Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Must-Reads (September 29)

Photo: Linda Nylind for The Guardian

Happy Monday!  Here are some good, if not disturbing reads, that made their way to my phone this week.

For parents who want their kids not to cave to peer pressure: "This is What Brave Means."

For those who love the Cosby Show, Claire Huxtable in particular, and how black women are empowered through TV portrayals: "Claire Huxtable, TV's Great Angry Black Woman."

For those who feel we emphasize that beauty = value far too often: "Enough."

For women and men who care about gender equalityEmma Watson's HeForShe address to the United Nations....And, this article from The Guardian about the incidence of sexual assault perpetrated by campus fraternities.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

For You Who Live at Home, (Epistolary Wednesday)

On Wednesdays, I write letters.

For You Who Live at Home,

I left a conference a couple weekends ago after speaking at its three sessions. The event was well-put together, inspiring, crafted and--I’ll say it--touched by heaven in all the right ways.  I received the sort of feedback you would wish for if you had traveled halfway across the country and poured your heart and soul into two-and-a-half hours of sharing with 300 women. There were moments of deep connection, as if the power of sharing our stories and God’s stories bound up some of our broken hearts.

Afterward, as I boarded the O’Hare-bound flight, I was content with the outcome of the conference and ready to see my family. It was then, as I stood in the aircraft to find my seat that I received news that my book had been reviewed in one of our local papers.

It was a terrible review.

Terrible both in its opinion of the book and (in my opinion) its way of reviewing. 

Naturally, I did what any of you might do and I sent a link to the review to all of the people who I think love my book the best, an invitation to all of them to write their best rebuttals, to boost my self-esteem, to reassure me that the work I’d broken my heart over was indeed worthy, was indeed worthwhile, was indeed something other than “terse” and “vague.”

And this fleet of writing and non-writing friends came through. After my three-hour flight, I had re-patched that hole in my writerly armor.

But before hearing from my friends, while I was up in the sky, I tried to root myself. Closed my eyes, thought a prayer, asked for heaven’s way of thinking about my book and this review. And as quickly as I did, I gave up listening—too agitated, too anxious. I flipped on the plane’s entertainment console and scrolled through television show options. The only thing that interested me were the three TED talks, and one in particular labeled “Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating.”  I didn’t realize that this talk was given by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Eat-Pray-Love guru. I didn’t realize that she would be discussing her own failure and success in writing. And as this seven-minute video unwound for me, I was startled by what seemed to be heaven’s answer, delivered while I was suspended in the sky.
Gilbert wrote about the blinding success of Eat, Pray, Love and the equally uprooting failure of her subsequent book, both of which flung her far off from her “home,” her Rooted Middle. Home, she said, “is whatever you love in this world more than you love yourself.” And you get back there by “putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.”

It raised the right questions for me: Where was my Middle? Where was my Home? And what task was love calling forth from me next? I pictured myself on a quiet, sunny day in front of the piano keyboard in my office, in stillness, in quiet, making music, and, in front of the laptop keyboard, fitting words together. I thought of my literal home, filled with shoes and laundry and messy little people who would need their lunches packed, their skinned elbows patched and their worries soothed the next day. Great failure and great success don’t eliminate the beckoning of our Rooted Middles, our Homes. Those call to us whether we are suffering divorce and betrayal or job loss, whether we've received great performance reviews or all the praise we could ever imagine garnering. And in this sense, Home becomes our hiding place from the trauma and drama and clamor of public opinion. Also, Home is the place that shows you if you're loving well and if you respect and revere the job before you in the way it merits your respect and reverence. This is something success and failure won't ever tell you.

And so I resolve to do what you have done so well. When life flings me far off center, I will skirt and jump and run and dodge and roll my way back to Home.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Must-Reads (Monday, September 22)

Well, in case you were paying attention, I missed posting must-reads last week. I was jet-lagged and a little windswept by an amazing trip and conference at Higher Vision Church in Valencia, CA, where I had the opportunity to speak at their Masterpiece conference. In between and amongst all my travels, I enjoyed reading:

For you mamas struggling to love yourself: Sarah Bessey's Dear Body.

For you theologians: "Act Like Men": What Does Paul Mean?

For you Christians who want to compassionately understand the "other" side: What I Learned About Atheists from God's Not Dead. (And, thank you, Neil Carter, for putting into words what troubled me so much about this movie.)

For anyone alive: Glennon Melton's How We Live a Hard and Good Life.

For you bloggers: insight from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary on how Not Everyone Likes You.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Skinniest Me, (Epistolary Wednesday)

On Wednesdays, I write letters.

Dear Skinniest Me,

This is my breakup letter to you.

