Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ladies, take your turn

So, have you ever noticed that women, and maybe men, but probably not so much, don't notice when they are taking someone else's turn to talk? They just talk talk talk, never realizing it's not their turn! Very annoying.

Example 1:
So Jessica, one of my co-workers, bought a jogging stroller on Craigslist, and since I love Craigslist I said, "Oh let's see it!" This is at the office, and another woman wants to see it too. This little jaunt will take two minutes to run out the office door and see the stroller in Jessica's car. As Jessica opens the trunk of her car, the other woman, I'll call her Terry, starts telling of an experience she had with a stroller in the rain and at Disney World. What the heck? I just want to see the stroller and tell Jessica, "How cool is that!" (Keep in mind that I don't much like Jessica.) But Terry is just talking and talking about the rain and Disney World and her stroller, and I am thinking, "Hey lady, it's Jessica's turn." I mutter a few "ohs" and "ums" at her Disney World story, and finally Jessica gets to show off her Craigslist stroller.

Example 2:
Terry, who I quite like, has lost 8 lbs since starting the office weight loss challenge. She is the leader in the weight loss game, so I am praising her and telling her what a great job she is doing. (She is already pretty thin, by the way.) She tells me that she even went down a bra size, which we were both thrilled about because in previous conversations we had noted how we desperately hated big boobs. (Sorry if this is all a bit too graphic.) But before she can finish the sentence about losing a bra size, Gina jumps in and says that she had breast reduction surgery 10 years ago, and it was painful, etc. etc. etc. I'm thinking, "Gina, it's not your turn! First let Sherry get a few oohs and ahs for her heroic effort and then you can launch in to your breast reduction story." Let's take turns ladies.

Example 3:
I just returned from a track meet where my daughter was the super star. I posted pics and info on FaceBook about all her glories, so I didn't intend to rehash anything back at the office. But Suzie asks me as soon as I walk in the office door if I was in Princeton, NJ over the weekend--obviously she had seen my FaceBook posts. I say yes. Now dear Suzie does not manage to say, "Wow! Your daughter did terrific." Or heaven forbid, "Tell me about it." No, she immediately starts telling me that thirty years ago when she got out of school she looked in Princeton for a job and a place to live because of this and that and this and that and this and that. On and on she goes about a non-event that took place 30 years ago. But since I have done my time many times with Suzie and listened to all her stories without contributing a single one of my own, I decided not to let her get away with taking my turn this time. So I broke into her extended narrative and said, "Oh, did you see the picture I posted of Mary and that she got first place in this and that and this and that?" And when Suzie said yes, I proceded to pull out my large-screen phone and pull up all my FaceBook pics of Mary at the meet and show them to her! And I even searched back in my FaceBook and pulled up pictures of Elizabeth & Aaron and Stephen & Joyanna! Yeah, well it was my turn.

I first noticed the problem of women who can't stop talking when I was a young mother. When mothers get together, especially mothers of young children, they like to talk about their kids. I loved talking about my kids too, so at first I would join in, till I noticed that nobody really cared a whit about what anyone was saying but themselves. For instance, one woman would tell about a very serious bout one of her kids had with measles or with ear infections or whatever. I'd be very sympathetic because truly the illness sounded so difficult and heartbreaking. I'd even very foolishly ask questions about the child's sickness and express sympathy and wonder at how hard the situation had been. I noticed, however, that the other women in the group would without a breath of hesitation launch into their own tales of sickness and trauma so that several people were talking all at once about what their child had suffered until I was indeed speechless.

Please ladies, learn to take turns, even if you can't muster any genuine interest.

Mary Track Champion

Mary got 1st place in the heptathlon at the 2013 Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championship,


1st place in the high jump,


received the women's Outstanding Field Athlete award,


broke the Harvard outdoor heptathlon school record,


pr'd in six of her seven heptathlon events. What a day!

I will write a bit more about this wonderful two-day track meet at Princeton and post some pictures. But first I have to figure out how to get my cell phone pics off my phone and onto my computer.

