In defense of echo chambers.

Got your attention, huh?

This really isn’t a defense of echo chambers. Perhaps it is, but not the way echo chambers are commonly referenced. After only a week of serious winnowing, I almost immediately recognized a more consistent and prolonged state of peace in my mind and heart.

This is off the cuff, and I’m not going to spend time editing it, so bear with me and use your stellar intellects to fill the things that should go without saying. I know that’s sometimes hard in 2017 America, but just try. Really hard.

It is commonly accepted as a virtue in American life to be willing to have our assumptions challenged and hear other points of view. To the extent that we are willing to do that, no matter how destructive the form in which these challenge and viewpoints are offered, we are considered “reasonable”, “tolerant”, and “open” to other points of view.

In general, I am a big fan of hearing other points of view. I think it’s good to evaluate ourselves, our actions, and our ways of thinking rather than assume that we’re all good all the time or that nothing about us needs to change. This morning, however, I had a light bulb moment and realized that it’s one thing to be open to examining other points of view. That is a good thing.

It’s an altogether different thing to engage in repeated dialogue with people who have starkly different points of view from you, who disdain your perspective and whose perspective you equally disrespect.

So for example, if I want to read a thoughtful critique of another sister’s view point on marriage and family order or birth control, it is best for me to do that with the intent to read it, walk away from it and examine it without engaging in a dialog with her about it. In other words, I can read Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans’ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, consider her perspective (with which I still vehemently disagree even after reading the book) and walk away with my soul unscathed by a knock down drag out debate on some Internet forum.

Perhaps I am more cognizant as I am getting older. The husband said last night, “I still can’t believe we have three kids out of college. Where did the time go?” Things like that certainly give one pause about the importance of how she spends her time. I don’t even mind acknowledging that I am getting older because I have not -for the most part anyway- wasted my life.

It is simply healthier to have the lion’s share of our discussions on love, life, and even politics, with those who will encourage us in the values we truly believe are right. Echo chambers -particularly of the Christian variety- serve a distinct purpose.

If and when I engage in dialog with someone whom I disagree for any reason other than to truly understand or offer something to think about for the purpose of trying to help that person from a place of love rather than snobby, smug superiority, I am better off not bothering. To just keep my thoughts- and my fingers- to myself.

Regroup. Refocus. Reset .

The past week was rough. There were challenges which shall go unnamed, and then I pulled a muscle in my lower back. Just. like. that. My summer of productivity and balance was thrown off track and replaced with stiffness, searing pain, and sitting. I’m much better now, and my man and the kids were amazing, but almost anything that required physical exertion or mental acuity was nigh impossible..

It is quite astonishing really, how easily I fall into the ease of unprofitable habits and routines when I don’t (or as was the case for me recently, simply can’t) keep up forward progress and focus on a plan.To say I let me down would be an understatement, but time to dust off the ol’ behind and get back to it.

I am looking forward to full throttle on Monday, and a return to what I’d started, which was embarking on shunning the negative and putting lots of energy into creative pursuits. In other words, getting back to what really matters and ignoring the things that don’t. The list of things that were sidelined last week included:

  • Sewing and home decorating
  • Party planning for a celebration at the end of this month
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Writing of the non-Internet variety
  • Lesson plan for at least the first half of the fall semester ( for homeschool and outside teaching obligation)
  • (Very slowly) crocheting a big blanket in time for fall
  • Doing some heavier reading and note taking for the aforementioned writing project

What did get done:

  •  A whole lot of mental clutter.
  • An overload of negative Internet news, chatter, and commentary.
  • Too much sugar and grains with four birthdays -each with cake- over 11 days
  • I did manage to make one of the cakes!
  • Cancelled workouts
  • Cancelled ministry obligations

Nature, it’s said, abhors a vacuum and in the absence of filling myself and my time with good things, the space was filled with useless things. Negative things that vex the soul. Not everything I read and heard was negative and/or useless but the scale was certainly tipped too far in the wrong direction. If I had been up and moving, I probably would not have even noticed most of the bad news I’d heard and was distracted by.

I was conversing with an acquaintance recently and she said, ” Makes me glad my give-a-damn broke…”

I had every reason to believe her. Based on the nature of the conversation we were having, all the evidence speaks to the fact that her “give-a-damn” is indeed, broken.

That has stuck with me for the past few days and I questioned whether mine is as broken as I sometimes tell myself. For the most part, I do pretty well with it, since I’ve had some good examples before me, my father and then my man, who lived their lives unapologetically, took their lumps, and made adjustments as needed without a lot of apparent internal angst.

