how to erase stretch marks – fast!


Confession:  The title of this post (like many links that promise fast fitness or body alteration) was intentionally misleading.

And a canister of air will do nothing about your stretch marks.  (At least I don’t think it will….?)

My reason for writing this post is to discuss the problems I see in many fitness- and health-related blog posts and “news” articles.  Maybe you see them too.  Or maybe you avoid that side of the internet, where citations are thrown to the wind and photo alteration runs rampant.

But maybe, just maybe you see promises of flat abs, banishing cellulite, losing “saddlebags” (who coined that term?!), a perfectly toned body, a natural diet, the best food to reduce arm fat, the ideal blend of anti-aging tea …and begin to wonder if you might be a click away from better health.  Or better looks.  Or more confidence.

Here’s what I’d like you to know.

  • Everyone has an agenda.  Everyone.  Including me.  My agenda is to convince readers that the fitness advice you find on the internet probably isn’t helping you, and everything I say is leading up to that point.  Others might be trying to promote a particular brand, promote a certain body type, or even just obtain more hits for their website.  Find that agenda and evaluate it.
  • We are all finite beings trying to figure out what works.  Can we just admit that maybe…maybe we don’t know how life works best?  How could we?  Yes, we can research and read and experiment.  We can observe what works and what doesn’t.  But we are not God.  (Job 38.)  We don’t know everything there is to know about our bodies — how our digestive systems work, what foods damage and what foods benefit, how our muscles can be used best, what wears on our bones and joints most quickly.  We don’t know everything there is to know about the food we eat.  I freely admit that I don’t have all the answers…and I find it impossible to believe that anyone else has them.
  • You are an individual.  There’s more than one way to be beautiful.  And there’s more than one way to be healthy.  There are so many variables: height, body shape, genetics, preferences, health problems, climate, activity level, food budget, sleep schedule, age…  While some things can be agreed upon, many things vary from person to person.  I couldn’t even begin to speak to what your body needs — it is hard enough to figure out what works for me!
  • Opinions still don’t count as facts.  Fact: a hardboiled egg contains just over 180 mg of cholestorol.  Opinion: you should never eat more than one egg per day.
    In college, I actually really enjoyed reading medical and mental health journals.  I loved reading about scientific experiments and discoveries.  But I’m not as interested in reading that I should never drink orange juice.
    Many opinions are valid and even backed up by facts.  But many are not.  Make sure you evaluate the information you read and look for some proof!  (Proverbs 18:17.)
  • There is more to life than health.  Health is important.  Undeniably so.  Our bodies are temples of the Lord, and we need to take care of them in order to maximize our usefulness in the Lord’s work.  (1 Corinthians 6:19.)  We are not to be drunkards or gluttons or lazy.  (Proverbs 23:21.)  We are to glorify God in everything we do, even eating and drinking.  (1 Corinthians 10:31.)  Yet health is not the center of my life.  Christ is.
    I do try to make good choices based on what I believe to be sound science and common sense.  I have a very real consciousness of trying to maintain and improve my health.  But I don’t want to let that consciousness control my life.
    Any part of life can start to overpower the rest if we let it.  Many people focus on work to the detriment of their family, spiritual life, and their health.  Others focus on having fun and ignore everything else.  Often I have let school, work, or personal interests become the center of my life.
    In the same way, health can quickly become all-encompassing.  Life can become a balancing act with food, exercise, and wellness strategies far outweighing anything else. I don’t want my life to look like that.  I want to resist my natural tendency tendency to spend all my free time working out, reading about new exercise moves, or feeling dissatisfied about my body.

I can’t tell anyone how to eat, exercise, or live.  I can’t tell you what will increase your likelihood of a longer, healthier life.  But I would like to remind Christians to live first and foremost for their Savior.  He is the one and only source of truly satisfying life!

How do you glorify God in your body?


book review! what’s your worldview?

If you decide to stay with the raft and see if anyone notices your signal fire, turn to page 19.

If you decide to leave the supplies and explore the jungle with the captain, turn to page 34.

Look familiar?

If so, you probably read Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books like I did!  The stories were quite often off-the-wall, but it didn’t matter, did it?  They were just fun!  They didn’t have to be perfect literary gems to be completely engaging.

The book I’m reviewing, What’s Your Worldview? is written just like a CYOA book.  Only in this case, the consequences of wrong decisions are linked to eternity.

