The Hard Reality Saturday, Mar 11 2017 

This is the hard and important reality of marriage and family and community and working with others and…you get it.

I fell in love with this quote and artwork here (no photo because it is copyrighted). 

Here’s the quote

Wash the plate not because it’s dirty nor you’re told to wash it but because you love the person who will use it next.

~Mother Theresa

Oh! Now to live it out…

Learning to Sabbath Sunday, Mar 5 2017 

So, here’s the thing…this is one of those awkward post in which saying the thing, you kind of undo the thing. For example, if I say that I have become more humble, then the very silent or verbal acknowledgement of that fact undoes it. I’m writing about what I am doing for Lent, not with the intent to humble-brag or share some weird piety, but to document my journey in a space to wrestle with community in developing a new and counter-cultural spiritual discipline. I seek the stories of others who are wiser and farther along  on this path than I am.

As a Southern Baptist (aka evangelical Christian, although that term leaves a bad taste in my mouth in this neo-Trump era), I don’t come from a faith tradition that typically embraces or observes Lent. However, I have acknowledged and participated in the Lenten season more often than not since college. Sometimes I give up something, but I have learned that I usually do that for silly, non-spiritual reasons. Sometimes I take on a new habit such as prayer or hospitality. Recently I have been doing a lot of reading about the concept of Sabbath. First, our small group at church read the Walter Brueggemann book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. On my own, I am currently reading Shelly Miller’s book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. I am savoring this book slowly and reading one chapter every Saturday, alone in the still of the morning. I have also recently read The Slow Professor by Barbara Seeber and Maggie Berg. Although this book, in contrast to the others, is not written from a spiritual perspective, many of the themes of being counter-cultural and going against social norms are quite similar.

For Lent, I am working on the developing the skill of taking a real Sabbath. One thing I have considered is that observing Shabbat is well-known and respected in Jewish culture. Most people would consider it insensitive not to honor the fact that  observant Jews rest from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. However, even I as a Christian, don’t really honor that fellow Christians might be observing a day of rest. We expect people to be at our beck and call, to respond, to work, almost 24/7 these days. Part of that reason comes from the fact that even among Christians who do practice observing a Sabbath, that day may vary. A Sabbath day, although historically a Saturday, has been made into a Sunday in the contemporary Christian church, with most believers not setting it aside for any special restorative purpose. Some people who do observe a Sabbath may do so on a Wednesday or a Friday due to work schedules. In our post-New Testament culture, it seems that the day of Sabbath doesn’t matter in terms of day of the week, but the purpose of Sabbath still exists and is an important Biblical COMMAND.

I have thought I was observing the Sabbath in the past. I typically take a nap on Sundays and have a fairly relaxing afternoon. However, I am often up late, grading or prepping for Monday morning classes and end my Sunday feeling stressed and begin my work week feeling out of sorts. I do have in my syllabi that I don’t respond to email after 5:00 pm during the week or or weekends, and my students respect that. However, fellow committee members and colleagues often still send emails requiring timely, if not immediate responses.

This weekend I brought home a big bag of grading. I have to teach two classes tomorrow morning. I need to resubmit a research proposal and work on a couple of conference presentations. I am even farther behind than usual because I had an out of town conference last Thursday afternoon until Saturday, so I had a shorter than usual work week and a busy, tiring weekend. Still…I am resting. The grading will wait until tomorrow. Since I am rested today and will go to bed earlier than usual, I will get up early to finish last minute prep for class. For now, my rest and my dependence is on God. Class will still happen, learning will take place, and the household will continue to function without me in control. That’s the lesson of Sabbath–dependence on God. I don’t have to do it all and that is so freeing. However, Sabbath isn’t about chucking responsibilities. It’s about refreshment from them, so I am rested and prepared to start anew tomorrow, with a peaceful soul and renewed creativity and vigor.

I am not being legalistic about what I can and can’t do on the Sabbath. I am not doing housework. There is laundry piled up that I would usualy do on Saturday, but it didn’t get done because I wasn’t here. (And laundry is not “women’s work”–my husband washed sheets and towels and remade beds while I was gone. I just don’t like him to wash the clothes because there are always some items that need different instructions). I am not opposed to baking on Sunday, but I won’t be cooking any big meals or doing big food prep. We’ll rely on sandwiches, leftovers, and the crock pot. Today, we had a simple lunch of apples, cheese, and crackers. For supper, I fried up some leftover rice with a few vegetables that we had on hand. Each “meal” took no longer than 15 minutes.


The afternoon was spent reading and napping, followed by ironing fabric in preparation for cutting out a new quilt (an artistic pursuit, rather than a chore or work), planning out and designing the quilt, watching a little TV with Robert, and crocheting. Sabbath for me will mean no work, relying on God, engaging in creative pursuits, spending time outside, watching a movie and reading, spending time with friends and families, and reflecting on the past week and the one to come. It will include laughter, may include media, and perhaps hospitality. It will not be the dreaded, dour experience that Laura Ingalls Wilder described of her grandfather’s Sabbath experience in Little House in the Big Woods.

When your Grandpa was a boy, Laura, Sunday did not begin on Sunday morning, as it does now. It began at sundown on Saturday night. Then everyone stopped every kind of work or play.
Supper was solemn. After supper, Grandpa’s father read aloud a chapter of the Bible, while everyone sat straight and still in his chair. Then they all knelt down, and their father said a long prayer. When he said, “Amen,” they got up from their knees and each took a candle and went to bed. They must go straight to bed, with no playing, laughing, or even talking.
Sunday morning they ate a cold breakfast, because nothing could be cooked on Sunday. Then they all dressed in their best clothes and walked to church. They walked because hitching up the horses was work, and no work could be done on Sunday.
They must walk slowly and solemnly, looking straight ahead. They must not joke or laugh, or even smile. Grandpa and his two brothers walked ahead, and their father and mother walked behind them.
In church, Grandpa and his brothers must sit perfectly still for two long hours and listen to the sermon. They dared not fidget on the hard bench. They dared not swing their feet. They dared not turn their heads to look at the windows or the walls or the ceiling of the church. They must sit perfectly motionless, and never for one instant take their eyes from the preacher.
When church was over, they walked slowly home. They might talk on the way, but they must not talk loudly and they must never laugh or smile. At home they ate a cold dinner which had been cooked the day before. Then all the long afternoon they must sit in a row on a bench and study their catechism, until at least the sun went down and Sunday was over.



