Monthly Archives: February 2013

Deliverables R Us

Ah, Facebook. Relational crucible of the 21st century.

freak out

freak out

Have you read about Julia Angwin, the woman who’s unfriending all of her friends on Facebook? She’s an accomplished journalist, author, and privacy expert who figured out what we all knew already: social media affords very little privacy. She’s created a micro-movement of readers who are kicking their Facebook friends to the curb. Really.

Then I read a post from a woman who disabled her account because she felt her time on Facebook was an indulgent, unhealthy grasp for the approval of others. Now tell us something we don’t know.

Of course who can forget evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar’s assertion that human beings cannot cognitively maintain more than 150 meaningful relationships? As if the nuances of friendship, emotion, and memory are static, quantifiable commodities. Your friend quota is capped at 150—and not one more! Dunbar isn’t on Facebook, by the way.

I’ve been on Facebook for 26 months. Usually it’s fun and silly, not to be taken too seriously. It’s a good place to keep in touch with people and share what I write. As with all things internet, if it’s private, you don’t post it.

Change is the only constant on the social network. 

You’ll remember my unhappiness with the bait-and-switch maneuver played out on Facebook fan pages this past fall. Well, just last week, I stumbled upon the mother lode. A dumping ground in my Facebook Messages called the “Other” box. Comes with a pay-to-stalk offer.

Theoretically, I assume everyone on Facebook has an “Other” box. You can check next time you’re on Facebook. Click on your Messages tab. To the right of the word “Inbox,” you should see it. “Other.” Is it there? Are messages in it? Mine was populated with freaky messages from strange men I don’t know who wanted to be my “friend.”

Here’s how it works: let’s say someone wants to send you a message on Facebook, but they’re not your Facebook friend. No problem. Rather than sending you a friend request, Facebook allows them to send you a message anyway—to your “Other” box.

medium_3276076410

change is the only constant, photo credit: celeste343

Now if that person who you don’t know wants to send you a message but doesn’t want it to go to the no-man’s land of the “Other” box, Facebook offers a salacious solution. For $1 Facebook will bypass the “Other” box and deliver their message directly into your “Inbox.” So, along with kind, harmless messages from your Aunt Sally, your kindergarten BFF, and your child’s piano teacher, you may see messages from strangers who paid $1 to stalk for access to you.

A single dollar. One hundred pennies. Small change for perverts, stalkers, and bullies bent on terrorizing the common folk.

Facebook, what are you thinking?!

I’m making a lot of assumptions here. But Facebook, in grand Facebook fashion, insists on making adjustments, tweaks, and monumental changes without much consideration for their users, so assumptions are all I have. My husband made the wisest assumption of all.

“Aimee, Facebook doesn’t see us as users or customers,” he said. “For Facebook, we’re deliverables.”

He’s smart, that guy. But he rarely follows my status updates. Figures he knows what’s going on with me already. So at lunch this past Sunday, I’m explaining the “Other” box to him and my son and how there are some people Mom doesn’t want to befriend.

“Here’s what the people in my ‘Other’ box are like,” I said, summoning my scariest, most gravelly voice. “‘Hey! I wanna be your friend!‘ And I’m like, ‘Hey! I don’t even know you!‘”

My son and my husband laughed at my theatrics in the middle of the Chinese restaurant. We role-played, taking turns being the scary “Other” people with the funny voices and the unsuspecting deliverables left to fend them off.

The bill and fortune cookies came too soon. Our table erupted as I read mine.

fortune cookie

The time is right to make new friends.

Hey, Facebook, ever hear of MySpace?

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. Proverbs 18:24 NRSV

The Stranger by Billy Joel.

Do you use social networks like Facebook? How do you protect yourself?

photo credit: celeste343 via photopin cc

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Guest Post: Musing Momma Says Parenting Isn’t Black and White

When Aimee invited me to share a post about my family, I struggled with what I wanted to say. Any family is more than one story.

Musing MommaWe are each a million stories. Which one do I tell? Even narrowing it down to writing about my experience being in a multiracial family and what that has meant for me leaves so many possibilities to choose from. This is just one part of our experience.

I am a white woman married to a black man and the mother of two biracial children (two beautiful, amazing, radiant children, if I may say so). Being so intimately connected to two different cultures through my family and sorting through what that means for us is a blessing. It challenges me to look more deeply at my own attitudes. It pushes me to try my best to figure out what race means and what it doesn’t. And because of the implications for my children, I’m attuned to subtleties of racism that I may have remained oblivious to otherwise.

