Thursday, September 30, 2010

Survey Says: Better Not Play Bible Trivia with Un-Believers or You Might Lose

Contrary to common Christian belief, the average atheist is not in fact someone who needs to have the Gospel presented to them in a clear way. They don’t need to have “the bridge illustration” doodled on a napkin for them. The average agnostic is NOT “not sure about God” because he or she doesn’t want to think too hard or is chronically fickle. In fact, according to an article in today’s L.A Times, “a survey that measured Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths.”

Say, what? Yup…you read that right. Why, you ask, would an atheist or agnostic know more about religion than a Christian?

The L.A. Times interviewed Alan Cooper, the associate director for research at the Pew Forum, the organization that released this survey earlier this week and he answers this very question. He thinks the reason atheists and agnostics know more about religion than those who ascribe to those religious beliefs is because they are more likely to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and went through a process of reading, reflection and decision before leaving that tradition. In other words, atheists and agnostics are not in fact people who don’t want to hear about, read about, or understand the “Gospel.” Rather, they are people who have grappled with it in a more serious way than the average believer; their atheism and agnosticism is something they came to thoughtfully.

“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” Cooperman said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

The study also found a correlation between atheism/agnosticism and being well-educated. However, this is not to say that the most educated people became atheists and agnostics, since Christians with similar education levels still knew less about their beliefs than non-believers.

The L.A. Times article also quotes Rev. Adam Hamilton, a Methodist minister and author who, commenting on the survey’s findings said, “I think that what happens for many Christians is they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it’s already accepted to be true, they don’t examine other people’s faiths.”

I’m someone who, as an evangelical Christian, assumed that, if atheists/agnostics just examined Christianity, they would get on board with it. I also told myself that atheists and agnostics liked sinning and therefore found their unbelief more “convenient.”

Today, as a not-atheist-and-sort-of-agnostic-but-definitely-not-Christian, I can say, looking back at my former thought process, that I couldn’t be more wrong. I’m not interested in finding an excuse for sinning. I ate, drank, breathed and lived the Christian gospel for the first 30 years of my life and very thoroughly understand it. I have beyond-average knowledge of biblical facts and Christian theology. I wanted to believe it, more than anything I’ve ever wanted.

When I say I’m not a Christian, this is not something I say lightly. It’s something I say a little sadly, because I wanted so much to believe it. I can’t. That’s not because I want to live in a certain type of “sinful” lifestyle and need to believe things that make that lifestyle o.k. If only it were that simple. My belief/unbelief came at a high cost. It’s something I wrestled with for decades. My saying that I’m not a Christian is very simply, honest.

These days I’m reluctant to publicaly state that I’m not a Christian anymore, mostly because my hard-won belief/lack thereof is immediately written off by most Christians as “lack of understanding.” I can’t even explain the process I’ve been through without a Christian trying to “better explain” the Gospel in a condescending voice, no less. I’m not stupid, believe it or not, and neither are most other atheists, agnostics and otherwise “un-believing” folks. More knowledge about the Bible or Christian theology isn’t going to convince me to change my mind. That’s because, according to this survey, chances are I understand Christianity better than the average Christian does and, with brain intact, I’ve opted out.

**You can go here to take a quiz that represents a sampling of the actual Pew Survey of Basic Religious Knowledge.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"King of Anything"

I laughed out loud the first time I heard this song on the radio and now that I've heard it a bunch of times, I can't help singing it loudly with an expression on my face that I'm sure our old realtor and one of the most condescending, misogynist men I've ever met would call, "feisty." I can still get fired up, thinking about that man. I expressed some concern/opinion about the sale of our first home and he actually told me, and I quote, "Don't worry your pretty little head about that, Cheryl! You just take care of those beautiful kids and I'll talk to James about it." Needless to say, he heard "what for." I got a $50 Starbucks card in a conciliatory attempt to mend things, which I'm rather ashamed to say almost did the job, except for the accompanying note that, once again, referred to me as "feisty." Sigh.

Anyway, here's the music video that is just as great as the song. I was kind of disappointed that they put her in "masculine" clothes at the beginning. It looked like another case of the age-old "defeminize a woman because she's expressing her strength," as if a woman can't be "feisty" (gag) and feminine at the same time! But I was pleasantly surprised to see her anything BUT masculine at the end, so all in all, I'm giving this song and the music video a big thumb's up.

Here's the (outstanding) album:

Sink or Float

My kids play this game. We walk down to the irrigation ditch which is kind of like a small canal if you're aren't familiar with it, and we find objects to throw in the water. We play it in the mountains, too, when we find a body of water. You find an object and before you throw it in, everyone guesses if it's going to sink or float.

We could TELL our kids what was going to sink or float but would they really "get" it the same way? Throwing it in, hedging their bets and even having the nerve to say they think it's going to do something different than my husband and I are guessing it will is teaching them an important skill I hope they apply throughout their lives. Test things. Try them on for size. Observe as much as you need to.

Sure, I want them my kids to trust me, especially about "health and safety issues," and I want them to trust other people who are trustworthy, but the older they get the more I want them to begin to think for themselves, even if it means they disagree with me.

I want them to feel that the world is a place they can decide things about. I don't want them to have any trace of a feeling that they "must" believe something or other for their parents to love them and accept them. I'm hoping that for them, this will translate into only wanting to have close relationships with people who do the same. I want them to know that if someone tells them they must believe something, they can say no. They can decide for themselves.

They can determine for themselves if it "sinks or floats."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Religion: The DVD

I would not say I’m an atheist and I resist labeling myself as an agnostic, mostly because I can’t stand labels anymore. But I definitely am not a Christian. I’m at a place where I no longer feel the need to believe or disbelieve anything. I know what I’m experiencing. I’m honest about it. I don’t need to label it. I don’t need to change or move. I’m where I’m at.

Because the shifts that have gradually occurred in me didn’t happen overnight, I think it’s important to write about the various stages I went through in the deconstruction of my Christianity. I know I am not alone in the feelings I have or had, but I often feel like there is a lot written from a Christian stand-point and a lot written from an atheist or agnostic paradigm, but not a lot written about the “process” people go through in between. What about the places in between belief and unbelief? Lots of people are there, but unless they read something about someone else’s similar experience or feelings, they inevitably feel alone.

Who do you talk to about the “in-between” places? Sometimes it feels like everyone – Christians and atheists, alike – would have you “hurry up and get on board, already!” There has to be a place for the process. In fact, I think I always WILL be in process and I don’t see myself ever pigeon-holing myself as “this” or “that.” I want to just be where I’m at and be honest about it, from here on out.

In the effort to talk about the in-between places, I’d like to share something I wrote about a year ago, when some questions began to surface that I think are important in the “deconstruction” process for a lot of people. Where I was at the time, it made sense to me to frame them like this:

Winter 2008 –

What if religion is the world’s effort to package up God in a manner we can offer to another at arms' length...we don't have to get too close, don't have to get the weepy, hurting friend's runny mascara on our clean shirts and we don't have to love in a palpable way that makes a difference in their circumstances?

