March 28, 2013

Liking It

I was pretty inspired the other day when a sea of pink equal signs popped up on Facebook. I’ve been a supporter of gay marriage for a really long time. In addition to following the Supreme Court arguments through NPR (busy Mom’s guide to the news), it was telling of the changes our society has seen in the past few years to see so many different people, from so many different times in my life posting a symbol of their support. But I didn’t post it.

Just in case you weren't sure what symbol I was talking about.

One of the things I so love about Facebook is the way it brings together a group of people from such disparate backgrounds and associations. There are high school acquaintances, college friends, mom friends, Air Force friends, family members, and former work friends. There are die hard liberals and die heard conservatives. There are atheists and evangelicals. I make sure that all of my 200 plus friends are people I actually know in real life, but they aren’t all people that I communicate with in any way other than Facebook.

Because of that when you post something on Facebook, you’re really posting on an open forum, even if, like me, you have locked down your profile from public searches and limited posts to friends only. You’re in mixed company. This is not to say that I’ve never said anything controversial on there. I have some really strong opinions, which I have voiced, but, generally speaking, you’ll find my posts to concern mostly parenting, the weather, and cute kids.

But I started wondering what holds me back. Here’s the thing: If I’m having a conversation with you and you ask me if I support gay marriage I will tell you my honest opinion, which is, absolutely I do. There is no reason whatsoever to deny those couples the legal rights of heterosexual couples. If the country is so uncomfortable with the label of marriage for those rights, then I’m in favor of everyone, straight and gay, getting civil unions, which bestow those rights. Leave the label of “marriage” for the church, but everyone needs those rights and legal protections. But this is not a blog about gay rights.

I was lonely when I started graduate school. I moved halfway across the country from my family and my undergrad, super liberal, super hippy, very gay-friendly college experience. I found myself in a very conservative, very religious, very white, Abercrombie and Fitch ad. It was a shock. I met some girls who were also starting grad school at some grad assistant welcome seminar, and we hung out a few times. They were definitely more from the sphere of grad school than undergrad, but very nice. One night they invited me to watch a football game with them and some of their friends. I wasn’t paying the greatest attention to the conversation when suddenly one of the guys started talking about gay people, and he said some really bigoted, stereotyped, untrue things. And the way he said it, and the little I knew about my new, strange land, made me believe that he’d probably never met a gay person in his life. I couldn’t possibly stay silent. So I spoke up. Once you added that to my rejection of their Calvinistic views on salvation, I never heard from those girls again.

I’m not at all sad that I spoke up. I shared my worldview with them. I’m sure I didn’t change any minds, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to be myself. But I did learn a bit about discretion.

I’m not going to lie to you, or sugarcoat something that I believe. But I’m also not going to wave my flag in mixed company just for the sake of waving it. Hopefully, when I get to know someone better on a personal level, we can bring together our different points of view and not sever the lines of communication, but maybe learn from each other instead. That’s what holds me back on Facebook. If I was only communicating with my core of close friends, then I wouldn’t hesitate to make more political statements. But I’m not just talking to them. If you are someone that I care enough about to talk to someplace other than Facebook, then these things are going to come up and you’re going to hear my thoughts on them. If you’re not, then I don’t need to start a fight with you. Because if I only see you on Facebook, then you’re probably not someone whose mind I’m going to change.

Even while I type this, I struggle with it. Part of me feels like if I really cared about an issue, then I wouldn’t care what anyone thought. I’d just post whatever I wanted. That guilty part of me spurred me to write this blog—to show I do care. But I also want my support of a cause to be honest and solid. I don’t want it to be a fad. I don’t want it to be a one-time Facebook publicity stunt. I want it to be about real values and thought and logic. And I’m not ashamed to say that I want my Facebook life to be pleasant. I don’t need or want cyber-drama, especially with people that I am not close with. I sometimes actively avoid the people who do post incessantly with political/other rants. I don’t want that noise. I also really appreciate reading insightful, well-thought-out posts from people really involved and invested in the issue.

If you’re wondering what I’m thinking, feel free to ask. Otherwise, I treat Facebook like a work cocktail party—never talk about money, politics, or sex.

March 18, 2013

Sweet Nothings

I hate diet soda. Can’t stand the stuff. My mom gets headaches from aspartame, which was the primary artificial sweetener when I was a kid, so we never had diet anything in the house. I’ve never gotten used to the fake taste. The aftertaste is like sickly sweet fuzz coating my mouth. If you see me drinking a diet drink it’s because there are no other drinks to be had, and I’m about to pass out from thirst. And I’ll still be making a face about it.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve developed moral objections to artificial sweeteners in addition to taste objections. If you are like most people I know, you are, right now, raising one eyebrow and wondering on what grounds I can morally object to artificial sweeteners (hereby to be known as AS so I can stop typing so much). Also before I go any farther, please keep in mind that this is largely a theoretical discussion. Nothing I say here is directed toward individuals. If you drink diet soda, I will still be your friend, and I do not think you’re a bad person. K?

My objection is very simply this: things that are sweet are meant to have calories. That is the way the world was made, and we should respect it. Using AS is a way of getting something (sweetness) for nothing. It’s an extension of a trend that I see in American society at large. As a nation, we seem to want the easy road all the time. We want to eat and drink whatever we want and not work out, but also not gain weight. We want to be lazy and spend our day at work on Facebook, but still get paid. We want to run around and drink and have sex and babies, but not take care of them. Clearly, I’m making broad generalizations, but hopefully you see where I’m going.

