Monthly Archives: June 2011

Privacy Schmivacy

private property

“I have bad news for you,” said my pastor one Sunday morning from the pulpit. “In a hundred years, no one will remember us.”

I love this guy.

He’s also said things like the opposite of longing is not contentment, but apathy. And if your life feels unbalanced, identify the busy peripheral activity, shoot it in the leg, and allow it to go off and die by itself in the corner. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

As you’ve read here before, I only joined Facebook six months ago. This is hard for you to believe given how technologically savvy I am. Not.

Now that I’m participating, I’m quite taken by social media. Why then was I such a late adopter? One word: privacy.

What if someone from my past friends me? Or rejects me? What if they make fun of my pictures? What if they email me?

What if a serial killer selects me out of the billions of people on earth because of a Facebook comment about how much I miss Ronald Reagan? It could happen. That’s not an invitation, by the way.

violators will be prosecuted

Furthermore people do not need to be in my bidness, the trash talk pronunciation of business. They don’t need to be in that either.

As you’ve also read here before, I’m not sure how much longer I will live. Neither are you. I know. It’s sad. On the bright side, mortality adds perspective.

Privacy is a luxury. Think I’m wrong? Give birth or be hospitalized. Apply for life insurance. Be a victim of crime or get caught commiting one. Run for public office. Face financial ruin. Get divorced. Zip! There goes privacy right out the window with modesty, dignity and safety.

A Bible teacher of mine once told a story about President Theodore Roosevelt. The President took guests to one of his estates, let’s say Sagamore Hill on Long Island, New York. At night, they would walk with him under the dark, vast sky near the bay, silently taking in thousands of bright stars.

Then Roosevelt would say to them and to himself, “Feel insignificant yet?”

If you’re a private person, that’s fine. Continue to be private. It’s okay with me if it’s okay with you.

But if you’ve got something to say, somewhere to go, something to do, there’s no time like the present. Mind you, don’t hurt yourself or anyone else intentionally. Do live fearlessly now. What do you have to lose?

no trespassing

Think I share too much? Think you know everything that goes on in my mind and in my household? This is the tip of the iceberg. There are stories I’ll never tell.

Besides, one hundred years from now none of us will be here to remember and no one who is here will care.

I hope to be in a better place with no more death or mourning or crying or pain. So for the here and now, I’ll live the bravest life I can.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 NIV

So long status quo. I think I just let go. You make me want to be Brave

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Best Money Ever Wasted

image from amazon.com

Finally grew up and bought more life insurance. Our agent said we need enough to provide for survivors if something were to happen, but not enough to be motivating. Said he hoped it was the best money we ever wasted. Yeah, us too.

Not only did we have to expose our personal finances—our agent was gentle with us, we also had to share our medical histories with a physician turned health examiner.

Judd came to our house at 7:30 a.m., dressed in scrubs. With a name like Judd, it has to be good, I thought—harkening back to The Breakfast Club and Smucker’s commercials.

He took our vitals, completed our questionnaires, made small talk. Told us he was a physician but couldn’t practice the way he would like and still make a living. Had to see a gazillion patients to make money as a doctor. He liked to spend time with folks.

Had an easy way about him, Judd did. Somewhere between contact information and blood samples, he told us a little story.

Well, first he said he liked our dog. Who doesn’t? She’s the cutest dog in the world. Judd has Tibetan terriers, so small dogs appeal to him the way a good story appeals to us.

Tibetan terrier, image from wikipedia.org under creative commons license

Said one night he’d let the dogs out in the backyard for their final bathroom break around 10 p.m. Looked out to see one of them playing with something, flipping it up in the air.

Judd went out to investigate and found the dog had killed a possum. The poor, wretched animal was lying stiff with his eyes closed and tongue hanging out.

“Kind of felt sorry for it,” said Judd. “But it was UG-LY! I didn’t want to mess with it. Figured I’d call the dogs in and take care of it in the morning.”