The premise: The author, James Anderson, presents a series of questions, each followed up by a page or so of explanation to make sure the question is really understood.  After making a decision (e.g. “I believe there is objective truth” or “I believe there is no objective truth”) the reader turns to a certain page — either another question, or a description of what his or her worldview probably is.  Although the author does have a distinct worldview (just as everybody does) he writes from a fairly neutral point of view.

My perspective: I loved the simplicity and ingenuity of this book.  It also really allowed me to understand other worldviews in a deeper way.  It’s one thing to learn about them, it’s another to read a book as if it is addressed to you, the holder of the worldview, and be enlightened about the positives and negatives of said worldview.  It was a fun, fast read that only took me one evening to test almost all of the different possible paths.

Just like CYOA books were sometimes more fun than high-quality, this one has some flaws despite brilliantly conceived.  The writing style was a bit too casual for me.  It read more like one of my blog posts than a theological exploration.  Which is fine..if you like books that sound like my blog posts.  My second disappointment was that Anderson didn’t really leave me feeling happy with any worldview.  My worldview is already firmly in place, but if it hadn’t been, I would have walked away from the book thinking, Well, I guess none of these choices work all that well.  He brought up huge negatives for all of them.  I understand that he didn’t want to be so dogmatic as to alienate casual readers, and he had a tough call to make in how he approached his own worldview.

My recommendation: I don’t personally think this book is well suited for evangelistic attempts.  I would never hand this book to a non-Christian and expect them to be persuaded towards Christianity.  I would recommend this book for middle, high school, and college aged young people who maybe were raised in a Christian environment but aren’t entirely sure of what they believe.  I also feel this would be a great resource for anyone who ministers to younger people, as it gives a very concise overview of popular beliefs, written in a modern, easy-to-read way.

What was your favorite CYOA book?

teaching american sign language with games

To skip my description and go straight to the games, click here.

American Sign Language is an amazing, beautiful, useful and currently popular language.  It is used by the deaf in the US and some other parts of North America, but its use extends much farther even than that.

I’ve been a self-taught learner, a college student, a volunteer interpreter, and a volunteer teacher of ASL.  I recently finished teaching ASL to a tiny class of middle and high school students.  It was great fun and reminded me how much I love ASL.

Something I noticed, though, was how hard it was to find resources, activities, and games for ASL learners.  I ended up creating 95% of my materials.  ASL is a visual language, so most games designed for language learning just don’t work.  I’ve made it my goal to compile the games I’ve played over the years and offer some ideas that can be a framework for other teachers and learners of ASL!

I’m hoping to write a few more blog posts on this topic — probably about resources I recommend, how I taught myself ASL in high school, and tips for using ASL in a hearing classroom.  Stay tuned!

Now for some games!

The Flyswatter Game
preparation: 5-10 minutes
number of students/players: 2 or more
applications: vocab, fingerspelling, or numbers

Before playing this game, the teacher writes words on the board at varying heights and angles.  These can be spelling words, numbers, or vocab — about 30 words fit well on most standard whiteboards.
Students are divided into two teams, and one player from each team goes up to the board at a time.  The teacher stands near the back of the room and faces the students.  The teacher spells or signs a word and the two active players race to find and touch the word.  (Flyswatters can be used for this game, hence the name, but are not necessary.)  Whichever player touches the word first gets a point for their team.  The word can be erased or left on the board — it is more challenging if they are left up.
New players from each team come up to the board and play continues until all the words have been used.

Around the World
preparation: none
number of students/players: 3 or more
applications: vocab, fingerspelling, or numbers

This is a classic game!  One student starts by standing at his seat.  The person to the right also stands.  The teacher gives a problem/word/question and whichever student answers first wins.  The loser sits down in the seat in front of him, while the winner moves to the next spot.  The next player to the right stands.  This continues.  If a player wins against everyone, finally returning to his own original seat, they have gone “around the world”.
Variations for ASL:
– The teachers spells a word.  The first to sign it wins.
– The teacher signs a word.  The first to spell it wins.
– The teacher says a word.  The first to spell it wins.
– The teacher says a number.  The first to sign it wins.

The Sheet Game
preparation: bring a dark-colored or thick sheet
number of students/players: 8 or more
applications: vocab

Each person chooses or is assigned a vocabulary word.  That becomes their sign.  Practice the signs as a whole group and make sure everyone knows what one another’s sign is.

