Archive for September, 2011

There are many many things I want to react to. Rebecca Luella Miller’s posts about feminism in the church. Aunt B.’s post about some guy opining about Chris Christie being too fat to be president.

None of the reactions I have to these things are something I can do right now without stroking out. And I am honestly not rage-free enough to write anything else.

Oh, I should clarify. I’m not all rage-y at Rebecca’s posts. I’ m rage-y at the Chris Christie thing in a way that defies description. That rage is preventing a nuanced approach to Rebecca’s writings.

But man. I am rage-y.

I was already half rage-y over Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of “the fat bridesmaid” in Bridesmaids. Did you know fat women have weird food-related sex? That fat women are butch and greedy and coarse?

And now I find out that a person who comes from several high-risk health populations (male, African-American) has decided that fat people are gross, lazy, unhealthy and need to just eat a salad and take a walk. Because they aren’t good enough to do anything else but spend all their time focusing on what they eat. It’s like a sort of debtor’s prison. Anyway, this dude thinks that Chris Christie can’t be president. So I guess this country finally escaped the bigotry of racism only to embrace the bigotry of fatism.

And next time you read someone misquoting statistics to make a point about the evils of Obesity, just remember how often statistics were warped and misquoted to defend slavery and laws against interracial marriage. Ask yourself how this talk of the Obese being a drain on a society to which they obviously greatly contribute is any less offensive.

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I guess the Internet is now a place where people like to pretend they’re on Jerry Springer.

Okay. Right; yes. I know. It’s always been like that in places. (Free Republic and Democratic Underground, anyone?) But used to be you could go to innocuous fora and have the talk be about neutral things like Weight Watchers points and Disney World.

Hah. I’m so naive. Because that is no longer the way. See, I went to a WDW to post a question about something I noticed on my trip. I’ve had a lot of issues here with older boys being in the Women’s bathroom and both boys and girls peeking between cracks or under the stall at me. By “a lot of issues” I mean it’s happened maybe 10x a year (the boy thing) and 3x a year (the peeking thing.) But at Disney it was a pervasive thing for boys who appeared to be as old as 11 to be in the women’s bathrooms with their mothers. So pervasive that it was pretty much every time you went into a bathroom and twice I noticed women coming outside to double-check the signage. When there are more little boys than women in a bathroom and you have to look outside (or for the tampon dispenser on the wall) to make sure you’re in the right spot, it’s kind of a deal.

So I just asked politely if this was maybe a cultural thing. See, at WDW–especially in the fall–a lot of the visitors there are from other countries. And I was thinking maybe this was something they do in Brazil or France or wherever.

Whoops. Apparently, judging by the harsh words thrown back and forth all evening this is a huge issue with a lot of people calling other people hens and and accusing them of being too ashamed of their bodies and frigid and sexually dysfunctional and child rapists and murderers and etc. etc.

This is on a forum for Walt Disney World.

I do have some thoughts, now that I know it’s something to have thoughts on. But the most pervasive thought I have is that I feel really sorry for men. Did you know that simply having a penis makes you a skeevy criminal who is only held in check by the force of societal disapprobation? If it were not for women, you would either be molesting little boys in every public bathroom or turning your back while another empenised rogue does so. I know they’ve talked about this over at Tiny Cat Pants before in other contexts, but this is just like the sad root and fruit of the problem in one place.

I also think that being too suspicious of people makes you less kind overall. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in caution, suspicion, the whole nine yards. My family even calls me the “Belt and Suspenders girl” because I’m sometimes overly cautious myself. But when you look at other people and see only devils, it seems to free you up from whatever obligation you may have to kindness. And that is a problem no matter who you are.

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1. The movie “Bridesmaids” is not funny, not feminist and really kind of too long and a bit boring.

2. Even if you’ve already read it half a dozen times, Helter Skelter will still scare the pants off you. You musn’t read it alone or after dark. Which means that I’ll probably just move on.

3. I’m allergic to red onions. Apparently Allium allergies are common, but most people who have them are allergic to all varieties of onion. The red onions only variety exists but is rare. So there’s yet ANOTHER rare quirk I have. I’m starting to suspect that when the doctors brought me back to life as a baby they forgot a key portion. I’m like Frankenstein’s Monster without a villager’s left arm.

