Showing posts with label life lessons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life lessons. Show all posts

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Gratitude Community

Over at Holy Experience: The Thousand Gifts, posted back in late 2006, Anne Voskamp tells of deciding to write down not the gifts she wanted, but the gifts she had, aiming for a list a thousand gifts long, and she invited others to start doing the same. She was two years into her project then, and already past a thousand gifts. (Note: Holy Experience is one of those blogs that features music that starts on its own. There is a control panel partway down the righthand sidebar.)

Hat tip: A Circle of Quiet, who just joined The Gratitude Community this fall, and is posting her list online as she compiles it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Surface versus heart

Looks can be deceiving, as Robert J. Avrech rediscovered at a restaurant in Israel (see second half of the post). The comments so far are pretty interesting, too.

Now, ladies, I'm all for dressing modestly (by all means, let us support and promote ladylike dress and manners, especially amongst godly women), but he possibly has a point, don't you think?

OK, so in my life I've misjudged people based on how they dress, so I know he has a point. And for those of you who think that by linking to Mr. Avrech's post I'm campaigning for ritual, I'm not. But, I've learned the hard way that it's as easy to misjudge somebody because he engages in ritual as it is to misjudge him because of how he dresses. Ritual can shove aside honest faith, to be sure - but it doesn't have to, and often doesn't, as far as I've seen.

In the full disclosure department, and while we're kind of on the subject, I spent about half of my childhood believing I was half-Jew, on my mother's side. It turned out that I was the victim of a disinformation campaign run by my then teen aged cousin Harvey. Harvey, it seems, got sick and tired of certain anti-Semitic relatives, and thought he'd hoist them by their own petard, by convincing very young (read: gullible, excitable, ignorant) visiting out-of-state cousins that they were part Jew, and sending them out to babble this extremely cool information far and wide. (Hey, we were all related to Anne Frank! We were descendants of oppressed people! We were survivors! We had reasons for our big noses!) To make it more fun, Harvey insisted that we were Polish Jew. Polack jokes were all the rage then, you see, and so it was doubly cool to be the butt of jokes but keep our heads held high. (Did I mention we fancied we were survivors?)

The grown-ups all feigned surprise at our claims (which irritated us, as I recall - it seemed so dishonest of them), and then denied the Jewish heritage, but Harvey convinced some of us kids that the grown-ups were afraid of being thought Jewish. Us, though, we were too brave and smart to fall for, or go along with, cowardly lies denying our heritage...

(What? None of your cousins or brothers fed you stories that you swallowed, hook, line and sinker when you were a kid? Never? Ah, c'mon...)

Harvey's hope, as I understand it, was that the anti-Semitic friends of the anti-Semitic relatives would hear that they had been lunching with closet Jews, and kick the supposedly tainted people out of their too-cozy little cliques, thereby making the anti-Semitic relatives get what they'd dished out. I never heard if the campaign worked. And I've never quite decided whether to be proud of Harvey's efforts, or mortified, or a combination thereof. Usually, I feel like it's a combination thereof, with a heavy leaning toward mortified whenever I stop to think how he kept me duped and defending him for years and years.

Anyway, for years I thought I was part Jewish, and I've never quite gotten over my fascination with the more charming of the Jewish traditions. I don't subscribe to them, or practice them, but I still like learning about them.

Years after Harvey shamelessly misled us in the name of a good cause, my mother took me to Tennessee to meet the woman for whom I'd been named.

Actually, I was given my mother's name, and she had been named for this woman, but at the time I was adamantly against having been named for my mother (no other woman or girl where I grew up was named for her mother - It Simply Was Not Done - and besides which it was embarrassing to be named for a woman who had a knack, or so I thought, for causing me embarrassment with my friends), so my parents were riding out my rebellion by claiming that I'd really been named for this woman, despite what they'd told me when I was younger.

Anyway, I met this woman, and she was a remarkable sight to see. She was poised and polished, well dressed, every inch the picture of a southern lady, and she had a voice to die for, liquid, mellow, clear, with a gorgeous accent. We went out to eat, my mother, my aunt, this remarkable creature for whom I'd been named (I was honored beyond words to be her namesake now that I'd seen her), and me. When the waitress came, I quite naturally said please and thank you and looked the waitress in the eye and otherwise treated her like a human being. What else are you supposed to do, confronted with another human being, I ask you?

"We do not talk to people like that," the gorgeous creature for whom I'd been named said, dispensing instruction, dripping scorn.

