Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Lenten Lament

Every Christian's consciousness is somewhat altered building up to December because the reminders of Baby Jesus are everywhere. But Easter, which is really the holiest holiday for a Christ follower, gets very little build up. So I like Lent. I like to give up something that makes me think about God more often, and gives me a more focused heart to celebrate on Easter Sunday.

So this year, I decided to give up secular music in the car and listen to only worship music on CD. This seemed like a positive move toward Christian spirituality, rather than a meaningless self-denial. The side benefit would be that I would get a much-needed break from Taylor Swift and Sugarland, with whom my three-year-old daughter is obsessed. She gets on a kick where she wants to hear only the first three songs, and wailing ensues if I change the CD. I got so, so sick of listening to "Speak Now," and waking up at 4 a.m. with it's persistent lyric stuck in my head. I know, I should be more willing to stand my ground and change the music, but I find 20 minutes of backseat screaming extremely distracting when I'm driving. (If you have any solutions let me know).

The first 10 days of Lent were lovely. I found myself uplifted by the words of some great worship songs, and thrilled to see my little girls raising their hands in praise in the back seat. Until Livie locked on to a set of three songs again, and would beg to listen to them over and over and over and over again.

Last week we had just come from a play date at which Liv had been so precious and helpful that two moms asked if they could take her home. When we left the park, I headed off to Trader Joe's feeling pretty good about my daughter and my life in general. On the way to TJs, we stopped at a friend's apartment to leave a pair of shoes on her doorstep that she'd left at my house and I had actually remembered to bring along. Found a great parking spot at the grocery store, and turned off the car.

This is when things get ugly.

Livie says, "I want to listen to the rest of the song!"

"Okay, honey, but then we'll go in the store."

"No, I want to listen to 'The King' song [next one on the CD and her favorite, weighing in at a very long six and a half minutes]."

"No honey, we'll listen to it when we get back into the car. We have to pick up Sissy from school in just a little bit so we can't sit here and listen to the song."

Wailing ensues. Being the tough (or perhaps unreasonable -- you decide) mom that I am, I drag my weeping three year old into Trader Joe's. As soon as we enter she begins to yell, tearfully, "I want to listen to wooooorrrrrrrsshhhhhiiiiiiip." All eyes on me as I try to calmly navigate the produce aisle.

"I want to listen to wooooorrrrrrsshhhhhiiiiiiip!" Other shoppers perk up their ears, trying to understand what my now hiccuping toddler is yelling. One woman about my age gives me a wink and says, "I have kids, too." One elderly man actually approaches me and asks, "What's wrong with your daughter?"

"Nothing," I say. "I turned off the music in the car."

Just then I get a text message from my friend. I've left the shoes on someone else's doorstep by mistake, because they aren't on her porch. Feeling like a total loser -- just half an hour after feeling like all was right with the world -- I approach the cashier.

"How's your day going?" asks the jovial cashier and he juggles my dry goods.

"Do you really want to know?" He does. So I launch into a maudlin rendition of my last 30 minutes. Thus confessed, I'm feeling better as I walk out the door, when I spot the nice mom who winked at me in produce. She has four feet of toilet paper hanging out the back of her workout pants.

"You have something stuck to your waistband," I kindly (I hope) whisper as I pass.

"Well, I'm the laughing stock of Trader Joe's," she says. I'll trade you places, sister. I'm the focus of pity and judgment in Trader Joe's.

Back into the car, groceries and puffy-faced toddler safely stowed, I flick on the CD.

To the king: eternal, immortal, invisible.
To the king: eternal, to the only wise God
We bring honor, we bring glory, we bring praises
Forever, Amen

Yes, God, I do bring you praises. I bring my small trials. I ask for your wisdom. And please, Lord, if you're alright with it, next year, I may not give up anything for Lent.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Gotta Be Me

This is a picture of me in bliss. Let's dissect it, shall we?