After all, we aren't loved that way by others, so why should we get messy for someone else when no one is getting messy for us? Religion was handed to us at arm's length.

Many of us received religion as a neat and tidy package we didn’t dare unwrap. Religion was like a DVD still in the package we based our whole lives on even though we never opened or watched it ourselves.

Everybody we know gives and receives the same DVD in its' sealed form; we have forgotten there is something inside. Instead we talk about the DVD as if we've watched it. We repeat the little summary from the back cover, talking and acting as though we have seen it ourselves, when in fact we have not. We, along with our fellow-unopened-DVD owners, make special clubs we advertise as a place to talk about the DVD in depth. Instead, the clubs all go the same way: everyone repeating the description from the back cover in all the same ways. We forget the DVD is anything but the package it's inside of.

We all feel a vague discomfort- a feeling that there is something missing. Every once in awhile we might have a tiny flash of insight: what if we open up the DVD and actually watch it? What if, when we watch it, we find the story is different than our simple little clubs had interpreted it as being? What if, after actually watching it for ourselves, we can no longer stomach the "pat" conversation at our clubs? What then? This line of thinking is so uncomfortable, we more often than not push it from our minds.

We are too busy, too tired, too....afraid. We know deep inside that watching the DVD would change our lives, change our relationships, change how we do things. We, like the rich young ruler Jesus challenged to actually act on his beliefs, are willing to buy and distribute copies of the DVD to the world, stand in front of crowds and recite the blurb on the back cover and attend every single club meeting discussing the DVD. But open it up and watch it, knowing it could potentially change everything...hell, no. That is far too scary.

We give this same DVD to our children. We teach our impressionable children to memorize the blurb on the back of the DVD. We at least imply, and sometimes overtly teach, that if our children and/or other DVD-less acquaintances do not take the DVD we offer them and attend the discussion clubs, they will quite possibly go to hell. They are made to understand that if that happens, they are in danger of losing not only God's approval, but perhaps even our love.

When our children reach an age where they begin to think independently, they of course begin to doubt the "magical powers" of the DVD we touted: the rest of the world is watching all sorts of interesting DVDs, talking about them and don't live with the fear and numbed-out brains our children inherited from us. Why should they risk opening and watching the DVD for themselves; they already know the basic plot by rote, thank you very much, and they're frankly not impressed. Everywhere they look people are living their lives and watching fascinating DVDs.

And even if they had the gumption to open and watch the DVD we gave them, they'd likely meet with disapproval from us, as well as from our clubs, anyway. So why bother? It's much easier, more attractive and less of a bother to dump our DVD entirely and just subscribe to Netflix like everyone else in the world. Who cares what the movies the world watches are about; at least they WATCH them!!

What if we watched the DVD rather than leaving it unwrapped and having silly, shallow discussion groups about what someone else decided to say ABOUT the movie? What if we watch the movie, running the risk that it could change us? What if we were always meant to live in the truth the movie so beautifully pictures? What if there is no need for clubs? After all, why talk about watching it with other people, when we could be WATCHING it with other people?

Perhaps God created the movie TO change us as we watch it. If so, we shouldn't be standing arm's length from people, telling them ABOUT the movie and expecting them to be changed because they know what it's about. What if it's a movie only appreciated, only understood and only life-changing because the individual watches it themselves?

Perhaps watching the DVD yourself rather than basing your life on someone's tidy little summary would mean that the movie relates differently, personally and specifically to each individual. What if God made this movie specifically for each person, knowing exactly what that person needed to hear, see and feel? To give someone my interpretation or tell them about my experience is only helpful if they have already experienced it and been impacted by it in the way that is specific to them. If they already know the movie, they would enjoy hearing how it impacted me, what was personal to me and the individualized message I uncovered in it.

Perhaps the main difference between reading the description on the back cover and actually watching it myself is, quite simply, love. I can be told I am loved every day and twice on Sundays but until I am loved in a palpable, personal, wipe-your-snot-on-my-new-sweater-while-I-listen-to-you kind of way, others' statements of love are worth nothing to me; in fact their emptiness eventually hurts so much, I numb out to it. And yet, am I doing anything different when it comes to my interactions with others?

To be handed the DVD while the person offering it sits and watches the DVD-less person's child cry because she's hungry is insensitive and even hateful. And you better believe that when that person shouts, "goodbye!" over the deafening cries of that hungry child, the DVD-less person will be throwing their DVD, unopened, into the next rubbish bin. If she is given a DVD about African salamanders, while the cries of her child and her own tears rolling down her cheeks are ignored, the giver is worse than those that walked right by her, pretending they don't see her plight. In her world of pain, she has no use for DVDs...doesn't matter whether they are about salamanders or love. Same thing in her reality. The tidy giver doesn't see her; he or she doesn't care. They just want to go back to their happy little club and tell all their buddies how many DVDs they distributed this week.

"She wasn't very receptive," he or she will tell their friends, when asked about what the person they offered the DVD to did and said when given the DVD. These friends shake their carefully-coiffed heads sadly.

"We'll just pray that she looks at it. That's all God asks of us, after all," they say. "We've planted the seed..."

How despicable is it to distribute a DVD about love in an unloving way. We might as well replace the real cover with a new one that is entitled, "Fuck You." At least that cover is honest about what the giver really thinks and feels about the person who doesn't own the DVD. I know for a fact that such a person would rather they just ignored her. But instead we shout over the sounds of her cries what will happen to her if she continues to refuse what we are offering.

What if we just toss the DVD altogether? Or maybe we watch the DVD ourselves and then put it away. What if we meet one another, DVD-less, and simply offer the compassion, support, acceptance and love we all want? Who needs to watch a DVD about something when they can experience it themselves? I enjoy a good love story, but I'd much rather experience one than watch a movie about it.


This article was published in today's "ExChristian.Net" and you can find it HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Binding the Feet of Our Instinctual Selves

In Clarissa Pinkola Estes' Women Who Run With the Wolves, she talks about the "Wild Woman" who is not "wild" in the sense that we'd call a teenager who is running around doing reckless behavior and is a whirlwind of excess and has no sense of self-control. No, this is a "wild" nature that is closer to the word, "natural," "instinctual" or "original." The best way to understand the nature of this "wildness" is to think about another example that is a little further away from ourselves before we turn and look at our own natures.

In early Chinese culture there was an insidious practice called foot-binding. When a girl was born to middle or upper-class parents, they would break her toes, bend her feet backward, wrap her feet with cloth, wrapping it around and around, her toes tucked under. This process began in early girlhood. By the time she was a woman, her feet would be actually folded in half; the bones grew bent back and up. A woman with a "lotus foot" was one whose feet were 3" long. The tinier the foot, the more desirable she was. The more desirable she was, the more hope she had of being married to a rich man. Of course this is eerily like the practice in our culture of starving women until they are thin as possible, but this isn't that discussion.

