30 January 2012

Repost: A Virtuous Woman

Who can find a virtuous woman, II
by Louise Parker (from here)
I love the proverb of the virtuous woman. The woman described is so contrary to modern culture, but so perfectly admirable. And the terms to describe her are also, in fact, quite contrary to modern culture, but again, so perfectly admirable. And a little confusing.

"She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands." ...while perusing the women's clothing at Target?

"She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar." ...a far-mer's market? 

"She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens." ...and when it says meat, it really means frosted shredded wheat with 1% milk, right?

Despite some confusion, and some contradictions to the occasionally less-than-praiseworthy lifestyle that I obviously lead (yes, cereal is my primary food group), there are some universal truths to a virtuous woman mentioned in these passages:

"Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come." - You can't put this sister down! She's the ultimate optimist!

"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." - She's super nice to everybody! She also probably hosts great dinner parties with stimulating conversation.

In a world that constantly tries to put women down, or make us think that we're too smart, not smart enough, not curvy enough, not thin enough, and just not enough, the proverb of "How to find a virtuous woman" can teach some real lessons. Read it, pray about it, and decide what kind of a woman you want to be. No, you don't have to wake up before dawn to slaughter a pig and make some bacon for your household and all of your extended relatives who live within a 10 mile radius (in fact, you will never find me doing that, ever). But there are still some beautiful lessons and some valuable virtues to be found in this proverb. And for the men: what kind of woman do you want to call "yours"?

Related thoughts: My aunt's blog post about the Photoshop Diet, and another post of mine, "Learning that I am an 8 Cow Wife." Enjoy!

(This essay was originally posted here).

27 January 2012

The Continuing Fight Against Obstetric Fistula

In the coming months, we will be re-releasing the We Are Women book as a hardcover. There will also be a couple more essays included. It will be beautiful and we are so excited!

Speaking of the We Are Women book, you can order the original paperback now and receive free ground shipping with the code WHOASHIPPING through the end of January. Good deals!

As always, all proceeds from the We Are Women book go to the Campaign to End Fistula. To read more about fistula, see this post, or this one. Also check out Victoria's Secret model Miranda Kerr talking about obstetric fistula here, and in the below video. This easily preventable/fixable condition is getting more attention, and that is always a good thing.

25 January 2012

creativity and me

It took me a while to realize that my college education was not just about the specific concepts I learned in each class. I studied math and worked really hard at it. And yet, from one semester to the next, from one year to the next I always had the same struggle: I would so quickly forget all that I had worked so hard to learn. Each semester was a struggle to relearn what I had already studied and learn all the new material. It was frustrating.

One day it finally occurred to me. I had just finished the hardest semester yet and was only a few weeks into the new one. All the mathematical proofs I had worked on had apparently gone out for a bike ride and I could not remember a thing. It was ridiculous. But I realized that I could survive without that specific knowledge. I had learned how to write a proof; how to stretch my brain and think beyond what I have thought before. I learned how to solve the problems the book spit at me.

That is when I learned how to be creative: while I was studying math. I learned that answers do not always come naturally and I must think outside of the box, beyond what I have previously thought or considered and learned and come to a new way of approaching the problem. I learned that to keep my personal “creative juices flowing” I must periodically take a step back, leave the problem for a day or two. When I would come back to it, new thoughts would flood my mind and often, the answer was right there.

Usually when I think about creativity and those who possess that specific gene I think of musicians and painters and dancers. Some of you probably think of crafters and scrapbookers. But what if there is more to creativity than the obvious?

This is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The product of "creativity" has typically been defined in one of two ways: either as something historically new (and relatively rare), such as scientific discoveries or great works of art; or as producing something new in a personal sense - an apparent innovation for the creator, regardless of whether others have made similar innovations, or whether others value the particular act of creation.

Can you hear that? That tiny little noise? It is the sound of hope for all who think they are not creative. Because you are. Amidst all those who draw and preform and bake up beauties, there you stand. A source of originality, imagination, and talent.

What you create doesn’t have to be new to anyone else or mean anything to anyone else. If it is new to you then you have created.

There can be creativity in all the we do: problem solving (at work, home, etc.), traditions, gardening, interior design, raising children, cleaning the house, yoga and other forms of exercise, architecture, travel, party planning, educating yourself, organizing, finding time to read when there seems to be no time at all, budgeting and saving money (and paying off debt), cooking, sewing, writing, painting, drawing, singing and other such musical endeavors.

Of course there are those who are more creative in different areas but the point is, we each are creative. When I create something, even if it is just more room in the closet, I feel a sense of accomplishment that I want to do something more.