4. Never go to Disney World without a Rental Car. You can get one for $15/day now, which is about the cost of a cheeseburger meal for one person in the parks. Without a car you are at the mercy of Disney’s public transit system. While that may seem romantic and vacationish (“I don’t have to drive”) it’s actually the biggest funkiller on property. Last time we went we turned in our car after two days. A trip from our hotel to Epcot took at least an hour. This trip I was surprised to realise that Epcot is actually only ten minutes away from our hotel. That’s because our rental car didn’t make us wait standing on a curb for 20 minutes, pause to load in someone with an ECV and then pick up 30 more people at Fort Wilderness first. There’s also the benefit of the valuable decompression time. After being saturated with Disney and Other People, it is like a tonic to be all alone in an unDisney, empty space. Trust me.

5. I missed writing my stories while I was gone. By the end of the week I was working on them in my head even though I swore I’d take the week off.

6. Never look at pictures of your dogs, from whom you’ve been separated for a week, while listening to Van Morrison’s cover of “Carrickfergus”.

7. There are lots of books on Kindle about Midwives. Not all of them are that great.

8. “The Playboy Club” is possibly the dullest show in the universe. The mob? Really? What makes you think that anyone interested in the Playboy Club is going to care about the Chicago Mob and Chicago Politics? I think I’ll just hunt down that Kirstie Alley movie about Gloria Steinem’s Bunny experiences again. That was more the type of thing I was looking for.

9. My dog Gob (we pronounce it like Joe with a B on the end) got called “gob” for an entire 10 days. Like “gob of phlegm”. From now on I’m just going to tell people his name is Joe B. and he’ll get called Gobie all the time. Why would anyone call a dog “gob”? Why? Why?????

10. I still get massively sick after big events and plane rides. See #3.

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I just got back from Disney World. It was far from my first time there; I’ve lost count of how many visits I’ve made to the place. But this was my FIRST trip to Walt Disney World in a wheelchair. And that’s the story.

This entry is going to be longer than my usual 500-word spiel, so I’ve more-tagged it out of mercy for those who would prefer to skip. So if you’d like to read on, please step all the way into the blog post, keeping your hands, arms and legs inside the reading material at all times. (more…)

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I’ve been wrestling with myself all week. I think the more left-wing folks would call it “conscience”; the right-wing folks would say “common sense”; the cynical kids at the back of the class would say “white middle-class guilt.” Here I am getting ready to have a really nice vacation. I live in a nice house and have good medical coverage, plenty to eat and drink, clothes that have to be washed on the Delicate cycle (in a washer and dryer I own) and a computer on which to type a blog entry. I’ve been very blessed and I’m very grateful. I would trot out the old saw that says my husband and I have worked hard for what we have, and while that is true I also know that he and I had opportunities a lot of folks just never got because they were born to different people in different circumstances.

Hence all the internal wrestling.

We’ve been talking on Bridgett’s Facebook about the role of Charity in society this week, as she discussed Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” (1630) in her class.* In that document, Winthrop proposes that God will evaluate a state based on the charity it extends to its less-fortunate members. Bridgett in turn urges our current leaders to see this document and realise that charity has always been part of the government’s call.**

So that has lead us to discussions on subsidised housing, food stamps, Social Security and all the rest.

o Should Food Stamps be limited in the items that people can purchase?

I personally think so. WIC has limitations, and I think that it’s entirely fair to say one can’t use food stamps for candy bars, cakes, sodas and other ‘luxury’ food items. Although when I’ve brought this up before I was told that it’s none of my business what people do with their food stamps. After all, those in adverse circumstances deserve treats too. (We’ll discuss the word “deserve” another time…)

o Should those in HUD homes be forbidden to smoke inside their own home?

This is a super-tricky one for me because it involves “inside the home” and privacy and government intervening in privacy. And smoking regulations, which I think are a lot of bunk, generally speaking. Still I do see the philosophy behind it, that being if we are going to pay for your home we don’t also want to pay your cancer bills.

o Should Fast Food be disallowed for Food Stamps?

I know I’m tempted to say “yes”, but frankly I’d rather see the poor kids get a hamburger every now and then instead of being forced to live on Mac and Cheese, spaghettios and other low-income diet staples.

It’s just so hard because I know that I’m blessed. My husband and I have been able to make it thus far without claiming the Social Security Disability benefits to which I am legitimately entitled. We’re libertarians and the idea of taking that money goes against everything we stand for. And then again, I did work and pay into the system from the ages of 16-36. So I have a sound basis on which I can say “it’s my money anyway.” See? All these dilemmas!