But no. After he secured the dogs inside the house and started his ascent upstairs, his wife insisted he go back out and dispose of the dead animal.

“It was 10 p.m.!” he said. “I didn’t want to touch it, so I got a big black garbage bag to cover my hands. Then I went out.”

My husband, son and I sat captivated.

“I go to pick it up,” he said, “and all of a sudden it stands to its feet and walks away! I screamed so loud, I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police!”

image from wikipedia.org under creative commons license, attributed to Piccolo Namek

We howled. “Haven’t you ever heard of playing possum?” I said through laughing tears.

“Yes, but I didn’t know it would do that!” he said. “It looked dead!”

Judd finished his work and left our house. We upped our life insurance for a pretty penny. When the bill comes, I’ll think of Judd’s story. How the extra insurance covers us in case. How we hope to find we didn’t really need it after all.

He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
as I live here on earth! Psalm 116:8-9 NLT

I cannot with clear conscience mention The Breakfast Club without linking to Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds. Someone who calls himself “Sheo” set the song to scenes from the movie and put it on YouTube. The video quality of his finished product could be better, but hey, it’s The Breakfast Club for crying out loud.

Here’s a link to the movie trailer too, if you insist.

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Ahab and the Unfairness Doctrine

The Waltons, image used with permission from sitcomsonline.com

Much as I hate to admit it, we don’t have daily family devotions. We don’t live on Walton Mountain either. Great if you do. I confess we don’t.

But we do love God and the Bible at our house. We’ve shared Bible stories with our son since he was itty-bitty.

Noah’s ark was his favorite for a long time. I told him how God brought two of every animal to the ark, a mommy and a daddy. He wasn’t satisfied.

“And the babies,” he said in his tiny three-year-old voice. “The mommies and the daddies and the babies.”

“Well, the Bible says a mommy and a daddy of each animal,” I said.

“And the babies,” he said. I dropped it, granting him liberty. No sense arguing with a three-year-old. Certainly there were babies when they departed the ark.

He’s six now. The Bible stories he likes are the bloody, gory, fighting ones.

We were running early one morning, so at breakfast I said, “I’ll read you a Bible story. You pick!”

“Read about when Queen Jezebel died,” he said.

I turned to 1 Kings 21, the story of Naboth’s vineyard. How King Ahab wanted it for a vegetable garden, but Naboth wouldn’t sell it to him. How King Ahab pouted and refused to eat.

My son’s favorite phrase these days is It’s not fair! No matter what it is, if he doesn’t like it, we hear the refrain It’s not fair! My husband and I are about to pull our hair out over It’s not fair! No sense arguing with a six-year-old.

So that morning I read the story my son had picked: His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

As my child listened and munched cereal, I smelled a teachable moment.

In the whiniest Ahab voice I could muster, I said: “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard: or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.'”

Then—God, forgive me and grant me liberty, I said: “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my son’s head pop up from his bowl.

I continued reading: Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

As it goes, Jezebel had Naboth killed, Ahab took his vineyard, and Elijah caught the king and queen red-handed. Elijah spelled out God’s judgment against them saying dogs would eat Jezebel’s body. Told you it was gory.

We turned to 2 Kings 9 where the prophesy came true: But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands.

My son was quiet.

“It came true,” I said, “because God does everything He says He will do.”

The Whetstines

Then I dropped it. No sense arguing with that either.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My Word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

Proudly presenting The Waltons Theme Song by Jerry Goldsmith. Loved that show. What a week and what a way to end it!

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Milk Wars

Beautiful 685, image from Troxel Dairy Farm, IN

Competitive parenting has us taking sides against each other on everything, and marketers know it.

Before our kids are born we divide over natural, drug-assisted or C-section delivery. At the hospital or at home. Doula or doctor. Bottle or breastfeeding. Cloth or disposable diapers.

Rocking to sleep or crying it out. Nanny, sitter, daycare or stay-at-home. Ballet or soccer. Piano or tennis. Swimming or Mandarin. Public, private or homeschool. Religious or secular. Hot or cold lunch. Bus or carpool.

