Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Radical Act of Being Enough

It seems like everyone I know is trying to fix themselves - lose weight, get in shape, clear their house of anything that doesn't bring them joy, be more productive, be a perfect parent, etc. In this environment it feels like a radical act to say "I am enough." And yet, ironically, many of those things become unimportant or fix themselves once you decide that you're enough. Do you want to raise calm, confident, compassionate, creative kids? If they see you feeling that you constantly have to do, be, and have more, that's going to be a tough job. Do you want to be better at self-care? Starting from a place of emotional deficit and self-judgment makes that a steep path to walk. So be radical. Be subversive. Be enough.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Easy granola

The thing about homemade granola is that you can come up with an infinite number of combinations, and as long as your ratio of wet to dry ingredients is right, you can't go wrong. My kid needs a lot of protein in an easy, portable form, so we go through a lot of granola at my house. Here's the recipe we've been using the most lately (it's all very approximate - there's not a lot of measuring going on here):

Mix these together in a bowl:
3 cups of rolled oats or any combination of oats, barley flakes, quinoa flakes, buckwheat flakes, etc.
⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
⅓ cup sunflower seeds (or any kind of nuts you want)
A generous sprinkle of sea salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
A dash of cloves (or just use pumpkin pie spice for all the spices)
Mix these together in a glass measuring cup:
¼ cup melted coconut oil
½ cup maple syrup
1½ tsp vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix well. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 300° for about 25 minutes.

You can also mix in a handful or two of dried fruit right when you take it out of the oven. We usually add currants or dried cherries.

Monday, September 21, 2015

As a wife and mother

So there's this from Conan O'Brien:

And Jenna Lee's response here, in which she admonishes O'Brien on the grounds that she's a wife and a new mother. And a daughter too.

Many news outlets are pointing to the irony of her response, given that it's a standard practice at Fox News to feature female anchors in short skirts with heavy makeup, etc. And apparently there's a leg cam!!

But I think the interesting thing is how she frames her response: "as a wife, and a new mom, this trashy comment is not only inappropriate, it's clearly ridiculous. And not even funny! I'm also someone's daughter..."  Because if you weren't a wife and mother and someone's daughter it would be OK to say inappropriate things about you? Because a woman's worth is entirely derivative of the social relations that legitimize her existence?

It's a very telling response, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The thing about the Duggars

So, I've been thinking about the Duggars off and on lately. A lot has already been said about the apparent hypocrisy in the way they've handled the molestation situation they faced (and now the Ashley Madison situation), as well as the way sexual abuse is handled in their social context in general.

I think all of these conversations point to some profound and disturbing problems in that subculture, but I'm not sure that all of the conversations are productive in that there's a lack of understanding of the worldview and motivations of the individuals in the situation. And without that understanding, the behavior of the adults involved is downright mind-boggling. Although I didn't grow up in a quiverfull situation, my church was very similar on many points of doctrine, especially where the role of women and family dynamics are concerned. So here are some thoughts from a former insider perspective. A sort of retroactive ethnography, so to speak.

The view of children
The confusing thing about the rhetoric surrounding children in this culture is that conservative Christians take themselves to be the only ones with true family values. Children are precious gifts from God etc. etc. So when an abuse situation in the church comes to light (either sexual abuse or those surrounding disciplinary abuse) it's hard to understand how the individuals involved can't see the hypocrisy in their claims. But this is because in their worldview these things are not contradictory.

Here's one way to think of it. A common (in our culture) view of parenting involves parameters for success such as a child who is confident, well-adjusted, thoughtful, creative, independent and who wants to have a relationship with the parent on her own footing. In this view, to value a child is to see her for who she really is, and interact with her accordingly. In this worldview, you could not adhere to abusive disciplinary actions in order to "break the will" of the child or minimize the impact of sexual abuse* and still see yourself as a loving parent. Contrast that with the conservative Christian worldview where children are tools in fighting the "good" fight (arrows in your quiver), and reflections to the world of the parents' faith and parenting ability, and little creatures to be controlled and directed into unquestioning conformity. In some conservative religious circles it's an accepted fact that a child would be better off dead than to be corrupted by a sinful world. Of course this sounds very black and white and in most cases you won't find these extremes. But generally speaking, that is the fundamental difference.