First obvious point: I'm sitting in a mess of fabric, and there is no family to be fed, so I don't have to clean it up to clear off the dinner table. Instead, I have half of a living room in which to spread out any and all projects I am currently working on -- for days at a time! My friend who is taking up the other half of the living room won't be mad if she steps on a pin (it's just as likely hers as mine), so I don't even have to be careful with my sharp objects.

I have with me my sewing machine (obviously) and my cd player (okay, I'm old school, I don't have an i-pod).

On the table next to my machine is a cup of coffee. And behind me, if you look closely, is a bottle of New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale (left over from the night before). It's noon when I took this picture, but I'm still wearing my favorite red pajamas that Hubby gave me for Christmas. I'm also wearing scissors around my neck and my quilting gloves.

Absolute best thing about this moment: draped over me is a completed quilt that I made purely for joy, to give to a friend as a surprise. Behind me is a quilt for my very first nephew, due next month, and it is at about 60% completion.

Bliss, bliss, bliss. At least once a year my friend Molly and I leave our daughters with their daddies and run away to San Diego, where we hole up in her parents' empty house while we quilt to our hearts' content. We set up our machines on big tables in the middle of their tract home's living room, face to face like a couple of dueling musicians in a piano bar. What beautiful music we make. We eat tuna melts and French toast (not together) instead of going out to eat. We leave the house only to run to the local fabric shop if we run out of supplies. I know it sounds crazy weird to some of you, but we two mommies would rather experience the joy of completing our creative projects uninterrupted than spend an all-expense-paid day at Burke Williams (though if any one is offering, we'll take that too).

I am a wonderfully fortunate woman because my husband gets this about me (perhaps because his mom is a quilter) and can handle the kids on his own for a few days. I feel like a new person when I come home, and Daddy bonds with the kids, so it's a win-win.

Mommies out there, be inspired: if there's something you love to do, make time to do it. I love my kids desperately, and I have an incredibly fun and interesting life. But inside my kids' Mommy is a woman I still like to refer to as Me. Sometimes, I need to be Me and no one else. To be free, just for 48 hours or so, from meeting the needs of small people.

This principle isn't just for moms, though. Readers out there, all 23 of you, make time to do something you love. Doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, it just has to break the routine of your every day and help you experience some joy. Life is too short to forget who you are. Don't put off doing the things that remind you who You is.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I always knew you had to have a sense of humor to raise children. I didn't know you had to have really good self-esteem as well to make it through unscathed. If it's true that children and fools tell the truth, then my appearance is on a dramatic downhill slide. For your amusement, and to elicit some reader sympathy, here are some recent exchanges I've had with my daughters.

At the breakfast table, in strong sunlight
Sophia (age 7): Mom, you look kind of scary right now. Maybe it's because you don't have your makeup on.

Getting into the shower
Livie (age 3): Mommy, why is your bottom sooo big?

In the dressing room of Forever 21
Sophia: Mom, I think you're too old for that dress. I really think you should probably just wear long dresses. Like, you know, long, and with a lot of buttons up here [gesturing at the neck].

Also in the dressing room
Sophia: Mom, those underwear look too small on you. Maybe you should buy bigger underwear.

In a moment of motherly affection
Me: Livie, you have such beautiful eyes. Where did you get those beautiful blue eyes?

Livie: I don't know.

Me: From your daddy! What color are my eyes?

Livie: Uh, kind of black.

Me: No, my eyes are brown.

Livie: [looking closer] Actually, your eyes look kind of red in there. Why are your eyes so red?

So let's sum up: I'm a large bottomed, tired-looking woman who has outgrown her underwear, needs foundation and blush to get by, and should consider showing less skin. Any questions?