If you are interested in joining me in this pursuit of the spiritual discipline of Sabbath, I would love to know so we can share and support one another. If you’re just thinking about it, I highly recommend the two books above, as well as the Sabbath Society (weekly Friday newsletter and special month Sabbath calendar).

Who Will I Be? Saturday, Jan 28 2017 

These three pillows that I made a few years ago have been taken out of retirement because we need to see them every day. Micah 6:8


I wrote this blog post, Who Would I Have Been?, 10 years ago while contemplating Martin Luther King, Jr. In it I wrestled with who I would have liked to have been and hoped I would be during the great fight for civil rights in the south during the 60s and 70s. Being 10 years older, maybe a little wiser, and with more life experience under my belt, I would change quite a bit about what I wrote then. I was totally unaware of the concept of privilege at the time I wrote the original post and I thought being color-blind was a good thing. Thankfully, I have grown and learned. However, never in all of my imagination could I have dreamed that I would get a real chance to answer the question that I posed in that blog post 10 years ago.

I have cried reading accounts of babies being detained in Chicago today and translators being detained in New York. I have wept reading about a Christian (not that it matters AT ALL) Syrian family of six who was to resettled in Cleveland on Tuesday, find out that they will remain in a refugee camp instead. I have read of college students, professors, scientists, husbands, and wives wondering how long they will be separated from each other, their extended families, their jobs, their homes, their education, their present, and their future. So, now the rubber meets the road. For Christians, REAL Christians who follow a radical, shocking, poor, gracious, merciful, compassionate Middle Eastern Jew and haven’t acquiesced their faith to a false conservative lowercase “g” god who looks and acts like us, this is our time. We have to stand up for our brothers and sisters the world over. Our fellow Christians don’t get higher priority either. We are to love all regardless of where they came from or who or what they believe in. God’s grace and mercy are scandalous and we are called to the same.

I have realized that I am pretty sure, although terrified, I would be willing to be arrested for protesting. I know that we would gladly open our home to refugees and immigrants. We took in three complete strangers from New Orleans for a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Native country, skin color, religion, or mother tongue makes no difference. 

But, ah, here’s the rub!

We live in a relatively small town in mostly rural and very white Central Wisconsin. Our largest minority group is the Hmong people, who are here because they were refugees. We do have some students and faculty here on green cards and student visas, but other than that, we aren’t a hub for refugees and immigrants. I’d love to go to an airport tonight to protest or greet international travelers, but Minneapolis and Chicago are each about a four hour drive. I would love to sponsor or take in a family or be a friend to someone from one of the banned countries who is facing sleepless nights and uncertainty, but I don’t personally no anyone. I have emailed and signed petitions. I have planned to call senators and representatives, but almost everyone I know who has done so said that voice mailboxes are full and you can’t even leave a message. I will keep trying. I have donated to Preemptive Love Coalition, whose resources go to help Syrian regugees in particular. I have been and will continue to pray. But I want to do more.

I feel helpless to know what to do. I feel like the US, as we know it, is spinning wildly out of control and we are becoming a country that most of us don’t want to be. However, there is no guidebook for this moment. I don’t know what to do. Yes, I do have the bible and it speaks plenty about loving the marginalized, the foreigner, and the refugee. And fear. Well, perfect love casts out fear! In the story of Daniel, it gives examples of how to stand against corrupt leaders. I know that the greatest commandment is to love others–not others who are Christian, not others who are American, not others who I feel safe with, not others who speak my language. Simply…others. Period. I feel like I am capable of doing that, but I don’t know how to practically and personally do that. I’ve wondered what I would do in this moment. Now it is here. I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to do it. For starters, I’m getting this framed and hanging it in my office. It’s a weird size so I’ve put off getting in framed because it will be pricey, but I think its mere presence conveys an important message. A few years ago I had a student from Saudi Arabia and ended up serving on her master’s committee in special education and she gave me this as a thank you. It says “Dr. Terrell” in Arabic calligraphy. 


I respect the office of the president of the US, but I in NO WAY respect our current president and I want that written here for all of posterity. I so strongly disagree with almost everything he has done as president and definitely am opposed to the manner in which he has done it. I think he is a petulant, tempermental, narcissist who is only concerned about himself and obtaining power and money. He is not concerned for the greater good. I am disheartened by those who are lawmakers and could confront or stop him and do not do so. I am angered and disappointed by those who call themselves Christians and are still in support of him after this first week. I can still pray for him, and I do, but that doesn’t mean that I have to respect him. I will not “wait and see.” I have seen enough. I am working on my attitude to acknowledge that he too was created in the image of God and know that God loves him in a way that I can’t fathom…and that is definitely an ongoing work. (Reminiscent of Mark 9:24 ” Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.”)

As for the people groups he is banning and further marginalizing (so far, women, those with disabilities, those of another racial/ethnic/religious background, scientists, the poor) I want to love, welcome, embrace, and share in a way that confounds people, just like Jesus did. Now to figure out what that looks like for me in real life…

Love Doesn’t Follow Rules Tuesday, Jan 24 2017 


Not quite a year ago, the canvas pictured above was leaning in the door jamb of my office when I arrived at work. There was no name on it and no card attached, but it as definitely placed so that I would see it. I looked around and didn’t see anyone. I asked our departmental administrative assistant if she had seen anyone around or had any idea who left it. She hadn’t seen anyone and didn’t have any ideas. Normally I would have just shrugged and gone about my day, but the message was a bit creepy. It sounded kind of stalkerish. And…because I teach at a university, I was a bit freaked out that the “love” that didn’t “follow the rules” was some student’s weird Mrs. Robinson/The Graduate kind of scenario. The admin asst suggested I call the custodian to see if she knew anything about it, but I had to teach, then got busy. I thought about it off and on for a few days and still felt a little skeeved out, but not too worried.