I've spent so much time trying to keep you and, strangely, there were times I had you and didn't realize I had you 'til you'd slipped away again. (Such a common misfortune among my thirties-aged friends, I find.) I know I had your attention three years ago, for about a month. And then there was the time five years before that. You keep showing up like an old boyfriend at a high school reunion who promises connection and longevity and then fails to deliver. And as hard as I've tried to keep in touch, you just haven't kept it up on your end.

And believe me when I say I've really tried--there was the summer that, for allergy reasons, I drank bone broth for weeks and ate only overly cooked cauliflower. And then the year, for chronic pain issues, I swore off anything that might inflame (read: carbs). Each time, I thought you were going to stay, but you didn't, and you left me adrift, all Skinniest-Me-Is-My-Soulmate-but-Skinniest-Me-Gone-Broke-My-Heart.

Relationships take two, you know.

All the walking. All the yoga. Even the kettle bells after the third baby--those godforsaken kettle bells--did not win you back.  Did you ever know a gal that got walked out on and then just Couldn't. Move. On? What do therapists say to girls like that? Let him go, Honey. You can do better.


So I'm not waiting around for you, Skinniest Me. I'm not going to be checking the scale every morning to see if you're on a flight back to the mother ship. I'm not even going to keep the clothes on your side of the closet and in those pre-first-pregnancy bins downstairs. No. I'm really moving on.  If you come back, that's your call. Don't expect me to be holding my breath or throwing any parties for you. We girls have gotta to find someone that makes us feel like we're more than just some skin and just some bones. We've gotta find a reason for getting up in the morning other than those Skinniest-Me jeans. Because we've got Skills and we've got Dreams and we've got Places to Be and Things to Do and People to Talk To and a World to Change and We Don't Got the Time to waste on wondering if you're gonna call.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dear Couch-to-5K App (Epistolary Wednesday, September 10),

Dear Couch-to-5K App,

There's so much promise in your description--a simple hyphenated identifier that links lethargy and weakness to domination and endurance. Do you know I've been trying to master you, or something like you, for fifteen years? Before that, in high school, I never really even tried to run. I was the kid with the doctor's note and the inhaler the size of a small squirrel that I carted around for line dancing and aerobics units in P.E. Run the mile? Ha. I got out of everything that got my heart rate up just a teeny bit. And to be honest, I lost no sleep over missing any of these sweaty indignities.

Then, in my early twenties, when fitness seemed like the thing to achieve (and in the land of severe body dysmorphia that so many of us gals traverse), I tried to run and I was full of pain and felt like my body was going to fall apart or lock up or implode and so I had to stop. Also, I had no plan, no goal, no pathway to run longer, faster.  But you now, you offer steps--that are sometimes just a little slow for my taste but they make this whole endeavor possible, doable.  Me and my treadmill and my crappy running shoes that hurt my feet started out running one-and-a-half minute stints about seven weeks ago and now, this week, I'm going to run for 40. God willing.

I sure hope he is.

Sure, it's been uncomfortable. My trapezius muscles are screamy for some reason, and my arches started to ache, which precipitated the purchase of the $100 dollar running shoes, but my greatest moment in our journey together so far was the 13-minute mile. You may laugh, but it's never been done before by this body, this woman who had has had three babies and allergies and asthma and neck injuries. You made me a believer. I can run. I am one of those people who can.

Now, there's one thing I'm not. I'm not the woman who can lose twenty pounds doing this.  Couch-to-5K does not equal slimmer, necessarily, and I had to surrender that hope, it couldn't be about weight loss or inches loss because whenever exercise is about that, and whenever that is not achieved, it's a sure-fire formula for Giving Up. Because who would keep running 40-minute stints for weight loss if they never lost weight?  Answer: a crazy person would.

So here's me celebrating something unseen--a heart rate that stays elevated for longer than two minutes without my running out of breath, and the ability to pace myself and finish well, which is, really, what I want for all of life, not just for these new miles in these new shoes.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Monday Must-Reads (September 8, 2014)

Photo: Linda Nylind for The Guardian

Happy Monday, y'all. So, I read as much as I normally do this week and there wasn't as much that moved me as usual. But here are three little tidbits that got me kind of excited.  The first one, the one I'm calling the amazing screen-time experiment, appears to be absolutely genius on the surface. It took me, I don't know, fifteen minutes after reading it to implement and design my own version. And now my children are asking to get up early to do chores (!) and read (!) and do "productive, creative activities" (!). Jury's still out on the longevity of this plan, but Day 3 is going great. 

Sarah Bessey's here, on seasons of our lives where we haven't quite grown in all the ways we'll be glad we've grown later, and being gracious toward our younger selves: I know. I'm sorry. I hope I was kind.

