Ferdinand’s Secret

Ferdinand’s Secret by Anonymous

I am happy to see the story of Ferdinand, that gentle, flower-sniffing, pacifist bull has made the big screen. I have not seen the film, but unless it completely betrays the book, Ferdinand offers us an astonishingly simple, though not entirely painless solution to a vast range of contemporary problems. Handwringing at many of the world’s apparently intractable difficulties – resurgent authoritarianism, Kim Jong Il’s missiles, Harvey Weinstein, Putin’s flaunting of his six pack, the crisis in the Catholic church, Evangelical support for Trump, the ridiculously crowded field of democratic candidates and the looming demographic disaster of an excess of young men in China – might end if we better understood Ferdinand’s secret, which is really not much of a secret at all. Though obscure to me as a boy, Ferdinand’s back story is clear to me now. He had experienced a small, life-transforming operation that freed him from that great plague of humanity – and bulls – which, to maintain the subtlety of children’s literature, we prefer not spell it out. Yes, it does begin with a T, and so do the excised parts. 

I am likely to be severely criticized for oversimplifying many complex problems, but I think that instead we overcomplexify a simple problem. Freud understood this problem better than most. When I was young I thought Freud probably had a puerile mind, though I didn’t know the word. Now, as I shudder at the rash of towers plaguing the skylines of world cities – Istanbul’s is just being erected – I think Freud may have undersold his big idea. I also used to be shocked, like any good Puritan should be, at the Hindu lingam and at the Near Eastern statuettes – I recently saw one at Ephesus Museum – depicting the effects of what appears to be superhuman levels of testosterone. Either that, or an extraordinarily potent premodern Viagra. But anyone who thinks seriously about modern world leaders, Kim Jong Il’s missiles, or our recent #metoo moment surely must see that we still have far more (begins with a T) around than is good for us. We just aren’t as honest about our idolatry as were ancient near eastern idol carvers. 

The solution is right in front of us in the form of a delightful, warm-hearted children’s book. We might begin symbolically. Suppose we replace the Wall Street Bull, so heavily weighed down at the back, with a more balanced, flower-sniffing statue of Ferdinand, appropriately bandaged. Who could argue with a kinder, gentler capitalism? But we need more than symbols. We need role models. I suggest our presidential candidates might begin leading the world by example. Voluntarily? I am of two minds.  A legal requirement would require a pesky Constitutional amendment, and I can see how the idea might be tough to sell at first. But with some appropriate incentives – a requirement for participation in debates? a massive influx of campaign cash? unparalleled publicity? – who could resist the peer pressure, and the potent benefits – somehow that seems like the wrong adjective –  of such a small operation. Mike Pence would never have to worry about being alone in an elevator with a woman again, and neither would the women. President Trump could clearly demonstrate once and for all that, whatever may or may not have been fake news from the past, he will certainly have no future interest in the Wrong Sort of Playmate. Imagine Melania’s relief.   

But it’s the democrats who stand to benefit most. If the idea caught on, we would likely see an immediate and virtuous thinning of that over crowded field. Those who remained would have the immediate benefit of casting away any past #metoo type scandals, and preventing future ones. What about the women candidates? Wouldn’t this give ambitious women an unfair advantage? The IAAF – the the International Association of Athletics Federations – has shown the way, recognizing the fundamental unfairness of excess testosterone.  Amy Klobuchar, judging from her alleged treatment of her staff, should certainly be tested and disqualified, unless she is willing to submit to hormone suppressants and ongoing monitoring. Imagine the love fest our last Presidential election might have been if the race had been between a Ferdinand-like Donald and a Hillary with suppressed hormones, and smiling in the background an entirely benevolent and disinterested Vladimir Putin smelling the flowers of a new Russian Spring.   

If we Christians truly want to distance ourselves from modern paganism – I’m thinking of the statuette in the Ephesus museum again – then why not just cut if off. Literally.

There is excellent biblical warrant. Origen saw this, acted on it, and has been unjustly castigated ever since. Yet it seems the obvious solution to the modern scandal of the Catholic church. If life long celibacy is really such a good idea, why not make it easier and safer?  It could be a truly back to the Bible moment for evangelicals who have inexplicably resisted application one of the clearest of our Lord’s recommendations.   

So I have a dream, a dream in which crowds of men, all with the face of Harvey Weinstein, fill the Mall in Washington, and like the massive gathering of eunuchs in “The Last Emperor”, hold aloft the evidence that they are no longer a danger to humanity and proudly chant “ME TOO!”  It would mark the beginning of an invigorated – sorry, wrong adjective again – and truly gender-inclusive #metoo movement.  Inspiring!   

*Note: The brilliant author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous.

When the Elephant in the Room is Bigger than the Turkey on the Table!

We here at Communicating Across Boundaries know that this might very well be an awkward holiday season for all of us. Families divided must now come back together around the Thanksgiving table. What on earth are we going to talk about? Here are a few suggestions to promote pre-Christmas “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill toward all men.”