Sweetness is supposed to have consequences. It is supposed to have calories. Why? Because we need a certain amount of it as fuel for our bodies. I doubt that sugar tastes good as a coincidence. I suspect there are deep-seated evolutionary benefits for experiencing certain foods with certain chemical properties as sweet and pleasurable. It makes us want to eat it. That gives us fuel to survive and multiply. Where we run into trouble is when we eat too much of it. This was probably less of a problem in hunter gatherer societies many moons ago—less access to sweets and more exercise. It’s a bigger problem when a month’s worth of sugar is a mere binge-of-the-Halloween-candy-washed-down-with-soda away—lots of access and no exercise.

Rather than address this problem by practicing and teaching moderation, we took that time and energy and put it into finding a way to circumvent Mother Nature. We invented AS. It tastes sweet on our tongue, but our bodies can’t metabolize the substance, so it doesn’t add to our caloric intake. Brilliant, right? All I will say on the health front is that the only healthy, natural drink I know of that is calorie free is water. If you’re drinking diet soda, you’re drinking water and chemicals. To me, that does not sound good. I’ll take the water and skip the chemicals.

As good as our intentions may have been to invent AS, they don’t seem to have really done what they were meant to do. Obesity is rampant. I’m not going to pin all of obesity on diet soda, but the get something for nothing mindset is definitely a factor.

After having a baby I’ve been watching what I eat to try and shed those extra pregnancy pounds. My husband, whose foray into his 30s came with a bit of sympathy weight, has joined me. Sunday morning as we worked on our grocery list, he tried to point out some diet sodas that didn’t taste too bad. Sucralose doesn’t taste nearly as bad as aspartame. But taste alone is not the point. As I told him, if I’m having soda, then I am acknowledging that it comes with calories—just like I would if I were having a hard cider or juice or milk or any other non-water beverage. I try to take that into account and decide if the treat of the soda is worth the extra calories at that moment of my life. I actually drink soda pretty rarely, with the exception of post-throwing-a-party soda that needs to be gotten rid of, so a Dr. Pepper with my Chipotle is a treat (and none of it figure friendly!).

I have realized that other areas of my life my benefit from the same perspective—like my chocolate cravings. But really the philosophy extends to all of life. Nothing is free, and if something is worth doing, it’s worth the price (calories, time, money, whatever) that goes along with it. Not only that but, in some cases, the price is part of enjoyment, like investing time to practice piano or go for a run or demonstrate healthy food choices for our kids. The cost can actually make the prize even sweeter.

March 14, 2013

The Bible-IV

With the prophets, so goes the Old Testament. I’m finally ready to get into the New Testament.

I found myself wishing for an annotated Bible while I was reading this section. Even though the prophets did say what year in whose reign they were writing from, I still didn’t really know what was going on in Israel and the ancient world at the time. As a result I was often confused as to how the prophesies related to what was happening. Some prophets were in Israel, some were in Babylon. Not having that context made it very hard to follow.

Most of the prophets seemed pretty sane, but, and I say this with the utmost respect, I’m pretty sure that Ezekiel was in fact smoking something. His visions were pretty out there. That was one that was particularly challenging for me to read.

I am also somewhat confused as to the transition from God being extremely upset with the Israelites and sending them into exile and killing a lot of them, but then turning around and punishing the oppressors that he ordered to do the killing and exiling in the first place. It was pretty obvious how the people had initially messed up. But it seemed a little unfair to basically use the Babylonians, et al. as pawns to destroy them and later on destroy the Babylonians for that same act. It is certainly possible that I am missing some info that would make that one come into line.

I did enjoy one section, and I can’t remember where it was now, that did really seem to foretell the coming of Jesus. That was really pretty cool to read.

A very short sum up to end the Old Testament. I’m looking forward to moving on.

March 7, 2013


There she stood, Cinderella. Her hair was uncombed; it looped and spiraled in a messy part around her face. Her face bore as its only makeup an orange juice mustache and a faint sheen of dried snot from a runny nose. Her princess dress was falling off her shoulders, worn on top of pink, fleece snowman jammies. I stood at the opposite end of the hallway—an unlikely Prince stand-in.

But when she daintily lifted the hem of her gown and smiled as she came to meet her prince at the ball, waving hello to imaginary friends, no less, no beauty queen could match her. The glow in my daughter’s face spoke of the perfect fairy tale she had crafted for herself. We danced in her “ball”room. Then she took my hand and told me, “Now we’re going to dance on the balcony.” It turned out the balcony was located in the kitchen. Who knew?

It broke my heart a little bit to send Cinderella off to get dressed for school. Nothing so normal and boring as school should happen to Cinderella. But off she went and once her purple jeans and pink shirt were on, the ball gown went on top. Thankfully, the ball gown did not go to school with her.

Especially now that we have two, I find myself spending a lot of time running around and relying on H to amuse herself. Little J can’t do much on his own, but she can. It’s a huge help to know that I can set her up with a snack or some play dough and have time uninterrupted to feed and cuddle J.

On the flip side of that coin, more and more she’s asking me, “Mommy, can we play?” And I have to remind myself that it’s more important to take 10 minutes and play with her now than to tidy up. Soon she’s going to grow up. Cinderella will stop being her favorite princess. She’ll stop inviting Dorie (from Finding Nemo) to come play at our house. And at some point, she’ll stop asking me to play.

Until that devastating moment, I’m going to try to make sure that she knows I think she’s fascinating. The worlds and worlds she creates in her mind are endless. The names she comes up with for imaginary friends and baby dolls are unpronounceable. And her delight when you buy into the whole thing and go on that ride with her is infinite.

So despite a tight before-school schedule and the ticking baby-time-bomb asleep in the next room, I was so glad that H asked me to be her prince this morning. I know that I’ll always remember what a stunning pajama princess she is, and I hope that she remembers that Mom had time for her and danced with her on the balcony.

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