That's okay. My girls have enough beauty for all three of us. And I'll still shop at Forever 21 if I want to. Meanwhile, Mommy is heading off tomorrow for a quilting weekend with a wonderful friend and fellow mother. Three days of sewing isn't likely to tone my behind, but I will try to come back looking a little more refreshed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Marriage Part III: For the Sake of the Kids

I heard a woman speaking recently on the subject of documenting one's family legacy. She said something that stuck with me. After immigrating to the U.S. from Cuba with her family in the 1960s, their most striking impression of America was that we are a country that has lost touch with our stories. Not our history, our stories. In her native culture, they place a great value on knowing their family stories: the life events that shaped the lives and values of their parents and grandparents. In turn, it was through story that they imparted values to their children.

I notice with my children, the best way to teach them anything is to hide it in a story. If I start a sentence with anything resembling a moral or behavioral instruction, their eyes glaze over (and they're only 3 and 7!). But start a sentence with "When I was a little girl," or "When your daddy and I were dating" and they stop whatever they are doing. I can illustrate a point about how to be kind or why we need to be careful crossing the street with a story and keep their attention, because they want to hear their aunts and uncles childhood misadventures over and over again. They beg to be told about Papa's dog Skipper who ate a whole cube of butter even though they know the story by heart. And my seven year old has just started to ask lots of questions about our first date, engagement, wedding, first apartment, and more.

I return to the Time Magazine article that reported 40% of Americans believe marriage is obsolete one final time. The Cuban American speakers's assertion got me to thinking about what effect normalizing divorce in America -- or the extinction of marriage -- will have on our children's sense of their personal heritage. What will the family stories be like for a generation of kids who have parents who are no longer a family or never were?

Jeff and I are very fortunate to be part of a long line of long marriages. All four sets of our grandparents were or are married over 50 years. His parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year, and mine their 39th. None of these marriages are perfect, but they are solid and committed. Our parents marriages are very loving; they are partners and friends. I can't tell you what kind of solidity this gives us as their children (even their grown children), and how grateful we are to have grandparents' and great-grandparents' homes to take the girls to, where they see continuity. Grandparents Gardner, who live about 60 miles away, have been together since they were teenagers! Statistically, our marriage is more likely to make it until death does us part because of our family history.

I tell my kids the stories of their grandparents on both sides: about my Grandma Arlyss, who died before they were born (we make her recipes all the time), and Jeff's Grandpa Andy who passed away before we were married (an accomplished woodworker, he made a shelf that still hangs in my daughter's room). In my heart and mind, our families' stories are intertwined because Jeff's heritage has become mine, and therefore my daughters'. What richness I have to hand down to my kids (again, lucky, lucky, lucky me).

Most people believe that kids need routines to feel safe. They need boundaries to thrive. They need clear expectations from their parents to form a good sense of self. Kids who have family dinners during the week are less likely to commit crimes and more likely to do better in school. Simply, kids need a home that is stable. I read an article in Real Simple last year quoting a sociologist whose research showed that simple family traditions, particularly at holidays -- from Christmas decorating to celebrating birthdays to family game nights -- give children higher self esteem. She said kids with traditions have a stronger sense of identity and tend to be more adaptable in social situations: qualities commonly called being "well adjusted."

There is plenty of research out there about how damaging divorce or growing up with one absent parent are for kids -- from making them at greater risk for abuse to increasing the likelihood that will drop out of school, not to mention less tangible emotional issues -- so I'm not even going to tackle that subject on any of those statistical levels. Nor is this blog an indictment of all divorce, and certainly not a personal message to the many beloved people in my life who are single parents, step-parents or considering separation in their difficult marriages.

But it's on my heart to ask just this one simple question: What kind of stories do we want this generation of children in our country to inherit? What will the cost be when their family heritage is broken, when their two parents are no longer caretakers of one anothers' histories, when the stories they tell to impart values are punctuated by the snapping branches of their family trees. So many of the next generation of kids, won't hear stories like mine, about how Grandma rode a train all night from New York City to see Grandpa where he was stationed in the South before he shipped off during World War II. Half the kids in my daughter's class won't even have fond stories of how Grandma and Grandpa met to tell their kids; their wedding pictures won't be framed objects of reverence or affection. They'll be stuck in a closet somewhere.