*Talk about the weather! Here in Kansas the weather changes frequently. That allows you the opportunity to go back and talk about it again and again throughout the day. If the weather in your part of the world is more stagnant I invite you to talk about the weather in Kansas!

*Talk about sports! I personally don’t know how to talk about sports very well but usually if you insert, “So…how about those Royals?”, into the conversation, something will take off. Every once in a while you can nod and exclaim, “Yeah!” with authority and a suitable degree of incredulity. (Feel free to insert whatever local team you’ve heard batted around in your part of the world).

*Talk about other Thanksgivings. Remember the time 67 wild turkeys crossed the yard on Thanksgiving Day all those years ago? Remember the time my sister in law and I both brought the same cheesy corn casserole but everyone liked hers better? Remember last Thanksgiving–when everyone came from all over the world? That was such a special holiday.

*Talk about T.V. Has anyone seen anything good on TV lately? Try not to reference reality TV shows as someone might accidentally start talking about the conversation we’re all trying to avoid: Politics!

*Talk about TV in the “olden” days. What show did you use to watch when you were a kid? What time of day did it come on? Who did you watch it with?

*Talk about tattoos. I mean it can’t hurt! If you could get any tattoo what would you get?

*Talk about weird or interesting talents. My husband Lowell can play a recorder with his nose. I can pack a mean suitcase. One of our daughters can impersonate Julia Andrews, the other can swing the hula hoop remarkably well. Our son Connor can talk like Goofy—it’s pretty obnoxious-but it an interesting or weird talent.

*If they were going to make a movie of your life who would they get to play you? This always gets people going in pretty harmless ways!

*What’s the strangest or scariest restaurant you’ve ever eaten at? Why did you go there?

*Talk about Bucket Lists (Unless you’ve got family that are close to kicking their bucket—that might be too morbid!) –What do you still have on yours? Have you crossed anything off recently?

*Talk Thanksgiving Trivia. I hate trivia games. My brain wasn’t wired for them but they do take up conversational space and there are some in our family who are actually quite good at remembering useless bits of information!

            Who was president when Thanksgiving became an annual holiday? (Abraham Lincoln)

            In what year did the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade become a thing? (1924)

            (Skip this one if it’s too close to a political theme!) Which President was the first to give the Thanksgiving turkey an official pardon? (Ronald Reagan)

            What are Turkey chicks called? (Pults or Turkeylings)

            In what year did the green bean casserole first appear on the scene? (1955)

            During Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving / harvest festival, they traditionally eat a stuffed food but it isn’t a turkey. What food do Koreans stuff and eat during Chuseok? (Rice pastry dumplings)

            Where is the only place in Australia where Thanksgiving is celebrated? (Norfolk Island)

            Who do children in Japan give drawings to on Labor Thanksgiving Day? (Police Stations)

*Talk about Thanksgiving! Talk out loud about the things you are thankful for. Acknowledge one another with gratitude. Tell each other about the tiny and the tall blessings you’ve been given. Practice being thankful!

 

We here at Communicating Across Boundaries wish you a Thanksgiving marked by sincere gratitude and deep hope.

 

 

*If you’re still struggling to think what to talk about there are countless websites with conversation starters. Who knew?

http://conversationstartersworld.com/250-conversation-starters/

http://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Easy-Conversation-Starters-34313495

http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/tag/ages-14-100

**Photo credit goes to Bronzi!

A Little Humour–A Big Diffuser*

*Reader be warned: This post includes inadvertently inappropriate language.

 Reader’s Digest marketed the old expression, “Laughter is the best medicine”. We used to have a stack of old Reader’s Digests in our house in Pakistan. I remember flipping first to the Laughter is the Best Medicine page. We’d read them out loud to each other and we’d laugh and laugh.

I’ve known laughter to diffuse cultural blunders, language mistakes, awkward situations. I’ve seen the elderly and young children distracted from pain through laughter. I’ve watched a case of the giggles remove fear. I’ve been a part of circles of friends who’s hearts are knit together through their shared sorrows and their deep laughter.

On Saturday last, Lowell and I proved, that laughter has the power to defuse a miserable marriage moment!

We were having a pretty intense conversation. How do we respond when our memory of a particular event is different than another person’s memory of the same event? Lowell thought I was too quick to exert my own “rightness” –He felt that I may be too forceful in establishing that I remember things accurately. We were not arguing but the conversation was certainly pockmarked with some pain. It was not a pleasant exchange.

In the middle of it I turned to Lowell and said, “I feel like I’m patient.” His response was quick and registered all over his face! He looked at me disbelievingly and with a little anger. In an elevated tone he retorted, “Really?! That’s what you’re going to say right now?” I, in turn, was a little off put by his expression and his harsh response, “Why does that make you so incredulous? Why are you responding like that?”

He looked me full in the face, still not understanding why I would declare that, in the midst of this conversation. Pausing, to measure his words, he said,

“You feel like pig-shit?”

