Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sweepstakes and Freebies

I don't want to fill up the blog with short term offers, but I want to let you know about these offers if you love signing up and giving it a go like I do! Twitter seems like the best vehicle for that. So, if you're interested in finding out about sweepstakes, giveaways, and freebies you can follow me on Twitter @seeking4wisdom

Don't worry, I'm not constantly tweeting ... after all, I do have a life offline *grin*

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Theology of the Home - made practical

Two weeks ago, I talked about why we ought to care about how our homes look. I challenged you to think about how our homes speak about what we believe about God. And I told you that I'd be back to share my thoughts on how we can move from chaos to order in the home.

I've been following Crystal over on for many years. I've thought it was great how she would challenge her readers to tackle particular projects in their homes - deep cleaning, surface cleaning, busting clutter, etc. The problem for me was that I was working a full-time job and didn't have time to do what she laid out every day. Even though she had an option that didn't require as much time, I was busy cooking supper as soon as I came home from work, and after that it was time for bed. And we were hardly ever home on the weekends.

You'd think with most of our life existing outside the home, that our home would be the pristine picture of perfect. Far from it. And it drove me and my husband nuts, but we just "couldn't find the time" to tackle it.

Then, I somehow stumbled across this post on The Prudent Pantry. I don't think she said anything that I hadn't heard elsewhere, but sometimes we just need to hear it said a particular way in a particular moment.

I walked away from reading her post with the outline of a plan in my head. I talked with my husband about it and he agreed that we could give it a try.

My takeaway? Make a list of everything that needs to done in the house. Not because you plan on getting it all done at once, but so you can make a gameplan.

My husband and I actually had a weekend at home, and we decided to make it count. After making a list of everything that needed to be accomplished, things already looked less intimidating. We decided that we would work in hour long increments, followed by an hour long break. We would tackle two increments on Saturday and three on Sunday.

A 1:1 ratio of work and break. That's not bad at all. That idea was my husband's, I thought it was excessive ahead of time, but it worked out great by helping us not get overwhelmed and be able to rest and recover (particularly needed for this pregnant momma!) If we had bitten off more than we could chew we likely would've been discouraged, and our task would have been left incomplete.

We had the total list, we knew our time schedule. Next, we decided what we would tackle when.

We went about this in two ways: if there was an area that either one of us felt was a "problem area" (aka it really stressed us out that it was a mess) it was given high priority and put into the game plan first. That doesn't mean it necessary was taken care of in the first increment, but that everything else scheduled into that increment was placed there around the high priority item.

The other way we decided what to schedule was by asking ourselves (1)what would show the biggest impact to the overall appearance of our apartment, and (2)what needed to be taken care of so we could have access to other items on the list?

This is going to look different for each person depending on the layout of your home, and what kind of a mess you have. How much you can fit into an increment also depends on how many people are working on cleaning up, and how many people contributed to the mess to begin with. eg, do you have three children, but only you and your spouse are cleaning up? If so, are the children in the house while you clean, or are they out of the house with friends and family? Is your sister coming over to help you tackle the mess? Talk about these things before you get started so you aren't blind-sided and can make the most efficient decisions to kick-start your way to clean.

After we had mapped everything out, we set the timer for 60 minutes and went to it. Don't be surprised to find the timer beeping and you still carry forward with momentum for a few extra minutes to wrap something up. I would encourage you not to count your momentum as a part of your break time, though. Make sure you give yourself the full amount of your break time for a break.

You just worked hard for your increment. You need to re-energize before tackling the next one. Enjoy looking at what you just accomplished. Watch a TV show, read a book, take a cat nap. Rest. Then move forward.

