Accidentally Promoting a Different Kind of Materialism

It’s no secret that my family loves to thrift. My husband and I look upon thrift stores and garage sales as a kind of entertainment; when we travel to a new town, one of our favorite activities is to seek out a local thrift store and browse for a while.

I’ve never looked upon this activity as harmful; after all, we save a lot of money by buying almost everything secondhand. From our car to our clothes to our household décor, we enjoy the pursuit of things that are unusual, special, and inexpensive. It’s kind of a rush to find a treasure hidden under a pile of trash on a charity shop shelf.

But lately I’ve begun to wonder if this pursuit isn’t also a form of materialism, as insidious in its way as maxing out a credit card at the mall every weekend. I’ve begun to wonder this, because I’ve seen the effect this shopping has on my daughter. She’s six, and she’s obsessed with stuffed animals. When her teacher took her on a trip to the mall to ride the carousel, Liv fell in love with Build-a-Bear Workshop, and for weeks we heard nothing but “When I Get to Build My Cat.” But this interest fizzled, replaced by nearly a dozen stuffed animals picked up at yard sales or while thrifting. And then her nanny gifted her an entire trash bag (an ENTIRE TRASH BAG) full of stuffed bunny rabbits last night.

The thing is, even though I am trying to make my daughter understand the difference in price between the stuffed kitty at Build a Bear and the forlorn Aflac duckie sitting in a pile of unwanted toys at the Salvation Army, she doesn’t get it. A toy is a toy is a toy. And she only seems to want more, the more she gets. Stuffed animals of every size and species are wedged into every conceivable space in her room and her playroom. Even with frequent donation purges, Liv’s collection continues to grow.

In desperation, my husband and I tried turning to a Pinterest-inspired hack of Velcro-ing each animal to the wall. The theory was that Liv would finally be able to see all the animals she has, and start playing with them all again. This plan failed miserably, as the stuffed animals merely peeled away from their Velcro moorings and landed in a heap on the floor.

I’ve wondered now if the question isn’t one of storage, but of lessons learned from parents. Every time we hit a thrift store, I will usually find something to buy. I’ve consoled myself with the knowledge that I am buying for several people–Christmas and birthday gifts are usually thrifted to people who enjoy or respect thrifting, plus I buy clothes for us all, plus I buy things for our household. But even if I am buying something for someone else, Liv only sees one thing: Mommy just bought something. And since stuffed animals are plentiful in thrift shops and cheap too, it’s easy for her to ask for more (to be just like Mommy) and easy for me to give in.

Plus, to be perfectly frank, it can buy me much needed quiet time in the thrift store to browse if Liv has a new toy to play with in the cart.

In the meantime, my husband and I have agreed on a thrift moratorium. Our gift closet is well-stocked and we all are doing quite well with clothes, furniture, and the like. So we’re not shopping again for three months. Taking a break for a few months will allow us to really see and appreciate all we’ve got.

Other than the moratorium, I’m not sure how to solve this problem. I’d love to hear suggestions from my readers on how they deal with similar issues. I do want Olivia to learn that good things can come from thrift stores, and I want her to enjoy shopping. But I also want her to learn moderation and simplicity.

How do you encourage and promote these values in your home?


Cover Reveal for Healing the Soldier’s Heart

If you haven’t already, take a little jaunt over to Lady Scribes. I’ve revealed the cover of my third book and interviewed Carolyn Graziani, who is the head of the art department at Love Inspired. Come by and take a look!


Naturally FunTents and Tales 2013–For the Win!


So the reason I have been gone for a few weeks is simple: I’ve been finishing my latest book, which will be published by Love Inspired Historical in 2014. This book was way more difficult to write that my previous three because I had to start all over with new characters. A new series means building a new world, and while I still set the story in Tansley Village, I had to come up with each character’s personality quirks, their likes and dislikes, even the color of their eyes and hair. I had to think of names, people, which is one of the things I find hardest to do.


Movie time!