"Staying married for the sake of the kids" has become a negative concept, spit out of our mouths like a dirty word. For the kids' sake, let's think that through. Let's do everything we can not just to stay married, but to stay happily, healthily married. So very much is at stake. Our children's stories are at stake.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Marriage, Part II -- Getting Married Ain't No Merit Badge

"Getting married is a way to show family and friends that you have a successful personal life," says Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. "It's like the ultimate merit badge."
-- from the Time Magazine article I blogged about on Thursday, "Marriage: A Changing Institution"

My husband was working late this Monday night, and on the nights when I have the house to myself, I sometimes use the opportunity to do something completely self indulgent. Like sew something frivolous, watch a chick flick, talk on the phone with my mom for an hour, or drink a beer and eat six Peanut Butter Patty Girl Scout Cookies (that had been a really long day). This particular Monday, I watched the two-hour finale of "The Bachelor." As my husband said when he got home, that's two hours of my life that I'll never get back.

Several of my best friends watch the show (one friend even tried out for it years ago, but more as a lark than actually thinking she'd be a contestant and find the man of her dreams). So though I generally find this desperately painful to watch, I tuned in for the sake of being in on the hot gossip for the next day (I'm not proud of myself here).

I find the whole premise of this show truly offensive -- and I know I'm not saying anything unique. The whole idea of a group of gorgeous women all jockeying for the right to date and hopefully marry the same man is ridiculous at best and sick at worst. He gets both of them worked up to the point where he might propose a life-time commitment, and then the whole nation watches as the two women, dressed up like pageant queens, walk down the aisle to what could be the most magical moment of their lives or the most public humiliation.

Yet, God help me, I cried! Both for the spunky brunette who sobbed all the way home in the limo, and for the "happy" couple, who kept saying "I love you, I love you," over and over again with apparent sincerity, while the cameras zoomed in. Hurray for the poised and perfect blond! She has won herself a man! Cue happily ever after (until the after-show when it's revealed they've already pushed the wedding date back once, at which point my husband came home and switched off my TV).

The next day I had an emotional hangover. What the heck was I getting so worked up about? And then I thought of the quotation from this Johns Hopkins sociologist in Time. It said, essentially, that getting married is like the ultimate merit badge.

Even though, according to Time's survey, many Americans think marriage is becoming an anachronistic institution, people still keep getting married in America, and weddings are big, big business. Even though culturally we don't necessarily value lifetime commitments, we still love weddings, we love to see celebrities get engaged (though most of us don't really believe it will last), and we treat our friends who are getting married like girls who have just been crowned homecoming queen.

When I was in college, I was part of a co-ed Christian fraternity, a wonderful group of grounded young men and women who were very devoted to each other. To this day, they remain in my mind as one of the best examples of community I have ever experienced. Being a pious group of kids, we didn't drink, we didn't have sex. Doesn't sound like college in America, I know, but we had a great, great time. One of the things unique to our particular subculture, is that a large portion of us -- about a third I would guess -- got married to our college sweethearts right after graduation.

Being of traditional mindset, most of us gals really wanted to get married and have a family, and there was no more exciting day than when one of us announced we had just gotten engaged. (This is my own perspective, though. Perhaps not every girl felt like this.) The night I told the girls Jeff had proposed, they presented me with flowers, a homemade veil, and a bridal magazine with all their faces pasted over the models in the bridesmaids ads.