This is what our increment list looked like:
(Sa=Saturday, Su=Sunday. I1, I2, etc = Increment 1, 2, etc)

-- Clean off the bar (and take care of the box behind the bar)
-- Put away piles under the bar
-- Put away piles in front of the TV

-- Clean stack beside both sides of the couch
-- Clean the stacks of paper off the futon and file
-- Clean off the balcony and clean out the 5 gal buckets
-- Take the "garage" stuff to the "garage" area

-- Take care of jewelry/straighten dresser/put away purchased gifts
-- Clean off desk
-- Clean the entryway to the bedroom

-- Clean up all the gift-wrapping stuff, put away neatly
-- Clean off 2nd desk
-- Shred box of paper

-- Go through two boxes (filled with misc stuff) and shred/trash/donate/put away

-- Review/walk-through
-- Vacuum

Hubby also had an extra increment to deep clean the bathroom, and I had "an extra increment" but it was broken up because I had to start, switch over, and fold laundry.

We didn't get everything done from our Master list, but we actually knocked out most of it. What we didn't get accomplished over that weekend, we listed out and decided that we would tackle in half-increments (for us this means we set the timer for half an hour) when we got home from work each day. We would also maintain what we had accomplished. It's much easier to put your jacket up at the end of the day if there's not already a stack of jackets to add to, to put your jewelry in the proper container if your dresser isn't littered with the stuff. It's much less stressful, and really doesn't take that much time.

Have we actually tackled a half-increment every night? Of course not. Life happens. But we have maintained our new order. And we have checked a few more things off the master list.

It's freeing, really. We know exactly what needs to be taken care of, and we're much, much less stressed now that things are mostly in order. We get irritated with each other less, we smile more, and our schedule is more flexible to let friends or family pop over last minute without feeling like we need to hide a ton of stuff or be embarrassed at the state of our home. (or set out the vacuum to make it look like you were just about to get to cleaning - you know what I'm talking about! ;-) ) We're happier now. Sure it sounds strange, but it's true.

Of course we still have work to do, but we are actively working on aligning our home in God's order. God sees your efforts and smiles. You might not be able to dedicate an entire weekend to kick-start your clean, but you can do something.

Maybe you have 20 minutes while your kids take a nap to clean your bedroom, or to fold the laundry that's been sitting in the basket and put it away. Do what you can to convert your home from reflecting Satan's chaos to showing God's order.

What steps have you/can you take to creating and establishing order and cleanliness in your home?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Movie Review Rating System

I think it's high time that I gave an explanation for how I rate movies.

We're all familiar with the 5-star system, but I meet with objections over the low stars that I frequently give movies...even if I enjoyed the film! So I thought it would be helpful to give an explanation. After all, if you don't understand my philosophy behind the stars, telling you how many I give a movie won't be helpful.

I have observed that the standard course of action is to start a grade at the top. E.g., you begin with 100 points on a test and whenever you get a question incorrect, points are deducted from your grade. If you get every question on a test wrong, you will not have a zero. You will have a failing grade, but you will likely have a grade that rests in the 50s.

A grade of 50 (out of 100) ought to indicate that you correctly answered - that you know half of the material. Instead, it means you learned nothing?

Another example. I used to judge debates, seeing the problems with the aforementioned system, I determined I would start every debater with 3 stars in rating their effectiveness. (There were several components to this.) I figured: 3 out of 5 stars is an average presentation and argument, if I start them there they can earn additional points, or lose points. I thought to myself - at least then, the stand out debaters will shine in their ratings, instead of being lost in the crowd of average speakers who didn't do anything wrong, but weren't stellar.

After each debate we rated, remarked, and moved on. The sheets were turned in, and there was no changing our ratings or comments. But this system still had problems - the folks who did better than average, did a pretty good job, got high marks ... and then came the one or two that really stood out in excellence. I was forced to give them the same ranking as the pretty-goods. I couldn't give them more than 5 stars.

It was shortly after this experience that I decided everyone should start with nothing and that ever star would have to be earned. In judging, there are sometimes those who really bomb and you can't give them worse than one star, so it's not perfect. With movies, I can definitely give less than one star. So far, I've only done that once. I hope I don't have to again.