So, anyway, I was working on finishing the book. And when I am in the throes of a deadline, it falls to my husband to entertain our daughter. Since I am now an official Naturally Fun blogger for the City of Arlington, we turned to the program guide to see what cool things were on the horizon that would allow my husband and daughter some fun together time while allowing me some much needed writing time.First up—Tents and Tales in River Legacy Park. This was held just two weeks ago, which if you will recall, was unusually and unseasonably cold here. I kept one eye on my laptop and one eye on the Weather Channel, expecting to tell Zach that we’d just have to back out. But I guess I don’t understand the thrall of camping because not only did they go, but there was a huge turnout. Now, full disclosure: they didn’t stay out all night. Olivia is still pretty young for camping out overnight and the weather was really cold. But on the plus side, Tents and Tales was geared specifically for kids and families; if you needed to leave early, no problem.

Staying warm and having fun!

Staying warm and having fun!

My daughter and husband had a blast, and already have planned to return next year. My daughter got to have the full camping experience: story time (with the famous Mr. Bob from the Central Library), roasting marshmallows, watching Madagascar 3 on the big screen, and eating hot dogs. Zach really liked how there were just enough activities spaced far enough apart that kids were kept entertained, but there was neither a rush to finish nor too much of a lull.

Since we got Zach a new tent for his birthday, he was only too eager to try out his new camping gear. But I was impressed by the fact that they offered tents for rent onsite. So, if you wanted to try camping but didn’t want to shell out money for a tent that you might never use again, you could still try it out. And the entrance fee was really affordable at $10/person. Not too shabby when you get an entire evening’s worth of snacks, dinner, and entertainment.


Daddy daughter time!

Bottom line: Tents and Tales at River Legacy gets two thumbs up from both Zach and Olivia.

And I give it my own thumbs up for allowing me to finish writing Chapter Twenty-Two in peace and quiet.

You can learn more about the Naturally Fun program at the City of Arlington through the following media links:

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Mamavation Monday: What Are You Hiding From?


I’ve gained and lost a lot of weight over the past six years. Usually, it’s the same 20 pounds. And my goal for this year is to lose those 20 pounds and not regain them. Yes, it’s a thrill to see the number on the scale going down. But it’s also kind of a bummer when you’ve seen that number twice or even three times before.

My daughter and me as I neared a size 8.

The last time I lost a great deal of weight, we were living in North Carolina. I was working out on a daily basis; in fact, the YMCA was one of my sole sources of childcare. So I would have my two hour workout while my daughter, who was two at the time, enjoyed play time with the other kids in the nursery.

The changes the workouts and eating plan wrought in my diet were astonishing; suddenly people who had seen me several times before ceased to recognize me. And I started fitting in to a single digit size for the first time in ages. It was heady and exhilirating and I felt fantastic.

Until one day.

I was grocery shopping without my daughter or husband–just a quick run to pick up a few things we needed. In the store, an older man lmost rammed his cart into mine. He joked about it and I was friendly enough in return, but then a few moments later, he did it again. I started to get a weird feeling. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me–it wasn’t even looking, it was leering.

He followed me to the checkout stand and then somehow, managed to follow me out into the parking lot. And as I put away my groceries, trying to hustle up the process, be bent over and really peered at my bum. Like, it was such an exaggerated movement that it belonged in a Keystone Kops movie.

As I jumped into my car and sped off, I glanced in my rearview mirror. He was *still* staring at me.

So. A few things went through my mind as I drove home:

First, I needed to start carrying mace.

Then, a sense of rueful awe at the power of the male ego. That this old man, who was dirty, somewhat toothless, and vastly unattractive would think that a young, fit lady was remotely interested in him or would want him looking at her really boggled my mind. Even when I was a slender little sprig of a think in my teen years, I knew there were standards of attractiveness beyond which I would never cross. Somehow, I think most men never got this message.

