Monday, January 23, 2012

Couponing & The Big Picture

I love getting a good deal.  It's a rush that my husband just doesn't adequately appreciate.  Thankfully, my girl friends & sisters do, so I always have someone to pat my back and congratulate me on a deal well-snagged.  I set limits & budgets on just about everything, making shopping (when I'm not pregnant, that is) a sort of treasure-hunt or obstacle course that I thoroughly enjoy.  Meal-plans, clearance, sales, off-season purchasing, second-hand stores, repurposing/reusing, coupons, DIY, gardening, buying in bulk, directly from producers or through whole-salers all are my weapons of choice.

While I do use the occasional coupon (especially when the cashier hands them to me with my receipt), I've generally found them to be fairly unhelpful-- either for brands I can't or don't buy, or for products I don't need. The times I have tried to be more aggressive about couponing, I've found that it wasn't worth the time it took for me to try and track the coupons down & print them out, much less hit multiple stores.  Something about some tactics I read about bothered me, too, though I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

The other day one of my favorite blogs (Keeper of the Home) featured this blogpost, entitled "Can Coupons Be Used Responsibly?" and I found myself saying "Yes! That's it! YES!! That's what I've been trying to think but couldn't figure out!"  I LOVE this post. It states simply & persuasively many of the questions & thoughts I’ve had swirling in my head.  I think it hits the nail on the head about our American obsession with “cheap” over quality, especially in the food area.  I encourage you to check it out for yourselves!  The author welcomes comments & is really quick about responding to them.  It does NOT condemn couponing -- it just puts it in perspective and tries to pull back & look at the big picture.

A sample (emphasis original): 
Coupons in and of themselves are not bad. In fact, they can be valuable tools. For example, combining coupons with store sales can maximize savings for the consumer and profit for both the store and manufacturer of the product, as the sharing of the consumer discount minimizes the loss to both store and manufacturer.

This is a realistic part of a free market and it used to work. Lately, though, coupons have been taken out of their proper context and used unfairly. Take, for instance, the idea of stockpiling a product that can be obtained free or next to no cost when coupons are combined with store sales. [...]

The extreme bargain-hunting mindset, which has the potential to take on a sense of entitlement, has essentially dissolved the idea of brand loyalty as consumers begin to make purchases based on the current low price instead.

Unfortunately, as brand loyalty dissipates, commitment to consumers in the form of quality and service has become a thing of the past. Many companies are learning that to stay competitive, offering the lowest price is all that matters to many shoppers today, where in the past, quality was an equally important consideration. In the race to provide the most competitive price today, the cheapest possible materials are often used.
How often do we sit back and think about the labor & ingredients that went into what we bought, and ask ourselves if it was all ethically done?  Is a made-in-India product cheaper because it used child labor?  There's all sorts of thorny issues to be considered:  slave labor, child labor, techniques (many are toxic to the land or harmful to its inhabitants), worker wages, quality of product (cheap ingredients aren't usually good for the body), number of middle men... all of those go into the final sticker price on any item we purchase.  While this tool isn't perfect (it doesn't take into account a lot of variables), it's eye-opening:  The Slavery Footprint test.  Something to think about and pray about for sure.  This website lists the 13 products most likely to be made by forced or child labor.  These are items you may want to consider buying exclusively from fair-trade or local sources.  One last resource to check out is The Story of Stuff, a short animated film that walks through where our stuff comes from & where it ends up.  Watch it!!  Think about it.  This is stuff I'm still trying to figure out.

In our family I’ve found the main way around the cheap-is-best trap without spending extravagantly is to emphasize quality over quantity. Do I really NEED 10 bath & shower products? Not really. I can either make them myself or buy a concentrate that I dilute (less packaging & water cost).  So I spend the same amount as if I’d used double/triple coupons, but I’ve skipped the waste, the harmful chemicals, and I haven’t short-changed anyone on cost. Baking powder, vinegar & essential oils are always pretty inexpensive!