And while I’d like to remain thoughtful and kind and keep the ideals of charity in my mind at all times it’s really hard to watch a woman complain about being evicted from her Section 8 housing (the government underwrites $1100 of her $1500/month rent) while still having a playstation, a computer, a flat-screen tv, several iPods, an iPad and $5000 worth of designer clothes. That’s when I start to feel like we, a country in massive debt, are being gulled by chiselers.

*Bridgett is a professor of History

**I hadn’t read the Winthrop document for 20 years. In rereading it in preparation for this article I see that that Winthrop was proposing a Christian state to be governed by the church, not unlike England. Which, for the time, was pretty much what people knew. He was sort of saying that he wanted to set up another church-state combo that would be more generous to the poor than England had been. As a Mennonite Christian libertarian I think he was completely wrong about the structure he wanted.

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Rebecca Miller had a good post the other day about Celebrity Christians and how other Christians do and should deal with that little wrinkle. I personally have never been a big fan of that concept. It’s part of the feminine aspect of the modern church that I find squicky. That whole “Ooooh, It’s BETH MOORE!!! Let’s go hear her speak” makes me feel like we are turning Christianity back into High School and have annointed Popular Kids whose parties we all want to get in to. It’s especially weird to me that these people are preaching some form of the Gospel and charging a lot of money for it. But this is America and finding a way to charge a lot of money for something is what we do here. As long as nobody is FORCED to pay I’m good with it. From a distance.

But then I was in the checkout line at Publix the other day and I saw my all-time favourite Christian Celebrity on the cover of People Magazine whinging about how she will no longer be able to feed the eight children she chose to bear now that the third (or fourth) iteration of TV show has been cancelled. I remember how, well into the run of the last iteration, round about the same time she and her (now ex) husband were buying a mansion in Pennsylvania on the QT, they were STILL going to various churches and crying poormouth, passing the offering plate and charging $20 for photographs. People were enthralled by their celebrity and women on Social Security and women who make no money at all were all forking over to keep the Gosselins in high style.

My mom was one of the women who, for a long time, thought Kate Gosselin was a great Christian with a wonderful testimony. After all, she didn’t abort any of those babies and there were Bible verses taped to the refrigerator of the Gosselin home. But then when Christian Celebrity wasn’t good enough and Kate made a play for “real” stardom, my mom and all those women like her soured on the whole idea.

Now, though, that the TV money is no longer rolling in, I suspect we’ll see Kate back in the church. Oh, I reckon she won’t come to local churches anymore but those churches will advertise her speaking engagements at whatever auditorium is large enough to book enough seats to make it worth Kate’s time. Because Jesus always welcomes back His lost sheep. Even when their main aim is to fleece the other sheep in the pen.

I think that’s why I get nervous about Christian Celebrities. I remember being a kid and watching my Grandma Doc by cooed at and petted by Tammy Faye Baker on the PTL club. I knew my grandma had no money to pay her bills (my dad and his brothers and sister were forever on the phone about it) and rarely gave presents to us but she still was happy to keep Jim and Tammy Faye’s “ministry” funded. We all know how that turned out. I guess it seems to me that more often than not the Christian Celebrities start serving that Other Master, that love of Mammon. And then we’re all in a weird place because these people we’ve programmed ourselves to revere as prime examples have morphed into the prime example of what Jesus told us to avoid.

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I had dinner last night with some of my favourite women in the world; vibrant, intelligent, funny, beautiful. I really think I said some embarrassing things, and I need to apologise now before I lie awake forever fuming at myself. (Am I the only one who fumes at myself after being around people?)

Patrick Todoroff wrote a grand post yesterday that deserves applause. I’m more than a bit tired of my fellow Christ-followers deciding that this or that other Christ-follower doesn’t get to play along with the home game because he or she has done something Not Anti-Biblical But Also Not Quite Christoculturally Approved. You know…it used to be going bowling or playing with playing cards. Now it’s apparently writing a book where people swear and kill bad guys. A book I read and liked that never, not once, made me question Todoroff’s commitment to the faith. Not that I am into questioning others’ spiritual walks all that much. I kinda figure I’d best leave that up to, you know, GOD.