Besides the obvious discomfort that women endured as their feet were taught to bend backward, wrapped tightly in a position they were not meant to be in, there was the awful reality that this practice essentially crippled women. They could totter around but not walk fast or run. They moved around with tiny steps on their little nubs, but this was o.k. because if they were married to rich men, they wouldn't need to work or do anything physical anyway, except of course sit there and lie there and be the objects they were born and raised to be. They were simply ornaments and ornaments can be changed, revised, cut in pieces, tied up or any number of methods for making it into something that a man will want to consume, have, own and control.

When you imagine these women with their little nubs that they had to totter around on, you can picture them sitting in richly-decorated rooms, sipping tea with other nub-footed rich women, their every whim being indulged and no work required of them. It becomes a different story altogether when you imagine these women as young girls who wanted to run and play like their male contemporaries but physically couldn't. It becomes heartbreaking when you imagine a nub-footed young woman who is being physically victimized but can not outrun her attacker. Perhaps the worst image is one of a woman with bound feet, who knows the pain that it means, tearfully binding her own daughter's feet, knowing it is the only way she will find a husband.

It is easier to imagine that this happened in the early centuries and that the practice was obliterated long before modern culture. The awful truth is that foot-binding was finally outlawed in 1912 but couldn't be enforced in all cases. Lots of things are outlawed, but when women are the property of their fathers or husbands, the law takes a back seat to things like cultural traditions or financial gain. This story explains why a woman today, in her 60's has the tiny "golden lotuses" even now.

This movie is nauseating, sobering but imperative that we watch it:

*The narrator has the date when it was outlawed wrong, or at least it sounded like she said it was outlawed in the 1600's. In fact it was outlawed in the early 1900's.

This video is a woman's direct memory and narrative of having endured this practice as a young girl. These are very painful to watch, but that is why we must.

Contemplating the concept of the "Wild Woman" after the thoughts and feelings we have while watching and reading about the Chinese foot-binding process, the reality of the "cobbled feet" of our own wild/natural selves springs into stark relief. Modern woman don't have our feet bound, but we are bound, nonetheless. We come into the world with instincts intact, possibilities and potential as wide open as the ocean. We aren't repressed the way women used to be. That does not mean we aren't cobbled. This cobbling happens first when our instincts are repressed, bound up and allowed to rot away inside beautiful shoes.

Estes writes: "Sometimes it is difficult for us to realize when we are losing our instincts, for it is often an insidious process that does not occur all in one day, but rather over a long period of time. Too, the loss or deadening of instinct is often entirely supported by the surrounding culture, and sometimes even by other women who endure the loss of instinct as a way of achieving belonging in a culture that keeps no habitat for the natural woman....Most women have been captured at least for a brief time, and some for interminably long period. Some were free only in utero. All lose varying amounts of instinct for the duration." (p. 269)

The good news is that the feet of our instinctual, wild nature are not impossible to un-bind.

Estes goes on to explain, "Whether the injuries be to your art, words, lifestyles, thoughts or ideas, and if you have knitted yourself up into a many-sleeved sweater, cut through the tangle now and get on with it. Beyond desire and wishing, beyond the carefully reasoned methods we love to talk and scheme over, there is a simple door waiting for us to walk through. On the other side are new feet. Go there. Crawl there if  need be. Stop talking and obsessing. Just do it...." (p. 272)

A bit further on she tells the reader, "If our own wild natures have been wounded by something or someone, we refuse to lie down and die. We refuse to normalize this wound. We call up our instincts and do what we have to do." (p. 273)

Estes talks about how we can not wait for ourselves to heal completely before beginning this reclamation of our wildish nature. She says,  "The real miracle of individuation and reclamation of Wild Woman is that we all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answer, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking." (p. 274)

There is a song that we all hear that our feet long to dance to. We may hear it only faintly. But we all hear it. It is that song that gives us the motivation to unbind our feet, hoping that someday we will be able to hear that song clearly and that when that time comes, we will have feet that can dance. Perhaps we don't know how to dance yet. We may not know another soul that dances. But there is still a kind of "muscle memory" of dancing; we KNOW deep, deep down in the knowing part of us that we hear the song. Just because the old woman with bound feet in the second video could never dance doesn't mean she wasn't made to. Her feet "know" they are meant to dance, not hobble around. We can plug our ears and tuck our feet under our chairs but we can always hear a note now and then, reminding us that there is "something more than this." 

For each woman (and man, for that matter), the binding of the instinctual, wildish nature is slightly different. Of course that means that the un-binding process is a unique one for each one of us. Our un-bound feet will propel us to dance different songs. We will each dance into a different reality. We may not know exactly what that is, this side of it. But we all know the edges of it. Why do I know that? Let's start with this...

*What would you do if you could do anything, no one would be hurt by it and no one would reject you?

*When you imagine a little, free-as-a-bird child "you" inside, playing as children do with utter lack of self-consciousness, stopping only when a hungry tummy growls, what is that little self doing?

*When you imagine finding that little "you," her chubby cheeks glowing from whatever busy-ness she was involved in, her bright eyes lit up with fun and pleasure and you imagine pulling her sweet little self up on your lap and telling her, "You are so good at _______" (whatever she was doing just then) do tears spring to your eyes? Do you feel a tightening in your chest? The song grows just a bit louder, doesn't it?

Our grown-up minds rush in with cautionary words about how we must be mature, we must be adults and how we don't have the luxury of doing what we want. If there is a stern, religious voice inside of us, it may say, "Your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. You can not trust that little you or that 'knowing.' That is your sin nature and doing what you want is going to always end with you in wreckage. Your true nature is bad and must be redeemed."

But there is still that still, small voice. There is still the haunting notes of that song. Your feet tap a little, however hard you may try not to let them.

What would happen, if you unbound your feet? What would happen if you followed that song right into vibrant, soulful, rich-as-chocolate, thick-as-mud life? What if you danced right into the middle of that life, let your feet take over and your heart lead?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Pound of Flesh

"A strange equation, and an altogether too-common belief: One's worth is exponentially increased with one's incremental disappearance." -Marya Hornbacher, Wasted

"It was horrific seeing those beautiful women reduced to sticks. [...] It's like we're killing these women in public. We watch while you die." -Russel T. Davies

My first "real job" was as a copy writer/copy editor in the in-house advertising department of a locally-based department store called Gottschalks that has since gone out of business. It was a good job. I proof-read ads, wrote copy and worked with graphic designers to make sure the copy we wrote matched the graphics/photos they created. The photo studio was also in-house and I soon got used to beautiful people walking in and out of the office for photo shoots.

I was shocked, however, while standing in one of the graphic designers' cubicles, to find that photos of the already-thin, beautiful fashion models were being altered dramatically. Generous "slices" were taken off of all parts of their bodies right before my eyes. Small waists, hips, legs, arms and even faces were trimmed generously. It was not just this graphic designer; it was standard practice. Today I can still look at photos in ads and see the tell-tale signs of the chopping block: any outside lines that are blurry and not crisp have been altered. Try noticing this the next time you look at a magazine or newspaper ad. You'll see that the blurred lines are in all the places that normal, and even thin, women have curves.