Similarly with clothes: I don’t NEED 20 outfits for my 2 year old. We wash laundry 1-2 a week, so at most she needs 7 outfits + a church outfit.  I either make them myself (usually using recycled material like daddy’s old shirts) buy them consignment (my $3/item limit is final), thankfully accept hand-me-downs, or enjoy Grandma’s gifts.  We give away what we receive extras of.  I also try to only buy brands that we know will last through many children/washings, and/or that are made fairly.  Even with only one child so far, I can tell a difference between the way The Children's Place and Garanimals (the Wal-Mart brand) wear.  By contrast, the outfits my great-grandmother hand-made for my grandma are still going strong!!

The same thinking is applied to our books, toys and food– get the minimum needed, get quality, and take care of it.  I know that our food expense/person is fairly comparable to (if not lower than) most families' despite our need to buy gluten-free, soy-free, mostly organic, seasonal items.  (HAH pregnancy has thrown a wrench in this, though, and we've eaten a LOT more convenience foods the past 4 months than usual!)  There is also the question of "does cheap equal more expenses later?"-- like in health-care expenses or replacement costs. Our daughter isn't allowed to abuse her toys, and she watches them get confiscated if she doesn't take care of them.  (We try to make sure her toys are age-appropriate so that this is a reasonable expectation.) The side benefit is FAR less clean up and clutter! I also feel like having less makes us less “owned” by our possessions. We pay a fair price for what we have (“the worker is worthy of his wages”), we enjoy it, and we use it thoroughly. No extreme couponing needed. :)

What about you? How do you balance the reality of a limited budget with the needs of your family and the burden of living ethically in a global economy?  Have you found a way to make couponing work for you?  Any brands you highly recommend?  If so, why?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Modesty and Breast-feeding

As a Christian woman, I'm really concerned about being a godly woman-- a big part of that is modesty. If you're like me, you've probably read several books on the topic, heard many sermons, seen "are you dressed modestly?" checklists, and had lots of discussions about it. There's no question that in our society we do NOT value modesty or the chastity it protects and proclaims. I firmly believe that how we treat and display our bodies reflects our view of our Creator, in Whose Image we are made.

As a Christian mom, the topic of modesty & correct use of the body has gained a new facet: breast-feeding. I've been disturbed to hear some mothers come to the conclusion that a nursing mother should always isolate herself while nursing her baby for the sake of modesty, even from her other children and other women. Others -- not only Christians in this case, but Westerners in general- I've known were unable to breast-feed because they "felt uncomfortable doing it." On the other end of the spectrum, some women hold "nurse-ins" where they join together to nurse their babies in public with no covering at all.  Which of these approaches is most appropriate?  How does nursing fit in with Christian modesty?  I think we have to step back a little further to even start to get an answer, and ask: how does nursing fit into our understanding of our bodies as women?

It seems to me that a primary function of the whole female body really is nurturing-- I'd even go so far as to say that it's crucial and central to our view of femininity. We are built to nurture, it's part of our image of God. (Isa. 49:14-15, 66:12-13, Hosea 11:1-4)  It starts in Genesis with the naming (defining, in many ways) of the First Woman, and it carries on through every list of womanly virtue in the New Testament.
"The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." (Gen. 3:20)

"No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds." (1 Tim 5:9-10)

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."  (Titus 2:3-5)
A very basic part of this nurturing is the bearing, feeding & care of children.  We, as opposed to our male fellow Image-bearers, have the body parts to carry children, to give them birth, to nurse them, and tend them.  We've got the hips to carry them around, the multi-tasking brain to attend to a household, and the type of sleep that enables us to wake at a child's cry (read a fascinating article on this from the NY Times).  Child-safety expert Gavin de Becker says that women are more likely to stay with a lost child until the parents are found, while a man is more likely to merely direct the child to help.  My point?  Whether we physically care for children or not, nurturing is still a part of our feminine make-up.  Women who never bear children should still see their bodies as instruments of nurture. We are nurturing when we pick up our kids (or a neighbor's) and hug them, put an arm around a hurting friend, make a meal for a lonely person, care for a sick patient, tend a garden... we are nurturing, we are women, we are being God-like.

