Saturday, June 29, 2013

Memories of a Party of Old: Confessions of a Gamer

I think I've mentioned I play World of Warcraft, right? It's not anything I ever expected to get into. I'm rather geeky. I like fantasy/sci-fi. I like anime. I'm a martial artist. I like comic books. I just never really got to do much computer gaming. My brother and Mike started playing WoW when it first came out. I liked to watch but it didn't dawn on me to play until, one night, they were having fun and I was trying to sleep and I went in and announced that I was tired of listening to them having fun without me. So, I tried it out and have played ever since. I even raided during the Lich King expansion, which is something Mike doesn't do! I wouldn't mind raiding this xpac because I like the story. But I am not sure I have the time or the right group of people. That particular time was just perfect for me to be able to do all that! I bet you'll never guess what kind of character I play.

Yup. A warrior. Here she is. Her name is Laina and even though I'm not a role player, I am a nerd. And a writer of sorts. So, she kind of has her own personality and I play her differently from how I play any other characters I have. I've played Laina for seven years now! How crazy is that? I have some vague stories in my head and I was thinking about trying to get them down sometime. So, if I ever write a book about a warrior with a major distaste for the moral grey zones in battle, then you'll know that I'm writing about Laina.

My brother and his wife play with Mike and me, too! They got married almost 3 years ago and we hosted their rehearsal dinner at Mike's parents' house. I decided to do a Warcraft theme! Everyone side eyed me when I told them but, really, no one was weirded out and the whole thing turned out beautifully. I originally thought of the WoW themed dinner because, until Liz suddenly got a job she'd applied for out of state and the date was moved up, several of our raiding friends were going to make the trek out here. Too fun.

This was one of my very first invitations. I've come a long, long way, haven't I?? I used Warcraft fonts and colors but I tried not to make it super overt. Donnie's last name starts with a W so that even worked out great in my wow-inspired Donnie and Liz logo.

Cheri happened to have a chest (Warcraft has treasure chests you can loot) and I made little vials filled with red m&m's and labeled with the same W circle from the invitation. They were meant to imitate the little potions you can take in game to restore life. There's a thing in game called best in slot. It's the absolute best piece of armor you can have for your head, gloves, chest, or whatever. I made a piece for them that says Playing with my friends + Playing with the one I love = Best in Life. I took the screenshot from when we downed the Big Bad Guy of the time (that was a HUGE deal for us!!) for playing with friends. They have wedding dresses and tuxedos as fun items so I got Sisca, Liz's main character, in a white dress with one of Donnie's main characters (a girl, hahaha) in a tuxedo and Laina in a red dress in front of a priest for playing with the one I love. And Best in Life was all of us together. 

The last thing that I got for the Warcraft part of the theme was a cake. A lady who does cakes out of her home made this AMAZING replica of the Alliance (the faction we play--the other is the Horde) banner. I was absolutely floored at how ridiculously good this is.

The rest of the dinner looked like a fall soiree. The weather was beautiful and Lainey and Cheri did an incredible job decorating. They used brown table cloths with orange burlap and autumn leaves for the tables. You might recognize those lanterns from other parties I've thrown. I borrowed them from Lainey for another party and just kind of kept them. :P She said it was okay when I told her I was probably never giving them back, hahaha.

Even the flowers fit the theme! This is so pretty and very Cheri. We served barbecue, fruit, and that kind of thing and a good time was had by all.

So. What brought this trip down memory lane? I completely randomly came across this bit from Jimmy Fallon. I wish I had known! I would have submitted a clip of Autumn and me singing!

And, you should totally check out this cute little flower girl.

By the way, both schools where I teach are closed this week so I get a vacation from teaching! I think I'm going to take a week off of blogging, too, unless I get the urge to FINALLY post Autumn's birthday party photos. Why I am posting a three year old party instead of the one from last month, I will never know.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WGA: In which I discover camo belts are a thing

When I started teaching kids aikido three years ago, I basically started from ground zero. Stephan had other things going on so I was on my own with memories of kids classes I've assisted in and attended in aikido and kenpo several years before and the internet for ideas. Both the preschool and elementary/middle school classes have gone through many stages as I've learned new teaching techniques and gotten advice from other teachers, occupational therapists, and school directors. I'm sure my classes will continue to evolve but I'm in a pretty good groove. I teach the preschoolers Kidpower skills, give them a Japanese snack, run them through developmental exercises, do basic martial arts moves with them, and they either do teamwork games or skill development games. My older kids classes are pretty much like much more slowly progressing adult classes. I don't really do aiki games with them although we might have to go back to that and simpler partner practice for the summer because there are so many new students.