Looking back on my life, though, when I think of how I met my husband at the age of 18 and married him at 21, I thank God that I didn't make a colossal mistake. So much did I dream of being proposed to, planning a wedding, going on a honeymoon, etc, that it's a miracle I didn't pick the wrong guy just to get a guy.
I will say that I believed at the time that Jeff was a responsible, honest, caring, and smart man of integrity, which are wise criteria on which to pick a spouse (thanks Mom and Dad for teaching me that). But at 21, the prefrontal cortex of my brain -- the area that controls risk assessment and decision-making -- wasn't fully formed, which is one of the reasons why teenagers do such stupid things. So it doesn't seem like I was old enough to get married.

If I believed in luck, I'd say I was lucky, lucky, lucky to find a man who turned out to be more solid and awesome than he even appeared to me when I was 20. And though I believe finding Jeff had everything to do with God's hand in my life and His purposes for our family, I almost have trouble saying that, because why should He bless me with a good husband and make so many other more deserving women who want to get married wait so long?

Getting married ain't no merit badge, friends. Some of the most intelligent, kind, talented and beautiful women I know aren't married, and are still thinking it would be nice to find Mr. Right. And we all know married men and women who aren't very nice at all. There doesn't seem to me to be any correlation between being a person of value and how quickly you can find yourself a mate. I think a single woman holding out for the right guy (and vice versa) is much more admirable than someone who gets married in a hurry because she or he has bought into the hype. I wonder if our marriages would be better and our commitments last longer if we would stop treating engagements and weddings as social status symbols and more like the desperately serious commitments they are. If brides weren't seen as glorified prom queens, maybe we would take our time and get married more for the right reasons.

My old friend Jeremy commented on my last blog that too many people get married because it's what they're "supposed" to do. He's absolutely right. But wouldn't it be better if Americans refined our decision making about when and to whom to get married, rather than throw out the whole institution?

And, sorry my friends and fans of the show, but we'd all be better off if "The Bachelor" went off the air.

What Is Marriage Good For?

About a month ago, I read a Time Magazine cover story while sitting in Supercuts. I haven't been able to stop thinking of it since. I have so many thoughts on the subject that I may need to blog about it in two or three parts. The cover of the November 2010 issue read: "Marriage, What is it Good For, Anyway?" Inside, the title of the article was "Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution."

The article dissected and interpreted a nationwide poll conducted by a study by the Pew Research Center, in association with TIME, "exploring the contours of modern marriage and the new American family... What we found is that marriage, whatever its social, spiritual or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be. Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children — yet marriage remains revered and desired."

Here are some thought provoking statistics from the survey:
* Today, only 40% of American adults are married, as opposed to 70% back in 1981 when Princess Di and Prince Charles tied the not.

*According to the Pew survey, nearly 40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete.

*Forty percent of Americans under 30 believe marriage is heading for extinction. But only 5% of those in that age group said they did not want to get married.

The week after I read this article, a pastor at our church came to speak to our MOPS group about the "myth of Mr. Right." His contention was that when conflict arises in our marriages, we tend to think it's because we chose the wrong mate: he wasn't Mr. Right after all. He said that from God's perspective, marriage is not about picking the right guy to make you happy. Instead, our spouses are the tools that God uses to make us better: compassionate, patient, forgiving, kind. Marriage teaches us about self-sacrifice. But self-sacrifice is not a popular concept, nor is it easy to do, but it is an essential part of any kind of commitment.

And in my humble opinion, that is why the idea that 20-somethings in this country think marriage is on its way out is a terrifying thought. Take marriage out of our culture, and you lose one of the primary ways that humans learn how to love one another.

Look at the toddler model for a moment. Why do we send our kids to preschool? For socialization. Throw those toddlers in a room together and they shall be forced to share, learn to use their words, and take turns. If they don't, they'll be ejected from school and lose the opportunity to finger paint.

Well, adults need constant socialization too. In my experience with myself, at the core, I'm not much less selfish than my three year old. I've just learned to hide it better (I don't throw tantrums very often, and I never, ever bite people). Of course, I've also developed values that keep me from giving into my selfish impulses. But by and large, what has changed me most has been my relationship with my husband.