This PERFECTLY captures what I'm trying to say!
Our culture's attack on modesty has led to a hyper-sexualization of breasts, it seems.  They are used to sell everything; is it any wonder that some moms can't bring themselves to breast-feed because all their lives they'd grown up thinking of breasts as exclusively sexual?  Some wean their babies very early, as soon as the child showed any signs of being able to ask for milk, because they're disturbed that their child can now "ask for it." Poor babies! There's a breast-feeding doll that's come out and if you read the comments, you'll see that many people are appalled, saying it as "sexual" and "inappropriate." I'd say that's the furthest thing from sexual there is-- the feeding of an innocent child!   Surely even adoptive children can grow up with a proper understanding of nursing children, of knowing that's one very big reason why God gave Mommies the anatomy He did.  [I wouldn't spend $90 on such a doll, though... Eowyn "nurses" pretty much any ol' stuffed animal happily.]

That said, we are not animals, and there is a difference between a human mother feeding her baby and a cow feeding hers.  People wear clothes.  Animals don't.  There sure are other functions animals take NO efforts to hide that we humans treat (appropriately) as very private-- we have the glorious burden of being made in God's image, we have the shame of a sinful nature.  In an effort to show respect for my body, to keep any others from stumbling (into lust), and to be considerate of those whom it might make truly uncomfortable, I practice & encourage discretion in public or around guys (covering up is not really a big deal).  BUT, there are just no guarantees. I've had to nurse all over the world in all sorts of settings and I'm sure someone somewhere has seen some skin, lol, not by choice, but that's just life. The nursing of a child is a totally natural happening and it's something good. (Kind of like kissing your husband, I think-- we're not going to flaunt it and make out in public, but if someone catches us smooching we have nothing to be ashamed of!!)  [As a culture check, in our church care group we had a single guy who grew up as an MK in Papua New Guinea, where women nurse children on one side & suckling pigs on the other, with no covering at ALL... everywhere!!! As you can imagine, he was absolutely comfortable around breastfeeding women, especially if they were covered up (and lacking in suckling pigs).]  I do hope that my own children grow up in a world where it's not even an issue, because everyone knows that's just how babies are fed naturally!

As far as it being potentially inappropriate for children to see maternal breasts, from Scripture it would be almost impossible to say.  However, kids were weaned around age 3 in Biblical times, kids were plentiful and in many families there were multiple moms in a household.  It is a stretch to think that kids would grow up watching their parents & other women nurse?  

What are your thoughts on this topic of modesty/feminine Image of God intersecting with breast-feeding?  Do you think of nursing as an aspect of feminine nurturing, as a mere biological process, or what?

**Please note:  this article is not trying to assess whether or not Christian women who are able SHOULD breast-feed or not (nor in what manner they choose to do that), but rather examining the question of how nursing fits in with our view of Christian feminine modesty.**

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home Birth, A Safe Option?

Two articles have recently come to my attention (see, you think that I'm all on the ball and a researcher type, but REALLY, I just have great friends who send me this stuff =D) regarding the safety of home birth.

The first I read is from England, and it compared midwife-attended home births, midwife-attended center births, midwife-attended hospital births & doctor-attended hospital births.  The findings were fascinating:  for first-time births, midwife-attended center births are safest overall; fewer C-sections & other interventions risky to the mom, as well as low infant mortality & morbidity.  Midwife-attended hospital births were next, followed by doctor-attended hospital births. Home births were marginally less safe (we're talking under 1% difference).  For all later births, there was no difference in harm to the baby.  However, as far as "normal" birth is concerned (meaning one without interventions like forceps, and episiotomies), home birth is the clear winner.  Here's how the percentages stack up for normal births:  90% home birth, 83% freestanding midwife unit, 76% hospital midwife unit, and 60% hospital obstetric unit.
This Oxford University research raises fundamental questions about maternity care in the UK. Nine out of 10 babies are born in medically-led obstetric units. There has been a trend to centralise this into fewer and larger centres to guarantee consultant cover. Many of the decisions have taken place without definitive evidence about the safety for babies and the experience for mothers. This study provides that.

