Thursday, February 28, 2013

I am clogging the internet

At this crystallized moment in time, I have 68,255 emails in my in-box. Unread. Well, not completely unread: I have read the subject lines without opening the actual emails. I have many unread emails because I signed up for too many business-related (translation: shopping-related) notifications, and there are just so many hosiery specials or Groupons for canvas-stretched photos I can acquire. So I don’t open them, nor do I always take the time to delete them.

The other problem is that I use a forwarding option from my other email accounts. I have a business-related account (this is not a code word for shopping-related; it really is my work account) and I have those emails forwarded to my personal account. I do this because most of my shopping-related emails go to my personal account, thus I spend more time on that account.

The other account is from graduate school. I do not use this account, but emails are still forwarded from it to my personal account. I could put a stop to this, but it would require my remembering my log-in credentials, which I have forgotten. Also, I would have to cancel all the email subscriptions on that account, and just the thought of that makes me want to just give up email all together.

I think I am clogging the internet. When our wireless atmosphere at home goes all wonky and my husband starts sputtering that he can’t access the web, I nod and sigh sympathetically. But I say nothing. Because I am pretty sure my 68, 255 unread emails, which in the last fifteen minutes have probably grown to 68,265, are somehow contributing to the wonkiness of our wi-fi problem.

I know the 68,265 unread emails make me seem disorganized, but I am only disorganized when it comes to emails. And files. I am disorganized when it comes to paper. When we lived in Ithaca, New York, where pretty much everyone is very laid back and probably no one owns a file cabinet, the floor on my side of the bed held my life on paper. I was simply trying to fit in to the Ithaca laid-back lifestyle, and thus left my Connecticut type-A organized self behind.

In Ithaca, if I needed a certain document, I could just reach down to the hardwood floor, miraculously find the needed paper, and read it in bed. If that is not convenience, I don’t know what is. Other people have to get in their cars, drive to the office and open a file cabinet to look for that *&$# document. I only had to put aside my glass of wine and my novel, and “dumpster dive” right next to my cozy bed. As I said, I thought this convenient. My husband found it appalling. He threatened to call the health department as the pile grew.

Although there is nothing detrimental to health when it comes to a pile of papers that also substitutes as a small bedside rug, I understand his anxiety about my fileless piles. This is a man who presented me monthly with a printed pie chart of all our (translation: primarily my) expenditures each month. (For a short period of time, he mysteriously had the capability to instantaneously track my shopping online. The cell phone he bought me one Christmas only hindered my shopping progress. More than once, I stupidly answered his call while at Macy’s: “What did you just absolutely need for 35.99?”)

But his compulsion for organization comes in handy: If I need a child’s social security number (some mothers have children’s social security numbers permanently branded onto their brains, but I am not one of them), he simply peers into a labeled file and in seconds finds the number. I do not keep social security numbers beside my bed, so I like that my husband is useful in this way.

But I am sorry I am clogging the web. When the rainbow wheel of death starts rolling on your computer, it is probably my fault. And I am truly sorry. But there is no way I am deleting 65,275--make that 65,283--emails. There could be something important in that email pile, like a Banana Republic 50% off sale, or my son’s email that joyfully states I am the best mother in the world...except for never remembering his social security number when he needed it.

Keyboard image:
File Pile image:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jumping on the blog-wagon re: Dan Cathy

Life has been a bit crazy for my family, and not a little stressful. So, I took a break from earlgreygirl. I am jumping back into the fray on an uncomfortable topic. I don't really like controversy, but as my writing professor used to say, "To be a good writer, you have to stick your neck out."  I write this out of love and concern for all of us who are together on this crazy, spinning planet.

It amazes me how intelligent people can jump on a bandwagon of hatred so quickly. Bloggers, reporters, politicians et al are ready to burn Chik-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy at the stake for his opposition to gay marriage...oh, wait, Cathy DID NOT say one word about gays and gay marriage in the interview.

He simply stated some facts about his business and family: "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

Bloggers are making wild assumptions about Cathy’s beliefs from those three sentences. One blogger wrote, “On the simplest level, I wish that Chick-Fil-A's President Dan Cathy had someone like (my friend) James in his life, because if he did he’d easily see that a person’s sexuality does not determine his or her character. He’d see that people who are gay deserve to have the same rights as everyone else.”

This is a woman who blogs for the Chicago Tribune. Where in the interview with Dan Cathy does he say anything about his views on a person’s character, or that he does not believe gays have rights? He simply makes a personal value statement about family.