If you will be going on vacation and leaving your dogs in a kennel, don’t watch People’s Court episodes where folks’ dogs run away from the pet-sitter and die while the people are on vacation. You will end up waking up your sleeping puppies and smearing kisses and tears all over their fur.

The next person who says VIN Number in my presence is going to be disembowled. Or made to eat cold spaghettios.

If you are going to throw an open-source Tech conference, it’s a good idea to NOT alienate the thousands of computer programmers that live in your town. Guess what: Tech is about more than Tech Marketing. Or maybe we should just admit now that BarCamp Nashville IS a Tech-marketing conference and work on putting together an Open-Source Tech conference on a parallel track. Frankly, though, if we elect Option B, I’d like to see the BarCamp Nashville folks handle both tracks of conference (the OSTech and the Marketing). Because I really think that when you’ve been offered constructive criticism, saying “*Blpppt* Start your own conference” is not helpful. I have much respect for the hard work that goes into putting this event together, and because of that respect I’d like to see it be something that isn’t so divisive in the larger tech community. Full Disclosure: I want desperately to help on the planning committees but have been unable to yet for kind of obvious reasons.

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Yesterday I wrote what I believed to be a measured, well-considered book review. Several folks felt it was snarky or mean or both, and this isn’t the first time my criticism of a book has had others scurrying for the tar and feathers and the “that’s not very Christian of you!” censure. I’m sure it won’t be the last, either, since when I look on Goodreads and Amazon I see that the standard form is to pass out five stars and effusiveness or to sit on ones hands.

I believe this is the readers’ version of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

While that is a very good rule for getting along with people I don’t really believe that anyone is served by that attitude.

As everyone who reads this blog knows, I’m cursed with a chronic affliction. No, not the RA or the Endo or the malabsorption/malnutrition or the Dercum’s. I’m talking about the INTJ personality.

INTJs focus their energy on observing the world, and generating ideas and possibilities. Their mind constantly gathers information and makes associations about it. [T]heir primary interest is not understanding a concept, but rather applying that concept in a useful way. … INTJs are driven to come to conclusions about ideas. Their need for closure and organization usually requires that they take some action.

To an INTJ like me, finding a way to improve something is one of the most useful services we believe we can offer the world. We don’t offer criticism to tear people down, to make people feel less-than or to be snarky. An INTJ’s criticism differs greatly from the snarky takedowns so popular at Television Without Pity and other places on the web. We don’t aim to make fun or to belittle but to say “in the analysis of this, here is how it can be improved.” And as often as we provide this “service” to others, we exercise it against ourselves exponentially more.

One of the biggest themes of my adult life has been the modulation of my desire to provide constructive criticism with a learned sensitivity to those around me. Believe it or not, because I desire to use my superpowers for good, the last thing I want to do is alienate those around me. After 6 years of blogging my words are now precisely measured, thoroughly considered and carefully constructed. It is a rare thing for me to make any comment or blog post without thinking it through thoroughly. In that way I try to communicate my thoughts on things without crushing the other folks. But apparently I still have a long way to go.

Now, when it comes to book reviews I must be very clear. You will only see an effusive five-star review from me when I truly mean it. When the book is so life-changingly delicious that I want to re-read it immediately. I admire the skill and perserverance of anyone who has finished a book (or can spell perserverance). But even if you are a good friend, I’m not going to give your book 5 stars unless it is among the best examples of that type of work. Reading and writing is what I do, what I take seriously. And I take it seriously enough to constantly be looking for ways to improve. So I’m sorry, fellow Christians, but I consider it part of my duty as a believer to use the tools God gave me in order to make this world a better place. That includes having our work as Christians be the absolute best we can do.

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The Doctor’s Lady is Jody Hedlund’s second title and serves as a pretty good follow-up to her debut novel, The Preacher’s Bride. I enjoyed that novel, which seemed to have a bit more meat on its bones than other Christian Historical Fiction works I’ve read. Hedlund’s hook is that she bases her novels on real women of the past, yet changes the names and some circumstances to allow herself the freedom of full imagination that a fiction author enjoys. While The Preacher’s Bride was a loose retelling of John and Elizabeth Bunyan’s marriage, this book lets Hedlund put her spin on Narcissa Whitman, the first known white woman to cross the Continental Divide after the War for Independence. Since I have a real-life connection with Hedlund*,devoured Bride in a day and have a fixation with stories about medical people I figured that I’d table a lot of my reservations about Christian Historical Romance and dive right in.