It reveals an unexplained difference in the rate of normal birth between units run by midwives and those run by doctors. The disparity on emergency Caesarean sections is particularly striking. It suggests a different culture in the way midwives and doctors see birth, with doctors concerned about risks and midwives focused on normality.
The second article is on a similar study in Canada, though from 2000-2004 (published in 2009).  It compared midwife-attended home births, midwife-attended hospital births and doctor-attended hospital births, and revealed "the mortality rate per 1,000 births was 0.35 in the home birth group, 0.57 in hospital births attended by midwives, and 0.64 among those attended by physicians."  This article continues:
Women who gave birth at home were less likely to need interventions or to have problems such as vaginal tearing or hemorrhaging. These babies were also less likely to need oxygen therapy or resuscitation, the study found.

The authors acknowledge that "self-selection" could have skewed the study results, in that women who prefer home deliveries tend to be healthier and otherwise more fit to have a home birth.
Good stuff to think about!

Just as a note, it's enlightening to read the same UK study reported with a different "spin."  While it's clear from the actual study that the risk to the babies was all under 1% (4.5 per 1000 to 9.3 per 1000), this study spins the data to say: "First-time mothers who opt for a home birth are almost three times more likely to have a baby who dies or suffers brain damage"!  Sounds much more scary when it's put that way, doesn't it!?  This just highlights why it's important to look at actual data, not just the way a newspaper reports them! (Here's a link to the actual medical journal article from the UK study, and a link to the Canadian study.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Big Changes for the KY Szrama Family

I have some confessions to make:

I just joined Living Social (like Groupon).  I've been researching area preschools, pediatricians, and family doctors.  I've been asking around for recommendations on where to get local, organic food in season.  Ryan & I made a bucket list.  Ryan & I have been looking at various churches.

Why is this unusual?  Because they're not for Louisville-- except for the list, entitled "Things to Do Before Leaving Louisville."  Yes, in a sudden & strange turn of events, Ryan & I have had our offer accepted for a house in Greenville, SC, and are set to close on February 10th.  Of this year.

Why Greenville?  Well, as many of you know, I grew up in Greenville; it's my hometown, my college town (Go Furman Paladins!), my parents' town.  Two of my aunts, my parents, and one set of grandparents live there, with my sisters 4 hours or less away.  I still have friends living in the area, either from college, high school, or before. Why now?  The short answer is "because I'm a wuss." =D

The long answer goes something like... why not now?  For the past few years Ryan & I have realized that we were just in Louisville because we were in Louisville.  One by one our ties to the city-- jobs, school, church commitments, close friends-- have all gone away.  Meanwhile, Ryan's job takes him around the world in increasing amounts, while I can accompany him less.  Being pregnant with all its difficulties (again) leads us to expect that future pregnancies will be just as difficult-- probably more so as more young children are added to the mix.  Friends are amazing and willing to help (I've had friends come make meals, come help me process apples & pumpkins, take Eowyn for the day, and pray for us), but when most of us are in the same boat (pregnant, with little ones), it's hard to get help at the drop of a hat.  However, the longer we stay the more roots we set down here and it's harder & harder to leave.  Ryan has lived in Louisville for 14 years, and in the past 2 has re-connected with high school friends that have become dear brothers in Christ to him.  While our first "wave" of close friends have all moved on, we have begun to make new close friendships...and that pattern is likely to continue.

So, we have been looking at moving to Greenville to be near family in the next season of our lives (most of Ryan's side of our family live 2- 4 hours of Greenville, too-- as opposed to the 8 they are now).  It seems the Biblical "norm" is to be close to your family unless God specifically calls you elsewhere, and we have felt no such call.  Louisville was the perfect place for us to begin our marriage, careers, and family, to experience life in community and enjoy getting to know a city together.  Now, it seemed like time to move on, but how to know when?