“That’s what you heard?” the beginnings of a smile twitching on my lips, “I said I feel I’m patient! Not ‘pig shit!’!”

No wonder he’d been so incredulous!

We both threw back our heads and laughed hard. The intensity of the conversation was passed. We laughed long and with great relief. Our faces turned red and a few happy tears squeezed through our scrunched up faces. Humour had saved the day.

The moment keeps returning to me and I find myself bursting out laughing! On Thursday I was attending Adelaide’s Parent-Teacher Conferences. I was waiting to speak to one of her teachers. The parent ahead of me was taking a very long time. I tapped my toes. I tried to guess what others teachers in the room taught based on their names. I tried to organize my shopping list in my head. I thought through the weekend ahead. At one point I said to myself, “Normally, I feel like I’m pig shit…I mean patient!” A huge smile burst out on my face and I burst out laughing out loud. Surprised by the noise of my own laughter, I quickly covered my mouth with my hand.

A little humour had once again served as a big diffuser.

Books and My Moral Dilemma

English: All 24 John Griham novels as of June ...

I remember the first time I did it. You do it once and you can never go back.

It was a John Grisham novel – The Firm. We were living in Cairo and my husband was traveling. I had little kids — four at the time. I had bathed, storied, and kissed them and as I passed bedrooms I could hear their soft, rhythmic, innocent breathing.

This was My time.

I lay in bed and picked up the book. The only reason I hadn’t read during the day was time. And now I had time.

I began reading. And I read, and I read, and I read some more. I was deeper and deeper into the novel. I knew it was late but I avoided the clock. When I finally looked, it was already 2 in the morning. I knew I had to go to sleep. But I also had to know the end. I had to. I couldn’t stay up reading — I was single parenting, making sure four children were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there. But I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t know what happened. Would the lawyer and his wife make it?

It was a moral dilemma. I knew that ‘real book lovers’ don’t read the end of books. I knew it was a moral code that could mark me for a long time.

So I did the unthinkable – I skipped to the end. I read the end of the book.

Even now I feel the shame of it, the magnitude of that one act, that one time. Because I knew if I could do it once – I’d do it again. And maybe again. And then maybe I’d do it one more time…..

I would be whispered about and bear the shame and humiliation of being one of ‘those’ people, one who reads the end of books. “Who does that? Who reads the end of books?” would be the conversation and I would shake my head and say “I don’t know! Who does that?” While inside I would hang my head and pray they never found out.

What about you? Have you ever skipped to the end of a book? Did you break the unspoken law of book reading? Tell all through the comments.

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Readers – Today Communicating Across Boundaries celebrates 1000 posts! You helped this milestone happen by reading, contributing guest posts, and interacting with pieces that you read, posts that resonated in your heart and soul. Thank you! Here’s to 1000 more! (If blogging even continues as a ‘thing’, right?!)

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When the Sh*t hits the fan!

mythbusters.jpg

We love to watch the show, MythBusters. On MythBusters  Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman and their team use the scientific method to prove or disprove movie stunts, YouTube videos, rumours, myths, news stories, idioms or even their own personal curiosities. They tackle seemingly impossible hypotheses to see if there is any truth in them at all. My personal favourites are their attempts to test idioms.  In season 9, episode 3 they tested the plausibility of the English expression, “When the shit hits the fan”! A series of ridiculous experiments revealed something quite unexpected and it certainly made me laugh and gave me pause to think.

According to the online urban dictionary “shit hits the fan” when ‘things get chaotic or uncontrollable’ or it’s ‘the point at which an already unstable situation devolves into utter chaos’.

Our family has a long-standing attachment to the word ‘shit’—I know it’s shocking but true! My mom and dad never permitted us to use swear words or foul speech when I was growing up. The word ‘fart’ was even off-limits. In our home we passed gas. At the very worst we “tooted” or “cut the cheese”.

We never farted. That was crude and crass and completely unacceptable.

The only exception was the word “shit”…and that only if we said it with a Pakistani accent. Something about that combination made my dad start to shake. The little lines around his eyes would start up first and eventually his convictions would melt off his face into complete laughter. It never failed. Dad would laugh and mom would say his name, “Gary!” with as much as sternness as she could muster as if dad himself had used the offending language!

Later when Lowell and I moved to India we had other opportunities to use the word. In our experience in North India, shit is the expletive of choice for anyone who speaks any amount of English. It’s not really a cuss word. Shit is used to denote poop, plain and simple. The ancient place we rented on the banks of the Ganges River provided ample opportunity to use the word. Frequently the sewage backed up on our bathroom floor. Using the word was a way to secretly let off some frustration but it was also a way to communicate to our landlady what was going on! She understood that word.