Fast forward a few days later…one of my female graduate students said, “Hey, did you get the painting that I left by your door?” What!? She gave it to me? Now I was simultaneously relieved and confused. Sensing my bemusement, she went on to explain that she likes being crafty and she buys canvases at thrift shops and repaints them with quotes. She thought I’d get a kick out of it, since that quote was something I said in class. 

A ha!

A couple of class periods earlier, in my school-age language disorders course, we were discussing the complexity of spelljng and how, although there are many conventional spelling patterns, pronunciation may not align with those patterns. Off the cuff, I mentioned the word “love.” I went on to explain that typically when words have a vowel-consonant-silent “e” pattern, then the vowel is long. That’s the basic, English spelling/pronunciation pattern. However, I mentioned that love doesn’t follow the (spelling) rule because we should pronounce it like “cove” instead of “luv.” Amused with myself for my random example that love doesn’t follow the rules, I commented that although this wasn’t a philosophy course, we could continue to ponder not only the spelling, but the deeper meaning that “love doesn’t follow rules.” We had a good laugh and moved on.

And now the uncreepified painting hangs proudly in my office as a great classroom memory. It just probably disturbs people who come and visit now.

Why Hidden Figures Made Me Mad Saturday, Jan 14 2017 

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Robert and I finally made it to see Hidden Figures tonight. It is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Excellent acting, great direction, and a compelling, inspiring story made for a wonderful date night movie. I cried a couple of times, which is par for the course. Mostly they were tears of happiness, triumph, and celebration for these women in particular and the great sisterhood of woman in general. However, I had twinges of anger throughout the movie and my weepiness during the closing credits was joy mixed with a tinge of anger that I felt as an undercurrent bubbling in my being throughout the movie. So how could a movie of triumph against the odds, the story of some strong, principled women overcoming the racist, sexist status quo of the early 60s make me angry? Here’s why:

  1. I am mad that I was ignorant of this story, these women, and their significant contributions to science. Why am I just now hearing about this? Now, I know that there is no way that I can learn and know about every great human interest story and every female contribution to science, the arts, the humanities, politics, exploration, etc. However. this is a big one. (Minor spoiler) The part about John Glenn waiting until Katherine Johnson rechecked the math before launch? That was accurate. That’s huge! We all know who John Glenn is, but why has the name of Katherine Johnson never been mentioned in his narrative? I have blogged before about my young obsession with strong women as a young girl and latent feminist. Sacagawea was a hero to me, along with Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Blackwell, Susan B. Anthony, and Marie Curie. And there’s more…so many scientific trailblazing women that we never learned about in school. While we were focusing on Copernicus, Edison, Einstein, Newton, and Turing, no one ever mentioned Mary Anning (I previously wrote about her here), Grace Hopper, and Ada Lovelace.
  2. I am mad that there are so few movies that star and focus on women and so few movies with female actors in general that pass the Bechdel test. We just don’t see many movies that star a female posse like this one. Occasionally there is a Silkwood or Erin Brockovich kind of breakout female role, that usually results in an Oscar win. However, those types of roles for actresses are few and far between and when they occur it is usually in the context of a solo woman or a woman and her gal-pal sidekick. This movie was refreshing in that it was a trio of strong female leads representing three real women who did remarkable, amazing things. I also read an article about the movie that made a very valid point that not only was the movie about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, but also about a whole community. There was the whole “squad” of the West Computers, plus the greater black community in Hampton, VA. They stood in solidarity, they supported one another, and they acknowledged that advancement for one was advancement for all. And yeah, the Bechdel Test. If you’re not familiar with it, the gist is that a film passes the test if two women, usually named women, talk to each other about something other than a man. It is reserved for fictional movies and as you can probably imagine, most rom-coms fail miserably. Although this movie was largely true, it does pass the Bechdel test with flying colors, which begs the question…If women in real life frequently have conversation with each other that don’t include talking about men, shouldn’t art imitate life?
  3. I’m mad that math wasn’t taught in a more imaginative and tantalizing manner when I was in school. Although definitely the right choice, it is was very hard for me to change my major from biology/English (pre-med) to speech and hearing sciences for many reasons. One of those reasons that I had wanted to be a renegade of sorts and planned to go into a profession that was predominately male. My grand plan was to go to medical and not go into the more female-dominated specialties of pediatrics or obstetrics/gynecology. No, I wanted to be a neurologist or a neonatalogist. Then, what do you know, I went into an overwhelmingly female profession after all. It was the right choice as I love what I do and it is the perfect marriage of my love of language and science. For the same reasons, I wish I had been more interested in math and that would have been the case if I had had the right person to present math in a different way to me. Even though “girls aren’t good at math,” I always was. I enjoyed math and did really well in my math classes, with geometry and trigonometry being my two favorites. I was even on the math team for a year. Things went awry my senior year in high school when I took calculus. I did okay in the class , making As and Bs, but it was a tough class and even with those grades I didn’t feel like I had a good grasp on what I was doing or that I understood anything conceptually. I was so confused by positive and negative infinity. I think I learned enough of the rote mathematical manipulations to succeed in the class, but I didn’t know the whys and hows. I took pre-calculus as a review in college and then calculus again—same issues. I had no conceptual understanding. I now have friends who are math professors and their eyes light up when they talk about mathematical concepts, the consistency of math, and the imagination of math. I wish I had had an instructor who lit that fire for me. A teacher who, instead of lecturing me on formulas and theorems, had shown the unique and creative ways to use math to problem-solve, create, and compute. If I had to role play being Katherine Butler and figure out a mathematical solution to keep John Glenn from exploding or being lost in space, that’s a narrative I can get behind and gives me a real framework to start hanging and scaffolding a conceptual framework. It wouldn’t likely have changed how and where I ultimately ended up professionally, but it would have left me with a better taste in my mouth for math than I ultimately ended up with.