We prayed that the Lord would make it clear by showing us a house that was "too good a deal to pass up" and then opening all the appropriate doors to buying it.  Ryan's kept a "potential properties" tab open on his browser and we've looked at dozens of houses from afar.  Over Christmas we visited my folks and went with a Realtor friend of ours, as we'd done for the past few visits,  and once again ruled out all the ones we saw.  However, at midnight before we were due to leave Ryan somehow saw another property online, one that looked perfect for us!  He & my father raced over (remember, it's midnight), used flashlights & the car's high beams to peer in all the windows (yes, it was a vacant house, otherwise Ryan probably would have had a view of Greenville's county jail, lol).  The realtor had asked us if we wanted to see any properties on our way out of town, and at this point Ryan emailed back and said "yes!" and provided the address of the property he & my dad had found.  He added in a few more "since we're already in the area," and the realtor added one she thought we'd like, based on what she's learned of our tastes.  Next morning we set out, and we liked ALL of them.  It was the exact opposite of the day before!  We especially liked the one our realtor "thought we might like."  We decided to stay the rest of the day and visit a new area church plant the following morning.  We were really encouraged by the church service (we could see ourselves worshiping & serving there), and the whole way home we talked about the houses we'd seen.

We contacted some mortgage brokers to see if we could even get financing without selling our current home first.  Within a day, we knew we could.  We made an offer on The House...counter offer... counter-counter offer... settled.  Now we are gathering up paper work for the actual sale and, should our financing come through as expected, we will close on our new home 4 states away in a month.  Whew!  We went from casually looking at homes to committing to BUY one in less than a week, and it's left us a little windswept.  It's a clear answer to prayer and a huge blessing to me-- I know my husband is moving because he loves me. That means so much.

We are excited about having a beautiful home with plenty of room for guests and more children, with an office for Ryan NOT in the middle of things; we love the idea of being within walking distance of family... we are counting up all the goodbyes that must be said in the next 2 months, though, and it is sad.  We want to fully enjoy every last minute of our time in Louisville!!

A few pictures of our favorite parts of the house:

Eowyn's favorite part: the "Belle" staircase
(can you tell she got 'Beauty & the Beast' for Christmas?)
The wood-burning fireplace whose adjacent arches which we intend to turn into bookshelves!
The partition dividing tiled kitchen from living room
Remodeled kitchen with beautiful tile details and tile countertops--
I guess all that's left to say is-- COME VISIT US SOON!!  (If you want an incentive, see this really nifty little video here.) And, there are more adventures just around the corner!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Happy "Three Kings Day!"

Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story:
Gold- a King is born today,
Incense- our God is with us,
 Myrrh- His death will make a way,
And by His blood He'll win us. 
- "Joy Has Dawned" by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, 2004

It's the last day of Christmas know the old song, "The 12 Days of Christmas"?  It refers to the old practice of actually celebrating 12 days of "Christmastide;" starting December 25th (the end of the "Advent" season in the Church year), and stretching 12 full days until Epiphany, or "Three Kings Day."  Yes, yes, shhhh all you Theologically-Correct peeps, we KNOW that the Magi probably didn't come exactly 12 days after Jesus' birth to the stable in Bethlehem (it was probably more like 2 years later... in a house), and they weren't exactly"kings," and we don't know that there were three of them... but the name has a nice ring, ok?  Just play along.

Epiphany is defined as "from the Greek epiphaneia:  manifestation, striking appearance."  We use the word to mean a sudden revelation, a flash of inspiration or understanding.  In the sense of the holiday, the word is used literally: the sudden revealing of God as a man, not only the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews but also the Savior of the World... even of Gentiles, like... me.  Today was set aside by the church fathers to celebrate the day that Old Testament prophesies opening up the salvation offered in Israel would be extended to the world, exemplefied by foreign wise men bowing low and giving this child their treasures.  
Isaiah 49:6 records God the Father speaking about His coming servant:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 60:3 adds: "And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising"
All day Simeon's words spoken over the 8-day-old Jesus have rung in my ears:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:24-32
Eowyn & I made ginger-molasses cookies, invited some friends over for the Veggie Tales "The Star of Christmas" and played with the Nativity Set one last time.  I tried to listen to hymns about the Wise Men, Simeon (hear my favorite song on that topic, "Your King Has Come," here.)
or the Incarnation.  I'm so thankful that God decided to open up salvation to us Gentiles!  Today has been a good day to "remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