Marriage is the ultimate socialization. You take two people who are used to being captain of their own ships, and throw them together in a situation where they have to share a remote control, a bed, possibly a checkbook, a closet, a toilet and a shower (I once knew a woman who said the secret to a happy marriage was separate bathrooms). Now they have to agree about how to spend their money, how cool the room has to be when they're sleeping, and if they're going to watch "American Idol" or "Modern Family." She likes Jane Austen. He likes the Terminator movies. Conflict and compromise is built into absolutely every day of married life.

I'm being glib here, but in all seriousness, the only way to navigate all these small conflicts without becoming a bitter, angry person is to die to yourself, daily. Marriage is much more about submission that personal happiness. (The good news is that as both of you learn submission, you do make each other happy more often.) And someone who knows how to set aside their own desires for someone else is going to be a better member of society. If our culture finally decides that staying married to the same person for the whole of your life is without value -- just have babies and families without even the goal of a lifetime commitment in mind -- we will have lost an incredibly precious institution.

Obviously, this constant confrontation with our spouse and our own selfishness doesn't automatically turn couples into better people. Some people get bitter and fight all the time. Some people retreat to separate corners: they get their own bedrooms, tvs, checkbooks, interests, and they interface as little as possible. They eventually lose intimacy, even though they may stay married for 50 years. These aren't the marriages that inspire awe admiration. But a couple who finds a way to process their conflicts, strengthen one anothers character and still enjoy one anothers company year after year? That's a relationship that people will revere, and a force that will transform our country.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Fever

There are 158 reasons for my husband to be worried right now.

Today is an exciting day in my life: It's the day my Martha Stewart Living magazine came in the mail. There is a tragic crease in the front cover, which means it won't be pristine like many of the other Martha magazines I have catalogued on my kitchen shelf. But still, the very sight of it's robin-egg blue sheen gives me a thrill from the tip of my thimble finger all the way down to the toes on my right foot, the one I use to make my sewing machine whir.

There are two times of the year I'm particularly vulnerable to Living's influence. One is at Christmas (which starts the day after Halloween, in terms of crafting season), and the other is Easter time. I actually climbed up into the attic on my own -- and expressly against my husband's wishes -- to get my Easter goodies out of the attic the day before Lent. I suffered ridicule from both my best friend and Hubby for doing so. Even my seven year old came home and said, "Mom, why are there Easter bunnies all over the house? When is Easter?"

I can't help it! I love to make my house pretty for spring, because I crave the newness of the season so very much.

So, back to Living. The April 2011 cover says "spring starts here! 158 reasons to celebrate, decorate & refresh." Did you hear that? Refresh! Doesn't it just make you want to get out your decoupage paste and fire up your glue gun?

Over the years I have attempted many lovely Easter decorations from Living. Many of them have been flops, to be honest. The eggs I tried to wrap in lace and dye blue -- supposedly the lace would block the dye to leave a white lacy pattern on the eggshells -- just turned into blue eggs. I got a lot of scraps of blue lace out of them too. The eggshells I tried to puncture and blow the actual egg out of to create lasting heirlooms for my little girls just got crushed, and my fingers got very sticky to boot. However, my Styrofoam eggs that I decoupaged pastel scraps of fabric on did come out lovely, though in the heat of the attic where they're stored, they kind of melt and stick together every season, and have to be pried apart.

On the cover of this month's issue are some gorgeous white and blue stenciled eggs in a next with a pristine Easter chick sugar cookie nestled in the middle. I want to make it soooo bad. It's most likely outside my skill set, but I can't resist.

I know that once I open the magazine, a wave of anxiety will come over me, the way a broke shoe fetishist might feel in a Jimmy Choo shop. So many pretty things that I want to make mine, but will likely be unable to attain.