By virtue of my family, race has moved from a somewhat intellectual issue to a very personal and emotional one. I can’t speak for other mixed race families, but I have talked to many other white mommas of brown children and I believe that my experience—the eye-opening transition and becoming more sensitized to all the ways that racism manifests—is one that many of them share.

photo credit: Musing Momma

Over the past decade, I’ve wrestled with the knowledge that what others think and believe about me and about my family may be based more on skin color than on fact or fairness. People passing by may not think to themselves, “There’s a couple with graduate degrees and good jobs, who have been together for a rock-solid 14 years. Look at those sweet boys they’re working so hard to raise right.” Filtered through stereotypes and preconceived notions, their judgments may be, well, less flattering.

As someone who has always cared a little too much what others think and taken pride in her smart-girl, good-girl image, the idea of someone thinking poorly of me or my family was something I struggled with and sometimes still do. (Feel free to read more about that here.) But that struggle has pushed me to really think about how we all deserve to be treated with the utmost compassion and respect as we move through life, regardless of our back stories. It’s easy to pay lip service to that belief, but it’s another thing entirely to fully grasp and practice it.

photo credit: Musing Momma

photo credit: Musing Momma

In the four walls of our home, we don’t think much about race. We think about what we’re having for dinner and whether our kindergartener has done his homework. We wonder if we’re being too strict and then we wonder if we’re being too lenient. We snuggle up and read stories at bedtime. We give baths and we say “I love you” and we play trains on the living room floor. In short, we do what families do.

But there are concerns I have that, if my kids were white, wouldn’t even be on my radar screen.  There are things I do because I am always trying to make sure my boys have a strong, healthy sense of self, one that will fortify them against the racism they will inevitably experience.

I make sure they feel positive about being black and about their appearance as black children—their curly hair, their brown skin. Somewhere along the way society will tell them these features are less than desirable, and I want them to know that is a lie.  If you’ve ever gone to your local store to look for a black action figure for your child, you know that they’re not easy to find. I worry about what message this sends my children. With limited success, I look for children’s television shows and movies with African-American boys in lead roles because I know that “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

photo credit: Lubs Mary

photo credit: Lubs Mary

I worry about the impact of stereotypes they’ll be exposed to once they move beyond children’s programming. Research shows that media does affect how African-American children feel about themselves. I point out positive black role models everywhere I can—their father, the President, in a story on the news—hoping those examples prove to be a more powerful influence than limiting stereotypes.

I go out of my way to make sure my children’s teachers know that my husband and I are involved and invested in their education, because I worry that if the teachers don’t know us, they’ll expect less of my children than they do of their white peers. It’s a reasonable fear, because research has shown that teachers often expect less of black students, even if they don’t realize it.

I dread the day that my children are insulted or rejected on account of race because I know that they are loving, curious, imaginative, and downright amazing souls and the idea that anyone would not see that based simply on the color of their skin just breaks my heart. And I dread the day that another parent doesn’t want their child to date mine. And, chances are, that day will come. We’ve come a long way with the rise in interracial relationships in this country, but we still have a long way to go, especially with respect to feelings about black-white marriage. (Check out this 2012 Pew Research article summarizing U.S. Census statistics and attitudes toward interracial marriage.)

When I hear about someone not wanting their child to date a black person or be friends with a black classmate, I just want to grab them by the shoulders, look them in the eye and say, “What do you mean? Are you telling me that this boy I have loved and nurtured, just as you have loved and nurtured your child, is somehow not good enough? That my beautiful child is less than your beautiful child?” I wonder what they would say. Imagine someone telling you that your child is not good enough for theirs, not because of anything he or she has done, but simply because of the color of their skin.

photo credit: Werth Media

photo credit: Werth Media

I worry about racial profiling and how it will affect my boys. I consider that if my little one continues to be off-the-charts in height, he won’t just grow up to be a black man but he’ll grow up to be a big black man—and it scares me what that could mean for his safety as he moves out into the world. The death of Trayvon Martin shook me to my core, as it did so many parents of black children, because I realized that could be my child someday. I worry about what happens when they must step out of this bubble we’ve built around them and into the real world.

These are things I probably wouldn’t worry about if my children were white. This is how I know race still matters and in unfair ways. We have come a long way, but we still have a long ways to go before racial and cultural differences are pervasively seen as something to be celebrated and appreciated, rather than the basis for division and discrimination.