The word shit isn’t just used to talk about sewer– it has a variety of uses in India. It was a word that sympathized. When I told our landlady that my dad had been in the church that was attacked by terrorists in Islamabad in 2002, her first response, with her hand quickly coming to touch my arm and her face contorting in sadness and sympathy was, Ah shit!”  When I told her that Lowell had dengue fever, I got the same face with the same concern and the same word of choice, Ah shit!” When I told her something funny that had happened in the market she would laugh and say, “Oh shit!” When I showed her the bathroom floor where the sewage had backed up she’d groan and appropriately exclaim, “Oh shit!”

So you can imagine my intrigue and my amusement with the episode on MythBusters where they try to prove the validity to that interesting expression, “when the shit hits the fan”!

The funny thing is after Jamie and Adam had gone to the work of creating their own blue simulated poo, making a testing site, setting up a fan and then throwing the blue poo into the fan, not much happened. It was so anti-climactic! The blue poo just sort of hit the fan’s protective grate and then fell with a disappointing thud to the ground. They made some changes. They made their blue poo more gooey, they increased the size of the fan, they removed the grate. Eventually they were not disappointed. The blue goo flew! The anticipated results were finally actualized.

It made me stop and think.

Sometimes we expect our stresses and our strains to be far more grand and far-reaching than they are. Our imaginations move into our fears and we become anxious and over-wrought. We dream up horrors and hells and we allow them to paralyze our souls. These fears keep us awake at night. They force us to the edge of our calm. We live in dread of the “shit hitting the fan”.

But what if the shit just sort of plonks against the grate and nothing much happens? What if our worst fears are never actually realized? Or when they are realized we see it wasn’t as we thought it would be? Perhaps we’re stronger than we thought we’d be. Perhaps God was more Present than we thought He’d be. Perhaps our support structures held more than we thought they would.

I think about all the time I’ve spent dreading, fearing, and imagining the worst. (I’ve written about some of them: Better Widow than a Wife, When Fear Proves Love). I’ve spent hours blowing up my anxieties, like balloons for a funeral. I’ve wasted more hours trying to think up ways to protect myself from those same dreaded outcomes.

Like Jamie, on Mythbusters, I’ve donned perfect protective gear to safeguard against the flying poop.  More often than not, it never hits.

I’m not entirely sure what the answer is. I do want to live more fully in my now, in my here. Hopefully the pathetic results of Adam and Jamie’s test will remain with me and tutor me. What they worst feared didn’t actually happen! Jesus didn’t use the expression, “when the shit hits the fan”, but he did teach on imagined future dreads.  He wanted us to live today!

                So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Spice Your Monday With All the Wrinkled Ladies

I’m breaking away from my usual Monday morning contemplation and bringing you something with a bit more holiday spirit. In the United States today is a Federal Holiday – evidently we have a few dead presidents that had birthdays during these months and this is our way to celebrate them. I’m all for it if it means a 3-day weekend.

And in the spirit of the holiday I wanted to post a response to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl appearance. I’d venture very few women can relate to her super sexy over the top show – and I won’t even get into how oblivious the Super Bowl planners are to kids in the audience and parents who want their kids to have  a little G rated fun.

But the video below? I’m pretty sure you’ll love this parody of “All the Single Ladies” from Anita Renfroe. Take a look at “All the Wrinkled Ladies” and see what you think.

On Translation and Translators

Readers of Communicating Across Boundaries know about communicating across cultural boundaries. They know what it’s like when it goes well….and they know what it’s like when it goes not so well.

So today is Saturday and time for a light-hearted look at cross cultural communication gone wrong. Very.Wrong.

Enjoy this clip from a show in the UK! I laughed until I cried. I hope you’ll enjoy the humor and no offense intended! Have a great day!

Welcome to the new readers from this past week. I have heard from so many of you about Saudade and flying before walking and all those things that go into this nomadic life. Your stories resonate so deeply – think about joining in the project So.Many.Stories. If you have a story that you want to tell but can’t write, let’s talk!

Visiting Communicating Across Boundaries for the first time? Check out the About page for more information! Feel free to visit these posts to get a picture of what Communicating Across Boundaries is all about!

“Don’t Be So Defeatist, Dear” and Other Quotes from the Downton Dowager

My love affair with Downton Abbey began during the Patriots/Broncos NFL playoffs game in January of this year. Our friends introduced us and so smitten were we that we moved back and forth between the first episode and the massacre that was the football game.

It took ten minutes of Thomas’s scowl, O’Brien’s bitterness and caustic tongue, Mary’s arrogance, and Anna’s integrity to fall in love. But what sealed the deal was Violet the Dowager, Countess of Grantham (called Lady Grantham by most) played by the legendary Maggie Smith. She commanded every scene she was in and had more “quotable quotes” in one episode than most American TV shows have in an entire year.

As the football went down the field, usually in the hands of the Patriots, Downton Abbey entered our lives with its upstairs/downstairs story line and quotes that beg for memorization.

So here are some of my favorites, gleaned not only from the memorable night when the show came into our lives, but from all the episodes that have charmed us since that time.

Mrs Crawley: “What should we call each other?”