 

Okay. I think that typing all of this out has helped me to work out my angst. Seriously though…go see this movie. It’s a good movie and an important story, especially as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We need to celebrate these women, we need to acknowledge a terrible time of racism, and we need to be reminded that civil rights work in this present political age is not done yet.

On a Happy Note Monday, Nov 14 2016 

Tonight is the first night that we will sleep under the latest quilt that I made. There’s an old quilt saying:


…and it’s true. There is s much time and love in every handmade quilt, so if you ever receive one as a gift you can be assured that someone thinks very highly of you. There’s literally blood, sweat, and tears in every quilt I make.


Those are needle sticks right below my thumbnail from sewing on the binding yesterday and today. Ouch! Even though I poked myself a few times, sewing on the binding is one of my favorite parts. Most quilters dislike it because it’s not very exciting. However, I take pride in small, neat stitches and mitered corners. I also like it because it is fairly mindless and it puts such a nice finishing touch on the quilt. Sewing on the binding means that I am almost finished with all of the hard work and finally get to enjoy the result. Since we are avoiding screens this month, I either sat in silence or listened to the audio of Anna Karenina while I sewed, while curled up in the quilt and with the cat on my lap. It was such a homey, cozy way to pass these past few evenings.


The quilt has been washed and dried and is now ready for its debut. I still have to make new shams and throw pillows, so it will be a few more days until I post a picture of it in full use in its new home. I’m happy to snuggle up under my new quilt of cheery colors backed with warm flannel for tonight though.

Post-Election Processing Saturday, Nov 12 2016 

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So here we are four days after a long, grueling, divisive election season in which the nation is part jubilant, part stunned, part saddened, and part scared, with more than a dash of anxiety thrown in for good measure.

I have been sporadically blogging since 2008. I don’t blog for likes and comments (although I do enjoy them, esp. comments). I don’t blog for money nor do I write with any over-arching theme. A tiny reason for blogging is just for my voice to exist in some small way in the greater conversation of the interwebs. I like to think of my great, great grandchildren reading my thoughts someday. However, the primary reason I blog can be summed up by the great southern author,  Flannery O’Connor, who said,

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Now, of course, you might tell me that I should just keep a personal journal instead. Actually, I do. However, I enjoy reading blogs–some that challenge me, some that comfort me, and some that make me say “Me too!” That is why I am writing these thoughts here. And these are my thoughts and only mine…and they may be rather rough, unprocessed, and a bit “stream of consciousness” because that is where my head and my heart are right now.

This election has been one for the books. Never in all of my 30 years of voting have I experienced such a surreal feeling on the day after–and it wasn’t just my feelings. It was this collective feeling of all of my communities in real time, in real life. It wasn’t quite as bad, but the only other time I remember this surreal feeling of going through the motions, pushing through, trying to make sense of the world, was the on September 12, 2001. We went to work, grocery shopped, picked kids up from school, and made dinner, but everyone seemed to be going through the motions. We engaged half-heartedly in conversations, which soaking up the news. It was just weird. This Wednesday was similar, though on a lesser scale. Maybe others didn’t have that feeling. Maybe it was because I live in a blue county in a typically blue state that surprised the whole nation by turning red. I’m not sure, but I know that never before have I hugged both colleagues and students through their tears.I have never seen so many heartbroken and confused 18-24 year-olds in my life. We didn’t ignore it. We talked about things, but kept it more in the realm of feelings, rather than politics, and we watched Kid President’s Pep Talk in my one class on Wednesday. We needed Kid President. We still do.

This campaign dredged up some big, emotional stuff for me as a woman. Hearing Trump talk about women in the way he did, which he have on audio (multiple times on Howard Stern’s show for one example), multiple TV interviews, and the infamous p*$$@-grabbing tape, led to some sleepless nights for me. For the record, I have never been sexually assaulted or molested, although I know many, many women who have. However, being a women in society I have experienced my share of objectification and sexual taunts. Here’s an incomplete laundry list:

  • 7th grade art class: We were studying on an architecture unit and I was scoring and cutting thick paperboard with an Exacto knife to make buildings. Two guys, that I had grown up with, were sitting across the table from me. Apparently, they rolled up a bath towel that was in the art room and were trying to poke me between the legs under the table. Because (1) it was a towel (2) I was wearing jeans which are thick material (3) I was concentrating on the task at hand and (4) I doubt the towel could reach that far anyway, I didn’t feel it. So they progressed to making comments for weeks about how I didn’t feel it because I was a slut and “used to it”. 7th grade. I hadn’t even ever kissed a boy yet.
  • Age 16: I was dating my first boyfriend and had verbally and nonverbally set clear boundaries. He repeatedly challenged them, but would always back off when I restated them. One night he didn’t. I vividly remember taking my open right hand, putting it on his face, and shoving him back away from me. I was a pretty passive 16 y/o, so I would like to high five 16-year-old me for that brave move. Shortly thereafter, he broke up with me (of course).
  • Honestly through college and early 20s, no real incidences to report other than cat calls, which are just par for the course of being female.
  • Age 26: Married woman with a 4-month-old. I was watching Robert play in a church softball game and my baby got hungry. I started to breastfeed him in the stands and was fully covered with a nursing bib. No one could see anything except for his downy head and his feet sticking out because it was July in Texas and I was trying not to smother my baby. When the game was over and everyone was drinking water and Gatorade, one of the guys on our church’s team stood right in front of me, smiled, and asked, “Is this the place where we line up for drinks?”
  • Then there’s the  adult male client who got a little too flirtatious in therapy when I was a graduate student, so I used moved back, crossed my arms, and sent other nonverbal signals that it wasn’t appropriate while continuing with therapy. I got told that I was a cold clinician by my male supervisor…or the male professor in another state with whom I was collaborating on a research project and asked our mutual (male) colleague if I was “good looking” before the collaboration began…or just a few months ago when I was attending a conference by myself, the guy who yelled out “hey!” to me while I was walking the block and a half from my hotel to the conference center in the morning. I turned, thinking he was going to warm me about a root in the sidewalk, a missing manhole cover, or some similar danger, when actually he just wanted to give me his personal evaluation of my physical appearance.