The beauty of raising young children is that they are a living example that race is a social construct, not a biological truth. I see how accepting my children are of people from different backgrounds, because no one has taught them otherwise and because my husband and I are doing all we can to ensure they hold onto that belief. They notice skin color, but without judgment or assumption.

Ellie of Musing Momma

Ellie of Musing Momma

We can’t change problems if we don’t recognize them. My family experience has pushed me to examine my own biases and being more aware means I can make more conscious choices over what I believe and what I feel.

If things are going to change, we have to open our hearts and be willing to learn. We need to seek out different perspectives and really try to understand the impact of our history on the present. For those of us who are white, we must be willing to examine our own biases and acknowledge where our skin color has afforded us privileges we may not deserve, and we have to be willing to do something about it.

Read more at Musing Momma about Ellie’s experiences from how her interracial relationship has shaped her identity to debating whether to change school districts to conversations with her sons about race. She also features other multiracial families who are gracious enough to share their experiences. Ellie highly recommend the online magazine Multicultural Familia and their list of favorite sites on race and culture as good places to learn more.

Thank you, Ellie, for sharing your story here!

photo credit: Lubs Mary. via photopin cc
photo credit: werthmedia via photopin cc

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Tennessee

February is African-American history month. 

Somewhere in America, 1934, oil on canvas by Robert Brackman

Somewhere in America, 1934, oil on canvas by Robert Brackman

I’m not African-American. There are many things I don’t understand about how racism is experienced. While I would very much like us to get past race and just treat everyone as human beings, the atrocities the African-American and other communities have experienced leave deep wounds. Will they ever heal? How can all of us help?

In an effort to open a dialogue and help bring some understanding to this topic for everyone, myself included, I’ve reached out to a few friends to share their stories this year. The first is the kind and lovely “psychologist-turned-momma in a multiracial family” Ellie of Musing Momma. You’ll read her guest post here tomorrow. 

If you’ve been around this blog awhile, you know I like to link to songs at the end of some of the posts. One time I was looking for a link to Arrested Development’s song People Everyday. Seemed a good way to explain my use of “everyday” versus “every day” in the blog title. It’s a grammar thing.

I’m a fan of Arrested Development, but somehow I’d missed many of their videos. That day was the first time I saw Tennessee. I watched it with my son, then had to try to explain it to him, a child.

I knew the song had something to do with injustices against African-Americans. What I didn’t get until I watched the video (and may never fully get) is the legacy and fallout of those injustices. When the woman at the end mournfully sings, her grief calls out loud and clear: “Won’t you help me understand your plan? Take me home! Take me to another place!

Grief. Same as any family might experience for generations after trauma. Manifested, demonstrated differently by individuals. Anger, sadness, despair, silence, denial, resolve, survival. 

somewhere in America

somewhere in America, photo credit: Creativity + Timothy K Hamilton

My assessment may be completely wrong. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not African-American. I don’t understand it all, but I want to understand it better. Watching that video, watching how we wrestle with issues of race in our country year after year, I am grieved.

Why are many of our communities still segregated, not by law but by choice? Why, oh why, are our Christian churches segregated? A difference in worship styles or language is one thing. But a congregation of all black, all white, all Asian, or all whatever doesn’t reflect the true make up of The Church.

So we’re going to broach this subject. Here. Together. Respectfully. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:14 NLT

Tennessee by Arrested Development.

Please join us tomorrow for Ellie’s guest post.

photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc
photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via photopin cc

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Necessary Violence?

I’m finally reading The Hunger Games. Only five years and one movie late. No spoilers, please. Oh, and I’m tweeting my favorite lines as I discover them, probably to the chagrin of the handful of people who follow me on Twitter.

mockingjay pin

mockingjay pin

I’ve read through Part I: The Tributes. It was tragic, but not really violent. The violence is yet to come. Ever since I wrote Jeremy Spoke last month, I’ve been thinking and rethinking how violence in our culture influences our behavior. While I don’t retract, “Garbage in, garbage out,” I’m struggling with this in light of our stories.

There is no great, compelling story without conflict and crisis. That conflict is most dramatically manifested in violence. 

Lord of the Flies is violent. So is The Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. Les Misérables. Star Wars. The Godfather. The Matrix. Gone With the Wind. The Gospels. And so on.

Is some violence necessary in our stories? What makes it gratuitous? Should we shield our children? What flips the switch to unleash violent behavior in some people, but not others?

A few years ago I took a film analysis class at church. Yes, church. There’s no better place to consider human culture than within the context of God’s redemptive work for us through the death and resurrection of Christ.