I got mad all over again. You see, I had had an eating disorder that I'd gotten under control a mere two years prior, and truth be told, still did in my head (always will). Those women in those fucking ads had haunted me as I was growing up, taunted me and told me how much of a failure I was. To find out it was a lie, that they had had pounds of flesh removed with the drag of a mouse and a "click" while I spent days, weeks, months and years starving myself, running 3 miles even when I only consumed 600 calories a day, pinching pieces of myself between my fingers while I stood in front of the mirror, hating that I couldn't cut those pieces off. I remembered the A+ grades that were twice as hard to achieve because my brain was dulled and my head pounded. All those times I hung my head over a toilet, vomiting until there was nothing left in my stomach so that I could have a moment of feeling thin came back to me.

I'm not that unusual. 

The National Institute of Mental Health reports statistics that in real life mean:

-If you know 25 women, 5 of them have eating disorders
-4 of those are women between the ages of 12 and 25
-Of those 5, 1 will die of eating-disorder-related health complications
-Half of those 5 will never fully recover from their eating disordered behavior
-All 5 of those women are 12 times more likely to die than the other 15

And don't miss that these statistics are among women. That means if you are in a crowd of men and women, double the stats above.

It's no wonder. Every depiction of the female body in the media tells girls growing up that if they want to be beautiful, desirable, sexy, pretty, attractive and valuable they will be thin. These mind-boggling videos bring tears to my eyes when I think about my daughters and the other young women in my life.

An article which pictures Britney Spears in both "before" and "after" photos that she intentionally released makes the point that women have too much pressure put upon them to look not-natural. You'll see the arrows pointing to where the flesh was trimmed, cellulite removed and an already-beautiful shape morphed into what we would, without thinking, accept as an accurate-portrayal if we saw it in a magazine. Here is another pretty dramatic depiction of the "before" and "after" differences. Roll the mouse over each image to observe the differences.

Is there any hope? For years I didn't think so but in today's newspaper I found an article about some ground-breaking moves by the British government to curb the way the media's portrayal of women affects young women's view of themselves and their bodies in destructive ways. British government officials will be sitting down with members of the fashion industry next month and discussing ways to minimize the practice of airbrushing photos of women's bodies.

Fashion retailer Joseph of Montreal, Canada, will no longer be digitally altering body shapes in their advertisements. Read more of the story here.

These moves are not just important as they relate to the self-esteem of young girls who view magazines/advertisements/fashion shows. In November of 2006 a Brazilian fashion model died of infections caused by out-of-control anorexia and her family said she also struggled with bulimia. She was 5'8" and 88 pounds when she died. 

People are paying attention, it seems. Super-thin models were banned from Montreal's fashion week and encouraged to seek medical treatment. That story is here. A British study by fashion industry officials estimates that about 40% of models in the industry have an eating disorder, as compared to 3% of the general public (American stats are higher, it seems) and urge those with eating disorders be banned from London's fashion week. They are also calling for children under 16 to be banned from the catwalk. That story is here.

What can we do?

One of the things that is happening in the UK effort is advertisers are being urged to include a "disclaimer" similar to those that advertisers have to place on products like alcohol or cigarettes. This may be legalized, which would be fantastic, and will perhaps set a precedent the U.S. could be urged to follow. 

I called the FTC and the woman I spoke to clearly thought I was crazy to consider filing a claim against advertisers who airbrush photos. :)  She said she did not know of any such claims having already been filed but sent me to the website to type "airbrushing" into the search field. Nothing.

So I kept digging and found that, in fact, the FTC doesn't resolve individual consumer complaints. The upshot is that if they get enough complaints, they take notice.

Here's the list of things the FTC suggests if the consumer thinks a company is running an ad that is deceptive:
  • Explore your legal options under federal and state statutes that protect businesses from unfair competition. For example, the Lanham Act gives companies the right to sue their competitors for making deceptive claims in ads.
  • File a complaint with the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, if your competitor's ad is running nationally or regionally. The NAD is a private, self-regulatory group affiliated with the BBB. It investigates allegations of deceptive advertising and gives advertisers a mechanism for resolving disputes voluntarily.
  • Call your local BBB or file an online complaint with the Better Business Bureau if the ad is local. Many BBBs have procedures for resolving disputes between businesses.
  • Contact the radio station, television station, or publication where the ad ran. Let them know that they're running an ad you think may be deceptive.
  • Contact your state Attorney General's Office or your city, county, or state Office of Consumer Affairs. To get their phone numbers, check your telephone directory.
  • Contact the FTC. By mail: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; by telephone: toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

So far, I've filed a complaint with the FTC, which was easy and quick. Here's the consumer complaint form:

I don't think dealing with the FTC is going to be the most effective method of combating this, but it's a start. Ultimately, the changes that are being made in the UK are changes that require people thinking beyond "what sells" to "what's right." I believe human beings are very capable of making such choices, even when they are physically or fiscally difficult. This action in the UK is beautiful proof of this.

I'm going to continue to try to figure out the best way to go about this. I'm hoping to stumble upon an already-existent effort/group/cause to this effect.  If you know of anything like that please email me at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Revisiting "Tattoos & Unconditional Love"

I can't stop thinking about the post before last and the concept of a community that is based on something besides common theological belief. Is it possible? If so, what would it look like?

It struck me this morning that there are ways I already know what such a community would look like. I've written about it before. It's kind of an allegory, but says exactly what I've been trying to say. So I'm re-printing this blog-post and hoping you will want to join me in or continue in the dialogue about the kind of community we all long for, even if we've never been able to put that longing into words.

I'd love to hear what you think after you read it...

Tattoos and Unconditional Love


Vintage Embroidery Motif Tattoo
“I recalled a morning years ago in a boxy church in Tujunga, the fluorescent lights, chipped folding chairs. Starr charmed as a snake while Reverend Thomas explained damnation. The damned could be saved, he said, anytime. But they refused to give up their sins. Though they suffered endlessly, they wouldn’t give them up, even for salvation, perfect divine love. I hadn’t understood at the time. If sinners were so unhappy, whey would they prefer their suffering? But now I knew why. Without my wounds, who was I? My scars were my face, my past was my life. It wasn’t like I didn’t know where all this remembering got you, all that hunger for beauty and astonishing cruelty and ever-present loss…I had already seen more of the world, its beauty and misery and sheer surprise, than they could hope or fear to perceive. But I knew one more thing. That people who denied who they were or where they had been were in the greatest danger. They were blind sleepwalkers on tightropes, fingers scoring thin air. So I let them go, got up and walked away, knowing I’d given up something I could never get back. Not Ann and Bill Greenway, but some illusion that I’d had, that I could be saved, start again.”
(Fitch, p. 306)

I've been thinking a lot about who I am. Like...really, who am I? The answer to that somehow lies in the life I've lived so far, the things I've seen, the things I've heard and read, the places I've been and the people I've loved and been loved by. All of that is in me.

Like Astrid in the passage above, I say, “Without my wounds, who was I? My scars were my face, my past was my life.” Somehow this is very connected to my altered vision of God, to the wall I have always seemed to run up against. I used to intellectually say that I am sorry for my sin. Yet somewhere inside of me, I didn't feel sorry. Isn't it those things, as well, that make me who I am?