Now, I am facing a new and monumental decision for my classes. Do I include the camo belt?? 

Actually, without even thinking about it? The answer is no. No, I don't. Ha!

The first time I saw a camo belt, I thought, "wait, what?" We were at a gym and there's a class Mike and I would walk by sometimes. I always giggle a little when I see them because it's a group that has a reputation for being a McDojo, a school that is fast rank but little substance. Mike pokes me every time because he thinks I'm being mean but I truly am simply tickled at how serious they look. And, I'm a little off mainstream thought here, but if you know what you're getting and you like it? Go for the McDojo! I don't see why not, you know? The bad thing is that most people don't know what they are getting.

But that's another blog post! Back to the camo belt, I wondered about it and talked about it with different martial arts friends who were equally baffled. I could have looked it up, but, frankly, it was pretty fun to imagine what rank a camo belt would be. A special awesome rank? A rank you only get on your birthday? A sponsored by John Deere rank?

My personal theory is that it's post black belt. Usually you get stripes or degrees on your black belt but maybe a camo belt is, like, a special ninja rank. At some point the student is so amazing they blend into the shadows and nature like a specter in the night. So, camo belt!

The reality is so much more disappointing and I wish I never found out what it really is. A dad called me this week to ask about aikido lessons for his son. He was super nice and mentioned that his son was almost a camo belt at his old martial arts school. I made the mistake of asking him what the camo belt is. Apparently, it's after yellow belt which is usually the second rank in martial arts, the one you get right after your white belt. I AM SO DISAPPOINTED.

The dad had never seen a camo belt either and didn't really know why it was a part of the curriculum now. We talked a bit in aikido about it and one student had a good idea, that maybe it replaced the green belt? I thought that made sense. Too much sense, though, it appears, because the camo belt is in addition to the green belt. Alas, another instructor friend was probably right and it's an extra belt for extra testing fees for the school.

I found out that it's an extra rank this morning what I googled camo belt. I thought that maybe it was a Southern thing because, really, down here there is a LOT of camo, especially when you get outside the city. But it's an American thing because I found a list of ranks on the American Taekwondo Association site. And camo is RIGHT THERE. I'm going to take a guess here and say that Korean TKD probably doesn't have a camo belt.

But, hey, it's not something I'm going to do and I would likely steer clear of camo belt schools but if it's your thing, have fun with it! Wear your camo proud! In the meantime, instead of my hakama, I'm going to start wearing a camo gi.
No I'm not.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Prayer Flag Project, August 19

Album Link
August 19 is the annual International Day of Hope. I will participate in the prayer flag project for the first time this year. I'm glad there is plenty of time because, right now, all I know is that I want a bunny on there somewhere. I guess that's a start! If you think you might like to participate, here is some information:

Day of Hope is a day that is held internationally each year since 2008. It was created to help break the silence surrounding the death of babies and children. It is a day that brings healing to our community as we unite together to speak openly about the babies and children who are no longer here. Part of this very special day is The August 19th - Day of Hope Prayer Flag Project which is a profoundly moving, poignant and peaceful way to break the silence surrounding the death of babies and children. It is also an incredibly touching way to honor their lives. 

Album Link
This year, Day of Hope will include those who have experienced infertility. I have a dear friend struggling with infertility and my heart has broken for her over and over again while she has ridden the roller coaster of fertility treatment. Grief is often strongest because of the loss of expectations... infertility is certainly that. It's the death of dreams. Perhaps she will participate with me.

I think I want to decorate the just-developing memory garden and display my prayer flag there. Lindsay and Kyle put up some string lights at their house and I like the look so maybe I can pick up some lights to put on the fence in that corner of the yard. And the cute bunny garden ornament I saw at a local plant nursery. Autumn will probably enjoy doing this with me! We could even make a couple of stones to represent God's movement in our lives, like birthdays and the adoption fundraiser total from last year.

As I typed, it dawned on me that I should put a pinwheel on the flag. Does anyone craftier than me have any ideas on how to do that? 