Another piece for the Chicago Tribune stated, “Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed Moreno’s ideological viewpoint (an alderman who says he will prevent Chik-Fil-A from opening another restaurant in Chicago), saying the city does not share the values espoused by Dan Cathy, president of the family-owned Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant chain.”

Really? An entire city is opposed to the kind of family unit Cathy talks about? An entire city does not support the idea of a family-owned business? How on earth does Emanuel have access to every heart and mind in Chicago? Before you take me to task for exaggerating, understand that I am repeating the essence of what Mayor Emanuel stated.  Just because someone states he is living out a certain way of life and a belief system, does not mean he or she is opposed to your right to a certain way of living and belief system.

Someone, somewhere will interpret what I say here as “homophobic” even though I have not voiced a single word that can be truthfully interpreted as such. My point is to ask that people stop knee-jerk reactions based on assumptions and media hysteria.

I am a believer in Christ. I am a registered Republican. I am a woman married to a man. My husband is a pastor. Because of these four sentences, four statements of fact, people--be they Christian, Buddhist, atheist, conservative or liberal--will make certain assumptions about my character, my beliefs, who I love and who I supposedly hate, and I guarantee that most of the assumptions would be wrong.

If there is something I hate, it is hatred. Hatred caused the tragedy in Aurora; hatred caused 9/11; hatred propels people like the pastor of Westboro Baptist---which, by the way, simply because he calls himself a pastor and his church “Baptist”, does not mean he is a believer in Jesus. He in no way reflects the Jesus I love and know from the Word, nor does he reflect the character of any believer I know.

When we lambaste someone for holding a different opinion (especially without truly knowing what that opinion is--like reading a headline and thinking that is the full story), our reaction is not only ignorant, it is hateful.  If we are not operating out of love and respect for another’s opinion, whether they be that “crazy” neighbor, the president of the United States, a CEO, a co-worker who is also a lesbian, a teen working out his faith, we will fear and hate what we don’t understand.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Luscious Fruit of Lies

Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech. (Proverbs Prov. 10:18-19)

One of my jobs is to proofread articles for the terrific Theology of Work Project, begun by my friend Will Messenger. I just finished proofing "Proverbs" and it is so good, I wanted to quote it left and right here, but I can't, since it won't be published until next week.

However, I can mention that the section on slander and gossip is something every person should read--especially every believer in Christ, since believers claim the Bible to be the living, authoritative Word of God--because just about every worker, every church-goer, every parent and teen (in other words, every person), has known the pain of gossip and slander.

Most of us have engaged in gossip--from a sip to a gulp-sized portion
--and the result is never good. I know I don't feel good about myself if I talk about another person out of turn, especially since I have known the sting of being gossiped about.

Slander is similar to gossip, except it is usually more public and more damaging. Two dear friends were the victims of slander a few years ago by someone who had perpetrated a crime but tried to shift blame onto innocent people. Because this person's family was well-known in their city, they made life very uncomfortable for my friends for a while. What made this all the more difficult was that those involved were members of the same church.

Sinners are everywhere and can especially be found at church. Is that such a surprise? True believers are those who know they are sinners saved by the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus. So, our churches are filled with sinners--but they should be growing in love and wisdom and obedience to God's Word, not in building a rap sheet.

The Bible takes slander and lying very seriously and warns us to "not bear false witness" (the ninth commandment, Exodus 20:16). This makes sense, since the very first whisper of slander led to catastrophe. In Genesis 3, the serpent hisses a lie to Eve about God--slandering Him as unloving, selfish
--and extends the luscious fruit that traps Eve and Adam, and catapults the human race out of paradise and into the messed up world we live in.

Slandering our brothers and sisters is wrong, and many times it stems from blame-shifting: we can't face the log in our own eye, so we will try to find a splinter in our neighbor's (Matthew 7:5). Let's not take a bite out of the fruit the "father of lies" dangles before us, and instead have "the tongue of the wise [that] brings healing."

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness speaks deceitfully. Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.  Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs Prov. 12:17-20)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Means No

A young woman, petrified, tells her mother that a young man lies dead in her bed. The mother, appalled, asks, “Did he force himself on you?” The daughter shakes her head no, her face crumpled in tears.

The thing is, the daughter is absolutely wrong. She was forced.

Downton Abbey is a favorite series of mine on PBS. It is written well, has a terrific cast and a decent storyline. Unfortunately, a Season 1/Episode 2 storyline perpetuates the Hollywood-driven myth that when a girl says, “No” she must mean, “Yes,” especially when an ardent admirer is in pursuit.