Notice that in the conservative view there is very little thought to the inner life of the child. What do I care about what you're thinking or feeling as long as you are conforming to my rules? Why would I try to see you for who you are and value you as an individual when at the end of the day we were all made in God's image and our job is to obey?

Of course, there is very little room in this view for the long-term impact on the victim of sexual abuse. On the flip side, there's no effective framework for dealing with the abuser either. In most cases the abuser is told "pray for forgiveness and stop doing that" as if it's a light switch he can flip off. The victim is told that she's being selfish and unforgiving because she's still dwelling on something that happened in the past. In this context it's impossible to discuss how the events in our pasts inflict emotional damage and change the trajectory of our development. Because at the end of the day, obedience is all that matters and power takes priority over relationships.**

Advancing the cause of the church
Add to this complexity the concern for the church. In the conservative Christian mindset the church is a lonely island in a sea of depravity, and it's at war on all sides with sin and secularism. Much is made of the scripture warning Christians that they will be persecuted. In this environment, acknowledging abuse or seeking outside assistance in handling it is an admission of a flaw in the church. The church must have a perfect image or it will harm the cause of Christ. Serving Christ is the highest calling of a Christian - even higher than the obligation to protect one's children. When the interests of the child and the interests of the church are pitted against each other, it's highly unlikely that the child will win. In cases where the parent refuses to prioritize the church, the family often ends up leaving the church. For families that live such an insular life (which is encouraged), this can be terribly devastating as well, since the church is your entire community.

Mutual Confusion
So many things about the Duggar situation, and all of the recent news stories about sexual abuse in conservative Christian environments, is completely baffling to people on the outside of the conservative culture. It's just so hard to make sense of the conflicting narratives. But there's no doubt in my mind that it's totally baffling to those on the inside as well. When I see Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar discussing the way they handled the situation, I'm sure that they truly believe the seemingly contradictory statements they affirm. And I'm sure that our view of the situation is completely and totally baffling to them. Why would they have put Josh into treatment and gotten therapy for the girls? What would that have accomplished? That approach, which seems so reasonable and obvious to us, just doesn't make sense when you're looking at the world through their eyes.

No change in sight
At the end of the day, the conversations that seem to be going on are barely scratching the surface. We're simply not speaking the same language, and trying to understand their actions from an outsider perspective is futile. Pointing out the damage that has been done to individuals in their families proves nothing to them, since they'll either dismiss it or find other ad-hoc explanations (pornography, the devil made him do it, it was God's will somehow...) to counter every claim. And in fact, damage to individuals is not a reason to change your practices if they're serving some bigger cause in the long run.

So there it is. No change to be made. No judging them on our terms (although they judge us on their terms). Just an attempt to understand what's going on.

*or squash the natural sexual curiosity of a child until it evolves into deviance, if that is what happened with Josh Duggar
**I'm using "he" for abuser and "she" for the victim here for the sake of convenience, but also because this pattern does reflect the power structure of conservative Christian culture. A female child is in the lowest position on the totem pole, and the least likely to feel that she can speak up for herself.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year

Happy New Year's eve, everyone.

As promised in previous New Year posts, no big resolutions or pronouncements of change coming from here. What will 2015 be like? I suspect we'll all acquire a few new good habits and maybe some that aren't so good as well. But I know we'll muddle through somehow. Which is totally enough. More than enough.  If you think about it, flourishing and blossoming and soaring are all great, but how much of your life is made up of these soaring-through-the-clouds moments? Not very many. The majority of the time, we're muddling through. And we should give ourselves credit for being such damn good muddlers in a busy, complicated world. So I guess there's my New Year's message. Go forth and muddle through. Muddle through like a motherfucker.

I feel like maybe that should be on a t-shirt.

In other news, there were some great feminist moments in 2014. Plenty of other feminist sources have compiled lists, so I'll leave it to them. And I'll leave it to you to go find these fabulous lists.

Today in baby animals, there's this:

baby orca with mom
Baby orca born to endangered whale population 

and this, although this story is not actually about baby manatees, but it is an excellent excuse to post a picture of one:
manatee calf with mother
Manatees died in lower numbers in 2014

and this, although he is most definitely not a baby, he is the coolest dwarf elephant ever of all times, and he kinda look like a baby, so...

dwarf elephant
A Dwarf Elephant With Outsized Attitude

And finally, today in things that are true:
Giving someone your full attention is every bit as valuable as giving them some material thing.