Break the group into two teams, and choose two people (or a teacher and an aide) to hold the sheet up.  (They can switch with someone else later.)  The two teams stand on opposite sides of the sheet.  Everyone should try to crowd in so that the other team can’t see anyone!
One person from each team is silently chosen by popular demand to stand up close to the sheet.  On the count of three, the sheet is dropped.  The two players facing each other must sign the other person’s sign first.  Both players rejoin the faster player’s team.  Play continues until one team has collected all the players.  (Or, after a few turns, switch out the signs and make everyone learn new vocab!)

I’m Going to the Store
preparation: none
number of students/players: 2 or more
applications: fingerspelling or vocab

This is a popular game with many variations.  This version uses the phrase “I’m going to the store and I’m buying…”  Teach students to sign this phrase.  Then going in a circle, a student starts by spelling something that starts with A.  For example, “I’m going to the store and I’m buying a-p-p-l-e-s.”  The next player must remember previous items and add their own as they go through the alphabet. For example, after several turns, a player will have to remember, “I’m going to the story and I’m buying a-p-p-l-e-s, b-a-g-e-l-s, c-l-e-m-e-m-e-n-t-i-n-e-s, d-o-g-f-o-o-d, e-g-g-s, and f-r-u-i-t.”  Play continues through the alphabet.

Advanced signers vocab variation: For students with an extensive vocabulary, use signs instead of words and handshapes instead of letters.  (For this variation, the “store” introduction can be skipped.)  The first student must think of a sign that uses the A handshape.  It does not have to start with the letter A, but the handshape must be used.  [“Help”, “tomorrow”, “wash”, and “patience” all use the A handshape.]  The next player must remember the previous sign and add their own.  [The B handshape is found in “book”, “door”, “table”, “brown”, and more.]  Play continues all the way through the handshapes.

preparation: find or create a list of categories
number of students/players: 2 or more
applications: fingerspelling

The teacher announces a category such as “things that are cold” or “animals”, then chooses a letter (purposely or at random).  Players take turns spelling out words that fit the category and begin with the chosen letter. The first player to draw a blank (after being given 30 seconds or so) is out or loses a point.  Continue changing categories and letters each time someone fails to think of a word.

Chain Letter
preparation: none
number of students/players: 2 or more
applications: fingerspelling

A fairly broad category is chosen, and one student starts by spelling a word in that category.  The next player must take the last letter of that word and think of a word that begins with that letter.  For example: In the category animals, the first student might spell cow.  The next student could spell whale.  The next student could spell eagle.  The next, elephant, tortoise, egrettiger, and so on.

preparation: prepare bingo cards and spot markers
number of students/players: 2 or more
applications: vocab, fingerspelling, or numbers

Bingo cards can easily be created in a word processing system; simply create a table (5×5, 7×7, or whatever is most convenient) and fill each square with vocab words, fingerspelling practice words, or numbers.  Vary the cards so that different students have different combinations.
Say, spell, or sign a word and have students place a marker on the correct spot if they have it.  It’s a simple, easy game, but most students find it very engaging!  (Bonus points if the spot markers are edible!)
Many stores sell pre-made bingo sets.  Vocabulary-themed or sight-word bingo sets would work well for an ASL class.

Do you have any ASL games not listed here?  I will add them!

my top 5 sub moments

I’ve been subbing for a few months and decided it was time to write about it.

I thought about offering my perspective on education, my detailed explanation of all that’s wrong in our school system, or a sage listing of the things I’ve learned from my students.  (I could write for days on end about what I’ve learned.)  But today I have no wise words.  I’m here to share my top five sub moments, ranging from groan-worthy to hilarious.  I’ll write a serious sub-related post another time.

5. My very first day as a substitute teacher was in a 4th grade classroom.  I stood at the door to greet my shiny new students as I had been told good subs should.  As they filed in, most offered a mumbled “Good morning” while others evaluated me silently.  My day was off to a happy start when one girl responded to my greeting with, “You’re pretty!”

4. One morning I walked into a middle school classroom and noticed right away that the one tissue box was empty.  I looked around for a replacement but there was none.  I didn’t think too much of it and went on with my morning, teaching three or four uneventful periods.  Then the inevitable happened.
“Miss Sub, can I go to the bathroom?”
“Ew, his nose is bleeding!”
“Dude, there’s blood all over the desk!”
Fortunately my next period was a prep and I borrowed wet wipes from the neighboring classroom to clean up.  I will never again underestimate the importance of a box of tissues!