I prayed that Mary would take first in the Heptathlon and High Jump, and I'm not a prayin kindagirl. Because it's lame to pray that your daughter win and all that. But what can I say, I did it. Obviously prayers do get answered. ;)

It was a fierce battle; both the Heptathlon and the High Jump could have gone either way--1st or 2nd place. Mary had been training like crazy and was in perfect condition (well a minor foot issue). You should have seen her kill the 800! She hates that run, but she never lagged, and so beat her rival from Princeton.

Dollar Store

So the Dollar store is right next to Staples. I went to Staples, then mosyied over to the Dollar Store and bought 7 gift bags! I love gift bags, and the Dollar Store actually has some pretty cute ones.

I also bought a large bottle of shampoo for Russel because he uses shampoo as soap and so does not deserve good shampoo. I'm just sayin.

Fascinating post, I know.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch

I thought I was going to really like this book. The first few chapters were so interesting; I have them all marked up, but then somewhere along the line it lost its punch. I do very much like the idea of being creators of culture instead of merely explainers or analyzers. Everyone is called to create in some sense.

The basic idea of the book centers on the fact that ones WORLDVIEW may not be as powerful and defining as is often thought, especially a Christian worldview. According to several authors, "the world seems strangely unaffected by the "transforming vision" or our worldview. We may not, in fact, actually embody the values of our worldview; we may just hold it, compartmentalized in our brain somewhere.

"What is wrong? The problem is an ineffectual, "disembodied Christianity, one that makes little difference in culture or even, all too often, in the life choices of its adherents. Yet this is subtly rewritten into a fundamentally intellectual problem, that of insufficient attention to or perception of the Christian worldview."

What is the [supposed] remedy? The remedy is further explication of, and sometimes defense of, the truth of the Christian worldview."[NOT.]

"..seminars, worldview books...these may have some real value if they help us understand the horizons that our culture shapes, but they cannot substitute for the creation of real cultural goods. . . . the culture is not changed simply by thinking." [emphasis mine]

"the academic fallacy is that once you have understood something--analyzed and critiqued it--you have changed it."

"The only way to change culture is to create more of it."

"The greatest danger of copying culture, as a posture, is that it may well become all too successful. We end up creating an entire subcultural world within which Christians comfortably move and have their being without ever encountering the broader cultural world they are imitating. We breed a generation that prefers facsimile to reality, simplicity to complexity (for cultural copying, almost by definition, ends up sanding off the rough and surprising edges of any cultural good it appropriates), and familiarity to novelty. Not only is this a generation incapable of genuine creative participation in the ongoing drama of human culture making, it is dangerously detached from a God who is anything but predictable and safe."

"And when they consume, cultivators and creators do so without becoming mere consumers. They do not derive their identity from what they consume but what they create."

"...to prevent Adam and Eve from living eternally in the futility of their vain attempt to "be like God, knowing good and evil," not realizing that knowing good and evil was very different from being able to choose good and reject evil."

Good stuff.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr

I read this book for another reading group and enjoyed it very much; it is a bit circular, but that is the nature of the subject matter.  Anyway, it is a good book with wonderful insights. From the inside cover:

In the first half of life, we are naturally and rightly preoccupied with establishing our identity--climbing, achieving, and performing. But those concerns will not serve us as we grow older and begin to embark on a further journey, one that involves challenges, mistakes, loss of control, broader horizons, and necessary suffering that actually shocks us out of our prior comfort zone. Eventually, we need to see ourselves in a different and more life-giving way. This message of "falling down"--that is in fact moving upward--is the most resisted and counterintuitive of messages in the world's religions  including and most especially Christianity.

p. 42: ". . . want to circle the wagons around their imagined secure and superior group; who seem preoccupied with clothing, titles, perks, and externals of religion; and frankly have little use for the world beyond their own control or explanation. Ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, and social justice are dead issues for them."

First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God! -Lady Julian

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

This books was on the list for my church reading group. I was not particularly looking forward to it. I mean the title doesn't exactly grab you.