I could go on because there are many more, but I think my point has been made. I had not repressed any of these, but when people, including a close friend who I respect a great deal, questioned why no woman had come forth before the election, it got my ire up. It made me realize how much I had been socialized to laugh those things off, that “boys will be boys” and that’s “how the world works.” I had been told to take it as a compliment. My brain and my soul brought all of these things to mind and left me sleepless and angered. The very next time of these types of incidences happens to me, assuming there are other people around and I feel safe enough to do so, I will not laugh it off. I will stand and confront. Even in my fear, I will say something. I know it’s not part and parcel of being a male to act with such objectification and sexualization. I have a husband who has been nothing other than kind and respectful, I know many great men who treat women with high regard, and I, along with my husband, have raised two fine sons who frequently talk about how they stand up for women in conversations with their peers. I know it can be otherwise.

And then there’s been the constant insults of this election. They have certainly been tossed from both sides of the aisle, but there was more vitriol and more targeted insults towards groups of people (Mexicans, immigrants as whole, Muslims, etc.) from Trump. I cannot understand that and I cannot condone that.

Here are the honest feelings that I am wrestling with (and if they sound disjointed and erratic, welcome to my mind). While I may not fully understand you, if you voted for Trump reluctantly and I know you well and know that you prayed about and wrestled with your choice, I get it. I have some level of understanding there and I can respect that choice, even if I don’t agree with it. I understand that you might be a one-issue voter and/or that the abortion issue is one that you just can’t compromise on morally. Okay. I am anti-abortion too because I am pro-life. However, because I am pro-life, I am also anti-capital punishment, anti-war, pro-social programs, and pro-refugee. It left me in quite the political conundrum. Here’s a 6 year old post on that. Maybe you are hanging your hopes on a conservative Supreme Court.

So, reticent Trump voters–I understand you since I was a reticent voter as well. I’m not going to say who I voted for other, than #nevertrump. If you did vote relucantly for Trump, I would humbly ask you to read these good thoughts. As an evangelical Christian, a term I have come to feel uncomfortable with this year, there are many reasons I could never vote for Trump. These include my icky experiences as a woman, his viewpoints on immigrants, refugees, and people of color, and his fear-mongering rhetoric. Others have said it better and more comprehensively before, so you can read their words that speak (mostly) for me: The Theology of Donald Trump–Christianity Today, Trump Won–Christianity Today, Why Christians Should Not Succumb to the Apocalyptic Language of the Election–Washington Post, and 95% of the things that Russell Moore and Ed Stetzer have said about the election. However, I can still accept that we have different views, but the same underlying deep values just manifested in different ways. Or maybe you are scared and that felt like the safest vote for you and even though I don’t agree, I can understand.

However, it’s the sign-toting, rally-attending, hat-wearing Trump supporters that I’m wrestling with. Having lived in a lot of places, traveled fairly extensively, and having friends of all sorts of religious/political/racial/ethnic backgrounds and sexual identities, my pre-election Facebook timeline was a mess.To be honest, I unfollowed many people. We are still “friends” but I can’t see their posts. I’m now stuggling with what to do with these friends and I know I’m not alone. (I suspect it will be less of a problem if they read this post, because they will probably just unfriend me). On one hand, I believe we all, including Trump, and including his supporters, are created in the image of God and I am to love and pray for all. I am working on that. It’s hard, but it’s commanded and God’s grace is sufficient. The spiritual realm of this is challenging, but a bit easier because there is supernatural power there. It’s the pragmatic real-life part that’s tough. In my daily life if I have friends who are openly racist, who are xenophobic, who aren’t empathetic, who don’t seek other perspectives, then I wouldn’t choose to spend my free time with them. I would be kind to them, I would help them if in a place to do so, but I wouldn’t readily seek them out.

We have discussed friendship and what being a friend is at length in the Asperger’s Group I facilitate. We keep coming back to shared values and interests and a deep sense of trust. So, if we have totally opposite sets of values, you can be an acquaintance, but can we really be friends? On the other hand, I want to have friends, or if not friends, at least people in my various communities who are different from me and who think and act differently. But, is having these people in my community without calling them on their beliefs, in fact, condoning them (especially with people who I don’t think can engage in civil discourse)?  I purposefully have friends and people with whom I interact who are evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, agnostic, and atheist. I have friends who are Black, African American, Chinese, Korean American, Greek, Nicaraguan, British, Australian, Canadian, Native American, etc. I have friends with different sexual orientation and gender identities. Many of these friends have different values and beliefs from me, but yet we can still find some common ground to build a friendship on and learn from each other, so now I have to figure out who to do this during my post-election angst.

For now, I am not unfriending anyone. I am also on a media fast for this month (except this past Tuesday and Wednesday) so that helps a little in that regard. I will continue to pray for unity in the U.S. I will pray for the transition and, as difficult as it will be, I will pray for our president-elect. A president who makes humble, thoughtful decisions that benefit our nation would benefit us all. My husband said that he and a friend who read and discuss theology texts regularly have committed to only read theology books written by women and minorities for this next year. In that spirit, I have decided that about one-third of the books I read next year (10 out of 35) will either be authored by someone from another cultural group than me or about another cultural group. This will include non-fiction and fiction, bearing in mind that much research has shown that the reading of fiction increases empathy. My list is here: Broadening My Perspective 2017. I will be an ally and a listener for those who feel afraid because they have brown skin, or visas, or green cards, or no paperwork at all, or wear a hijab, or are disabled, or identify differently in regard sexuality or gender. I refuse to be afraid (and maybe because that is my privilege speaking–I’m wrestling with that too) of what is to come, because my god is not a political leader and my home is not the U.S. I have a citizenship in heaven and I worship the God of the universe, the author and perfecter of my faith,  who can do more than I can comprehend. Ironically, on Thursday, I just finished reading the New Testament. I normally am not a huge fan of the book of the Revelation, but I found great comfort in it during the post-election period. It ends with these words:

Revelation 22:20b-21

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

 

Placemaking Reimagined Tuesday, Sep 20 2016 

The death of a dream and the future we are walking into are absolutely related.

