Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Reading books again

It's funny: in the past six or seven weeks, I've been reading books again.  My sister tells me I've been reading this whole time, because I've talked with her about books for years, but it hasn't been the same.

I remember when The Hubby and I first moved to the suburbs, and we used to walk to the library two or three times a week, because the number of books I could comfortably carry home was smaller than the number of books I would read in seven days.  I had at least two books in progress at all times, because sometimes I wouldn't feel like reading one, so I'd start another.  I used to finish all those books in progress before they were due back at the library, too.

Somewhere between Z getting old enough to not fall asleep in the stroller and L being born, I stopped reading like that, though.  I would have one book going, and when it was done, inertia would pull on me, and I'd sit in front of the computer instead of starting a new one.  I would check out books from the library and renew them until I couldn't anymore, and then I'd just return them.  I still considered myself a reader, and I wanted to want to read, but I didn't want it enough to actually do it.

A week ago, I realized I was reading again.  Reading like I used to: voraciously, three books at a time, because every time I sat down I wanted to pick up a book.  And the feeling it gave me was one of familiarity.  Like, "Hey!  I recognize you!  You're me!"

The next day, a friend of mine called.  She was feeling weighed down by the challenges of parenting, and she told me she didn't feel like she was being the person she wanted to be as a parent.  The more we talked, the more it seemed like her story mirrored mine.  She used to want to do things in a particular way, but right now it's more like she wants to want to.  Actually doing those things isn't bringing her the pleasure or satisfaction it used to, so she's letting them slide, and then inertia is dragging her down.

I'm guessing we're not alone.  Sometimes life is hard, and the workouts that used to energize you feel like slogs.  Or the delicious food you used to love cooking seems like too much hassle and too little reward.  Or you used to make art, make music, write poetry, write prose, volunteer, design, garden, and do things, which now you just don't.

Take heart!  Hard times call for hard pruning.  We cut ourselves down to the essentials, so we don't break and die.  If something is part of your root-deep self, though, it's not gone.  It's hibernating, or dormant: on hiatus for this season.  It's ok to recoup and regroup.  And maybe it won't grow back the same way it grew before, but I am sure that part of you will flourish again, when the climate in your life is a bit more conducive to growing.

Someday I know you will find yourself saying, "Hey!  I recognize you!  You're me!"

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Twix'n'Chips

I've noticed a phenomena in feeding children that I'd like to call the "Twix'n'Chips test."  Here's how it works: when considering a food item for a child's snack, the adult compares the food item to a bag of chips or a piece of candy.  The adult then decides that the item is not as bad as either the chips or the candy, and so they allow the item to pass as a healthy snack.

Strangely, the Twix'n'Chips test doesn't usually apply the same way to meals.  Adults have largely decided, it seems, that meals should contain meal items and snacks should contain snack items.  So for snacks, kids eat mixed-berry fruit leather, which has some vitamins in addition to its enormous sugar content and chewy candy consistency, and Veggie Chips, which have carrot flour somewhere on the ingredient list.  Then at meals, parents try to convince kids to eat actual real berries and carrots, and the kids don't.

After a hundred repetitions, the parents can begin to lament that their kids are terrible eaters.

I propose a solution: when assessing if an item is a healthy snack food, adults should apply the exact same rules they apply to deciding if an item is a healthy dinner food.  Not "How does this compare to candy?" but "How does this compare to my signature roasted cauliflower with cheese?"  And if the item doesn't stack up as a healthy dinner food, it's not healthy.

I'm a pretty big fan of Dina Rose, who has both a blog and a book that are good reading on the topic of nutrition and feeding kids.  She breaks down the categories of foods as "really good for you," "not too bad," and "junk."  Generally, American parents tend to feed their kids mostly from the middle category, assuming that really good and not too bad foods can and should be grouped together.  But if we want our kids to eat and enjoy foods that are really good for them, it makes more sense to group not-too-bad and junk together.  So so any given day we are choosing either a piece of chocolate birthday cake or a whole wheat muffin, rather than both with the justification that the muffin's not too bad.

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Alternative Facts"

I am irritated that the phrase "alternative facts" is being used to describe "lies."  The concept of alternative facts actually seems useful to me, if it means factual information contextualized differently, rather than fabrications.