Still, I look forward with pleasure to this evening. When the kids are safely in bed, and with my husband working late tonight, I will make a pot of herbal tea and sit down for some quality time with Martha. Read my blog throughout the month of March to see what kind of superfluous projects I attempt. This is living indeed!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Inner Thought DJ

Out of the 600-some-odd CDs in my family's collection, the one I listen to most is ABBA Gold, the greatest hits of the world's most popular Swedish disco quartet.

This CD is probably not even in my top 20 favorites. Still, hands down, it gets listened to ten times more than anything else. Let me explain.

In our 200-CD changer, we have a "top 10" section, the first chunk of spaces we keep open so we can load whatever artist we feel most in the mood for. (Today feels like an Eva Cassidy day, by the way.) The other 190 slots my husband has loaded alphabetically, and even typed a tiny key for, so we can select number 102 for Annie Lennox, for example or 133 for Bruce Springsteen. ABBA, as the alphabet dictates, is number 11, the first CD in line after the top 10.

So say I have picked out my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter CD ("Come On Come On" Go buy it. Now. It's amazing.) and loaded it in an empty slot. When it's finished, and I'm still kind of basking in the joy of her husky blues/country vocals and brilliant lyrics, all of a sudden I'll be blasted with the flamboyant piano and hi-hat intro of "Dancing Queen."

Sometimes, ABBA sneaks up on my slowly. Like, I'm upstairs cleaning, with some nice Motown collection on for background noise, and before I realize it, I'm singing along with the synthetic sounds of "Lay All Your Love on Me," which is track four, and this is the first moment I've been conscious of the change. At this point, I usually listen to the whole dang album, because it's so much easier than going downstairs, consulting Jeff's little 7-point-font list and changing the CD with our extremely involved remote control. The short term fallout is that I'll be singing "Mama Mia" for the rest of the week; the long term consequence is my daughters and I know every single word to every single song on ABBA Gold, which is kind of embarrassing.

How similar this scenario is to the way I relate to my inner thought soundtrack. In the last three years, starting with my bout with postpartum depression, which led to an understanding of how my brain works in general, I've become aware of how important it is to control what thoughts I allow my brain to play over and over.

Before this minor breakdown that led to a major breakthrough, I had a CD in the default slot of my brain that played some negative -- and usually untrue -- lyrics. My brain would play the soundtrack entitled "Worry and Fear" in the background quite often if I wasn't careful. Really, I wasn't careful a lot of the time. b Another one that got a lot of play was "You Ought to be Perfect by Now and You Aren't." I heard those songs played so many times, I began to believe them a lot of untrue thoughts simply because I'd thought them so often.

Fortunately, I had some other thought CDs in my collection, many of which came directly from the Bible (my Heavenly Father's word), and was sung or spoken in my earthly father's voice, who taught me to memorize Scripture when I was a little girl. Those CDs had titles like "God is Good," "You are my Loved Child," and "Be Thankful Always."

I am always thinking (I guess we are all always thinking -- except my husband, who always answers "Nothing" when I ask what he is thinking about). So these days I try to be conscious of what I am thinking. I try to take the time to stop what I'm doing when my inner DJ has played the default "Worry" record, so I can play "Thankful" or some other more upbeat tune instead. When I first became conscious of the fact that my thoughts could lie to me, so I better be master of them, I would get to track 4 of a bad thought CD (just like I do with ABBA Gold), before I recognized what was happening. Then bad thoughts would get stuck in my head like campy lyrics.

Now, thanks to the grace of God and some really good therapy, a few intro beats into the worry record and I'm reaching for the remote control.

So what's your bad default CD? And whose voice is it playing? Some lousy teacher you had in the fourth grade? A cutting remark a friend made that you can't seem to let go of? Whether you inherited it from your parents or wrote it all on your own, that CD isn't doing you any good. Switch it out with something better, something truer. What you think matters -- especially what you think about habitually. You're the DJ of your own life, so today, listen to your favorite song -- all day long if if you have to.

P.S. Here are the lyrics to my favorite "song."

"Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of Christ, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."