Alas, I am not a man. I am a woman, and women tend towards caring what others are thinking. About us primarily, but also nearly everything else. The Internet exacerbates this tendency because let’s women love juicy tidbits, ego boosts, and gossip. Even the bits that begin with, “I’m just sharing this so you can pray…”

The best and only way to keep ourselves unspotted, unvexxed, and uninfected by the garbage is to not eat the bread of idleness. The lesson here for me, is that the next time I find myself too overwhelmed with pain or grief or challenges to focus my mind in a productive way, I’d be better off binge watching old episodes of Little House on the Prairie. And yes, I read my Bible and prayed for others. Just not 8-10 hours a day as a more spiritual woman may have done.

But I’m back (not here I mean, and I’ll get to that in a minute). I actually got some painting done today. The summer of meeting goals and shattering expectations is back on, and after nearly 10 days of slacker-hood, I think it’s safe to say I’ll not have much time to pontificate. I will however be engaged in more serious reading and creative miscellany. 

Have y’all heard this song? I think many of you will really appreciate it. Listen. Yeah, it’s pop sounding but the lyrics are on point.

Internal robo-responses

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A running joke started here recently with regard to robo-messages. You know them, the instant message responses on your phone that you send when you can’t answer someone’s call at that moment:

  • Call you back in 15 minutes
  • Can’t talk, text me
  • What’s up?
  • Driving, call you right back
  • In meeting
  • Running late- be there soon
  • Sorry, I’m on a call right now
  • Send me an email

I have two personalized ones on my phone:

  • Homeschool in session, will call back at lunch.
  • In class- teaching

It just occurred to me that it is more distracting and requires more effort to push that message to someone while you’re driving than it would take to just answer the phone. That one is not a good idea. At all.

 

As is often the case when something hits the forefront of my thinking, the running joke has sparked a tip toe through the tulips of random thoughts. Specifically, the things that pop into my head when I get a call or a message from people in particular:

  • Oh, gosh. What’s wrong now?
  • She always makes me laugh
  • Hope my brother’s daily verse is a good one (as if there is a BAD Bible verse)
  • Please Lord, don’t let them have been in an accident
  • I do NOT feel like hearing about her drama of the week.
  • Whatever else this might be, it won’t be boring…
  • She always encourages me
  • Let me get prayed up before I call back.

In other words, I have a real problem with attaching assumptions to people and while I’m blessed that my internal robo message is as likely to be good or neutral as it is bad, I should work on jumping to conclusions.

There have been times when I was dead wrong.

Tell the truth. You have robo-thoughts/messages too. I know you do.

 

Friday Frivolities 5: A hair raising edition

This is a hair raising edition because I’ve been thinking a lot about my hair this week. It’s not all I’ve been thinking about, of course, but it occupied more mental space than usual.

~It started last weekend when an older male relative asked my husband why- given his relative “youth”- he won’t dye his hair or beard. He has a fair amount of visible gray. He said no. The hair grows back too quickly, making it a frequent endeavor, and a waste of time. Most importantly, he’s fine with his gray hair.

The man countered that it just helps make a guy more attractive, no different from what a woman does when she wears a little blush to spruce up. My husband replied, “That is exactly my point. ” His pithy end of the dialog made me laugh but also made me think.

I’m thinking a bit about my own gray strands, which I usually color every 6-8 weeks for the express purpose of covering the gray strands peeking out in front. I’ve pondered it for a while now, even reviewing a book on the topic. Lately, I’ve been going longer between colorings because it does take time I need to spend on other things.

I almost never get around to coloring without going at least a couple of weeks with my visibly gray strands, which kinds of defeats the point of coloring in the first place, no? That’s an awkward angle, but the point is the gray hairs, not my big eyes. I couldn’t figure out how to do one and not the other without an even weirder picture.

Some days, I don’t mind them. It’s only a little, and only visible when I wear my hair pulled back, such as it is now. Other days it bothers me and it’s those days I find myself getting the color in. It’s funny the things we lament that previous generations of women never thought about. I just don’t want to find myself at 65 or 70 with a full head of black hair thinking I’m fooling anyone. 25 years seems like a long time from now but time passes quickly.

~This next bit is about growth of another sort: Veggies! I may not the worst gardener who ever planted a bed, but I am no doubt in the lower 50th percentile. Nevertheless, and with a lot of helpful tips and reminders from the man, I have been able to grow and harvest some good looking vegetables so far this summer. Here is yesterday’s take:

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Two eggplants, and three tomatoes. I didn’t have eggplant Parmesan on my menu for this week, but I may have to consider a menu change.

~My word for the summer is “productive”. As much as we’re told about wife and motherhood being hard jobs, for me the reality is that a plan and a some focus can do wonders.

**Caveat: I am NOT referring to mothers of babies and preschoolers here. My “baby” is 9.**

The challenge, or at least my challenge, has been to resist the temptation to coast, doing what I need to get by (“good enough is good enough”) without stretching myself in ways that will force me to grow.