Somewhere inside of me, I feel the longing to live in a tribe where women gather and paint on their bodies the stories of the pain, the anguish, the joys, the surprises and the beauty of their lives. I know the feeling I would have as I looked at my friends’ and sisters’ bodies, the pleasure and the pain they have known represented on their skin, blending together, making something so beautiful tears would fill my eyes.

I would wear my own stories proudly, my regret and my gladness mixing inside, just as the stories on my body ran into one another, making a new, more beautiful story than if one had happened and not the other. No one would know where one story and one emotion left off and where others began. I would be a beautiful tapestry and I would not be ashamed.

I would paint honestly and clearly the truth of my life and I would read the truth of the others’ lives that they painted. I would know myself. I would know them. They would know me. We would know one another. And we would love one another for telling the truth, for being alive. We would call what we saw, the result of the bad and the good in our lives, beautiful, for that’s what it would be.

At twilight all of us women would go and meet all of the men in one central place. The men would have painted their stories on themselves, as well, and there would be a palpable excitement about seeing one another.

We would sing. We would read one another’s stories. We would laugh and cry together. And then we would dance.

I would get up and walk toward him. His eyes would be soft and gentle, filled with a loving look and lit by the fire. Our hands would touch and I would lean against him. Our stories would blend together as we danced to the music in the firelight.

“Cheryl,” he would whisper, love in his voice, as I looked up at him.

“You are wholly beautiful, my love,” he would tell me tenderly and I would know what he meant.

It would mean that he had read all the stories, that he saw it all, that he knew me. That he looked at not just the story on my arm or my left thigh, above my right eyes or across my belly. I would know he had looked at the whole picture, that he saw all of me…the truth of me.

And seeing all that, he would think I was beautiful and love me. Not in spite of the “bad” parts, not because of how much better I became after the bad parts. Not because he avoided looking at some parts or tricked his mind into not feeling anything when he saw them.

Instead, he would love me because of the whole of who I was. Because of everything and because of the beautiful design that no one else wore. Because of every part of me, each bit a result of my life, good and bad. I would be loved unconditionally.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Can you have a spiritual community without God?

That sounds like a goofy question, I know.

I'm really asking it, though. There's a way I am attracted to the idea of being part of a larger spiritual community, whether that is six people that meet and eat/talk with one another, or a larger group. I like the idea of the same folks being a consistent part of my life. I miss that about church. I miss that "extended family" kind of feel about church.

I'm not, however, interested in being part of a spiritual community if that means I'm supposed to believe a set of things that everyone in the community is agreeing is "truth." I not only don't miss it, I won't be part of something that bases its sense of community around believing a certain thing or things. What happens naturally in such a setting is those who don't believe or who are doubting end up feeling that they "need" to move toward believing whatever that thing is. Many times they just end up talking and acting like they do. Children who grow up in such a community "inherit" these beliefs; there is a built-in expectation that they will come to the same beliefs.

I specifically reject a lot of the evangelical beliefs that I grew up with, but it's not just those I take issue with. It's the idea that being part of a community necessitates that a person "get on board," "get with the program," "see the light," or however you want to term adopting a common set of beliefs specific to your spiritual community.

At the same time I understand that what makes a community a community is that there ARE some things the members have in common, and that usually, in some shape or form, involves certain goals, aims or desired outcomes. Religious communities seem to center around a set of beliefs about God, how to live here on earth and how to get to heaven when we die.

The community I'm imagining would function more like a family and would foster:

*Unconditional love and acceptance
*Taking care of one another
*Being there for one another
*Calming fears
*Supporting one another in pain
*Providing physical assistance when needed
*Eating good food together
*Finding ways to serve the people each community member comes into contact with in their daily life
*Consciously showing love in intentional ways even/especially when someone isn't "doing right"
*Holding onto one another
*Wanting/trying to understand one another
*Looking for the unique good/gifts in each community member and finding ways to help them express those
*Kissing babies
*Providing rites of passage for young people
*Older people come alongside younger people
*Making sure the elderly are not alone
*Making sure single moms (and dads) have support in all senses
*Doing stuff together
*Hanging out together
*Being silly together
*Eating good food together (Wait...did I mention food already? Oh, well! Even more food, then!)

I could go on, but that's a list of things I feel deep down inside that each and every person should have. It's a list of things that I want. No ONE person can provide that for each of us. A spouse can cover a lot of those. A best friend can cover a lot of those. But no one person can provide all those needs, all the time.

And yet, we need those things. We long for those things. As you read that list, I am confident your heart whispered, "Yes..."

Desire for all those things is common to all human beings and the beautiful thing about it is that we don't just all DESIRE it, but we are all capable of giving/being those things for another!

Even if I look at the biblical account of Jesus' life, I see a guy who was talking more about this "community" and modeling how to live out my list above. Jesus' term for this "community" was "the kingdom of heaven." I don't see or hear him going around indoctrinating people or asking them to join a community based on common beliefs.

 Going back to my original question: Can you have a spiritual community without God?

I'm not suggesting that I would prefer an atheist community. Even that would be a group of people coming together because they agree on not believing certain things and believing other things. I'm asking if those "agreements" about belief in God can be left outside the community's organization/focus. I'm asking if there can be a spiritual community that would nurture an atheist, an Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, an animist, etc. equally well.

I can imagine such a community. I really can. It's not so much that we wouldn't talk about God. Of course we would. But when the focus of the community is loving and understanding one another, not indoctrinating or trying to change one another, so much is possible in a connecting, relating and nurturing sense.

It's mind-boggling to contemplate. And stunningly beautiful.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Porpoise Diving Life: Podcast with Peter Walker

I mentioned that I'd be doing some more "in-depth" interviews with some of the authors behind the articles in this month's Porpoise Diving Life, which I'd hoped could be of the pod-cast variety. So far, I've not found a free/easy way to record video interviews but I'm not giving up.

In the meantime, I talked with Peter Walker, the author of a fantastic article called, "Family Questions," from this month's issue, and he recorded our conversation on his end. As this was my first experience recording a podcast with someone else I sound terribly nervous (I was) and like I'm reading a script (I was)! Peter, on the other hand, did a fabulous job, so I'm happy to invite you to watch our interview:

Monday, September 13, 2010


"So, if women must, they will paint blue sky on jail walls. If the skeins are burnt, they will spin more. If the harvest is destroyed, they will sow more immediately. Women will draw doors where there are none, and open them and pass through into new ways and new lives. Because the wild nature persists and prevails, women persist and prevail." (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves, pg. 203)

***From a marvelous book I'm currently reading you can find in the sidebar under "On my nightstand..." One of the best books I've ever read.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

National Back to Church Sunday: The Conversation

It's National Back to Church Sunday and I'd like to link to some posts by bloggers about their experience of today. I'll add them to the list below as I become aware of them. Please send me your link if you'd like to be included in this list (

Greg Albrecht (Plain Truth Ministries/Christianity Without the Religion): "Back-to-Church Sunday?"
Kristin Tennant: "'Why church?' is the wrong question"
Glenn Hager: "Back to Church"
Me: "Dis-churched on National Back to Church Sunday"
Melissa: "What Worship Means to Me"
Susan Isaacs (author of Angry Conversations with God):  "Back to Church"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dis-Churched on National Back to Church Sunday: why I didn’t go to church and I liked it.