There are lot of circumstances where opposing sides of an argument use the same set of factual information to uphold their position.  Here's an example: Planned Parenthood says that only 3% of their services are abortions.  They also say that they serve 2.5 million patients and perform around 300,000 abortions each year, which means that about 1 in 8 Planned Parenthood patients will receive an abortion.  That means that 12% of Planned Parenthood patients receive abortions.  However, the way Planned Parenthood crunches their numbers is by counting every service, rather than every patient, so while 12% of their patients receive abortions, only 3% of the services provided to their patients are abortions.  So every woman who gets a pap smear, an STI test, and a breast exam counts for three separate services.  And any patient who gets a pregnancy test, an abortion, and a birth control prescription counts for three separate services, as well.

Alternative facts: it is true that abortion comprises only 3% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood each year.  It is also true that 12% of Planned Parenthood patients receive abortions.  It is also true that Planned Parenthood provided over 300,000 abortions last year.  Heck, it's even true that Planned Parenthood committed over 300,000 abortions last year, if that's how you'd like to style things.

Depending on the point that you want to make, you can use actual facts to support a variety of claims.  There is no call, no call at all, for styling lies as alternative facts.  Period.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Diversity Isn't Enough

An idea that I've been kicking around in my head and in conversations for a while now is the idea of diversity.  Clearly, in a country with as many different people groups as the US, diversity is a good thing.  It's good to have children's books with diverse characters.  It's good to have many kinds of people in positions of power.  It's good for everyone to see people similar to them represented in media.

However, the majority of the Democratic party seems to have decided that diversity is not just a good thing, but rather that it is the good thing.  The highest ideal of the mainstream Left appears to be diversity.

I said in my last post that all people are created in the image of God and deserve respect as image-bearers of God.  Justice, respect, and full participation in personhood for all people is the goal we should be aiming for.  And diversity on its own doesn't accomplish that.  If anyone is making diversity their highest goal, they are falling far short of justice.

Follow my logic: if diversity is the highest goal, a company with a black, female CEO and non-white people as 60% of their labor force is a paragon of virtue, even if they pay low enough wages that full-time front-line workers qualify for food stamps.  If justice is the highest goal, it's clear that company is failing miserably.

I am certainly not saying diversity is irrelevant.  And I would be horrified to have my words used to justify ignoring the topics of inclusion and marginalization.  However, excellent representation of minority business owners at the top of a morally bankrupt system that further enriches the wealthy at the expense of the poor is a meager kind of progress.

We can do better.

And justice for all.

Monday, January 9, 2017

#BlackLivesMatter

Are you still reading after the title?  Good on you!  In case you were not abundantly clear about this, I'm a white person, so I am not the expert on Being Black In America.  There are, however, lots of really great things on the internet about Being Black In America.  It is beholden on us, the white people, to pay attention to the experience of black people.  It is beholden on us, the Christians, to work for justice for all people, especially those most marginalized.  And in case the link between those sentences is not clear, black people are marginalized.

Whatever our political leanings, we all need to align ourselves in agreement with the Spirit of God and say, "All people are created in the image of God, and all people deserve respect as image-bearers.  All lives matter."  And after we're done saying that, we need to stand up and say explicitly, "Black people are created in the image of God, and black people deserve respect as image-bearers.  Black lives matter."

And, dear hearts, if it's hard for you to say "Black lives matter," take a deep breath and sit with that difficulty.

It is ok to feel uncomfortable.  It is ok to struggle.  It is ok to admit that this racial-justice-thing is unnatural for you, and there are no easy answers, and you don't enjoy thinking about it, and you'd rather just focus on the positive and get on with your day.  I validate your feelings.  You are entitled to all of your feelings.

But it is not ok for white people to sweep the issue of racial injustice aside and gloss over it because we feel bad.  Black lives matter to God.  Black lives need to matter to people who are following God.

Are you ready to get to work?

On seeing the racist world that influences us.
A test of your implicit bias for and against people who look similar and dissimilar to you.
How about looking up your local branch of Showing Up for Racial Justice to see what they're doing?


Saturday, December 3, 2016

A story I tell my little family

Once upon a time there were two grown-up people who loved each other so, so very much.  They were so happy with so much love.