23 January 2012


sarah tobler
(from the we are women book)
"I myself have no power. It's the people behind me who have the power. Real power comes only from the Creator. It's in His hands. But if you're asking about strength, not power, then I can say that the greatest strength is gentleness." 
-Leon Shenandoah, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy 
(source: Wisdomkeepers).

20 January 2012

A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.

~James Allen in As A Man Thinketh

18 January 2012

The necessity of loving yourself.

photo by gary barnes
I really do believe that womanhood is beautiful. I believe that a woman who has overcome a challenge is exceptionally beautiful, as is a bloated pregnant woman, a determined business woman, a I-haven't-showered-in-a-week mother-of-five, just about any woman. And men, too. People are beautiful. That's why my university studies are pointing me to a career in social services. And that's why I began the We Are Women Project, to celebrate the fact that we are beautiful individuals.

But as much as I believe these things wholeheartedly about others, that sentiment of beauty hasn't quite penetrated my own being. I never quite realized the depth of my own lack of self-worth until recently. I say "depth" because it extends even to my early childhood, when the foundation stone of my belief system was set. A simple statement based on simple childhood observations that continues to penetrate my thoughts and define my self-worth even to this present moment.

When this conclusion was made, I was advised to break down that foundation stone, then let everything above that settle gently down. Everything that has built upon that initial stone is so important, because it makes me who I am, but that initial negative statement needs to go.

I don't know if any of this is making sense, but that's where I am right now. I am learning how to live, thrive, and love myself. I think that's also part of the "I Am" project. Defining who we are. Discovering how beautiful we each are as individuals.

For more information and my progress with this topic, visit the apple a day blog.

16 January 2012

The time is always right to do what is right.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

14 January 2012

Knitting for a cause! Want to join in?

I tried to take this a couple times and still look tired, so I apologize. But the point is:
I've been knitting! And for a reason!
Check out the Love Scarf Project for more info.

12 January 2012

i think i am, i think i am

We were sitting at a table of strangers at a friends dinner reception. They were going around the table asking everyone what it was that they did. My heart was racing. What was I going to say? Though I spend my days at home as a mother, I had made a decision a few weeks before that 1.) I was never going to say “I am just a stay at home mom” and 2.) that “mother of a wiggle child” was not all that I was and all that I did. I am still an individual and a wife and a friend and a sister and so much more.

Then it came to me. “And what do you do?”

I sheepishly pointed to the child who was trying desperately to reach the salad in front of us. Then they asked “What else?” in a purely curious way. So I said it:

“I am a writer.”


Who was I kidding? I felt panicky but I stuck to what I said. I told of my love of writing and that I wrote for a couple of blogs when I could and that I was working hard on improving. They kept asking questions and I felt like a fraud. I felt like I had lied.

I was no writer. I liked to write out what I thought and felt and experienced but I was no writer. There were so many ways I needed to improve and things I needed to do before I could have that title bestowed on me.

Afterwards I told Billy about how silly I felt about it all but how I knew that I needed to have more courage. He didn’t even say anything. I was working through it all on my own.

Who but me could decide what I was?

If I love to write and continue to write, then why not say that is what I am?

There is no need to be scared. No one ever said that to be something, you have to be it perfectly. You just have to keep trying and keep improving. There may be no one else in the world outside of me and my husband that considers me a writer. But I don’t care.

I am a writer.

I am a writer.

I am a writer.

Who are you? Email us your "I Am" photos! Click here for more information!

11 January 2012

January Book Sale!

Remember the We Are Women book? (A collection of essays and photographs depicting the divinity of womanhood?)

Now through 31 January 2012, the book is available with a 25% discount when you use the code LULUBOOK305 at checkout.

And, as always, all proceeds go to benefit maternal health care through the Campaign to End Fistula.

Purchase the book here.

09 January 2012


former lineup in My Photos by

"Do what you love. Love what you do."

Such a simple phrase! So catchy!
And you can buy it on a sticker! A mug! A mousepad!

But, as with so many things, it's much easier said than done. And when it's done, it boils down to: the only thing I've ever kept up with is music. And second to that, there's my major in family science, which basically means I'll probably end up with a career that sends me home every night heartbroken and wanting to adopt 20,000 babies.

Throughout adolesence, I dabbled with Campfire Girls, Brownies, ballet, basketball, piano lessons... and goodness, the list could go on forever. So many clubs, so many activities, only lasting maybe a day, or a semester, at the most. There were even those times when I showed up for tryouts before remembering that I had no coordination (hip hop dance team) or always looked like I was drowning (swim team).