Sadly, we even divide over milk. Conventional or organic.

The Journal of the Academy of  Nutrition and Dietetics published a study* concluding concluding there are “no biologically significant differences in quality, nutrients and hormones” between organic milk and conventional milk produced with or without rbST (recombinant bovine somatotrophin hormone). The conventional milk “had statisically lower bacterial counts,” a fact that may lead some to argue it’s safer.

as seen at Lacoste

So conventional and organic milk are compositionally the same. When you buy organic milk, you’re paying a premium for packaging that says so. Kind of like the alligator on a Lacoste shirt.

Buying organic for taste, convenience or preference is one thing. Buying it because you believe it’s safer is misguided.

It doesn’t stop with milk. In February 2011, STL Family Life published a post by a contributing writer. She saw the documentary Food, Inc., followed it up with Fast Food Nation, then, in her words, “freaked out” and decided to feed her family organic food only.

Jolly good for her. That’s her choice. Problem is, she implies all responsible parents should follow suit.

She writes buying organic food is more expensive, but cost is a poor excuse. She is willing to sacrifice things like a new car, video games, and real wrapping paper. In her words, making kids’ safety a priority is a parent’s “OBLIGATION.”

image from http://PinkePost.com

I agree our children’s safety is a priority, and the film disturbed me too. But I disagree with this mom’s implication that all conventionally-produced food is somehow unsafe or inferior.

My husband grew up on a dairy farm and has worked in agriculture his entire career. Last fall, we had the unique privilege of meeting filmmaker Rob Kenner, director and producer of Food, Inc., when he presented to a small group of agribusiness professionals.

We sat with Kenner at dinner. He’s a great guy—smart, savvy, admittedly liberal in his views. He made a sincere effort to show different sides of the issue in Food, Inc. But the large food and agricultural companies ignored his requests for an interview. As a result, their story was mostly left untold.

Can’t say I blame them for not talking to him. Sure wish they had though.

According to Box Office Mojo, Food, Inc. grossed $4,606,199. Not bad for a documentary.

The film was such a success, Kenner said environmentalist elite Prince Charles requested a private audience with him during a retreat to one of the castles. Think the royal family’s hurting for grocery money? Not on your Union Jack.

Kenner also talked of working on a second film about food for the same group of investors who backed the first Food, Inc. Cha-ching!

Meanwhile, millions of moms and dads stand before grocery store shelves and refrigeration units wringing their hands. Are they doing the right thing, buying conventionally-produced food and milk? Are they contributing to animal abuse and the destruction of the planet?

Are they bad parents? Are their children being short-changed? Do they really need all that clothing, shelter, education, transportation and wrapping paper? Maybe they should give it up to buy only organic food like responsible parents.

I mentioned my husband grew up on a dairy farm. His family named their cows and they had about 200. To this day he can tell you about cows’ individual personalities like teachers can tell you about former students.

image from Troxel Dairy Farm, IN

Good farmers don’t abuse their animals. They recognize those animals are their most valuable assets.

Good farmers love the land. They pursue the very best practices and technologies to produce the very best fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock. Seeing the healthy growth of their plants and animals is a primary force that drives them to farm.

Are there unscrupulous farmers? Yes there are. Same as there are unscrupulous butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, teachers, preachers and politicians. Should they be prosecuted? If they break the law, absolutely.

image from http://PinkePost.com

Should we all throw up our hands, head for the hills, and buy nothing but organic? You are free to do so if you choose. This is America. But please don’t guilt, scare or legislate the rest of us into doing the same.

Personally, I like having choices in this free market of ours. I buy what looks and tastes best, what my family will eat, what meets our nutritional needs, what’s available and what we can afford—conventional or organic.

It’s my responsibility as a parent to put the food on the table. It’s not my responsibility to compete with other parents or be judged for what I serve.

Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Romans 14:3 NLT

image from Troxel Dairy Farm, IN

For your listening refreshment, order up a tall glass of No Milk Today by Herman’s Hermits.

*Reflects an updated link to the abstract of the study Survey of Retail Milk Composition as Affected by Label Claims Regarding Farm-Management Practices by John Vicini et al., published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (1/2008).

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Death of a Television: Six Months Without the Tube

One afternoon our television quit working.

It was alive and chattering the day before. But that afternoon it wouldn’t click on. Wouldn’t speak to the satellite or dance with the DVD player. It had expired during the night, never to be heard from again.

remotes at rest

That TV was a monolithic dinosaur of technology and size. Ancient at only five years old. As rigor mortis set in, it became apparent a proper burial would not be easy.

Time of death occurred when my husband was out of town on business. The most interesting things happen when he’s not here. No way was I hauling that carcass to the dumpster alone.

So guess what happened when he came home? Ladies, you know the answer to this one. The TV remained exactly where it died for the next six months.

I have to explain. As you know, our house is for sale. The TV made for good staging. Prospective buyers didn’t know it was dead. They just thought it was off.

The perils of the housing market left us unsure we could afford another TV. Turns out, replacing it immediately was one of the best things we didn’t do.

The first few weeks were tough. Withdrawal and separation anxiety raged.

hobby in waiting

We pouted when we couldn’t watch Dinosaur Train or the new Ken Burns special or Top Chef. I agonized how I would occupy my child for the entire two hours after school and before dinner.

Gradually, incomprehensibly, we stopped missing it. I’d like to say we started some fantastic hobby like oil painting or guitar. Those are still on the list of things we’d like to do someday.

What we did when the TV died was simply live. We survived to tell the tale. It is possible to live in America today without a television.

Don’t get me wrong. I was raised on TV. It was always on in our house, a constant whirring of background noise. We do enjoy a good movie or show. And when we absolutely have to get something done child-free, our son’s favorite DVD comes in handy.

the new slim shady

So after six months of watching movies on a 13-inch laptop screen, we decided it was safe to replace the television.

The new TV is smaller and slimmer than its predecessor. Light enough to pick up and throw out the window if it misbehaves.

We watch our selected shows or movies and turn it off. We have mastered it, at least for now.

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16 NIV

Enjoy the very first video played on MTV, Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. Still campy and still a blast.

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Perestroika at 35,000 Feet

my new friend

“It’s hard living between airplanes,” said the stranger sitting next to me.

I had the window seat. He had the middle. No one had the end seat, but he didn’t move. He reached out with conversation.

“Do you live in Charlotte?” he said.

“No, I used to live in North Carolina. I’m just visiting this trip.”

“Do you know the university in North Carolina?” he said.

“UNC-Charlotte?” I said.

“I don’t know what it’s called,” he said. “I can go there for my graduate degree.”

“There are a lot of good schools in North Carolina,” I said. “What will you study?”

The stranger introduced himself. Said he was studying recreational therapy in Illinois. Hoped to do graduate work so he could train other therapists in Saudi Arabia. Recreational therapists are in demand there, even more so instructors to train them.

Before school, he’d organized conferences to educate Saudi companies about the internet. Showed me pictures of the events on his iPhone. Seemed impressed I have a blog. The flight attendant gave us dirty looks.

Showed me pictures of his two little boys and his beautiful wife. Said her name means scent of flowers.

He’d left them in Saudi Arabia to come to the United States to study. Left his former work to pursue American degrees that would give him job security as an instructor in his own country. He missed his family and would travel more than 20 hours on four flights to see them.

blind freedom

“Dubai is not just a city,” he said as we looked at his vacation pictures.

“Forgive me, but are those Christmas trees in the hotel lobby?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Isn’t Dubai in a Muslim country?” I said. “They have Christmas trees?”

“You have your beliefs. We have ours. No reason to fight about them,” he said. “The vacationers come for Christmas holiday.”

My new friend may be Saudi, but that sure sounded American.