Long story short, the woman for whom my mother was named, and then for whom I was named, was not prepared to regard waitresses as anything other than subhuman, nor were blacks fully human in her book, and therefore our black waitress was doubly beneath notice. My mother and my aunt were loath to ruffle the revered elder Kathryn's feathers, all the more so because she was the guest of honor at this little dinner, and so they sat there cooing at me not to disagree with her, at least in public.

I wished I could become invisible, and afterwards I briefly tried to switch to my middle name.

I'm over it now.

But it took some getting over, I tell you.

A few years after The Dinner of The Incompatible Kathryns, I considered marrying a black man - not because he was black, but because he was himself - and in the back of my mind, while I was mulling the pros and cons of the match, I treasured the idea of inviting Kathryn Mine Elder to such a wedding.

I think Harvey, at least, would have approved of the gesture.

Anyway, looks can be deceiving.

As if you didn't know that already... :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Nancy Ann at Femina looks at the difference between contentment and discontent.

Somewhere along the way I came to pretty much the same conclusions. Thank goodness. I see people who haven't figured it out, and they're not as happy as they might be.

hat tip: PalmTree Pundit

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book note: Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris

I finished reading Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations today.

Is it too early to start nominating books for Best Book of 2008 honors?

The book was written by Christian teens primarily for Christian teens, but I think it has broader appeal, and application, than that. The Rebelution is a culture changing movement that appears to be catching on around the world, inspiring young people to crawl out of the cultural swamps of today and to live better, fuller, healthier, more meaningful lives than society in general expects them to. This book is about The Rebelution, and its principles, and about some of the kids who have launched themselves into life as Rebelutionaries. It's a well-written, entertaining book that's full of food for thought and great true stories.

See also: The Rebelution blog.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mrs. Judson flunks biker etiquette

The church I attend is hosting a three-day motorcycle ministry program aimed primarily at people living in the biker subculture. This is, in case you don't know me, not one of my areas of expertise (/understatement). But the organizers stressed that it was for more than bikers and they'd appreciate nonbikers showing up, so last night I went to the kick-off dinner and service.

At dinner, I sat across from a grey-haired biker riding herd on a bunch of teens. I'd heard that people had converged from various places in the Pacific Northwest for this event, and so I turned to the girl to my immediate right and asked her where she was from. I didn't care where she was from, you understand. It's just standard small talk, a way of getting one's bearings, of searching for common ground, and also of finding out if you're sitting next to a fellow townsman you haven't met yet, or a kid you don't recognize because you haven't seen her in a while, or somebody who has gone to great lengths (literally) to attend. It's always such a safe, not really personal, question to lead with. Right?


Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The girl flinched and then she cowered, appealing mutely for help from her friends. I sat there utterly clueless as to what I'd done wrong.

The man riding herd on the group got the girl's attention, and said "Hey! Listen to me. When you're in town you live with us, and we live in [name withheld by me for privacy reasons], and that's your home when you're there. It's your home anytime. You're family. You know that, right?"

I don't know which of us was more relieved and grateful for his rescue, the girl or me.

I just wasn't thinking. If I had stopped to think, I like to think it would have occurred to me that a goodly percentage of the people present might not have a particular place to live. Or a place they really come from. Or family. Or that they might have disowned a place or a family. Or that for some of them it might be flat dangerous to name where they come from.

Anyway, I know better now. (And so do you.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

To be or not to be (connected)

My husband was sick in bed the other day when the phone rang. He answered, and the next thing I knew gales of laughter were streaming from the bedroom. Every once in a while I'd hear "You have to be kidding!" or something like that. I hadn't a clue who it was, but it sounded like a buddy calling up to share some recent misadventures.

Afterwards, he told me it was an acquaintance of ours who is terminally ill. In my younger days, I would have been surprised to hear that, what with all the merriment going on, but I've found since then that some critically ill or injured people turn into some of the laughingest people on the planet. I have some lovely half-baked theories on why that is true, but I won't bother you with those today. At any rate, a dying man called and made my husband laugh so hard he could barely breathe. And if I know those two, my husband returned the favor. These guys love to swap stories, and laugh.

Later, my husband told me that there was no good news from that quarter, unless you count that he's delighted his child has finally graduated from school.

Later still, my husband told me that his buddy said he has taken to diving for the phone every time his wife goes in the shower, because she won't let him talk to people. She shoos visitors away, and jumps on the phone to cut off conversations, always fussing at her husband because 'he ought to be resting.' Right on cue, just after that, she came on the phone and demanded that they hang up, because he needed his rest.