We critiqued the messaging of movies. We examined what a film’s story and cinematography say about God, humans, our society, our destiny. We wrestled with themes Christians might shy away from: violence, nudity, profanity. We found our thresholds to be individual and subjective.

I think the point of a class like that, and a post like this, isn’t necessarily answers. Rather it’s to get us to pay attention.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

We all break God’s law. There is none righteous. No, not one. Left to its natural course, our law-breaking gets worse, not better. We’re capable of horrific behavior. God abhors those who love violence. The One Hope for our depravity is a core change from death to life.

Maybe the message of Heathers was satirical and Pearl Jam’s Jeremy was a warning. Maybe the conflict, crisis, and violence of our stories, fiction and nonfiction, serve to spur us on to the Redeemer.

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—
You, the righteous God
Who probes minds and hearts. Psalm 7:9 NIV

The Hunger Games movie site where you can watch the official trailer.

Is some violence necessary in our stories? Where’s your threshold for viewing or reading it? How does violence in our culture influence behavior?

photo credit: damnyeahnich via photopin cc
photo credit: cinderellasg via photopin cc

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Dresses and Dreams

Ladies, as a little girl did you ever dream of your wedding dress? 

Beane & Co Clara from Nice and Neutral Collection

Beane & Company Clara

My dream wedding dress was updated with every trend. I wanted a fur collar. Make that a 25-foot train like Princess Diana’s. Maybe fingerless lace gloves. White granny boots. A tiara.

My actual wedding was 17 years ago, and I find myself in an odd place now. As a MOB (mother of boy), it’s unlikely I’ll have a say in wedding dresses, much less fingerless lace gloves. There will be no trips with the bride to say yes to the dress, just a tinge of pain knowing I’ll never get to plan, er, help plan a wedding again.

Enter Pinterest. I’m like a sweet tooth set loose in a candy store with no money to buy the goods. So I started a board called “My Imaginary Pinterest Wedding Even Though I’m Already Married.” It eases my craving the same way my “Short Cuts” board consoles the occasional impulse for a pixie haircut.

It may look odd (the board, not the haircut). When a friend saw me pinning wedding dresses, she quipped, “Are you renewing your vows or something?”

Beane & Co Zelda and Leo Gatsby Collection

Beane & Company Zelda and Leo

Laugh all you want, sister. Your beautiful daughter practically guarantees you a subscription to Brides.

Instead of assembling wedding accoutrements on Pinterest where friends question your sanity, what if you could make them your business? What if you could design bridal regalia to your heart’s desire and your clients’ satisfaction?

My friend Jenna Lang does exactly that. Beane & Company, her Los Angeles studio, has created custom special occasion clothing for children since 2007.

Imagine the most darling flower girls and ring bearers EVER.

Beane & Co Grace from Gatsby Collection

Beane & Company Grace

“What makes us unique is that everything you purchase is made to order. Nothing is massed produced,” says Jenna.

“Our niche is that we can customize anything you see pictured in any color or fabric. It generally starts with an inquiry that goes something like this: ‘I love this dress. Can we do it in pink instead of white?’ Our answer is always ‘Yes!'”

Jenna credits her mother, a seamstress, with inspiring her appreciation for custom clothing. Jenna was a professional dancer and worked for many years designing theatre costumes. Her passion for design blossomed into a business with the births of her own children.

“I wanted my daughter to have a chest of beautiful keepsake clothing just like my mother had for me. The dresses I made began to pile up—way too many clothes for her to wear! So my business began as a natural progression of my love for all things theatrical married to my love for vintage children’s clothing. My daughter, and now my son, are still the inspiration for everything I do.”

Beane & Co Charlie from Gatsby Collection

Beane & Company Charlie

Custom is key in the wedding industry. “A bride can send us a swatch of the colors she’s using in her wedding and we can match it to make something that fits perfectly,” says Jenna. “The best part is there are no add-ons or upcharge for color or design changes. The price listed is the price you pay, regardless of the changes made.”

Beane & Co Ella from Something Blue Collection

Beane & Company Ella

What does Jenna love most about her work? “The thing I love most about what I do is the creative process,” she says. “There’s nothing like seeing a piece of fabric or a sketch on paper and making it come to life. I’m always amazed at what and where I find things that spark an idea. If you can imagine it, or you want us to imagine it—we can make it!” 

I like her passion. It’s what dresses and dreams are made of. 