But the book is one of the most remarkable and mind-blowing stories I have read. It just does not add up. Katie was the senior class president and homecoming queen at her high school in the wealthy suburbs of Nashville. She went on a short mission trip to Uganda at Christmas break of her senior year. And her heart never left. Against the hopes and desires of her parents and friends and boyfriend, she returned to Uganda after graduation, promising that she would come back in a year and go to school

Well she never really returned in spirit. She started out teaching school in Uganda but ended up adopting 13 children--probably more by now--and starting a ministry. I can't tell you how unexpected this story is.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was the story of the mother whose culture told her that it was not her responsibility to care for her husband's child by an earlier marriage. The birth mother had died and the father and new wife nearly emotionally and physically starved the boy to death. Katie took him to her home (in Uganda) to wash his sores and diseases and give him food. He was skin and bones, listless, and covered in sores and filth. Eventually, after several attempts of returning the child to his home and then bringing him back to her house to clean and feed, the woman and father began taking care of him. Truly an amazing story that makes you wonder what your own culture has told you is acceptable. We are very blind to what our culture teaches us. Like fish in water, we just don't see it until someone or something shows us a higher reality.

Book Review: Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain

Book Review: Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain

Naturally the title of this book caught my attention.

The author, an introvert, as you might suspect, has put together some very interesting research and anecdotes; she has traced some of the rise and fall of the introvert through history and in different cultures from Rosa Parks to Lewis Carroll. (Asian cultures value introversion, whereas the American culture has a definite bias for extroversion.)  In a world where extroversion is the ideal, Cain seeks to balance the story with the wonderful attributes of introverts.

"We make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions--from the theory of evolution to van Gogh's sunflowers to the personal computer--came from quiet cerebral people...without introverts we would be devoid of:
The theory of gravity, the theory of relativity  W.B. Yeats's "The Second Comping," Chopin's music, Proust's books, Peter Pan, Orwell's books, The Cat in the Hat, Charlie Brown, Schindler's list, Google, Harry Potter."

Susan Cain herself managed to make it as a successful lawyer on Wall Street despite her dislike of the spotlight and of aggression. (Though eventually she left Wall Street because it wasn't a good fit.)

One of the biggest problems of following the extrovert ideal is that people tend to follow extroverts assuming that because they are the loudest and most charismatic they must have the best ideas. But alas tis not so: "He has terrible business sense but great leadership skills, and everyone is following him down the road to ruin."

I read this book over many months so I have forgotten some of the most interesting research and tidbits. I do recommend at least the first half of this book that recounts the studies about introversion and the trends. The second half of the book had a bit too much on encouraging introverted children, etc.

One thing I remember is that introversion is present at birth. One study took infants (or very young children, I can't remember) and played loud noises, balloons, popping sounds, music etc. About a third of the children visibly reacted to the sounds, another third had little reaction. The introverts were the ones sensitive to the disturbance whereas the extroverts could easily cope with whatever the situation--"Hey no big deal!" Extroverts are just not as sensitive to emotional and physical traumas, so they are willing to take more risks in many areas of life. The introversion/extroversion persona continued into adulthood.

Another interesting tidbit was about Eleanor Roosevelt. Usually one thinks of her as a somewhat dowdy, though deeply intelligent, non sexual partner of the president. It was certainly not always that way. Theodore fell very deeply in love with Eleanor. "Many told Eleanor that Franklin wasn't good enough for her. Some saw him as a lightweight, a mediocre scholar, a frivolous man-about-town. . . . Eleanor did not lack for admirers who appreciated her gravitas. Some of her suitors wrote grudging letters of congratulations to Franklin when he won her hand. "I have more respect and admiration for Eleanor than any girl I have ever met," one letter-writer said. "You are might lucky. Your future wife is such as it is the privilege of few men to have," said another.

And of course the book has a bias toward introversion. "It may also help explain why [introverts] are so bored by small talk. If you're thinking in more complicated ways, then talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality."

One of the funniest things in the book was the description of the Harvard Business School. Truly seemed to be a frightening place with wrong-headed ideas on what makes a good leader being forced on students, who apparently play the part with gusto. I have been planning on going over to the business school when I am visiting Mary just to sit and watch the students to see if they are truly as driven and groomed as the author paints them to be.

Anyway, this is a good read and I recommend it.