Today is National Back to Church Sunday. My family and I won’t be inviting people to “come back to church.” In fact, we won’t even be going to church. Today is actually the first Sunday of a new phase in our family’s life: not attending church anymore, at all. We are five of the 8 million people this year that will leave the church, according to the National Back to Church Sunday website that defines my family and I as “un-churched.”

That’s where they’re wrong. We’re not “un-churched.” We are, what my husband and I have jokingly (but kinda seriously) dubbed ourselves as: “dis-churched.”

Perhaps it sounds like semantics. I guess it’s rather like the naked/nude distinction that was explained to me long ago. “Naked” is when you’re without clothing and you are embarrassed, ashamed or caught unclothed when you didn’t expect to be. “Nude” is when you are without clothing and you like it!

It’s not so much that our family doesn’t have a church (un-churched). It’s that we don’t have a church and we are choosing to not have one (dis-churched).

It’s all rather ironic, though. I didn’t even know today was going to be National Back to Church Sunday until a couple days ago when I was doing research and stumbled across the website. I’ve known for months that today was going to be the first time no one in our family would be going to church. After much thought, discussion and listening to hearts, we’ve decided that we are going to spend Sundays as a family, either here at home or doing something fun and exciting together, out and about, for an indefinite period of time.

Both my husband and I grew up going to church every week and, until the last couple years, we usually went to church together and took our three children with us. Why we aren’t going to be attending church any longer is really not the point; there are dozens of reasons why. The point is that James and I have decided that we want to spend Sundays together, as a family, teaching our kids, being with our kids, hanging out with our kids and generally enjoying one another as we do so.

It’s exciting. It’s also sad. It’s a kind of “end” of one era and “beginning” of another.  The era we’re moving out of wasn’t terrible, all bad or even mostly bad. We’ve had good experiences in church. It’s more that the new era we’re beginning is something we believe is important and positive for ourselves, our children and our family as a whole. It just feels right.

According to the website, though, are five of the 8 million people that leave the church each year. That’s over 150,000 every Sunday. Though we are consciously, soberly choosing to not attend church, according to the website, we are some of the very people Christians would like to bring back into the proverbial fold today.

I remember when I was comfortable in an evangelical church and felt it was part of my responsibility as a Christian to extend the invitation to the un-churched individuals in my life to come with me on Sunday. I felt like it was the loving thing to do, partly because I pretty much assumed that if someone wasn’t attending church regularly, they were “not right with God.” According to my evangelical beliefs, there was a good chance someone like that had not accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation, and therefore would spend eternity in hell. I remember feeling a lot of guilt over feeling too embarrassed to invite them to hear more about Jesus and/or attend my church. I “get” why someone would feel it was loving to invite me.

Now I’m one of those people who is not at church today. But don’t need an invitation to return. If an acquaintance who didn’t know me well invited me to church I’d politely thank them and refuse the invitation, knowing they meant well. However, anyone I know well knows the “why” behind my not attending church; they know that I’m excited about the new adventure my family and I are embarking on together. For someone who knows me to invite me to church would be to simply not SEE me; I am not “not going to church.” I am doing something else besides going to church, by choice.

Here’s the thing, though: when I think about who Jesus was, I just can not imagine him inviting someone to church on National Back to Church Sunday. Maybe it’s because I’m someone that might have gotten invited to church today if an acquaintance was participating in the national event, but I can’t help wondering how someone will feel today, as they sit next to their friend in the pew and receive the news, one way or the other, that today is the day when their friend was “supposed” to invite them to church.

I know how I’d feel if I was sitting next to a friend I’d received an invitation to church from and I heard the pastor say, “Well, look at all the new faces today! I’m so pleased with the wonderful turn-out for National Back to Church Sunday. It looks like a lot of you brought your friends or loved ones today.” I’d feel like a project. I’d feel like a tally mark. I’d feel like a notch in my friend’s Christian belt. I’d feel tricked. I’d feel invalidated. I’d feel not seen.

I’m a person who hasn’t been to church in about two years. My husband went a little longer than I did. My kids have been going with their grandparents until today. I am not just one of the 8 million people who “just need to come back to church.” I am not at home today because I didn’t receive an invitation to church. I am not a “dis-churched” person because I hate God, love sinning, like to sleep in on Sundays, didn’t get the bridge illustration explained to me or had a bad experience.

I’m dis-churched today because I’m a person who has made a very purposeful decision to be that way. There are millions of people who, like me, don’t need or want an invitation to church today, or any day. We want to have authentic relationships with people, including those who happily attend church or who don’t. We want to be seen as the thinking, feeling, conscientious people that we are.

We don’t go to church…and we like it.

Join the Conversation about "National Back to Church Sunday"


Tomorrow, Sunday the 12th, is "National Back to Church Sunday."

Perhaps you are:
-Someone who no longer attends church but is still a Christian
-Someone who no longer attends church, wouldn't call themselves a Christian, but is still spiritual in some fashion
-Someone who attends a non-traditional church
-Someone who goes to a traditional church but has a vision for a "re imagined church" (to borrow Frank Viola's terminology)

-Someone who is excited about "National Back to Church Sunday," is participating in it and encouraging others to join them.
-Some variation on one or several of the above

Depending on which category or categories you fall into, I'm imagining that some of you are cringing a little at the thought of inviting someone to church this coming Sunday, simply because it is National Back to Church Sunday. Or perhaps you might invite others to church all the time. Maybe you will invite someone, but just not on the official "day." Or possibly, you are someone who would not only not invite someone to church but who would rather not BE invited by anyone else! There's also a chance you are someone who attends church and has invited someone to church with them tomorrow.

Regardless, I'd like to challenge each one of you to, in some form or fashion, express what this coming Sunday means to you, either by leaving a comment here, posting something on your blog,  tweeting about it on Twitter, writing about it in a facebook note, or something else. Perhaps you'd like to make a youtube video. I realize this is last-minute but that's o.k.! It's a great opportunity to interact in "real-time" about issues we all feel, think and write about, but rarely get the opportunity to engage back and forth about like this. No matter what you think about this, join in the's sure to be interesting.

If you'd like to participate, there's a few ways you can join in. But if you'd rather not write something yourself, or don't have the time, you can link to my post here on My post will be up by midnight tonight.

Starting tomorrow I will post links to anyone else's blog or website, so if you write something, please email me or leave a comment on my blog so I can add your link to the list of posts others write. Feel free to link to others' posts, as well!