Lady Grantham: “Well, we could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham.”

Cora: “Are we to be friends then?”

Lady Grantham: “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”

Lady Grantham: “It always happens. When you give these little people power it goes to their heads like strong drink!”

“Why does everyday involve a fight with an American?”

“Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

Lady Grantham: “Oh my dears. Is it really true? I can’t believe it. Last night he looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. It’s typical.”

Lady Mary:  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Lady Grantham:  “I’m not being ridiculous. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house – especially somebody they didn’t even know.”

Lady Mary: “Sybil is entitled to her opinions.”

Lady Grantham: “No. She isn’t until she is married, then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.”

There are so many more, but I’ll let the YouTube video give you true entertainment and end with my favorite:

“Don’t be so defeatist, dear! It’s very middle class!” 

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of falling in love with this show, I hope after reading you are interested in at least a dinner date. I guarantee you’ll want more! Happy Friday and to repeat the Dowager’s words: “What is a weekEND?”

“My Name is Nwabudike and I am from Nigeria….”

Perhaps you’ve received an email like this: 

“My name is Nwabudike and I am from Nigeria. Please I would like you to keep this proposal as a top-secret and delete it if you are not interested and get back to me if you are interested for details as regards to the transfer of $24,500,000 to you. this money initially belongs to a client who died and had no next of kin in his account-opening package.”

Or like this: 

I am Mrs. Isabel Jose from Spain married to Mr. Joe Armstrong from Sierra Leone for eleven years now, we have three kids … I have a business proposal which I believe that will be a very Good opportunity for both of us so I decided to contact you on this business opportunity in our bank, the business is this I discovered an abandoned sum of 10.500m US dollars (Ten million five hundred thousand united states dollars) in our safety deposit vault that belongs to one of our foreign customer. Who died along with his entire family on 15th April 2005 in a ghastly motor accident along Valencia express way.

Or maybe an email with a more friendly and familiar tone, like this: 

Dear friend
I am Dr Raymond Chien Independent Non-executive Director of Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong I have a business transaction of $44.5 million USD to share with you,If interested contact me for more details via my personal email

We’ve all received them. They come from Nigeria and Spain; Kenya and China. They have a name, a promise of more money than most of us could ever dream of, and often a tragedy thrown in for good measure. They are the famous internet business proposals that we know are false. We laugh at them. We “tsk, tsk” at them. We hit delete. But how many of us have secretly thought, just once, that maybe, just maybe we could outsmart the sender. Maybe we could turn the tables on them and receive something for nothing?

A clever playwright in Chicago did just this with an internet business proposal. In 2009, Steve Gadlin received an email from a Kenyan gentleman. The email was an offer to purchase a play that a Mister Victor Gido had written. The price? $30,000. Thus began an email correspondence that one can guess went to and fro until ultimately Mr. Gadlin purchased an original play for $50.

Here’s how it happened:Mr. Gadlin took the most impossible plot line ever developed in the history of man and asked Mr. Gido to write the play. The plot line was this: “A Millionaire  named Quack Quack Quimby has forgotten the true meaning of the Jewish Holiday Tu Bishvat. His daughter goes to great lengths to remind him of its meaning and make him happy once again”. The result?  The result was “The Nairobi Project“.

I heard of this play through my son and daughter in law, Lauren. Lauren, an actor in Chicago, played the role of one of Mr. Quimby’s daughter’s, Avital. Much to my disappointment, I never saw the play but the idea is outrageously funny and clever. The business proposal ultimately entertained audiences in Chicago by providing an unusual and completely original play at the cost of a mere $50.

There are critics who claim that Mr. Gadlin is exploiting our Kenyan friend. To this accusation Mr. Gadlin brings up a fair argument – just who was exploiting who? One can assume that this was not the first email that Mr. Gido had sent to solicit customers for his writing skills.  Mr. Gadlin paid a man who willingly jumped at the opportunity (in fact, suggested the idea himself) a mutually agreed upon fee. In return Mr. Gido received name recognition for a play that was put up in Chicago, a major city of the United States and described as “America’s most flourishing independent theater hub” For an aspiring playwright this is amazing.  How many people wait for years to get their big break – to have their plays noticed by producers?

An anonymous ‘someone’ is behind every one of these internet proposals. They are not created out of thin air. Someone writes them, casting a net out into a world-wide pool of potentially desperate takers. So what if most of us delete them? All they need is one and the anonymous someone walks away happy while the desperate kick themselves as they go through the nightmare of trying to replenish their now empty bank accounts

So next time you get one of those emails, take a look! If Mr. Gadlin could turn it into a real-live money-making opportunity, there may be some hope!

What are some of the business proposals you’ve received via email? Share your favorites in the comment section! 

Rest in Peace Missing Socks!