Then, a powerful feeling of deja vu so strong that I had to pull over into a parking lot for a moment to process it. This was why I got fat, I told myself over and over. I wanted to be invisible.

Now, I am not saying that this old man wouldn’t have leered at me, even if I had weighed three times what I did that day. But when I was fat, I felt protected. Sheltered from unwelcome advances. Cocooned in a way that kept me in a nice little invisible comfort zone. And when that comfort zone went away, I felt extremely vulnerable.

I’m not sure that the weight didn’t start to creep back after that moment, but of course, I went back up. I seem to have a comfort zone of a size 12-14 and when I hit that I feel too conspiciously fat, and so I start to drop down again.

I wish I knew how to conquer this fear of being seen, or of being too invisible. This, I think, is why my weight has yo-yoed so drastically over the years. I’d like to conquer the fear so I can vanquish the fat. Does anyone have insight on this they can share?

This post is sponsored by Touch Within Coaching and Mamavation – a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women and I’m writing this to be entered into a giveaway.

Mamavation Monday: Back in the Saddle Again

So I skipped a Mamavation Monday post last week–in fact, I skipped all blog postings.

There’s a really good reason for my absence.

Actually, there are three good reasons.

First, I was offered a new job, which I accepted. This new day job will make it possible for me to stop working at night on ghostwriting so that I can focus on my novels. But getting this job was a very stressful, nail-biting experience and when the final answer came through, I was exhausted. I was waiting to give notice until I had a written offer letter, and that took forever and by then time everything came through, I was ready to curl up in the fetal position on my bed and draw the covers over my head for a week.

I gave two weeks’ notice at my old job and this is my last week…it’s really hard to keep pushing myself to finish.

Second, I finished up my edits on Book 3 of my “Brides of Waterloo” series, “Healing the Soldier’s Heart.” This was my first time to do an electronic edit and ME NO LIKEY. There’s such a sense of accomplishment when I edit 300 pages and I see them in a big ol’ pile on the floor. Not so much when I’m just clicking “Accept” or “Delete comment” over and over.

Third, boot camp kicked my butt. I am not even joking. I made it through the whole thing and worked out even when I was sick. But I gave myself permission to not work out quite so hard last week. Instead, I hit Curves three days and did some planks, roll-ups, and pushups on the recovery boards. One little old lady, who watched me come up from a plank, said, “You are really strong! I can tell!” And that made me feel awesome. Then, as I was applying makeup the next day, I saw a muscle in my upper arm that had never been there before. Boot camp worked!

I lost 3 pounds this week, an inch from my hips and 1/2 inch from my waist. I promised myself that when I reach a 5 pound loss, I am going to shop for a new workout outfit. My yoga pants are so stretched out that if I wear them when doing a burpee, they fall off. Anyone have good suggestions for places to buy cute workout gear?

This post is sponsored by Jessica – the Healthy Hip Chick and Mamavation – a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women and I’m writing this to be entered into a giveaway.

Mamavation Monday: Last Post as a Finalist

This week was my last week of hazing as a Mamavation Mom finalist. I’ve been following all the workouts since December 10, when I submitted my application video. So this has been over a month of working out almost every day–and some really intense stuff I’ve never tried. I never knew a burpee before I started boot camp, but now I do them every day.

This was also the week that I got sick. I went to the doctor with a headache that would not go away. I figured I had a sinus infection. Well–I did. AND I had the flu. Two shots, some antibiotic and Tamiflu later, and I am passed out on the couch at home. The next day I took Liv to the doctor because I wanted to make sure she didn’t test positive for the flu. She’d been complaining of a headache too.

Well, she didn’t test positive for the flu.

She tested positive for strep throat.

So we stayed home the entire week, passed out on our twin leather couches watching every Pixar movie that has ever been made. And yet–I still kept up with the hazing. This was the first time I’ve ever worked out while sick. I barely work out when I am well. I had to do burpees very slowly and I could only manage girly pushups but I didn’t give up–not once, in this last week of hazing.