3. I was subbing for a well-behaved 4th grade classroom when a girl spilled her entire water bottle (about 24oz!) over a cluster of 5 desks.  As is typical for that age group, most of the boys laughed and a few girls cried.  Some kids helped clean up in an effort to earn behavior points.  After a few minutes of internal panic and outward efficiency, I thanked the kids for helping and announced that we were going to drop everything and read silently for a bit.
One student nodded knowingly.  “It’s to help us calm down,” he explained to his classmates.

2. Young kids don’t mind asking awkward questions, so I’ve been asked by more than one kindergartener, “Is there a baby in your tummy?”  I always smile and respond with a “Nope!” or “No, thanks for asking so nicely!”  One girl, however, was very persistent.  “Are you sure?”
“Very sure!”
“I think I can see it in there,” she insisted.  I don’t think I ever convinced her that my tummy did not hold a baby.

1. Although my favorite days are spent with kids from K-2, I’ve also subbed for an amazingly fun class of 8th graders.  One of our lesson activities required students to read different parts of a dramatic play.  The boys delighted in trying to read with a voice that would make their sub laugh.  They definitely succeeded!

I said I wasn’t going to share anything serious but I changed my mind.  If there’s just one piece of advice I could give to other substitute teachers, it would be don’t be afraid to smile.  I think many subs are afraid of being too nice, as it is so common for students to take advantage of any perceived weakness.  But here’s my take.

You may be the one bright spot in a student’s day.  You might even be the one bright spot in their life at the time.  Why waste that chance because of fear?

There’s certainly a time to pull out your dead-serious, one-false-move-and-you’re-going-to-the-office face.  It’s also wise not to encourage class clowns unless you’re really, really comfortable with getting control back.  But smile — as much as humanly possible.  Laugh!  Greet students when they come in.  Notice the great things about your students and let them know it.

I may be “just a sub” but I know that I have made students smile, laugh, and feel just a bit better about how they fit into the great big world.  Teachers always have the power to make a difference — even if they’re only there for one day!

book review! hinds’ feet on high places

I first read the abridged and illustrated version of Hinds’ Feet on High Places when I was around the age of nine.  I really enjoyed the illustrations and parts of the story stuck in my memory very vividly.  That is what led me to finally pick up a complete, un-abridged (and devoid of illustrations) copy of this book.  It had a lot of what I loved about the children’s version, but it also had some things I didn’t like.

The premise: Hinds’ Feet on High Places is frequently compared to The Pilgrims’ Progress as it is a Christian allegory.  It tells the story of a young woman named Much-Afraid who follows the Chief Shepherd up to the High Places.  Along the way, she learns to accept his will for her without argument, to embrace the Sorrow and Suffering he chose to be her companions, and to lay down everything she is and has on the altar.  Unlike Pilgrim’s Progress, which is gospel-centered and travels from earth to heaven, Hinds’ Feet is about a journey that happens during life on earth and the climax is not death, but full surrender.

This is the book I reviewed...
This is the book I reviewed…

My perspective: For literary value and writing skill alone, this book would not win any awards.  I will focus on the value of the allegory instead.  I found that there were many individual pieces of the story that were very powerful and insightful.  These were the things I had enjoyed and remembered from the children’s version.

However, the story as a whole does not make sense to me.  The High Places that Much-Afraid finally reach are not based on a biblical concept as far as I can tell.  They seem to be referring to some special level of Christianity.  There are also two very unbiblical ideas that come across towards the end: the idea that we should follow God blindly and without regard for his “rightness” and the sure promise of his rewards, and the idea that ultimate truth is somehow pragmatic.  (I should note that these ideas were not expressed in the abridged version.)

My recommendation: I don’t know if it’s worth the time and brain power to sort through the strange writing style, the prose and poetry, and the unbiblical messages to find the nuggets of truth and insight that are present.  Instead I would recommend if you are really interested in the story to read the children’s version.  Although it still does not fit together well as a whole, it is much easier to find the great parts of the allegory and weed out the weirdies.

...and this is the book I recommend.
…and this is the book I recommend.

I almost hesitated to write this review since it’s a bit more negative than I usually write!  But, being a week into May already, I figured it was time to post my April book review…  The book I’m hoping to read this month is What’s Your Worldview? By James N. Anderson.