OK, I know the temptation. My husband is crippled and in a lot of pain and about three years ago we had The Great Heart Failure Adventure in which I sat by his bed while he teetered between life and death. Since then, we've learned to live with oxygen tubes and that sort of jazz. I understand the perceived need to fiercely protect someone who is sick, and once or twice or thrice I've given in to it. But I can't understand making it your standard policy. Especially for someone who is thought to be on his last legs, like the man who called. If he wanted solitude, that would be one thing. But he doesn't. He craves contact with others.

I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't think it's my business to interfere in that particular instance, for the same reason I'm bothered by the wife's cutting him off like she is: in short, the man in question 'is a big boy now' and it's up to him to decide how to handle things, as far as I can see.

On the other hand, if, by chance, there is somebody in your family who is seriously ill or disabled, will you please step back and take a look at how much you're 'protecting' them, and whether it makes sense to do so to that extent? I hate it when people get buried (for all intents and purposes) before they're dead.

If it helps any, I wouldn't want to see a tally of the times I've gritted my teeth, bit my tongue, taken a walk, gone to the grocery store when I didn't need to, closed myself in my room and cried and/or prayed, changed the subject entirely, etc., when what I felt like doing was to act like a mother hen.

If it helps any, I rarely have to do that any more. Once you get yourself in a habit of letting your disabled loved one be responsible for himself, it gets easier. Or it did for me, at least. I have some lovely theories on why that's true, too...

Monday, May 19, 2008

'Happy Birthday' from a sorry father

I was over on the Death Roe site, and they had a link: "Click here to see what songs should be on every Death Roe Survivor's play list." So I clicked. And found that my computer didn't want to play them (a technical problem, my end). So I went to YouTube, and found one I wanted to check out: Happy Birthday, by Flipsyde. I'm not generally a fan of hip-hop (and this song's not exactly a ringing endorsement for chastity or the sanctity of marriage) but... Wow. Powerful stuff. Good stuff. My thanks to the artists who put it together.

From the Death Roe site:

This video debuted in April 2006 in the US after the song Happy Birthday made waves overseas hitting the charts at #4 in Germany, #3 in Sweden and was in the top 15 in Austria and Switzerland. In addition, Happy Birthday, was in the Top 10 downloads on ITUNES in Germany, Sweden & Denmark. Piper, the lead singer of Flipsyde wrote and sings this song to the baby he helped abort as a young man. Filled with introspection that only one who has truly realized the ramifications of the decision to abort, Happy Birthday should serve as a warning to young men and women seeking abortion as an answer. The reality of fatherhood lost is felt, as you hear Piper wonder out loud what his baby would look like, act like, and if the child could forgive him for what he has done.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Modern smelling salts

Just down the road, a woman is missing and presumed drowned. The radio news reports have warned people that the chances of stumbling across a corpse are pretty high just now, and also assure us that people with property along the river downriver have been notified personally. It's an awful situation, but so far nobody I've heard of has taken to running around screaming that they shouldn't be expected to deal with something like this, or that they'll never recover from the experience.

You are scratching your head over that last statement? I don't blame you. Normal people absorb news like this and deal with it at least after a fashion, normally. They search, they grieve, they make sure the lady's horses and dogs don't starve or die of thirst. They don't expect, or claim, that they'll never get over it.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to give short shrift to the heartache, the grief, or the horror involved, especially for whoever winds up dealing with the remains (assuming the lady is, in fact, drowned). My heart goes out to her family, her neighbors, the search and rescue people, her friends. She was an acquaintance of ours, a bookstore customer, somebody I didn't socialize with but did chat with when our paths crossed. I am, myself, somewhat shocked and sick over the whole situation.

It probably doesn't help any that a week and a half ago we buried one of my favorite people on Earth, and that a couple days after that I found out that a very nice young man in our community is terminally ill. To make it worse, he and his very nice young wife are the very picture of devotion. But I guess that's part of my point. If you live in a community, as opposed to off in your own little world, you run into this sort of heartache all the time. Frequency doesn't make it easy. It doesn't make it seem normal. It is, truly, heartache. Tragic. Difficult. Painful. But it is, for all that, surprisingly common. And it doesn't ruin you for life. It might - perhaps should - stagger you for a bit (would you rather be heartless?), but it doesn't ruin you for life, especially if you have the decency to pitch in to help those staggered more by the calamity than yourself. (It helps to know you've done something, for one thing. And you can draw on the strength of others if you only work beside them. Etc.)

But here's the deal (I am coming to the "modern smelling salts" business, really...). In college, I remember, my friends and I read in the newspaper about someone finding the body of a woman who had been dead a few days, and we sat around claiming to each other that we'd never recover from finding a body that had been dead a few days. Never.