Hollywood is not only to blame: this attitude and the one that equates love with violence extends back to ancient times. In the Greek myth, “The Rape of Persephone,” the daughter of Zeus and Demeter is kidnapped by Haides, who is described as “being in love” with her. The Biblical account of Tamar’s rape by her own brother is a more compelling, unromanticized account of a man ignoring a young woman’s “no”  (2 Samuel 13). These are two extreme examples of force, and of ignoring a woman’s right to refuse advances.

In Downton Abbey, the scene is more subtle. It cleverly disguises rape as a romantic conquest. Mary, the eldest daughter of Lord Grantham, meets a handsome Turkish diplomat staying at Downtown for a weekend hunting party. He is immediately attentive to Mary, who becomes quickly infatuated with the debonair Mr. Pamuk. Disregarding English social convention--and the fact that he is a guest in Lord Grantham’s home--he tricks Mary into being alone with him and grabs her for a passionate kiss.

She gives him her first “No!”  after he commands her, “Let me come to you tonight.” She reminds him that as her father’s guest, he would be thrown out if she revealed his behavior. She hurries back to the dinner party. 

Later, despite Mary’s emphatic earlier rejection of his advances, Pamuk has a servant guide him to Mary’s room and he simply walks in. She then gives her second “No,” and he again disregards it, convinced she is already his prize. She tells him she is inexperienced (code word for ‘virgin’) and that this liaison would ruin her reputation. That would again be a “no.” But the guy won’t take no for an answer, and convinces Mary that the act will be “safe” and that she should trust him.

Mary does not tell her mother these details--she believes she willingly allowed him into her bed; therefore, she was not “forced.” (He died of a heart attack that night, despite his young age and virility.)

Gavin de Becker, the author I mentioned in my recent post about fear vs. worry, writes in the “Gift of Fear” that a man who ignores a woman’s “no,” no matter the situation (“No, I don’t need your help”; “No, I don’t want to date you”) is not a trustworthy person. Our sons and daughters are getting a completely different message on television and in the movies.

Downton Abbey nearly had me fooled as well--I did not recognize this as a rape until I happened to watch the episode the other day. Why hadn’t I seen this before? I was probably blinded by the set up of the story, and the seemingly romantic pursuit of a girl by a handsome man. 

From the very beginning of his stay at Downton, Pamuk began forcing himself upon Mary. When a person ignores a “no” and continues to fulfill his own wishes, that is force, bullying, and yes, perhaps rape. Let’s call it what it is, so our Marys and our Pamuks can understand the difference.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Locked Out and Unlocked

At 7:15 a.m. yesterday morning, the door clicked shut behind us as my daughter and I left the house. And I knew. Sigh...locked out. Keys on the table. Tim in Boston to pick up our older daughter from college.  Every window locked, in an effort to combat all the roving criminals in Pittsford. Our spare key was missing and we hadn't replaced it.

At least I had the car keys and my wallet. I keep a Bible and some books on the porch--if I also had water out there, I could have survived. I drove Emma to school and then texted my husband my predicament...and then my phone battery died. Yup. Just call me Mrs. Prepared. Yes, I should have charged my phone the night before. Yes, I should have an extra key hidden outside. Better yet, had my house keys in my purse instead of...somewhere else. Where are they, anyway?

I sat on the porch for a while, the cat complaining endlessly at the window, as if to say, "Why are you getting to have all the fun on the porch? Let me out there!" 

A situation like this can cause one to lose one's temper. But, instead I felt peace. I also felt hunger, so I went to Dunkin' Donuts and blew my diet on a croissant. And then I felt more peace. I waited two hours more for the person I thought had an extra key--the owner--but he never showed. At that point, like any red-blooded American with not much else to do, I went shopping. It was going to be 80 degrees in just a couple of hours, Tim was not due home until 3 p.m., and I had a fleece jacket and a pajama top on over my jeans. And did I mention I was in desperate need of a shower?

I braved the morning crowd at Marshalls, and not a customer nor clerk fainted from my lack of makeup or unwashed hair. One new polo top and undergarment later (I changed in our garage), I decided to go for a drive, passing through the lovely town of Honeoye Falls. A gazebo on the green was filled with musicians and speakers,  and was surrounded by people on lawn chairs--and then I remembered it was National Day of Prayer. I had my Bible, a Diet Coke, and headed to Mendon Ponds Park. Parked by the the water, I prayed and enjoyed creation.