Blue sock
My Facebook status said it all:

It’s that time of year again! Time for all the socks with no mates to go be with Jesus! RIP little ones

Seriously people! What’s with socks? The response to my status was overwhelming! Throughout the shoe and sock wearing world (which I recognize is not everywhere and I envy those places where there are no socks or shoes…oh bliss!) it is the cry of the land. Where do these socks go? In what universe do they live? On what planet do they reside?

It’s an economic as well as a social problem and it has to be a conspiracy of the sock industry. There is NO way this many socks can disappear! No way. Every year I end up throwing up my hands in despair. There seems to be no option other than to send these majorly mismatched socks, willingly, to be with Jesus.

And socks are not cheap. It’s a little like going to the dentist, no one goes buys socks because they want them – they buy them because they need them. I’ve rarely seen a coupon for socks, instead I see a “Buy 3 get one free….” Great. Spend $51.00 for three packs of men’s crew socks so I can get one free? No thanks, I’ll just head over to jewelry and see what $51.00 can buy there!

So it’s a Saturday morning, and I’m organizing and sending those socks off. They’ve had a good, though sometimes short, life. RIP little ones!

What do you do with socks with no mates? How have you solved this problem? My friend Pari used the sock dilemma as inspiration for a poem. You can find it here: Lost Socks by Pari Ali. I eagerly await your solutions! 

“Yes Dr. Walker…Of Course I Floss!”

If you polled a group of people and asked them if they lie to their dentist I think you would get a 100% response rate of “Yes!” The minute I walk into the dentist’s office my moral compass changes and anything is allowed.

When was the last time you had a check up?

Oh, I think it was last year some time

Oh, really? We don’t have it on record

Pause.

OH…that’s funny! I could have sworn it was last year….maybe I went to that other dentist”  ….And then the dreaded question that you know will come:

Now” pause “Do you floss regularly?

Yes Dr. Walker….Of course I floss” And then the dentist looks and knows I’m lying.

Silence. The silence holds all the condemnation that can possibly fit in a single room. As my brother once said “If dentists were priests or pastors, churches would be empty” Imagine the first thing a pastor or priest says to you every week “Did you sin?” And the minute you open your mouth, he/she knows you’re lying.

There is a fear and dread about going to the dentist held by women, men, and children world-wide. No matter how much you’ve brushed and flossed, it’s never going to be good enough! Plus there’s always something we are worried about. The dull ache coming from the wisdom tooth; the spot that bleeds every time we brush; the dread that we have to finally get that crown completed – the temporary one having lasted five years longer than was planned.

And then I think about my brothers’ statement and I wonder about the church “Is that how the church is perceived? As a place where nothing you do is good enough? Where there is a dread and fear? Where condemnation hangs heavy like the silence in a dentist’s office?” And I know that the Church, made of imperfect people, sometimes fails miserably.

I had a visit to my dentist last week. I have grudgingly begun to trust (dare I say even like?) this man. He is practical, clear. and laid back. He accepts me where I’m at and takes it from there, with the gentle challenge “Perhaps you could try this. When you’re ready we could talk about that…”  And I realize that had I stopped going my teeth would be hurting and I would not be healthy.  So can churches be given another chance as well?  To get it right, develop a relationship and gently challenge?

Many people feel like they’ve given the Church that chance, and the Church has failed them repeatedly. I know becaus I used to be one.

Like the dentist, I continued going back. I’m gradually learning and growing; slowly trusting this entity that Christ loves so deeply.

It’s not easy, but neither is going to the dentist and the outcome is ultimately more serious. My journey with the Church has not been easy, but I have learned to honor the struggle and trust the author of the journey.

Dr. Walker was good preparation for a much more important journey. 

You can read more on my journey with the church here.

Blogger’s Note: Remember the Book Giveaway! Invite your friends and family to read and comment or leave a comment yourself! All will be entered into a random drawing for the give away of three of my favorite books! 

Fried Cerebellum and a Master’s Degree

I have mentioned before that my daughter, Annie, is finishing up a Master’s Degree at the American University of Cairo. She defends her thesis on Monday and I wish I was in Cairo. I want to be making cookies and tea to soothe both her cerebellum and her soul as she prepares for the grueling presentation of facts and narrative supporting her thesis statement.

Since I can’t offer that, I sent her the next best thing: a story about Graduate School Barbie (TM). Graduate School Barbie helped me realize that everything I have heard from my daughter for the past three years is real, accurate, and worse than she has described. I knew about the propensity for tears and the different sort of eye ducts, but my daughter never told me that she would have fried cerebellum or that the lining of her stomach would dissolve from the surplus of digestive juices produced by anxiety. I had to discover it from Graduate School Barbie. This Barbie, with her prematurely graying hair, wrinkles, and  sallow skin, is quite a Barbie. Barbie haters may even wish for the real Barbie back, instead of one with grey cells. There are two types of Grad school Barbies and Annie would most relate with Delusional Masters Barbie (TM). We’ll see if she’s willing to move forward and model herself after PhD Masochist Barbie (TM) – I’m secretly hoping that honor will be for my niece and her mom to navigate.