With that as my focus, it’s been remarkable that I have done twice as much around the house and errands, taken naps and walks when I need them, did some things to stretch and challenge myself and still indulge in occasional 30-45 minute time “wasters” such as writing this post*. It’s been a good season.

~Lastly, I mentioned a while ago that I was reading up on how to start my own SCOBY to make kombucha at home. It turns out that this was not as easy as The Kitchn made it appear to be. The main problem was finding a pure, unflavored bottle of kombucha to use as a starter. I went to every natural food market I could think of in our area and not one had a kombucha that was unflavored.

Fortunately for me, I have the hookup with good friends who are into this kind of thing and one of them gave me a SCOBY, which has brewed enough kombucha to make another SCOBY. So I have the makings of a SCOBY hotel on my hands. Problem is, everyone in my house thinks it looks disgusting:

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The brew still tastes good, and it’s good for me, too.

Have a great weekend!

*I don’t really believe that writing this post was a waste of time.

Wonder Woman fails as an empowering feminist trope.

At least it does in my opinion.

We were a family of four for most of the weekend and our twins wanted to see the new Wonder Woman flick. I was curious about it more than anything, and Benevolent Dictator went along in the interest of togetherness. He was tired, needed a nap, and slept (literally) through half the film.  Of course he has been known to doze during films he attends solely because his girls desire his proximity. This is no way offends us.

But I digress.

One would assume, given the feminist hype and press surrounding this film, that it’s a patriarchy crushing, glass ceiling shattering romp to make the suffragettes turn to one another in their graves and fist bump. One would be wrong. If there was ever a film which exemplifies the idea of feminists grasping at straws for evidence of an empowered woman, this is it.

Oh yeah..spoiler alert.

Despite the reports of grown women crying with joy during Wonder Woman’s fight scenes, there really is nothing novel here. Wonder woman is hardly a new character after all, and there have been other movies with strong, kick butt, human women in the leading roles. Those films were mostly far fetched drivel which received less commerical hype, but at least they fulfill the empowered woman trope.

How does the stellar fighting ability of the female progeny of Hippolyta, Queen of the [mythical] Amazons and Zeus, King of the [mythical] Greek gods in any way translate into something an average girls can aspire to? A goddess is portrayed as powerful.  Perhaps I am missing something because I left the theater telling my husband, “I didn’t get it”.

Despite The Guardian’s going on about Wonder Woman’s questionable sexual orientation, the central theme of her awakening is the love story between her and Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine. The only slight hint of anything resembling what this article implied was Diana Prince’s revelation that her sexual education (acquired through books on her island homeland) revealed that men while men are vital for procreation, they are not necessarily needed for pleasure. This is human sexuality 101, not female empowerment.

It makes you wonder, if this is what the film makers really wanted to convey, why Diana Prince and Steve Trevor spend a night together as a pivotal moment when their love is “sealed”, given that they were not married and procreation was not the intended aim. If she does not believe men are necessary for pleasure, and she does not want a child, what is the point of their union? It just smacked of more grasping at straws in an attempt to give professional SIW the nod they demand from Warner Brothers and DC Comics.

There are the obligatory scenes to reveal what ife was like for women in government and military settings at the dawn of the 20th century. Again, no new ground was tilled here, and it was nothing that you don’t see in any number of movies set in the early half of the 20th century.

The denoument, however, is where the feminist trope really breaks down. As Diana Prince/Wonder Woman comes to terms with the reality of human nature, she has a choice to make about who she wants to be in this complex human world. It isn’t her personal convictions or strength which drive her to make the right decision.

Rather, the audience gets to go back with her through memories of her moments with Steve, the wisdom he imparted to her, and the love he shared with her before heroically sacrificing himself to save the lives of thousands of people and instigate a moment so pivotal it turns the war toward it’s much needed end. In other words, it was the love a good (not to mention well above average) man which saves Diana from the despair that threatened to overtake her as she comes to terms with human corruption.

Like I said before, as celebratory feminist characters go, this one falls far short. They’d have done better to revamp Thelma and Louise with younger actresses.

Lest I am understood, and for those who don’t know, I have a healthy disdain for feminism and no desire to sit through a film which celebrates the notion of women empowered apart from men because girl power. As such, I was rather pleased that this movie is not at all what the left leaning press portrayed it to be.

The film itself was pretty well done. From an artistic standpoint, the visuals were nice and according to my comic book loving daughter, it stayed true to the original character. Gal Gadot is stunning, as any actress playing Wonder Woman would have to be.

The love scene between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor was reminiscent of the way it was done in eras of more propriety.  In other words, even though you know what happened, you weren’t subjected to the assault of having to watch it.

There is one scene where Chris Pine is 80% naked (not a sex scene, but still). Be warned if you’re tempted to take younger children because it’s a super hero film. DC Comics films are usually edgier than Marvel films anyway as a general rule.