Seven hours after being locked out, I headed back home to decorate the porch with a sign and balloons (I managed to pop two of the four getting them into the car) to welcome home our Emerson College freshman, Maggie. Emma and her friend Grey managed a forced entry ten minutes before Tim arrived with the keys--she did not want to be late for crew practice. Grateful for our own resident Bonnie and Clyde,  I scurried to the loo.

One of the definitions of "unlocked," is "to free from restraints or restrictions." It was frustrating for me at first to know that the tools I needed for my workday (my computer and phone charger) were locked inside the house, but then I embraced the freedom. Being locked out unlocked freedom from my schedule and typical control of my day. I confess it has been a while since I have devoted most of a day to prayer and meditating on God's Word.

Today I remembered to unlock the door before zipping Emma to school. I admit, the thought crossed my mind to do a repeat and unlock my day instead.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom....Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Psalm 90:12-14.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pushing Through

A recent race proved to be a character building opportunity for my daughter. A rower, she knows what it feels like to be in pain. Rowing (also known as “Crew”) requires nearly every large muscle group, and a good coach requires tough daily practices in anticipation of victory at a regatta (the rowing event at which several schools or clubs compete).

On the very day she had two races, my daughter was unwell and in pain. The racecourse was cold, the waves choppy, and she was scheduled to be in the top novice boat. She worried that she would get sicker out on the water, and then let her teammates down. “Push through the pain,” her coach and I told her. “We know you can do it--it may actually make you feel better.” 

Sound callous? Not really: her coach and I both know what she is capable of, and we were speaking truth (the demands of rowing would supersede the pain of the ailment--and yes, I know: easy for me to say!). 

Many times our worrying about a negative result is simply that: a worry, not a result. Pushing through, despite our worry or anxiety, will reap the data that will enable us through the next seemingly insurmountable hurdle: “Hey, that wasn’t so bad!” “That did not turn out the way I expected at all.” “I accomplished much more than I thought possible.”

Gavin de Becker, in his excellent (and a bit unnerving) book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence, makes a distinction between situations that cause real fear and the worry that stems from imagination. True fear, which is connected to our intuition, causes action; worry, on the other hand, “stems from a root [word] that means ‘to choke,’ and that is just what it does to us.”

“Our imaginations can be the fertile soil in which worry and anxiety grow from seeds to weeds, but when we assume the imagined outcome is a sure thing, we are in conflict with what Proust called an inexorable law: ‘Only that which is absent can be imagined.’ In other words, what you not happening’” (de Becker, p. 292).

Worry is the enemy of action and “pushing through.” It consumes our imagination--and we make that imagined outcome the reality instead of pushing through to the real outcome! We sink our own boat, if you will, before even leaving the dock.

My daughter pushed through and realized the reality that her body did not fail her, and she actually felt better after the two races (coming in First Place probably helped). How about you? What anxiety about your imagined lack of ability or courage is stopping you from taking action? Pray for strength and push through (as Joyce Meyer famously said, “Do it afraid!”). You can do much more in reality than you can even imagine.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Ephesians 3:20-21.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Burden Lifted

Ever have the need to “get something off your chest”?

NPR ran a story yesterday about Larry Israelson, a writer who carried a secret burden for 39 years and who then wrote about the apology he was finally able to make to his seventh-grade teacher. 

His "misdeed" may seem trite compared with darker things students have done to teachers: as a twelve year old, he dropped out of a beloved teacher's class because students were making fun of him, rhyming his name with the teacher's, trying to imply something the naive boy didn't understand, but knew was an ugly connotation.

Israelson convinced the principal to let him switch teachers, and never told the teacher why. And it bothered him.  For years. This teacher had been an encourager to him, consistently helping him and complimenting him on his writing skills, encouraging him in the very career where one day this boy would make his mark as a man.

As an adult, he felt shame about his cowardice, and having let down this very special mentor. For Israelson, the burden was heavy. Being able to find him and apologize, Israelson said, "was like a huge weight was lifted." 

This is a great story, because it illustrates the power of confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. Relieving ourselves of a long-kept secret or sin against another can be freeing, especially when it makes forgiveness and reconciliation possible. 

The darker side to “getting something off your chest” is when it is about making yourself feel better, without considering how the person on the receiving end will feel or react.  That could implode a solid relationship very quickly, or unintentionally cause harm. A counseling session can be a first “best practice” for sharing in a safe environment.