The quote above, and the other quotes interspersed throughout this blog, come from The Art of Simple podcast, episode 32: Placemaking. This particular podcast came into my queue at the perfect time and spoke just the words I needed to hear. I am a dreamer and planner. I do live in the moment, but always have a project I’m thinking about and planning for in the future. For about the past three years we (read: I, with a supportive husband) have been looking forward to selling our 1970s, Brady Bunch tri-level in a small “suburb” to move 7 miles up the road into a 75+ year old Craftsman home in the university town where I work, where our church community is, and within walking and biking distance of the places we go.

For three years I have followed realtor.com daily, saved houses, watched how the market was going, gone to open houses, and worked on all the little things we needed to do to get our house market-ready. I have painted everything, including our bathtub. Robert has replaced sinks, toilets, and fixtures. I have cleaned, decluttered, packed, and started to depersonalize our house. We have had quite a few roadblocks to getting our house on the market, but this past summer was IT. We finally got the house to the point where we were ready to bring a realtor over to do a market analysis, tell us what else we needed to repair/update/stage, and put a sign in our yard. Part of the reason for the move was also to downsize since we are now empty-nesters and are trying to embrace a more intentionally simple lifestyle. Therefore, we would “make money” on this deal regardless because we were going to buy a house that cost about 1/3 less than what we bought our house for. However, we had put some work into house and we had a magic number for the amount of money we wanted to get back. After her analysis, the realtor came back with a number $5000 less than what we had hoped. There is no rule that says we had to offer the house for the price she suggested. We could have still put it on the market at the price we wanted, but once we negotiated, paid closing costs, realtor fees, etc. it just kind of took the wind out of our sails.

Boom! It was immediate. We had this number in our heads, the realtor didn’t match it, and it was like instantly we knew we weren’t moving. It was a total God-thing. Robert hates moving with a passion. I don’t love the act of moving, but I do love the opportunity to get rid of stuff, settle in a new place, and potentially find our dream home. So after the realtor left our house, we talked, and we agreed not to sell. Robert kept asking me again and again if I was okay. He was saying that we could offer it at our price and see what happened or try to sell it ourselves so we wouldn’t have to worry about the realtor’s cut. It’s so weird, but I felt an immediate peace about not selling. I have been planning on and dreaming about moving for THREE SOLID YEARS and it just stopped. I had been looking at real estate online daily for over 1000 days and I just quit. I still have my “new house” Pinterest board, but I haven’t added anything to it.

craftsman

My “new house” dream board on Pinterest

And now I have created new boards for making our current house even more of a home for us. One of the things I don’t like about our house is that we have so little natural light. We are surrounded by trees, our windows are small, and 1/3 of our house is halfway below ground. I am now re-envisioning light fixtures, paint, and flooring to make the house feel brighter.

light

New Pinterest board for current house

Aside from the lack of natural light and the dated 1970s exterior, we need new flooring throughout, the paint colors that a decorator chose for us are not really colors that I like, and the expensive Italian tile is not what I would have chosen, so now back to square one. We had painted every square inch of this house, inside and out. It’s dawning on me that some colors just aren’t “us” and other colors that I liked at the time, I have grown tired of. I kept my laundry room the same yellow throughout much of the house for continuity and resale, but I want a pink laundry/craft room, by golly! The green with brown accent wall in our formal living room will be re-imagined into light greys and muted blues in our home library with built-in book shelves.

In the podcast referenced above, Christie Purifoy says this

Home for me…is a place that I create. Something that I make.

and this

Learning to be at home in a place is about loving one place–it’s so much like loving a person. We don’t love perfect people.

and then, this

I feel like everything I do…it’s all about placemaking, creating a special place and sharing it with other people…cultivating beauty right where I am.

So, that’s we where are. You’ll find us here in Plover on “Tree of Life” Lane. Yeah, I’ll still have to drive to work and I can’t easily walk or bike to the farmer’s market or the river. However, I have great neighbors and although we live in a subdivision, the back of our lot abuts a school forest to it feels like we live in middle of the woods. It’s dark and quiet and peaceful at night. We planted a church around a table in this dining room.

Our Brady Bunch house will be in a state of ongoing transition for the next 3-5 years. We have plans…big plans which include ripping out carpet, tearing out tile, new bathtubs, landscaping, cutting down trees, building a pergola, replacing windows, and putting in new doors. However, we are thrifty and we are do-it-yourselfers, so it will have to be a slow, process as we have time and money to get things done. In the meantime, being big believers in hospitality, we will continue to invite people into our mess to do life, eat meals, and watch the Packers. You just may have to step over paint cans and deal with some dust.

As I have been going through the loss of the dream of my craftsman home and embracing the idea of redefining my current home through my safe, secure, middle-class lens, I want to give a shout out to friends in Baton Rouge. Many of our friends and former co-workers lost their homes and all their furnishings, as well as their cars, in the flooding. We have followed photos on Facebook and instagram and seen all of their worldly goods heaped along the street for the garbage collectors. We have seen houses stripped to the studs and concrete foundations with cabinets and appliances sitting on the curb. But in the midst of that, these dear friends are getting to (forced to) reconsider their “place,” what home is and what it means, and what it should look like now.