He showed me apps to get free phone calls, text messaging, and voice reminders. Then more free apps to book flights or turn my iPhone into a flashlight or a piano. The refreshment cart passed us by.

He’s learning English. The writing comes hard. His iPhone is full of SAT and GRE vocab apps. We played them with abandon. Well, I played.

“You are so fast at these word games!” he said.

“I’ve been learning English all my life,” I said. “You’ll get it.”

“You know Mubarak?” he said. “The guy in Egypt?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Obama’s advisors called Mubarak because he’s won so many ‘elections’ in Egypt. They wanted him to help with the next election here.”

“Okay,” I said now hooked.

“Mubarak agreed to let his advisors work on the election here,” he said. “After it was over, Obama called Mubarak and cursed him. Mubarak asked Obama what was wrong. Obama cursed him more. So Mubarak told Obama to put Mubarak’s advisors on the phone.”

“And?” I said.

“Mubarak’s advisors were so happy. They said to Mubarak, ‘We won! We won! Congratulations, Mr. President!'”

Cheers to my new friend, wherever you are.

For the Lord is high above the nations;
His glory is higher than the heavens. Psalm 113:4 NLT

long may she wave

Perestroika is Russian for restructuring.

Dear sweet 1984, we didn’t know the Cold War years were the good old days. Thanks for leaving us 99 Luftballoons by Nena.

Saudis in America

While writing this post I watched Saudis in America, a short documentary by Saudi filmmaker Fahmi F. Farahat (2007).

There are no easy answers. Although I disagreed with some opinions expressed in the film, it makes good food for thought. Catch the interview with Farahat on the extras.

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Perfectionist? Your Secret’s Safe with Me

mr. and mrs.

My man is a bit of a messy. Not filthy, rather blissfully cluttered and unaware.

I asked his parents prenuptually, as we searched for an empty spot to sit in his living room, if he’d always been like this.

“Yeah, pretty much,” said my future father-in-law. Then he looked at me, a glint in his eye, and said, “You know he’s not going to change.”

Without hesitation I said, “Neither am I.”

Smug in my neatness, I relayed this story to my husband all these years later.

“Oh, really?” he said. “That’s funny, because around that same time your brother pulled me aside and told me you’re a perfectionist.”

What? My brother knows I’m a perfectionist?

“Yeah, he said, ‘You know she’s going to want everything to be perfect.’ I think he wanted to prepare me and protect you,” said my husband.

A perfectionist? My brother told my fiancé I’m a perfectionist? How did he know? Who told him?

Perfectionism is akin to chicken pox. And messiness. Can’t be hidden really. That’s its main imperfection.

I like to think my perfectionistic tendancies have mellowed with the years.  Same way my husband likes to think his messiness has. I like to imagine my Myers-Briggs Super Feeler personality has no qualms with my Super Thinker husband. My J and his P can live together peacefully.

Seems truer though, our greatest strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.

The optimism that so attracts me to him drives me to the brink when it runs up against my realism. My emotion that so touches his heart often leaves him flailing alone in his logic.

How do we survive? Somehow we work it out. Temper one another. Genuinely like one another. Struggle and fight to love. Pick up day after day and maintain a disciplined loop, a quiet repeat of what works, a layering of commitment and time as circumstances spiral up and down.

Where I bring organization, he brings spontenaeity. Where I bring order, he brings fullness. Where I am prone to panic, he is even-keeled. Where he is tempted to inaction, I hold ground and press on.

Not sure how it works, messy and imperfect though it may be, but thank God by His grace it does.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NIV

we three

You Take Me the Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson is one of the sweetest songs ever. Some people don’t like the video. Must be the clowns. Normally I don’t like clowns, but I do like this video. Reminds me of a certain married couple I know.

I’m also including a link to You Take Me the Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson with a little Vanilla Ice on the front end. What a hoot! Keep watching until Michaelson sings. Her voice is très bien. And you know we’re rather fond of Ice Ice Baby around here.

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