Exhale into cat, inhale into cow.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I want to join this club

An excerpt:
Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The point of the club isn't to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This is not a coincidence

Dozens protest Mars Hill Church after leader resignations and Mark Driscoll apology
In a reversal of what normally happens inside a church, about 65 people stood outside Mars Hill Church in Bellevue on Sunday and called on the pastor of the mega-church to acknowledge his sins and repent.
The quiet, peaceful demonstration — “It’s very unusual to have evangelicals protesting,” said participant Jim Henderson — was directed at the church’s controversial, authoritarian and domineering co-founder and senior pastor, Mark Driscoll.
The pastor’s attitudes toward women, and belief in male dominance of marriage, has caused some Mars Hill members to leave and a few to show up Sunday outside the church.
“I am an ex-member who left a couple years ago, because my views on life and women evolved,” said Elizabeth Smith. “I come from a Jewish family, a family with strong women. It appeared, at the church, most development attention was given to me. Women were seen as accessories in marriage.”
Rob Smith (no kin), a former program director at Mars Hill, cited Driscoll’s “disregard for women’s voices,” adding: ”In the church’s view, women are just objectives. They are there to please their husbands. In my theology, Jesus freed women. Jesus was surrounded by strong women.”
Driscoll has also apologized for hiring a firm to spike sales of his co-authored book “Real Marriage” to get it on the New York Times bestseller list. Notes of attribution have been added in another book where he was accused of lifting thoughts from other authors.
I know how most of the people within evangelical circles will spin this. This is an isolated individual acting on his own. He has made some mistakes, and don't we all need the grace of God?

The fact is, you see this happening again and again at one church after another. It's not a coincidence. There is a consistent culture within evangelical churches where male leaders are elevated to a status that is beyond question or challenge (and if you want to challenge them, you'll be shown the door in short order). It leads to serious misbehavior, in one form or another every time. Every. Single. Time. If it hasn't happened yet, it will.

His Royal Highness
In the vast majority of the cases, nothing will happen to His Royal Highness. He will admit to his "sin" in some half-assed way and ask for forgiveness. Then he's immediately in the clear, and the onus is shifted to those who are having trouble coping with the fallout. As they try to heal from the harm done, they will be labeled "unforgiving," and will be shamed and punished for not letting it go and moving on already. This is thought to be Christian Behavior. Why? Because this is not a church - it's a cult of personality.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the News

From Women Who Run Tech Startups Are Catching Up:
Women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieve 35 percent higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12 percent higher revenue than male-owned tech companies. That’s according to new research presented at a recent conference in San Francisco organized by Women 2.0, a media company devoted to women founders in the tech industry. It indicates female entrepreneurs, who have traditionally lagged behind their male counterparts, are catching up, at least by some measures.
 Interesting, no?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Mirror Test II

So there's this guy I know. We'll call him Frank. Frank has a heart condition, and has had to undergo numerous medical treatments and takes several medications every day. Everyone says it's a blessing that he has such good health insurance. In fact, years ago Frank switched jobs to work for his current employer precisely because the medical and dental insurance were so good. All of his working life he has faithfully paid his portion of the premium, and now it's paying off. He's getting the care he needs.

In another office down the hall from Frank there's a young woman. We'll call her Megan. Megan also had a couple different employers to choose from and like Frank, one of the reasons she chose her current employer is because of the health coverage. All of her working life she has faithfully paid her portion of the health insurance premium. In conjunction with her employer, she is paying for health insurance.

Nobody ever says that Frank is wanting something for free. Nobody refers to his employer as Uncle Sugar. Nobody suggests that he ought not get the medical care he needs because his "lifestyle" brought on this particular need. Nobody says "if you want to dance you have to pay the piper." This in spite of the fact that Frank spent years eating lots of red meat and very few fruits and veggies, and living an extremely sedentary lifestyle. He made personal choices that directly contributed to his current condition. Yet everyone is happy that Frank was able to purchase health care coverage at an affordable price.

But Megan? If she wants her health insurance to cover her prescriptions (such as contraception) then she is wanting something for free. She is whoring herself out to Uncle Sugar. She's asking us to pay for something that results from her personal choices - from her "lifestyle." If she wants to dance, then she ought to pay the piper. Nobody remembers that she is doing the exact same thing that Frank is doing - working a job where she earns affordable insurance coverage as a part of her compensation package.

Funny, don't you think?