I also had the support of my fellow finalists and other Sistas. Every few hours, I’d get a tweet of support and it gave me that boost to swim through the Tamiflu fog and try just one more set of “feet of fire.” Even if they were more like “feet of tiny sparklers” this was a real difference and a complete change from how I would have handled illness in the past.

I just want to say, I am so in awe of my fellow finalists. I cannot believe I am included with them–they do so much, while I am still just managing baby steps.

I am trying to be very Zen about tomorrow’s twitter party. I feel that, whether I am chosen or not, I still will be taking the active steps I need to keep me and my family fit and healthy with Mamavation’s support. So while it would be awesome to be chosen, I’m not going to quit if I’m not–if that makes sense.

OK, aside from being sick and exercising, one other big change took place this week–we tried raw dairy. There is a farm near Fort Worth that specializes in raw dairy and we gave it a try. I’ve never been big into drinking milk and neither does Liv, but my husband does and he loves it. Grocery store milk has always given me the willies and I think it tastes awful–the raw milk tastes more like I think milk *should* taste.

I’d post pictures, but honestly, I am so flippin’ tired and weak. Y’all just imagine dairy cows with pink sparkly glitter surrounding them, ‘K?

Mamavation Monday: Learning from My Daughter

We talk a lot about how moms lead their families; how moms are responsible for making the kind of decisions that lead to better and healthier living for our families. This is true to a certain extent for our family, but I also want to admit–out loud and to everyone who reads this post–that I have learned a lot about eating from my daughter.206969_1848389281940_1006946850_32028035_8179744_n

My daughter Olivia is six. When I was pregnant with her, she was the reason I started eating well after years of eating queso, Pop-Tarts, and drinking whiskey. Sometimes all at the same time. I went off coffee cold turkey and endured the excruciating migraines with a smile, because she was–in a way–teaching me to eat well.

Then, two years after her birth, Olivia began having dreadful sinus infections, and ear infections that kept her chained to a constant string of antibiotics. She was miserable. I was terrified. My husband felt helpless and powerless. My sister, who is a teacher, was afraid that the constant earaches were affecting her hearing and thus her development. We went with ear tubes but our amazing pediatrician took me aside before the surgery.

“If you want to be proactive, let’s look at changing her diet. I want to have her tested for allergies.”

She referred us to an excellent ENT and we learned that Liv had sensitivities to soy, wheat, and dairy. As a family, we made the decision to stop eating these foods. We researched whole foods and alternate grains. We learned about almond milk and rice milk. During these years, our immune systems strengthened and we hardly ever got colds, allergies, or the flu. But it was a very inconvenient way to live, and I had to be constantly vigilant.

Until you have a child with food allergies, you don’t realize how much food plays into our lives. Olivia would come down with a terrible case of diarrhea and I would have to call the school and backtrack every activity they’d done in the past few days–and usually would find that they were given cookies or goldfish crackers and Liv had been permitted to join in. The teacher would say, “What? I didn’t know it had wheat or dairy…” and I would roll my eyes and insist that they only feed Liv food from home.

In time her allergies abated and we went back to eating regular food. My weight boomed. And yet, Olivia remains a frugal and cautious eater to this day. It’s almost as though all those years of thinking about food made her an extremely conscientious eater. She turns up her nose at all dairy except cheeses and yogurt. She adores raw broccoli, peppers, and apples. She will occasionally eat sweets, but stops after one treat–with a wave of her little hand and a majestic “No thank you. I don’t wish to get a tummy ache.” Her major vice is pop corn–but unsalted and unbuttered.

I try to lead my family, it’s true. But my daughter Olivia–besides being WHY I want to eat well–is also the reason I CAN eat well. She also leads by example–and I am proud to follow.

I am truly honored to be one of the Mamavation Mom finalists and look forward to learning more about healthy lifestyle changes from my leaders and my Sistahs.

This post is sponsored by Mamavation – a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women and I’m writing this to be entered into a giveaway.