I discovered Graduate School Barbie through the blog Ceej and Em. This blogger suggests Grad School Barbie would make an excellent Christmas gift. Here’s this teaser from the post:

Every Graduate School Barbie comes with these fun-filled features guaranteed to delight and entertain for hours: Grad School Barbie comes out of the box with a big grin on her face that turns into a frown after 2 weeks or her first advisor meeting (whichever comes first). Read more here! You will be so glad you did! 

If you have any friends in graduate school, please send them the blog post from Ceej and Em today! It will make everything a bit easier for them to know that a special Barbie was designed with them in mind.

As for my daughter – I am so proud of her fried cerebellum, her overactive tear ducts, and her tenacity. Day after day of putting fingers to keyboard and typing out one word at a time; reviewing the manuscript for one more look at her citations; existing on coffee and adrenaline; and producing a thesis all while going through the upheaval in Cairo is remarkable. She has endured sleepless nights from gunshots and fires in the street, she has been housebound some days, and unable to get to her house on others because of rioting in the streets and she has done it all without her mom. Evidence of how little I am needed? I like to think it’s evidence of her tough spirit!

So join me by drinking a glass of Proseco, (or sparkling cider!) as I celebrate her fried cerebellum and a well-earned Masters Degree.

A Happy Weekend to all!

A Weekend Challenge – Literally or Dramatically?

Some time ago, as we were sitting around the dinner table, one of our kids used the word ‘literally’ in a sentence. My husband looked at her and said “Don’t you mean ‘dramatically’? Why don’t you use the word ‘dramatically’ instead?

And that is your weekend challenge. Every time someone uses the word “literally” around you, ask them to repeat the statement inserting the word “dramatically”.

We know there is an overuse of the word and we are probably all guilty! With this challenge we get a chance to see just how guilty we (and others) are and have some fun. In the middle of the sentence when your teenager says to you “I am literally not going out in public with you again if you do that” calmly look them in the eye and say “I wonder if you could repeat that sentence using the word ‘dramatically’ instead of literally”. They will literally look at you like you have two heads.

I’ve listed some examples to give you a head start:

“I literally fell off my chair laughing!”

“I literally died when I heard that”

“I literally wet my pants laughing!”

“I will literally kill you”

“It was literally the best day of my life”

What have you literally done or not done? What has your child literally done? I am literally going to love getting feedback in the comment section. Write what you heard and then substitute it for dramatically. It will make things so much more fun. Literally.

Perfecting the Bostonian Stink Eye

There’s nothing quite like a Monday morning. Determined to press forward with a good attitude, despite limited sleep and still longing for the comfort that is my pillow, I decide I will conquer the Monday morning blues. And then, I step off the subway and I am greeted by none other than the high heels and designer knockoff suit worn by someone adept at doling out the Boston Stink Eye!

Tour books of the Boston area are generally missing an important section – that of explaining the Boston stink eye. While old buildings, history, beautiful parks, and glimpses of Betsy Ross are part of the Boston experience, it will be the odd visitor that doesn’t also experience what I call the stink eye. To be sure, other places may have this, but they certainly haven’t perfected it the way the Bostonian has.

To explain the stink eye, I would love a video clip. There is, in fact, an online dictionary entry (not limiting the eye to Boston) that describes it this way: “a facial expression of disgust, disdain, or disapproval” but I’d like to expand on that limited definition.  It’s a particular look and it comes in two ways. One is when the eyes of someone are staring right at you, but through you, as though you don’t exist. You are, in a moment, reduced to an ant that can be squished. The second is more obvious – the eyes begin at your feet and slowly travel up your body with disdain, stopping to make eye contact, curl the lips and go back down the body again. It is not pretty. While both types hurt, the latter has the ability to fluster more and sometimes reduces the recipient to tears.

For a long time I thought it was me. That somehow I had that peculiar ability to bring out mockery or disdain. I questioned what I was doing wrong and wondered how I could keep up with the unspoken rules of Boston. And then I realized something big. It isn’t me! It’s part of Boston. Along with the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, New England Clam Chowder, coastal beauty, Paul Revere, the North End, and the State House – it’s as much a part of Boston as those more lovely and picturesque things.

So what to do with the stink eye? Passers through can cope because their focus is on other things, but for those of us that move here and, like damn Yankees, stay, it is a more difficult dilemma. The old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans” or “If you can’t beat them, join them”  and there you have it. I have learned with the best of them and I now know how to give a good old self-esteem reducing Boston stink eye.  Scary, isn’t it? I never thought I would stoop to this, but it’s survival of the fittest and fit I have become.

The good news about all this is that I never, ever use this on tourists and visitors. I reserve it for the Bostonian. The more Bostonian they seem, the better my stink-eye. Critics may condemn, but only until they have experienced this for themselves. After that we’ll talk.

If God Was Like Your Cell Phone Service

Welcome to God’s Network.

By the way, your bill of $177.64 is now due, press one if you would like to make a payment.