 One day those grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."
So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  He had no hair, and no teeth, and blue eyes, and they named him Z.  And all three people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the Z.  The Z loved the mommy.  AND the Z loved the daddy.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the Z grew and grew.  Soon he had hair, and teeth, and lots of words.  And he still had blue eyes!  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  She had no hair, and no teeth, and brown eyes, and they named her V.  And all four people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The mommy loved the V.  The daddy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the V.  The Z loved the mommy.  The Z loved the daddy.  The Z loved the V.  The V loved the mommy.  The V loved the daddy.  AAAAND the V loved the Z.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the V grew and grew.  Soon she had hair, and teeth, and too many words, and she still had brown eyes.  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people got together and made a baby.  He had no hair, and no teeth, and blue eyes, and they named him L.  And all five people loved each other so, so very much.  The mommy loved the daddy.  The daddy loved the mommy.  The mommy loved the Z.  The mommy loved the V.  The mommy loved the L.  The daddy loved the Z.  The daddy loved the V.  The daddy loved the L.  The Z loved the mommy.  The Z loved the daddy.  The Z loved the V.  The Z loved the L.  The V loved the mommy.  The V loved the daddy.  The V loved the Z.  The V loved the L.  The L loved the V.  The L loved the Z.  The L loved the mommy.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAND the L loved the daddy.  They were so happy with so much love.

Every day the L grew and grew.  Soon he had hair, and teeth, and very loud words, and he still had blue eyes.  One day, the grown-up people looked at each other and said, "There is so much love in this family.  Let's find another person to share it with."

So the two grown-up people called DCFS and said, "If there's a person who needs some love, our family has a lot, and we'd like to share it."

Since every time we share our love, the love just grows and grows, let's see who we can grow more love with next.


Friday, November 25, 2016

NOT Liking Things

I talked a while ago about liking things, and made it quite clear that I fully endorse liking all manner of stuff, and liking it in whatever way feels appealing to you.

Today I want to talk about disliking things.  I can't really say exactly that I endorse disliking, but I also have no strong objections to disliking.  Basically, your feelings belong to you, and you're entitled to have whatever feelings you have.

Let me be 100% clear about this, though: if you do not like something, your dislike belongs to you.  All of your feelings belong to you.  The good feelings, the bad ones, and the in-between feelings are all yours, and yours alone.  The rest of the world exists as it is, and events occur as they do, but your feelings about all of that do not belong to those external things.

If you do not like sushi, your dislike is yours, and it is not sushi's problem.  If you do not like Justin Beiber's music, that's yours, too, and he can go on making formulaic, over-produced songs with total impunity.

Even if your dislike is based on qualities possessed of the things you don't like, while the qualities belong to the things, your dislike does not.  If you think beef tendon is gross because it's super chewy or the beach is awful because it's covered in sand, your preference against beef tendon and the beach are yours.

Even if the things you dislike are objectively harmful, dangerous, or destructive, your feelings about them are yours.  You are perfectly welcome to talk about the objective harmful qualities of a thing, and you are also allowed to talk about your feelings towards a thing.  Both may be valid points in a conversation.  But nothing makes your feelings become an objective quality of the thing you have feelings about.

You own your dislike.

This topic feels particularly pertinent to me today because 1) we just had a super ugly election here in the US, which left just about everyone feeling miserable at least some of the time, and many people feeling long-term miserable and 2) it's Thanksgiving week, which is the first in what often seems like a long line of seasonal obligatory-family-togetherness type holidays.  It's really easy, in the face of tense circumstances, to act like our feelings about Presidential candidates or our in-laws are the same thing as facts about those people.  They just aren't, though.  The only thing our feelings prove is our feelings.

My husband tells me I'm bad at writing the ends of blog posts.  My husband is a pastor, and he likes to give a couple of nice clear application points at the end of every message.  He says my posts so often feel like they're leading up to something, like at the end I'm going to tell people what to do, and then I just don't.

I don't know what to say to that critique.  I'm not going to tell you what to do, in large part because I don't know what you should do.  Clearly I'm not saying, "Don't feel your feelings."  I'm also not saying, "Don't talk about your negative feelings."  Bad feelings are just as valid as good ones.  Feel them, talk about them, even act on them.

I am simply requesting that each of us own our feelings.  Own them, and don't pretend they belong to someone else.  Your feelings: your decisions.  They belong to you.