Hedlund is a skilled writer and very good at telling a suspenseful story. Unfortunately, I felt that she relied too much on some Christian Historical Romance tropes, and that made this book a bit less enjoyable than the first.

Trope #1: The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

From Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love to Catherine Marshall’s Christy (sort of) and now again in the Doctor’s Lady, we’ve got a heroine who is supposed to be so beautiful that men will kill for her. I find it especially awkward in Christian Romance, because we’ve got Biblical admonishments about women’s true value coming from their kindheartedness, modesty and industry. One of my favourite hooks in Preacher’s Bride was that Elizabeth, while nice-looking, was not conventionally beautiful. I admired Hedlund’s take on her heroine there and was discouraged to have this book be yet another one of those where so much of the masculine motivation centered on the heroine’s good looks.

Trope #2: Endless Flirting Without Any Risk At All

I sometimes wish Janette Oke had never published Love Comes Softly. Because now the Marriage Of Convenience trope is apparently a genre favourite. And yet again we have two people who are married in name only–the Mission Board won’t send single people to the mission field–who spend the book bickering and flirting their way into the inevitable liplock. I truly dislike seeing married adults have what amounts to a high-schoolers’ style of love affair and I think that a diet of this type of book sets up bad expectations for real women in Christian marriages. Like the secular Twilight Series this book with its focus on unconsummated flirtation plays into women’s emotional erotica and continues the Evangelical culture’s consignment of sex to the back room. Hey, gang, I’ve got news. Married sex is a-ok and even a good thing.

Trope #3 A Very Special Episode

This particular twist sent the book from a 4-star read to 3 stars–instantly. Because there is a key plot twist that hinges on one of the main characters acting ENTIRELY out of character and ENTIRELY contradicting all of that person’s previous actions in the first 80% of the story. All of this happens to allow for a Big Message Scene at the end of the book where we get a little sermonette about pride. And when Christian fiction of any type sacrifices character and story for the opportunity to shoehorn in a bit more of The Message, that’s when I break out the side-eye.

So, all in all, I give the book 3 stars out of 5 and do recommend it for fans of Christian Historical Romance. I would, however, encourage such people to also read The Preacher’s Bride, which is a 4.5 star book and, in my opinion, Hedlund’s better effort.

*[Full Disclosure: I went to college with Hedlund]

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No, this isn’t a post about where I was 10 years ago today because there just isn’t anything notable or extraordinary about watching the news in a giftbook publisher/photo album designer’s breakroom.

Pretty much everyone who had consciousness remembers where they were 10 years ago today, of course. But it makes me sad to realise just how many people don’t recall other moments of their lives that were JUST as formative in their world as 9/11/01 was to the world in general.

That’s exactly why I’m thankful for Facebook. I realise that it’s customary and somewhat de rigeur in certain circles to deride Facebook as useless or a waste of time, and like anything else it can be bad for you if you overindulge. But I’ve reconnected with so many people who have been very important to me over the years and we’ve used Facebook to share those vital memories, fill in the gaps in others recollection and, in some cases, heal old wounds. It’s a way to reach not only across distance but across time and that is a remarkable gift.

In talking about those old memories with friends it is both a lot neat and a little creepy to see how they viewed things that loomed large in my world, small in theirs. We had an English teacher our senior year who changed the world for me. He was the first person to actively appreciate my creative writing* and became my friend. He visited me at my job selling ice cream cones at the mall and talked about his upcoming marriage and my upcoming college sojourn. We were both on the cusp of something larger and it was good to talk it out with a like-minded person, another writer. Of course nobody else in my senior class seemed to remember him at all. To them he was just the guy in the bow-ties who took over when Miss Stouffer left.

Before I became ill I had an eidetic memory. Now I have what they tell me is a “normal” memory, and while it is restful at times it is also sad. Not unlike losing old photo albums to flood and fire. Of course I think having good memory skills is a boon to being a writer, and I’m always curious about how other writers perceive their ability to remember.

I wish I remembered to think of a clever conclusion to this post, so that it could end well and truly and leave something edifying in its wake. As it is I suppose now I just have to trail off and sign off and go make things that I’ll remember tomorrow.

(*outside of my parents who were just thrilled with the “books” I wrote them as a 4 year old.)

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