Here are some other ways you can participate, whether you write a post yourself or not:

-On facebook: Write a "note" about it, mention it in your status and/or link to your blog post or someone else's.
-On Twitter: Tweet about it with the tag "NationalBacktoChurchDay." You can tweet links, ideas, or whatever you want to.
-On your blog: Write something and/or link to my blog where the list of posts will be if your readers want to find other posts.
-On others' blogs: Read others' posts and think about commenting.

I'm imagining this interaction will spill over into this coming week so if you read this next week and still want to participate, please do so!

Lastly :) if you know someone who you think would like to participate in any fashion, please send them a link to this post.

Looking forward to the conversation!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Boudoir Hangers

"Remember, always dressing in understated good taste is the sa me as playing dead."
~Susan Catherine
That's one of the quotes from something I've just finished that I must show you! I'm going to be making/giving these to the girls in my life for Christmas, I think, most of which d on't look at my blog, but if you do, try to forget you saw them! ;)

Actually these are for sale in my shoppe, HERE, and I'll be making new ones for Christmas gifts!

I LOVE having satin padded hangers in my closet. There is something about hanging a pretty dress on one, or heck...even a simple t-shirt on one that makes me feel good. I started printing little sayings/quotes on fabric and then sewing them into the necks of the altered art clothing I sell but the other day I had the idea to sew them onto little "mini-quilts" with a little ribbon loop and hang them from the necks of padded hangers. They turned out so sweet!

There are four for now, with more coming soon. They are only $9.99 each, so grab them while you can!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'll Just Whip Something Up....

I forgot to add photos of the apron to the below post! It's super sweet and shabby-chic but just a little bit flirty, too! You can find this apron HERE.

Vintage-inspired, this apron is a size Small/Medium and ties in the back. Cotton pink and white ticking with a delicious pink chiffon rose trim all around.

Wear this little sweetie whipping something up in the kitchen...or somewhere else in the house... ;)

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P.S. James, my husband, is entirely responsible for the last photo, by the way! He's behind the camera and even handed me the whisk! :) The cake carrier is a one-of-a-kind vintage/altered one my friend Pat Jones made. You can visit her at her blog HERE and link to her various shoppes. She makes incredible handmade creations, as well as selling some of the most beautiful vintage items I've seen anywhere.


A few "luxe" treats you can find my shoppe, HERE. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Studio Pics & A Peek...

Want to take a peek inside my studio?

To be honest, this is just a corner of my studio and I've left loads of clutter/mess out of the photos but this is the pretty part and what the rest of the studio will look like soon!

I share an art table with my husband who does some small-scale modeling, so lately some of our favorite evenings are sitting across from one another, working on art stuff or sometimes one of us reading to the other while the other works. You can see just a bit of James' stuff in this photo...

Here's a little shelf full of some of my favorite things. If you've followed my other blog at all, you may even remember some of these pretties!

Here's a shot of the burlap curtains I made for the studio window last week. I love them but they need some ruffling on the edges before I show the full view!

Here's some paper "lanterns" I decorated/embellished using cheap pink lanterns from the party store. This is an idea I got from Heather Kowalski when she did this for one of her tutorials in our Sweet Six Studio. You can see some of her lanterns HERE.

I did no sewing with these! It's just ivory muslin and a hot glue gun, plus pieces of yummy ribbons and vintage trims I have in my studio. James hung it up in the corner for me and I love it.

Here's one of the circular Japanese lanterns I didn't add to at all, except for some simple ribbon/trim and a vintage millinery rose I've been saving for just the right thing. THIS was it! :)

 more thing....can you keep a secret....

Here's a peek at some things I've been making in my studio (or my dining room table, depending on what time of day!) that is going to arrive in the shoppe tomorrow....if you want to find them, go HERE.

Lots more where that came from, including the "Gossip Gloves" I'm wearing above, several more one-of-a-kind bags and even a sexy apron! Yikes!

I Bruise Easily

I heard this song and read the lyrics for the first time today and there is something so deeply true and beautiful there. I love the cinematography of the video, for one thing. Watch and see what you think. I'm cutting and pasting the lyrics below, as well. I'll put the words that speak most deeply to me in bold...

My skin is like a map, of where my heart has been
And I can't hide the marks, but it's not a negative thing
So I let down my guard, drop my defenses, down by my clothes
I'm learning to fall, with no safety net, to cushion the blow

I bruise easily, so be gentle when you handle me
There's a mark you leave, like a love heart carved on a tree
I bruise easily, can't scratch the surface without moving me
I bruise easily, I bruise easily

I've found your fingerprints on a glass of wine
Do you know you're leaving them all over this heart of mine, too
But if I never take this leap of faith, I'll never know
So I'm learning to fall with no safety net to cushion the blow

I bruise easily, so be gentle when you handle me
There's a mark you leave, like a love heart carved on a tree
I bruise easily, can't scratch the surface without moving me
I bruise easily, I bruise easily

Anyone who
Can touch you
Can hurt you
Or heal you.
Anyone who
Can reach you
Can love you
Or leave you...

So be gentle
So be gentle
So be gentle
So be gentle

I bruise easily, so be gentle when you handle me
There's a mark you leave, like a love heart carved on a tree
I bruise easily, can't scratch the surface without moving me
I bruise easily,

I bruise easily, so be gentle when you handle me
There's a mark you leave, like a love heart carved on a tree
I bruise easily, can't scratch the surface without moving me
I bruise easily, I bruise easily

I bruise easily
I bruise easily

Isn't that so true? We have such power to heal or to hurt one another. We have the ability to mirror the best of someone to them so they know exactly how beautiful and wonderful they are. We have the ability to, when we see the "real them," tell them that what we see is ugly, not worthwhile or not good enough. We can, when it's tough, bail. Or we can, in the midst of, and in spite of, the pain, hang on tight with everything we've got.

We've all done some of both of all of the above. We've all received some of all of the above. And we know in our hearts that if we guard ourselves from that bruising in the song, we might be "safe," but we lose everything. But when we risk it all...when we're willing to love past the point of what's safe...we have a chance at real love.

I bruise easily. You do, too. We are all the same, deep down inside. We long to love and be loved extravagantly. And that means giving the person we most want love from the very weapon which could hurt us more than any other thing. Scary as hell.

I've faced that fear and wimped out in the face of it. I've picked "safe" over "risk." But I've also faced the fear, put everything on the line and discovered love waiting for me. I've learned what I really want is worth the risk. It's worth the pain. It's even worth it if I lose it in the end. I know now there's nothing about "safety" or protecting myself from pain that's worth not knowing real love. The pain of not loving loving/being loved is in fact worse than the pain of losing love.

What does this song make you think about?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Messy...But Beautiful...Night

She turned 9 a few weeks ago when I wasn't looking. I can't believe I have been her mama for more than 9 years now! Amazing!

Emily is a wonderful person. A delight. Smart as a whip. A natural beauty. And stubborn as the day is long.

Tonight I realized this incredible girl just might be more stubborn than her mama. If you know me personally, you know that's saying something!

Tonight Emily and I had the first of what I know will be dozens, if not more, of battles of our wills. O.k. maybe it's not the first. In a way, the first one was when she was not even three. But something was different about tonight. It wasn't Mama and Kid the whole time. There were moments when it was two women.