And that all started with the Incarnation, as lowly (shepherds) and high (Magi) alike were brought near to worship the King of kings.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Our Christmas 2011

The Thursday before Christmas, Ryan & I loaded up our car (and child) at a record early time despite my "bad pregnancy morning." The normally-5-hour trip to Grandma's stretched to 8+ due to weather, a very-slow-eating two year old, and bad traffic.  Poor Ryan.  We passed the time with Fablehaven on Audiobook, naps for Mommy & baby, Christmas music and some library DVDs for Eowyn, and finally made it to Grandma's in time for dinner.

At Grandma's, Eowyn enjoyed all the music-making Christmas ornaments & toys, dancing & singing to her heart's delight (Jingle Bells is her favorite), the toys Grandma & Grandpa still have-- especially the train set that her daddy & uncles enjoyed-- not to mention all the attention & affection of her aunts, uncles, cousins (first-once-removed, to be precise), grandparents & great-grandparents.  She is so well-loved.  Christmas Eve we went to the service at Grandma & Grandpa's church, then drove through the local Christmas lights show at the Bristol Motor Speedway (very cool).  That night Eowyn opened her customary books & home-made PJs (from upcycled fabric; this year from my old flannel pants...yes I will eventually run out of old jammies, I know).  She LOVED her "p'itty p'itty jamas" as well as her new books The Tower of London, Paris, & If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  We adults did our "White Elephant" gift exchange-- Ryan got his prize RC helicopter, I got an amazingly-scented candle & some chocolate.  We also opened one gift, this year from Ryan's parents ("Poppy & Grams" to Eowyn).

Sunday morning, we opened our gifts & stockings before heading off to church.  Eowyn's wardrobe received a massive increase in cuteness, let me tell you.  Seriously, I'm almost jealous. ;)  She and I also received digital cameras... mine's an SLR & hers has thumbnail-size resolutions, but hey, in her words "We match!!"  I still haven't worked out how to um, work, mine fully... but I LOVE it and am enjoying playing immensely! (Thank you, Babe. =D)  The "worst" part of the morning was having to be opening gifts by 8 am (pregnant me does not do mornings so well), but hey, I will not complain about getting amazing gifts with the people I love! :)  The Lord was gracious & gave me a reprieve from sickness after we opened gifts, for the whole day!  [please excuse the paltry photos here- we have more on my new camera as well as my cousin Kasey's, but they will be forthcoming]

Note how her necklace is currently a crown. 
A moment before it was dangling on the bridge of her nose as her "glasses."

Modeling her new nightgown on Christmas Eve

Singing carols on the way to church Christmas Morning  (LOVE her Christmas outfit)
Christmas dinner was plentiful & delicious, as were the games of various sorts we all played over the next few days-- Ticket to Ride, Agricola, Carcasonne, and Scene It: Harry Potter.  Have I mentioned Grandpa's fudge (as my dad later put it:  "I think that might have been the best fudge I ever had.  I need another piece to decide.")?  Or the mountains, and I mean MOUNTAINS of cookies & baked goods amassed on ever flat surface?  I think Greg & Kendi brought 200 cookies with them, not kidding.

Tuesday afternoon we drove down to Greenville, SC, to celebrate a second Christmas with that "side" of the family.  This kid is going to think she gets presents for a solid month every December, lol.  I'll put up more on the Greenville leg of our trip- all the Ruiz clan get-togethers, the times with the sisters, etc- tomorrow or sometime after my mid-night snack. :)  In the meantime here's one of my favorite shots of my daughter perched on my mom's counter, watching the morning, snacking on cereal, and waiting for Nina & GB to wake up.  It reminds me so much of my own childhood in this very same house.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year!

Lots going on in our lives... many updates are over-due, but for those who are stopping by from our Christmas cards, here is a little slideshow of Eowyn over the past year.