I asked our friend Jessica Black for permission to share a photo that she posted to Instagram a few weeks ago. It moved me to tears and Robert’s comment was, “That is so Jess.” Jess just recently got married on July 10. She was just settling into her new life with her husband when they lost everything in the flood. They had a couple of days before he closed on his old house, so when their house flooded, they temporarily moved into his former place, as newlyweds on an air mattress. Here in the trauma of losing almost everything that they owned, Jess made a home for them on the floor through the simple act of a lamp and beautiful pillows…on an air mattress. This is placemaking at its purest form. This is home.

jess

Quilting (Life) Lessons Wednesday, Aug 31 2016 

I spent my 3 day weekend piecing a quilt from scratch–literally the whole weekend. I worked between 8-12 hours a day on it and then 3-4 hours on Monday and Tuesday evening as well. I haven’t quilted in over a year, so it was good for my soul to work on this project. This quilt was borne out of necessity. I made the quilt on our bed several years ago and due to the daily use, plus abuse (frequent washing since it our cat’s favorite place to puke) has made the fabric start to wear and fray. Our current quilt is blues and browns. While I like those colors together, I am really not a fan of the color brown so I was looking forward to new colors. I love color! Lots of color! I did keep this new quilt more subdued with lighter colors, but there are a lot of them. It is a combination of feminine florals and masculine strips and plaids–a perfect marriage of fabrics.

While spending so much time quilting, which is largely a solitary activity, I listened to a lot of podcasts, played favorite songs from Spotify, but also spent hour upon hour with nothing but the whirring of the machine and my own quiet thoughts. I muttered throughout the stages of quilting–washing and ironing new fabric, meticulously cutting the pieces, sewing squares to strips and strips to bigger squares and rows to rows. And the ironing of seams–so  much ironing! At one point Robert asked if I really liked quilting with my griping about being sick of cutting and sewing. Well, yes, I do like it. It’s just after cutting fabric for about four hours, my hand is tired, my shoulders ache from being hunched over the cutting mat, and I am ready to move onto the next phase. Patience…

So, during the monotony of certain phases and the solitary quiet, I had a lot of time to think about the metaphors of quilting. Here’s what I learned.

 

balance

I had to lay out all of the individual squares on my living room floor and play around with them to get the right balance of florals and stripes, of dark and light fabrics. It took crawling around on my hands and knees to rearrange the individual blocks, then getting up and walking back to take in the big picture, then on the floor again to adjust and rearrange. However, it wasn’t until I started taking photos that I could really get a sense of balance and symmetry. Some times we focus too much on the detail and smaller aspects, that we miss out on the big picture. Or…we need to look at something with fresh eyes and a new perspective to see what is, rather than what we want.

 

rip

This is my seam ripper and many of the threads I had ripped out. Part of creative work is making mistakes, undoing them, and trying again. Some errors were made because I misread the instructions, others were because I was impatient and trying to rush through, and still others were because visual-perceptual skills are not my strength. Sewing right sides of fabric together at angles and visualizing what it will look like when flipped back the opposite way is quite a mental challenge for me and sometimes I get it wrong. It’s quick and easy to make a mistake, but picking apart and tearing out a seam is a time-consuming and tedious process. However, I learn from the mistakes and rarely repeat the same mistake twice in one project. It also helps me to slow down and work smart, rather than spend time rushing the creative journey. I also learned that when I was tired and trying to power through to finish just one more thing that I tended to make more mistakes. Rest is important for the best and most enjoyable work.

 

compare

In the photo above, note the mint/grey plaid squares. The top one is just perfect! The corners of the plaid square align perfectly with the corners of the abutting squares. This is what quilters strive for. It is the mark of excellent attention to detail. I am pleased to say that I have more of these than not (which isn’t always the case). However, lest I get too confident, I have more than a handful of squares like the lower ones in which the circles indicate gaps between the points and the arrows point to where I actually got it right. No one would notice these gaffes from afar and likely only quilters would notice them up close. But I know that there are there and I have to release perfectionism for the greater good. I love the Amish tradition of a “humility block.” According to tradition, Amish quilters intentionally screw up on one block in every quilt as a reminder that no one is perfect apart from God. I (unintentionally) have m0re than a few humility blocks in every quilt I make and I have learned to laugh and embrace the Amish concept. I love the little quirks of my quilts.

 

whole quilt

I love that quilts come about from taking pieces of fabric that don’t match, cutting them up, and reconfiguring them into something new…and that something happens to be beautiful and functional. About half of these fabrics are new fabrics that I bought intentionally for the purpose of this quilt. The other half came from fabric I had bought for other projects that I never got around to or they are leftover scraps from previous projects. I love the blending of old and new, the recycling and repurposing of old fabric, and finding a way to make them all mesh together in harmony. The tedium of cutting and sewing parts into a whole to create something becomes a joy.

 

hot mess

But as pretty as it may look on the outside, the backside of a quilt is a hot mess. The ugly seams, loose threads, and frayed edges on the back of a quilt top also tell a story. You can tell where and how things were joined together, where seams were ripped out and rejoined, and where I had to fudge a little to make things work. The underbelly, which will be hidden when the three layers are quilted together, tell a story and form the structure of the quilt. The outside often hides the layers underneath and we are all so much more complicated than what meets the eye.

 

dog quilt

Quilts are made with literal blood, sweat, and tears. They are labor intensive, result in crying when having to rip out and re-do, and I typically end up pricking my finger (and maybe even sewing my finger into a quilt a time or two) at least once per quilting endeavor. However, the hard work is always worth it, because who doesn’t love the warmth, love, and snuggle factor of a handmade quilt?

There are random moments – tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms – when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.

Elizabeth Berg, The Art of Mending

The Trouble with Boobs…and Other Thoughts Friday, Aug 26 2016 

WARNING: Yes, this is a post about breasts. It’s mostly a philosophical, biological musing about my current conflicted thoughts about this one body part, spurred on by a “bad” mammogram and a conversation with a friend in the same situation. I’m not writing to over-share or shock, rather to bring some sense of validation to other women with the same thoughts and issues related to mammograms.