In hindsight, I can see we did that sort of thing rather a lot. We were never going to get over this or that or the other thing. I don't know where the grown-ups were: whether they didn't catch us at this sort of nonsense, or didn't care, or thought it was cute, or considered it harmless. Harmless, my foot. If you practice thinking of yourself as fragile, and breakable, and unable to recover from circumstances, how can you expect to become strong, and steady, and resilient - or reliable, for that matter?

We also used to sit around and feel superior to those delicate damsels of older days who reportedly swooned at the least provocation, expecting someone to fish out the smelling salts and revive them.

We should not have laughed at them, I think. I think, really, that we were more like them than we knew. And in some ways we were their inferiors. The oh-so-refined ladies did, after all, recover from their swoons. We were practicing, on the other hand, to never get over whatever had prompted us to have a case of the vapors. To never forget. To never heal completely.

The oh-so-refined ladies of yesteryear, moreover, weren't asking for more than personal attention. We had an unfortunate tendency to think the world ought to be changed to protect our fragile selves. Not that we considered ourselves fragile. I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar was a big song about then, and we could be caught, now and then, belting out I am strong, I am invincible, etc.

Who were we trying to kid, I wonder? If we had been strong, if we had been confident (never mind 'invincible'), would we have championed abortion? Affirmative action? Punishment for clubs that only admitted men? Would speech codes have even come up as a subject? Hate crime legislation was over the horizon yet; but it's the same sort of thing, isn't it?

I look around, and a lot of what's going on in society, in popular culture, and at the government level seems to me nothing more or less than people (generally people who have practiced modern variations on swooning until it is second nature to them) getting the vapors (right on cue, very often, it seems to me), and somebody rushing to provide them with (mostly harmful) variations on those old smelling salts, whether it be legislation, lawsuits, or optional medical procedures, or what have you. We have 'progressed', you see, from individual swoons, to group ones, whenever possible. Or at least some folks have.

The gentility is lacking, but I still think it's the same thing. Oh, this is too much for little ol' me! the lady exclaims, collapsing in a heap. And somebody rushes to the rescue, playing along, instead of (which might be more sensible, and perhaps better for everyone in the long run) saying, "Oh, for crying out loud, stop being hysterical."

Fashionable = ?

Does it ever surprise you how many people seem to confuse faddish with fashionable, fashionable with sophisticated, sophisticated with savvy, and savvy with more than it is?

Just asking.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

History is driven by what?

One of my favorite college advisers was a professor of English who also taught folklore. Years after I was out of college, I drove from my town to his and had lunch with him. A couple of things have stuck with me from that lunch, most notably his contention that, historically speaking, what actually happens doesn't matter nearly so much (in general) as what people think happened, and how they react. I thought it was just the folklorist in him talking. In other words, I didn't buy it, and wanted to dismiss it. But afterwards I kept my eyes open, and my mind, too, and I finally had to agree he has a point. Some day when I have more time, maybe I'll expand on that, but for now, why don't you chew on what George Wiegel said about what drives history?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bradley Walker, on accepting the hand you're dealt

[ed. note: edited Feb. 10]

Bradley Walker, can't walk (he was born with muscular dystrophy), but he can soar. Amongst other things, he's been making waves and winning awards in bluegrass circles. He's also said to be a very likeable young man. See Singing Without Limits - American Profile (1/20/2008) for the story. Mr. Walker's website is here.

From the American Profile article:

A native of Athens, Ala. (pop. 18,967), Walker, 29, lives in a home he designed in nearby East Limestone, not far from the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, where he works as a materials analyst. He drives himself to work in a customized van and also frequently drives the 100 miles to Nashville by himself. He made the trip frequently while recording his debut album, Highway of Dreams, between the four 10-hour shifts he works each week at the plant.

“The way I was raised, you don’t focus on your limitations,” Walker says. “You focus on finding ways to get things done. Everyone faces challenges in getting where they want to go. I believe you just have to go out there, work hard and prove yourself.”


Those two qualities—his distinctive voice and his friendly personality—come up constantly among Walker’s supporters. “There’s a timbre to his voice that seems so genuine and real, and it captures the emotion of every song he sings,” says Dan Hays, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association. “He’s also just a wonderfully likable guy. I don’t know anybody who’s been around Bradley who hasn’t become an instant friend. That’s just his personality.”

Walker, meanwhile, is just happy to be doing what he loves. “I’ve never questioned the hand I was dealt,” he says. “If I hadn’t been dealt this hand, I might not have been given the gift of music that I love so much, and I wouldn’t be singing bluegrass to people. So I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Read the full article.

Hats off.