Some of Beane & Company’s enchanting designs are featured in this post with photography by Katie Duda of Claire Alyse Photography. See more at Beane & Company, on Facebook, on Twitter @beaneandcompany, or contact Jenna (at) BeaneandCo (dot) com.

Beane & Co Lizzy from Something Beane

Beane & Company Lizzy

You have captured my heart,
my treasure, my bride.
You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes,
with a single jewel of your necklace. Song of Solomon 4:9 NLT

Marry Me by Train.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
So what’s your imaginary wedding dress look like?

Disclosure: I’m not being compensated to promote Beane & Company or Claire Alyse Photography in this post. 

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Happy Birthday, Blog

How do you wish a blog a happy birthday?
Let’s bring in the birds for an avian rhapsody soiree.

image by wili_hybrid via flickr

Click to read “Birds on a Ledge.” Image by will_hybrid.

April 23, 2012

Click to read “Nestful of Blessings.”

parrot by rotorod creative commons license

Click to read “Parrot Island.” Image by rotorod.

Flowers are essential.

single pink peony

Click to read “An Unexpected Post.”

lamb's ear, iris and Baptista in J's garden last spring

Click to read “Paper Weight.”

dillon's daffodil

Click to read “Missing Alex.”

And we must put up a sign.

sit up get God

Click to read “Everyday Q&A.”

private property

Click to read “Privacy Schmivacy.”

power mom sign

Click to read “The Lie of Having It All.”

Happy Birthday, everyday epistle.
Thank you for two fun, adventurous, unexpected years.

The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3 NIV

hair model

Gonna get my hair done for this occasion. Click to read “Gray.”

Music flashback: The Sign by Ace of Base.

What will you celebrate today?

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Peacemaker President

President Obama’s second-term inauguration has come and gone. Even though I didn’t vote for him, he’s still the president of my country. He represents all Americans, including me.

peace sign

give peace a chance

Last month, my friend Amy wrote about picking a theme word for her life in 2013. Her post inspired me to think of a theme word for my hopes for President Obama’s second term. The word I chose is peace. If President Obama can usher peace into America’s contentious political environment, he’ll secure his legacy along with a place in the hearts of many Americans—maybe even those like me who didn’t vote for him.

We can argue, liberals and conservatives, about whose behavior is worse. Each side blames the other for gridlock. Mud slings year round, not just during election season. From where we regular folks sit, Washington looks like a bad episode of 90210. Vindictive. Scandalous. Popular people posing for the cameras one minute and stabbing each other in the back the next. Meanwhile, constituents wait for them to do their jobs at the Peach Pit. A ridiculous and imperfect analogy, I know, but you get the idea.

90210 formal

90210 formal

How could President Obama or anyone possibly be expected to instill  peace in the midst of infighting like this? He can’t do it alone. None of us can. But as the leader, he’s in the best position to change the tone.

Conservatives like me must own our part of the conflict. Our disagreement with President Obama’s policies, actions, and words often translate as personal attacks on him, much the way liberals’ criticism of former President George W. Bush did. I want to be more careful to clearly debate differences in belief, and I hope other conservatives and liberals will do so going forward. I also want to remember to pray for President Obama as our leader, and I hope other people of faith will, too.

Peace as a top-down change is powerful. I challenge President Obama to be the first to attempt reconciliation and bipartisan compromise. I don’t expect either side to cave on the values of those they represent. But if a solution simply cannot be reached, I hope President Obama will encourage Congress to dig deeper to come up with another option. Rather than rushing to an ill-conceived decision or executive order, go back to the drawing board and do better.

be the change

be the change

Peace in speech and countenance is healing. I challenge President Obama to visibly demonstrate willingness to work with others who believe differently than he does. Religious freedom is an issue close to my heart. I hope President Obama will deal peacefully with those whose faith beliefs are different from his and not use policy to force citizens to act against their faith or support actions they find morally reprehensible like unrestricted abortion on demand. There is room for mutual respect. We can protect the religious liberty of all Americans including Christians.

Peace can make a good leader great and create a legacy worth remembering. If he leads with peace, President Obama has a unique opportunity for greatness in his second term. By extending the olive branch in our broken country, he can transcend divisiveness and revive the civil discourse that may actually lead to solutions to the problems we face.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 NIV

All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance, by John Lennon.

What are your hopes for Obama’s second term?

photo credit: ginnerobot via photopin cc
photo credit: alicetiara via photopin cc
photo credit: danny.hammontree via photopin cc

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