Last week I went for my annual check up with my gynecologist. I really like my doctor. She is a good listener and even though I typically just see her once a year, she remembers little details like what year of school the boys are in, asks about the church, my classes, etc. Last year she stopped in the middle of my exam to write down a couple of books I suggested. This year, we discussed how to make a t-shirt quilt during that awkward moment when she is doing the breast exam, her face is within my visual field, and I am staring at the ceiling wishing I were somewhere else. From there we moved onto the even more unpleasant part of the exam, which ended up with some (surprise!) painful cervical biopsies that ultimately came back negative. Anyway, we finish that nonsense, I jokingly, but sincerely, told her that she managed to outdo herself, making our annual meeting even more unpleasant than usual.

I came back the next day for modern day, medically-sanctioned, insurance-covered torture preventative medicine. In other words, a mammogram. There is nothing quite like the experience of dangling by my breasts from a machine that is exerting many, many pounds per square inch of pressure to mash them into mammary pancakes. I swear that the technician caught a couple of my ribs in the machine too. As I am trying to remember my Lamaze techniques and Bradley breathing to get past the pain, she nonchalantly asks if I’m okay. I want to scream, “Don’t talk! Push the button and release these large plates of torture. Let’s get this over with.” Two films on each side–squished top to bottom and side to side, then I’m on my way out the door with the reminder that I’ll get a letter if all is good and a phone call if not.

…The following day I got a phone call.

 

IMG_1976

The screen I got to watch while the radiologist did the ultrasound

 

There was a suspicious area in my left breast, so I needed to come back in for an ultrasound for sure and possibly a diagnostic mammogram. I was scheduled for the following day, this past Wednesday.

At this point, I should state that this happened to me a few years ago as well. A “bad” screening mammogram led to a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound which were still suspicious. I was then referred to a breast surgeon and at that point I started googling breast cancer and mastectomy information, to be honest. I met with the surgeon, then had a breast MRI and finally it was concluded that I did not have breast cancer. What I did find out is that I have “dense breasts.” This is not something that can be diagnosed by  a physical exam, only mammogram. Women with dense breasts have less breast fat and more glandular/connective tissue and milk ducts. Fat appears grey or black on a mammogram and cancer appears white. Dense breast tissue also appears white, so it is hard to detect cancer among the other dense tissues. That whole previous hullabaloo involved my right breast, so this time my body decided to switch things up.

Honestly, I wasn’t the least bit worried the first time, until I had to meet with the surgeon and even then, I wasn’t losing sleep. I used to be a huge worrier, but (true story) God removed 99% of my worrying from me over a decade ago. (Happy to relay that story, confessions of a recovered worrier, another time). This time I wasn’t worried either. I knew I had dense breasts and that it is hard to determine anything from a mammogram, so I would just wait to be worried when/if there was a reason to be.

 

IMG_1977

Here we go…

 

So two days ago I went for my ultrasound. While I was in the waiting room, in walked my neighbor with her husband. Since she is just a couple of years younger than me I knew she and her husband weren’t there for a pregnancy visit, so it must be not-so-good news. It turned out that she was there for the exact same reason I was and had also gone through multiple tests and biopsies a few years ago. She and I talked in detail about our problematic boobs (and laughed a lot), which is the reason for this post. Basically, the gist of our conversation was that our relationship with our respective boobage could only be defined as “it’s complicated.”

 

Complicated

 

Why are things so complicated? Well, as women in our mid-late 40s, our breasts have largely served their purpose. An evolutionary biologist would say that our breasts, along with waist to hip ratio, signaled to potential mates that we could produce, bear, and nourish offspring. Well, I got me a mate and we managed to produce two sons. I then breastfed each son for a year, so my “girls” fulfilled that biological obligation too. My boobs have done their duty. As far as their roles in procreation and nourishment goes, their job is finished and they are “out to pasture.” As my friend and I discussed, breasts have no biological purpose anymore and due to our bad mammo history, sometimes we look down at them and think of them as nothing but a liability. As my friend put it, “It’s like I’m waiting and wondering when one of them is going to ‘go bad.'” I can relate. Sometimes I look  at my chest and wonder when or if one is going to go rogue. We talked about how sometimes we wish we could just get rid of them and the what-if that we lug around daily in our bras.

But radical, preventative mastectomy is not the answer either.  I don’t have a strong family history of breast cancer, fortunately. I totally understand someone with the breast cancer gene having a preventative mastectomy. However, I don’t have that history. And the milk production purpose aside, the girls do still have roles to fulfill in my life. They still have a place in my marriage (and that’s all I’m gonna say about that–read Song of Solomon in the Old Testament if you don’t know what I mean). Also, none of my blouses or dresses would fit right anymore without my mammary glands. Finally, having breasts is a part of my identity as a female. They have been with me since the age of 12-13. Even though they can be awfully inconvenient at times (exercise, seat-belts, etc.), they are a key part of my body that make me more feminine.

I think there is another issue at play that makes women feel hyper-aware of their breasts and the inherent risks of having them attached to one’s body. Breast cancer is the most advertised, hyped, and frankly, sexualized cancer of all. In October we will be bombarded with fund-raising races, advertisements, and pink everything to increase breast cancer awareness. Much of this is very good. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and we have made progress in early detection and improved treatment.I would bet that anyone reading this could name more than one person that know who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, it is not the deadliest cancer in women. That dubious award goes to lung cancer, yet how much do we hear about it? Lungs just aren’t quite as titillating (pun intended) as breast cancer. You don’t see lung cancer slogans as provocative as “Squeeze a boob. Save a life.” or “Protect second base.” That’s a problem of which much has been written, include this website devoted to critical analysis of “pink ribbon culture.” The whole issue about breasts, the role that play in the female life cycle and identity, the marketing geared toward them, and the medical approach is a complex one.

Fortunately for me, my ultrasound took only about 5 minutes. The radiologist went right to the problem area and located a fluid-filled 6 cm cyst. No problems, no additional testing.–just return next year for my annual mammogram. So I have another  year with this post-pubertal tissue sitting on my chest to ponder my ongoing conflicted relationship with my breasts. Being a woman…it’s complicated.

…And, to add insult to injury,  both of my favorite, daily, utilitarian bras both sprung a leak in their underwire the same week. Can’t catch a break.

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