The movie market is seemingly flooded with 4 and 5 star movies. If there are really that many that are that good then the scale should be adjusted. In the time to date that I have been reviewing movies on my blog, I have never given out a 5 star review. I have given out 4 star reviews (3 of them), and 3 placed somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. 3 have 3 stars, and 3 are between 2 and 3 stars. (If you're counting, that's a total of 12 movies that rate higher than a 2.0. Out of 25 films.)

13 of the 25 movies I have reviewed through yesterday have earned 2 stars or less from me. Only 6 have earned higher than a 3.0.

Am I a harsh critic? Maybe. But if you take a look, I enjoyed a number of those movies, and have seen most of them more than once. But just because I enjoy a movie doesn't mean that it is superb. Art doesn't have to be a Michelangelo for it to be appreciated (otherwise my home decor is in trouble!).

Also, just because a movie receives a higher rating, doesn't mean that I'll desire to watch it more. It means that it met certain criteria or exceeded expectations elsewhere. Iron Man 3 ties for the 2nd highest ranking of any movie I've reviewed to date (3.75). That does not mean I want to see it a lot. I'm just not that into action, but it delivered in fantastic dialogue and strong development.

Each movie is unique. As much as possible, each movie is evaluated on its own merit. If the stars I assign to a film aren't helpful to you - skip them. I don't mind. Just don't think of a 3 as an average C. Realize instead that, right now, it's in the top third of the class.

original image source

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Movie Review - Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 (finally) releases in the US in two days. It's about time. The rest of the world has seen it already. Are you excited?

I was blessed to be able to see a special pre-release screening in Imax 3-D. I thought I'd give you my take on the movie to amp you up a little more ... which, if you're anything like my husband, you don't need. And if you're anything like me, you won't particularly care. But, for what it's worth, here are (some) of my thoughts ...

Intense. That was the word I used to describe Iron Man 3's first trailer, and it's a description that stuck through the rest of the previews as they were released. It also aptly fit the movie itself. My poor husband was a sweetheart and let me squeeze the life out of his hand throughout the movie.

For being an intense film, there was a lot of humor neatly tucked in. It's always nice to be able to break a smile and chuckle, even if the next moment you're on the edge of your seat again.

Going into the movie I was particularly interested in Tony's character development. In Iron Man we see playboy, egotistical, billionaire start his transformation into something more. In Iron Man 2 we still have a narcissist who doesn't play well with others, but he has made improvements (after all, he is in a stable-ish relationship now). In Avengers he actually takes one for the team. I mean, the guy's come a long way! Honestly, I wasn't sure -- where do you go from here? where would they go?

The one thing that couldn't happen was for Tony to stagnate. We couldn't have the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, or the Avenger's Tony. We needed more. And we get more. Tony's still Tony - there's no question, but he certainly does not disappoint in his character development.

Another key point I was interested in was the relationship between Tony and Pepper. There's a lot in the previews to keep you wondering what happens here, and I think the scriptwriters did a pretty good job of not letting things get stale. They're in a different place in life than before, and we get to see how they react to current challenges and how that affects them as a couple. When an old wanna-be suitor and a former one-night stand show up, it's bound to effect something.

I didn't miss Rhodes in Avengers. He didn't belong, but I know a lot of people did miss him, and it was nice to see him back and him and Tony working so beautifully together, as always. One man can't go up against the Mandarin (a formidable and surprising villain) alone, and even a genius-soldier team need back-up.

Oh, for all of you who are dying to know about the special effects and explosions and what not... don't worry. There's definitely enough to go around and make you very happy. I won't say I didn't think some of it was over the top, but I didn't find it so excessive that it detracted from the rest of the movie.

I think this is the best Iron Man movie yet, but it's strength lies in the fact that its number 4 (watching Avengers before you see this film is a must). For Iron Man 3 to shine, it needs the other movies.

My review in one sentence? I'm glad we get to see less of the iron, and more of the man.

3.75 of 5 stars
(For comparison, most movies don't get above 2 stars in my book.)

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