If you’re looking for girl power you’ll find plenty of it, but it’s tempered. Diana Prince gushes over babies, relishes the taste of ice cream, and falls madly in love with a handsome hero. While she may not need him for physical protection,  Wonder Woman is not portrayed as a strong independent woman who don’t need no man.

I was reminded of fight scenes where one fighter taunts another with the question: “Is that all you’ve got?”

Friday Frivolities 3: Els’ Potpourri

We once went to a restaurant with an appetizer menu titled “a little bit of this and a little bit of that”. That’s what this is: a random mix of things I’ve thought about that won’t shake the world, but which I find interesting or enjoyable.

~My quest for the perfectly made bed: I make our bed every day, but I usually go about it the short and sweet way: pull the sheets on straight, smooth out the quilt, throw the pillows on top. In other words, just enough so that when we get ready to get in it later, it’s somewhat orderly.

I’m not sure what came over me Wednesday, but I was suddenly possessed with a desire to make our bed “right”. Y’all know, the whole “You can bounce a quarter on it” test.  By the time I was done, there would be no quarter bouncing on my bed, but it did take a long time to strip it, smooth the mattress pad, put on the sheets, straighten, fold and tuck them, put on the quilt, straighten it. Put the pillows on nice and neat, then arrange the decorative pillows just so.

We have a big bed so just walking around it repeatedly to get things perfectly straight took longer than usual. 15 minutes to make a bed that I usually make in three.

It didn’t look very different, but I put in more effort. If the husband responded positively, I’d keep doing it. He didn’t notice it at all. This is one task that I will unashamedly continue to do in shortcut version.

~ Fashion, proportion, and figuring out what works for you: Hearth posted a link demonstrating why women her height look better in skirts above the knee regardless of age. The woman in the linked post definitely looks better in a shorter skirt, and it wasn’t the least bit immodest.

It was a reminder to learn how to personalize your style based on what looks good on you and hold arbitrary rules loosely. I’m much taller than 5’4″, and much curvier (meaning larger bust, smaller waist, wider hips; not rolls of fat). So the lesson in her example wasn’t necessarily for me but there is a lesson in it.

~Birthday season has arrived in our house! Six of our seven birthdays will come and go between now and September 1st, not to mention a double college graduation celebration thrown in for good measure. This means perpetual “dieting” to compensate for all the communal feasting that will be taking place.

One thing I find very helpful during times like these is the motivation provided by non-scale victories that I will gain from eating healthy 75% of the time as the 25% of the time I don’t slows down the ability to lose the few extra pounds I want to lose over the summer. You can find a list here. Approaching health holistically has been good for me. Last but not least:

~Dance Party!!!

This is low culture and I realize that, but one of the ways I decompress and focus is by putting in one earbud, cranking up music with a good dance beat, and using it to keep up my momentum as I clean house. It’s good cardio too.

So, here are a few of the tunes I bounced to yesterday as I did my work.  I know that there are people who dance and people who don’t,  so your mileage may vary. Just find a way to infuse some joy and energy into you life this weekend.

Better When I’m Dancing from The Peanuts Movie, by Meghan Trainor:

Beautiful, by Mali Music:

Adventure of a Lifetime, by Coldplay:

Beautiful Day, by Jamie Grace:

This last one is by a rapper one of my kids is into. Apparently ALL of his music is free, which hasn’t hurt his popularity one little bit. I don’t do rap and never have even when I was young. However, since the girls are geared up to hit the road to go see him this summer, he’s an unashamed professed Christian (that not without controversy), and this hit song is his tribute to his grandma, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a listen.

Sunday Candy by Chance the Rapper

Have a fun, family-filled, worshipful weekend, huh?

Friday frivolities 2: Natural living

We live in the suburbs and drive a lot, but we really enjoy nature and time outside and have to take it as we can get it.

Fortunately, some of my in-laws live in the country on a sprawling bit of land with lots of natural beauty all around. We get up there a couple of times a year, and even stay in a beautiful log cabin my uncle-in-law and his wife built with their own hands. They belie their years, not only in appearance, but energy.

Recently we took a jaunt up for a few days and walking along dirt roads with no signs and forests as far as the eye can see is a wonderful respite, both mentally and physically:

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Here at home in my own back yard, spring has sprung. With it, we started our gardening and so far, so good:

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Purple peppers

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Mint

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Tomatoes

 

The recent drought down here, coupled with water usage restrictions, cause me a little concern but things are growing nicely. It seems the afternoon rains of the wet season are about to return as well, which brings the challenges of pests which to date haven’t been much of an issue. But they will.

Y’all get outside this weekend and have some fun. I certainly plan to, after I finish torturing myself at Saturday morning boot camp.

Have a blessed weekend!