What is your favorite allegory?

i’ve been rat-coughing-face-shamed

It seems as if every time I glance at the Yahoo headline stories, somebody’s been “shamed”.

They may have been body-shamed, lunch-shamed, dating-shamed, fit-shamed, or fat-shamed.  But unavoidably, somebody somewhere has been shamed.

If you’re not an avid reader of Buzzfeed or poorly edited Yahoo spotlight stories, you might be unfamiliar with this wave of public shaming.  Essentially it has come to mean that somebody made a comment or behaved in a certain way that made an individual feel bad about himself or herself.  It may or may not have been a public comment or behavior in the beginning, but either way, it ultimately becomes front-page news on one or more source when the person with the damaged feelings decides to air their grievance.

Here’s a handy guide to help you identify whether or not something is really shaming.

  • True statements made in an appropriate context do not qualify as shaming.  When the cashier tells me that my coupon won’t work on the loaf of bread I’ve selected, I have not been coupon-shamed.  I have been given a piece of information.
  • Simple statements of opinion do not qualify as shaming.  When someone comments on my YouTube video saying that I look like I’m coughing up a dead rat (true story!) I have NOT been rat-coughing-face-shamed.  Someone has given me their amusingly honest, albeit rude, opinion.

    I thought this was so funny when I read it that it actually made my day.
  • Statements or concepts that are not directed at you do not qualify as shaming.  When  I read an article about how intolerably ugly freckles are (what?!) even though I have freckles I have not been freckle-shamed.  The article wasn’t about me in the first place.  It was about freckles.  I am not freckles.
  • Private communications do not qualify as shaming.  I might feel ashamed to the point of tears when my professor yells at me over the phone, but it’s not public…until I write a post titled “First-year college student stupid-question-shamed by professor has raised $800 for stupid-question awareness”.  (I made up the part about the $800, if you were worried.)

Public shaming does sometimes happen and it can be very destructive and sad when it does.  It happens when an individual is called out in a public forum and receives negative attention that is intended to damage and degrade.  Let’s respect the pain of those who have actually been shamed by reserving the word for appropriate situations.

What is the least accurate use of the word “shame” that you have seen?

book review! the hiding place

I can think of no earthly reason why I haven’t read The Hiding Place sooner.  For years, I’ve heard snippets of the story, walked past the book as I peruse the biography section of my local library — I’ve even checked it out once or twice, only to leave it unread.  Why?!

Maybe I thought that the bits and pieces of the story I knew were just about all there was to Corrie Ten Boom’s life. Whatever the reason for my hesitation was, I finally read The Hiding Place last month and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Corrie’s faith and the honesty with which she addressed her own struggles.

The premise: I would divide Corrie’s story into three parts.  In the first part, she describes her life in Haarlem, Holland, in the early 1900s.  Though far from idyllic, she describes a happy and peaceful home where she will stay for nearly her whole life.  Corrie is already an older adult when World War II breaks out and the second passage of her life begins.  She becomes a worker in the Dutch Underground and shelters Jews who are in danger from the invading Nazis.  Finally, in the third part of her story, she is imprisoned for her “crimes” where she suffers…and finds continuous evidence of God’s merciful hand on her life.  There are no boring parts in this story.  There are no pages of preface that can be skipped.  Corrie and her co-authors have insightfully woven her story into a big-picture view of life where everything is significant.

My perspective: Corrie Ten Boom was an amazingly strong, faithful woman, and I was challenged by her godly example.  However, Corrie was also very human, and she is commendably honest about her feelings of doubt, fear, unforgiveness, anger, and so forth.  She manages to address both her faith and her fear without lapsing into preachiness, and The Hiding Place is just as engaging and interesting as it is beneficial.  I stayed up into the morning hours reading several times, desperate to know what happened next.

My recommendation: I would recommend this book almost without reserve.  Christians and non-Christians alike have been inspired and engaged by the story.  Whether one is a lover of history and biography or not doesn’t matter — this is an easy, fast-paced read.  My one caution would be for younger readers.  Although Corrie is never gratuitous with her description of the horrors that take place during her imprisonment, the realities are still very harsh.  I think this book would be appropriate for most children 12 and up; younger children and children who are particularly sensitive might benefit from reading it with a parent’s guidance.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Don’t miss out on this book like I did for so long!

What is your favorite anecdote about Corrie Ten Boom?