This was a significant battle. It was over her bed sheets. Now, bed sheets are something I feel pretty strongly about, don't get me wrong, but this wasn't REALLY about the bed sheets, if you know what I mean. Impeccable bed-making skills is something that I take pride in and hope to pass down (my grandfathers on both sides were in the service and brought home their taste for "army corners"...the sort of bed that is made so tightly you could drop a coin on it and it would bounce and is just heaven to climb into). But tonight wasn't about a perfectionist mama wanting to pass the torch.

Tonight was about being a woman. I know that sounds dramatic. But let me explain.

There was calm explanations, advice, a helping hand, but let's just say our Miss Em did NOT want to learn to make her bed. Granted, it's a top bunk and I KNOW from personal experience that's hard. Even painful. The wood slats, etc. I don't care for it myself. But regardless, there was shall we say...


That's what this was all about. It started with whining, escalated to hysteria, sobs, digging in of heels and finally, getting it. But not wanting to acknowledge that she got it. Yup. You know what I mean. It's THAT combination most of us women are quite familiar with:

Loss of Control of Emotions

This was an important discussion. This was an opportunity to begin learning a lesson I will see that she learns. Even if she doesn't like it. Even if she comes along, kicking and screaming. Even if she never acknowledges she learns it. As long as I know she learned it, I will be satisfied. I don't mean that she will learn to do this perfectly. In fact I know she won't. But I want to know that she knows when she chooses helplessness over capability that that IS the choice she is making.

So here's what I said:

"Emily, this isn't really about learning to make your bed, sweetie. This is about being a woman. It's important that you learn this: We are women. We are strong. We are smart. We can do whatever we want to do. That doesn't mean we don't need help. It doesn't mean we don't ask for help. It doesn't mean we know everything and we don't need to learn things. No! It means that we accept help and when we "get it," we acknowledge we get it. When we can do it, we say, 'Thank you for your help. I can do it myself now.'

"Emily, do I let Daddy take care of me? Do things for me?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"You're right," I said. "I want to let Daddy help him and he wants to let me help him. But do I NEED Daddy to do things because I'm not strong or smart enough? Could I live on my own? Could I take care of myself? Would I die without him?"

She shook her head. "No."

"That's right," I said. I can and do and will keep asking for and letting Daddy help me. I will help him. But I KNOW inside that I am strong enough and smart enough to take care of myself and THAT is what I want you to learn."

"Emily, there are women who don't know they are strong enough to take care of things. They don't know they are smart enough or wise enough. They don't know because they've never tried. And many of those women were once little girls who cried when they didn't understand something right away, or whined that they couldn't do something because it was too hard, too new, too uncomfortable. And someone said, 'Oh, honey, don't worry about it. I'll do that for you.' They knew inside, just like you do, that they could do it. But the older they got, the more they began to believe their own words. 'I can't do it,' they told people, acting more helpless than they were, until one day, after years of this, they really began to BELIEVE they can't. You are not going to be like that, Emily."

You see now why this was such a watershed conversation. Also why this is the first of a conversation we'll have many times. Why?

Emily is stubborn. When she knows what she wants or doesn't want, everyone knows it and getting her to back down, change her mind to suit someone else or (heaven forbid) admit she is wrong is...almost impossible.

And that stubbornness is wonderful. I love it. I am so glad she is that stubborn.

A lot of Christian parenting books I've read urge me to "break" her. She should should bend before her parents out of respect. But here's the deal. I don't want to bend her. And I certainly don't want to break her. I want her to be respectful of authority. I want her to know when to shut her mouth. I want her to learn to apologize when she needs to. But I want her to keep that stubborn spirit. That knowing that guides her now and will continue to, I hope.

I want Emily to learn to humble herself when she realizes she is wrong. But when she is right, I want that little woman to fight til the death.

She learned how to make the bed. She didn't want to admit it. She didn't want to admit that she had not tried her hardest or that she acted helpless beyond the point when she understood what to do. That's o.k. I told her I might have done the same under the circumstances...she is my daughter, after all! But I admitted that I had gotten too angry, too upset. I apologized. And she apologized, without prompting, for "whining." That was more than good enough for me.

Tonight was important.
Tonight was painful.
Tonight was loud and emotional.

Tonight Emily learned something.
Tonight Emily learned she can be strong...that her own strength is something she has my permission to claim.
Tonight a mama reinforced what she already knew about herself.
Tonight a mama and her daughter connected in a real way.

Tonight was messy. But beautiful. The best kind.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


It's official! The first issue of The Porpoise Diving Life with me as guest editor is up! You can view it HERE.

The topic of this month's issue is "Questions," something we can all identify with in one way or another, and it's an issue packed with really great articles, some beautiful photos and a lot to think about.

"Questions" is an intentionally broad topic and I'm pleased with the wide variety of subject matter, as well as paradigms, that this issue offers. And what wonderful writers and talented photographers I was lucky enough to receive submissions from!

Starting this week I'm going to be focusing on one article/author at a time here on my blog in a interview format, with the idea of understanding the person behind the article. I'd love to get some direct feedback from you and maybe even some conversation, back and forth. This month I'm going to be working hard to get a Porpoise Diving Life blog up and running so we can do this sort of interaction there, but for now it's going to happen here. Something new and exciting! Looking forward to it!

So go on over and check it out! For now, here are some tantalizing "excerpts" from a few of the articles in this month's issues to tempt you:

"There is nothing to fear with questions since they are a natural part of an honest life and because there are so many unknowns and things about which we are uncertain. The only thing to fear is any person or group that discourages asking questions." (excerpt from Cool Questions by Glenn Hager)

"I have some great new friends I’d like to introduce to my Evangelical family-of-origin. Some of them are gay, some of them are deists and a few of them are Star Trek fans. Some of them are Christian, but not in ways that would be familiar. I don’t think any of this process has made me a better person or a better Christian than my conservative friends. But it does make me different. And if they are as afraid of liberalism as I once was, then I still have to ask these questions..." (excerpt from Family Questions: Will Evangelicals Still Love Me? by Peter Walker)

"A dark night of the senses may “feel” as though modes of prayer, experiencing God, or spiritual practices don’t “work” or satisfy. God may “feel” out of reach, distant, unavailable, or gone. It may feel like a dry period, or a time of being in a spiritual dessert. This is not cause for discouragement or alarm, but for stamina. It is a Divine invitation for growth, and greater spiritual depth beyond what one has known." (excerpt from Dark Night of the Soul, by Lisa Colon DeLay)

"There’s a lot of work there…especially for what is supposed to be a “gift.” A huge list of feelings must be ignored in order to accept this gift of salvation. And often, even in those churches that “encourage questions” and talk about wanting to be “open and real,” there still remains an expectation that eventually you’ll come around. The questions will be resolved. The doubts will be laid to rest.
What if the questions and doubts are not in fact laid to rest?" (excerpt from Life Outside the Closet by Cheryl Ensom Dack)