This is embarrassing.

So what's a girl to do when any hobby that remotely lasts a substantial period of time is not in the least lucrative?

What gives me hope is that there are actually some people who find that balance in life, and they make it work! Like Jordan of Oh Happy Day! or Courtney of C. Jane Enjoy It! or Sarah Jane with her beautiful illustrations! (Side note: I'm considering this as my year-theme. And when I say "considering," I mean I just need to send it off to Kinkos to print and it's a done deal.)

And now my question for you:

How have you found that balance?
How have you learned to "do what you love"
and "love what you do"?

Leave your thoughts in the comments. In the words of the musical ensemble OutKast:
"Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbor! (Ow!)"

07 January 2012


The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

~Dorothy Parker

05 January 2012

Old Year New Year

(Photos from our visit to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, December 2011)

Facebook seems full of mockers these days.

Things like: “The gym was so full today of all those new years resolution people. Can’t wait until February.”

It’s funny and a little bit true but it also makes me a little sad. I like starting a new year. I love that feeling of starting new; of looking back at where I was a year ago and where I am today. I like thinking of where I want to be.

But there is the tendency to be motivated for the first few months and then we slowly forget what we so determinedly resolved to do. Unfortunately that is part of human nature. To learn and then forget. However, I believe that it is through continuing to try that we actually change ourselves. Think about it. I try so hard to keep my clothes off the floor in our bedroom. Inevitably the laziness takes over and I am back to the pile of clothes sprawled about the room. I have to say, though, when I was younger, those piles almost never got cleaned up. Now they do… most of the time.

It is an improvement. And I believe that I have improved simply by continuing to try, even when I fall short.

If the way we are setting our goals and resolutions isn't working, we can change and be more creative with what we are setting and how we plan to accomplish it. Danni did 12 by 2012. Susannah created a write up to help you unravel the past year and look forward to the new year. You could set one big resolution then break it down into the little steps you want to take to accomplish it. Instead of doing it for new years, you could do it at the beginning of spring: the moment those tulips bloom, you make your goals for the next 12 months. Or you could just set goals for every 3 months.

You can do anything as long as you are doing something!

Looking back at the last year, a lot has changed. I have changed. We welcomed our little Miss Millie into the world. After a hard pregnancy, my husband patiently loved me while I struggled through the postpartum blues. Once I found my feet again, I felt ready to jump back in my life and start new things. It was a difficult year but such a good one. And I want to keep moving in the right direction.

Can I tell you a couple of my goals?

Two things have really been on my mind. 1.) Creativity and 2.) Courage.

So here is what I am going to do. I want to explore what creativity really means and really take a look at the people who inspire me. Since I do my best thinking through writing, I want to write out my thoughts and share them all with you.

Then there is courage. Oh my dear friend Courage. I want to try to get myself out of my shell and try new things. I want to do things that stretch me in some way. For instance, last week I went to a yoga class that my friend teaches. That does not seem like much of an accomplishment but it was for me. Although I have done yoga before, I am rusty. I didn’t know how the class was set up or who would be there. Those things are very important to me. I like to know exactly what I am stepping into or I seem to get a lot of anxiety. So by me walking into that dance studio, unsure of what to even put on my feet, I was doing something that was hard for me. And oh how worth it it was. I felt so happy and free by the end of that class that I can’t wait until the next one.

So there they are. The two things I really want to focus my energies on. No. They are not the only things I want to improve on. I want to be better mum and a more loving wife. I want to write more and read more and study more and DO more. But creativity and courage are the two things that will drive those other goals of mine.

What are your goals or resolutions?

Do you have a creative way to keep the motivation to continue working on your goals?

Also, if you try something new and want to share it, email me at agraehl@gmail.com! I want to hear about your experiences!

02 January 2012

"I Am" Photo Request!

To begin the 2012 year, we want to make a request for "I Am" photos! We want to hear from anyone and everyone. You can submit more than one (although there is no guarantee that all will be posted, but at least one from each submitter will be posted), and if you want to, you can even to "You Are" photos for the women you love, or "We Are" to include anyone/everyone!

How To:

Using a photo editing program such as picnik.com (free, and used below), 
or any default or downloaded program on your computer, etc.,
create something to echo your "I am" sentiment.



When you have created your masterpiece, 
e-mail it to allisonabarnes@gmail.com 
(or if you are friends with Allison or Alicia on facebook, you can send it there. We're not too picky).

In the next few weeks, we will be posting these on the blog for all to enjoy.

What do you love about yourself? 
What are some divine qualities that you hold dear? 
It's time to celebrate those qualities now!