And, this week was a double header for hearing that two babies were coming to two moms who've experienced long roads of miscarriage and infertility in their mama years: love this story from, again, Sarah: "173 beats a minute: on one surprising little baby and the possibility of tiny miracles."

Have a good one!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dear Seventh Grader, (Epistolary Wednesday, September 3)

Learning is Required from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Enokson, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
It's a bit overwhelming, all of the flyers we are handed at Back-To-School-Night for parents, as we race through a two-hour version of your day--no time to introduce ourselves to your teachers, just enough for them to get halfway through their presentation on Expectations and Rules and Late Work. It seems, at times (maybe because of the lengthy lists of homework assignments sorted by date on their slide shows) that they are expecting us to do this work, to keep track and get things handed in. You'll want to make sure. You'll want to check. These are phrases I hear over and over throughout these first two weeks of junior high when teachers and administrators talk to us parents and I think, I don't have time to manage the full-time job of a seventh grader who is also in cross country practice for an hour and a half after school. Who has time for that? Also, I'm not sure I want to sign up for the texting service that will remind me of Global Studies projects and science assignments. 

I know that some of your classmates' parents have to, in order to help their kids succeed. That's a hard, hard job. So I'm thankful that, in so many ways, you are prepared for all of this responsibility. You know how to keep track, make lists. Your upbringing has cultivated in you just the right amount of anxiety by which you're driven to fill out worksheets on time, hand in two-paragraph "essays" (Although, newsflash: two paragraphs does not a real essay make!).

Still, this Junior High is a New World where it doesn't necessarily matter how diligent you are or how responsible. What matters is your score. What matters is the "work." No more points for just doing homework. Points are for getting homework right. The difference between an A and a B on math homework might be that when you carried the "one" you forgot to add it into the other numbers in the column. Boom. B.

While grade school was so full of mercy, this New World is not. And I sometimes wish you'd been a bit better prepared in other areas--in sentence mechanics, for example: run-on sentences and missing periods never cost you so much as a point or a missed recess in sixth grade. Now you get As for periods in the right places and you get points taken away in their absence. (Finally, finally, someone is going to convince you to take the sentence seriously even though I've been trying since you were eight. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.)

While it's a all bit overwhelming for you, I must confess I find myself swimming in a small pool of relief  All those skills I've been watching you develop and waiting for you to master--to be motivated to master--are within mastery's reach. Think: typing! Think: practicing the trombone with more regularity. Think: taking the long way when deconstructing a book plot rather than short-cutting through worksheets. So much is on the horizon. All because of Seventh Grade. The whole world has opened up to you, taking you quite seriously for the first time: hard practices, hard drills, missing points, consequences. I've always taken you seriously, of course, but like grade school, I've been brimming with mercy, shielding you when I could from Discomfort and Unpleasantness and, as parents are sometimes guilty of doing, shielding myself from the Unpleasantness of your displeasure.

Now you have all these other adults in your life who will work with me to expose you to rigor and discipline, which will result in your broadening your horizons and your scope for critical thought. I could have wept with gratitude--your Language Arts teacher talking about the greatly detailed feedback you will get on your writing ability this fall, your Literacy teacher saying she is going to push you to "prove" your interpretations now with textual evidence. This is so good. It's the stuff I live for. I'm a little bit of a language arts nerd, as you know, and I'm so glad we can share this now.  And I'm secretly as delighted as you are that you got an A+ on that "essay" I helped you with.

That's my daughter-of-an-English-major girl. 

Monday, September 01, 2014

Monday Must-Reads and Watches (September 1)

Photo: Linda Nylind for The Guardian
Happy September to you readers! I've got a great list of reads this week, starting out with something reminiscent of a topic we'll be covering at our women's retreat this coming October (all ya locals are invited!)--it's What I Want You To Know About Being the Stepmom.

There's also a humorous account of a parent's "back-to-school" experience in 2014 vs. 1970, which dovetails nicely with Health, Home, & Happiness's post about helping children feel content without feeling deprived.

Kate Conner has a great meditation "On Ripening" and Sarah Bessey writes to her husband about their married love, which will go down in the family history books as the stuff of legend. 

Owlhaven is challenging us all to spend less and save on groceries this month, something I will have a hard time doing because of all the back-to-school extras we've been buying. 

On a more serious-but-funny-to-make-a-point is Jon Stewart on White Privilege.

Also, Matthew Paul Turner's Lingering Effects of Fundamentalism is for those still raw from harsh religious church cultures and, speaking of church culture, this is the latest on Seattle's Mars Hill church: the board of elders are asking for Mark Driscoll to resign and seek personal help

Until next time!