, so I must find a way to cope with my "Sensational Sand" walls. The problem is my complete lack of interior decorating knowledge. I have no weapons to employ against this beige beast. I'm paranoid that even the most innocuous throw pillow will take on a vengeful hue when placed against this background. It seems my walls are about as neutral as Nancy Grace.

If pinky beige were a human, this is what its face would look like.

Help me! What color rug should I get? What about the dirty mustard sofa? Does black clash with pinky beige? I have no idea what I'm doing.

When my inability to make intelligent interior design decisions proves lethal, please drape my casket in a pinky beige pall in my final display of surrender, and ask Design Mom to speak at my funeral.
This post will be included in the Urban Compass Starter Stories project, a collection of tales about first homes, fresh starts, and housing adventures. Visit to drool over real estate listings for New York City apartments way more hip than my house (though probably smaller---point for suburbia!).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Cookies and Chiropractors

"A nice wolf."

You know what the worst first-world problem in the world is? Getting a cold and losing your sense of taste the day after making a huge batch of pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin cookies were invented to be eaten in a near-constant stream of room-temperature deliciousness until all are gone. They aren't too rich, the flavor is mellow and pleasant, and the USDA would for sure let me count three cookies as a complete serving of vegetables. So eating an entire batch (~40 cookies) over two days is basically the same as having a green smoothie for every meal for the same time period. EXCEPT I CAN'T TASTE THEM. Instead they languish in a plastic bag on my counter as I pathetically eat one every so often, just to check to see if my sense of taste has returned. It hasn't.

I caught the cold from this little heathen.

Over the past few years I've experienced an increased vulnerability to losing my sense of taste. It used to be only the worst cold that could deny me the most enjoyable fruits of my culinary labors. Now almost any minor case of the sniffles will result in losing my ability to taste for several days. I once read a horribly depressing article about people who had lost their sense of taste permanently. One of the victims featured had lost his sense of taste during a bad cold, and it simply never returned. I worry the same will happen to me, and I will only be able to find solace in my new ability to win kimchi-eating contests. Is their an essential oil that will cure me instantly?

Speaking of oil salesmen, I want to talk about chiropractors. What's the deal with them? I saw one today to see if anything could be done about my usual pregnancy-related back and hip pain. He explained all the cold fusion mumbo jumbo about ligaments, my sacrum, and how my pain-free neck was "a little misaligned." He popped and prodded, and I left feeling a little sore. We'll see if I'm back to my usual effervescent, somersaulting, pregnant self.

Little Ruby Riding Hood

My midwives recommended I see a chiropractor before Ruby's birth to make sure I was optimally aligned for a smooth labor, and so I did, and my labor was super fast (4 intense hours). I also ate Moroccan tagine for dinner at the start of labor, so it could have been that, too (never underestimate the power of coriander and chickpeas!). Then after Ruby was born I had pretty bad back pain from nursing, so I went to another chiropractor who said one of my ribs "was popping out of place" which didn't make a lot of sense to me, and his back-popping, while pleasant in the moment, never provided lasting relief. I'm pretty sure I just needed to sit in a better chair and stop slouching like I was a beanbag.

Fat babies = back pain.

I have several wonderfully credible, non-weirdo friends who have had a lot of success with chiropractors, and for a wide range of ailments that seemingly have nothing to do with whether your spine is on the straight and narrow. But I also think some of it must be a load of yellow Starbursts. If a little poke is all it takes to "realign" everything, then how have the thousands of toddler pokes I've endured not sent me into a death spiral of misaligned cancer/ebola/loss-of-taste ailments? Educate me, non-biased internet!

When I've gone too long without an adjustment. Or else this was my Halloween costume.
In other news, I bought paint for our front room/library/office (I shan't tell you the color yet, because how else can I entice you to read my blog ever again?). I am ridiculously excited for the end result. The process will be a pain in my freshly-adjusted sacrum, but it will be worth it, I think. Stay tuned.

Okay, okay, it's Martha Stewart Plumage. Shake your tail feathers!

Update: It worked! I have been pain-free the past two days. Previously, I would wake up 3-5 times, either due to discomfort or ... pregnancy-related bladder limitations. My back and hips would hurt like crazy as I got out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. The past two nights I've woken up less (~2x), and I can get out of bed with the spryness of a child on Christmas morning. Huzzah for the witch doctors!