If you speak English please stay on the line. Si usted habla español por favor, pulse dos. Press three now for a choice of all other languages.

Please choose from the following options:

If you think you may want one of our hot new devices, text “hot new device” to G.O.D.

To activate your life press one.

To change your life press two.

To report problems with your life press three.

To report a loss or damage to your life press four.

To report problems, loss, or damage to the life of someone you care about press five.

To complain about the service you are receiving press six.

To complain about other people in your life, and what you would like Me to do about it, press seven.

For anything else please stay on the line, your waiting time will be ten minutes.

I’m sorry, that option is not valid. Please try again.

Thank you for calling God’s network. If you would stay on the line after your call is complete we would like you to answer a few questions for our customer satisfaction survey.

And all I can say after this week is I am so glad that God is not like Sprint!

Oh to be an Ape!

Mother and baby gorilla at the National Zoo in...

I went to a 40th birthday bash celebration last night for the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves“. This book originated out of a pamphlet developed by a group of women in Boston and initially sold for 35 cents. It was a pamphlet designed as a college-level health education course to teach women about their bodies. The premise behind the project was that women want to learn, they want to be able to communicate with medical providers about best options and treatments, and they need to be able to challenge the medical world to improve care for women.

I’m not going to go into a discourse on the book other than saying it is useful to a broad audience of women because of the breadth of the subjects it covers. There are many things about it that are excellent and arguably, it offers objective and timely information. There are also things that I disagree with, but if I step back, the subjects are dealt with in a way that is free of judgment and reflective of the views of many people. I just happen to live counter-culture and not agree with all of them.

The birthday bash held at the Oberon club in Cambridge had a variety of acts from amazing hula-hoop acrobatics to professional tap dancing. Also featured were 3 different comedic acts that were refreshingly funny and my guess is, probably cleaned up specifically for this audience.

But by far my favorite was a young woman, Marcy Goldberg Sacks, who as a young mom has put a comedic twist on the joys and spit-up of motherhood. Marcy has 3 little girls under 5. She told the story of a recent trip with her girls to the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston about 40 to 45 minutes from the downtown area. As told, she was so excited to take her little ones on an outing to the zoo, particularly to see the gorilla. The gorilla had just given birth to a baby gorilla, her third birth. The similarities between Marcy and the gorilla were amazing – there was Marcy with her three girls, and the gorilla with her three girls. There was Marcy nursing her baby, and the gorilla? She was nursing her baby too! Visitors to the zoo (note – mostly moms with kids…) watched in awe as this big, hairy ape nursed said baby, with two little gorillas jumping around by her side, remarking how amazing this was, how awesome. Then a thought occurred to Marcy:  “This gorilla is big and hairy and…dirty! We’re all paying money to watch a hairy, dirty mom nurse her baby while her toddlers run around her feet and we think it’s “awesome” ….what is this about?! I want people to pay money to watch me nurse my baby with my toddlers running around my feet!”

And with that story comes the realization that life is not fair! How many of us as moms would love to have all our meals taken care of, our home provided, and to be paid for doing what we want to do anyway – care for our kids. Look at that ape, she has it made! She gets all the meals she needs, she has free medical care, and she gets paid to nurse her babies, and best of all – no one expects her to shower or keep clean….Oh to be an ape. It makes one question just how far we really have evolved….!

Prides Crossing Politics

Partisan Politics

As I sifted through headlines this past week I felt this picture was a “must post”. Pictures paint a thousand words and perhaps this one belongs framed in the house and senate. The benches are at the Prides Crossing MBTA station on the North shore of Boston and as a local landmark have provided much laughter and discussion through the years. As you drive by on Route 127 they present a great photo-op, while at the same time you can stop by Prides Crossing Confections.  The message is that chocolate makes partisan politics more bearable!

My friend Isabella wrote this on her blog yesterday:

“This Canadian is fascinated by the politics of our friends to the South.  I don’t pretend to understand the complicated voting process, despite repeated explanations from my American friends. I’m bemused at elections that take months and years rather than six weeks. And I’m amazed at the colourful personalities and characters that walk the politician’s stage. And, yes, I wonder how some got there in the first place. (Not that we don`t ask the same question of politicians in the great white north!)”

She goes on to say:

“But you can laugh at reality for only so long. The sobering reality is an ever-increasing polarization between Republicans and Democrats. For every calm, level-headed politician trying to promote dialogue and compromise, there is another greedily seeking the day`s sound-bite to prove to voters that she or he will not waver from their principles. The current debt ceiling crisis shows the dangers of defiantly digging in your partisan heels. Refusing to work towards a compromise produces a stale-mate. Refusing to dialogue deepens the divisions formed by vitriolic debate.

There are lessons for us all as we watch the drama unfold….”

Thanks Isabella for a thoughtful post!

Bloggers note: For more posts from Isabella take a look at Catholic Dialogue. It has sometimes served as devotional and other times served as catalyst in my faith.