Last, but not least, here's a video that they made for last year's Day of Hope:

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Birthday Celebration

Mike's parents met a landscaper named Kurt a few years ago when they won a yard design from a silent auction to benefit the zoo. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. He's been working on Mike's parents' yard since a little before Autumn was born and Kurt is, in all seriousness, an artist. He always planned to make the yard kid-friendly but once we were all at a fourth of July party at Lainey and Pd's and he saw Autumn dancing with a tree. She had the end of a crape myrtle and she danced away with them. Kurt ended up picking flowers with her and after that they were friends! Incidentally...that place where they are standing? To the left, that's where the playground where we have taken pictures is now.

Kurt tells me whenever I see him about the things he's planted for Autumn. Strawberries, lettuce for the bunny that lives in the backyard, soft lamb's ear plants, blueberries...the list just goes on. We have a part of our backyard where there's a big, empty patch in part of the landscaping. I can't remember why it's empty, maybe because we had to remove everything to fix the drainage? Either way, when I was in the hospital, Kurt was so sad about what had happened to Garrett that he went to our house and planted a hydrangea in memory of Garrett.

This year for Garrett's birthday, some friends and family joined us at our house to plant another bush in that part of the yard. We'd like to make it a memory garden but I haven't done much to make that happen since I first mentioned it here (and it does look like it was drainage, ha). We probably should have pre-prepared the hole because there was a little trouble getting it dug! The first try, we hit a rock. The second try, we managed it but it was RIGHT NEXT to another rock! I got a purple butterfly bush so hopefully it'll look nice next to the hydrangea and the azaleas (which are in dire need of trimming).

Afterward, we prayed. And then we went out for Mexican! My mom didn't stay for food because she's oddly antisocial sometimes! Sadly, my camera failed me. My pictures of Nanny and Boppa and Tamara and Landon were way blurry. But I did get Tamara and Matt!

And Lainey, Pd, and Autumn! Who, by the way, walked past every single person in the living room and made a beeline for Pd! But we're used to it. We all know we're second to Pd. :)

And even though we have scary eyes, Mike and I did get a decent picture.

I'm really glad we did this! And thank you to our friends who were there and the ones who couldn't be but prayed for us! Garrett's birthday and our little Saturday celebration went well, with a few tears but many, many more smiles. Next year, we'll probably plant another bush. And maybe I can talk Mike into trying another fire lantern. This year he insisted we skip it considering we almost set the cemetery on fire last year.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Gym Adventures: Adventures in Zealotry

As you might have noticed, one of the best things about going to gym for me? The characters I get to meet and interact with. Although, to be honest, I don't always appreciate how good the story will be when I'm going through it.

This happened long enough ago that I think I can safely talk about it. I don't think anyone we're training with now was there when this guy, I'll call him George, graced us with his presence. George was nice enough. Polite. Friendly. A little odd. He was (is?) a pastor in a small town who would drive into the city to take classes.

All martial arts have rituals. Bowing, clapping, mat sweeping, you know, stuff you usually see in kung fu movies. I haven't had to do it in a long time but I used to have to tell people about how we aren't worshiping anything or anyone, it's just how (in the case of aikido) the Japanese show respect. And, because we are a Japanese art with ties to the original dojo, we do a lot of bowing and clapping and onegaishimasu-ing. And we have a picture of the founder on the wall out of respect.

Well, George wasn't a fan. At all. He would not bow in or out of class because he felt that bowing when there was a picture on the wall was like worshiping a graven image. I can't remember if he'd bow to his partner and say onegaishimasu. Fine. Not a huge deal. I've seen people stay out the bowing and do it respectfully.

 But then it got weird. Although now we have our own logo, back then we just used the logo of Stephan's home school in Utah. It's pictured on the left. To me, it looks more like a Celtic trinity knot than any kind of Japanese symbol. But George didn't like our logo at all. He didn't want it on his clothes or on his test certificates and even asked if we'd consider changing it! Why? He thought it looked like a 666. I mean, maybe? If I turn my head sideways and squint a little?

And then it got more weird. We wear hakama after a certain rank, the black skirty looking things that are actually pants. I generally wear shorts under mine because they get hot. And in the winter I wear underarmor cold gear leggings. After class, I have to fold mine up nicely since my equipment lives in the car. A lot of schools have lockers or hanging areas but we haven't ever really done that.

I was SO HAPPY when I got my hakama in 2006!

One day, I was doing my usual folding the hakama on the mat routine--while wearing my long gi top and belt--when George came up to me. He asked me to go in the closet to fold my hakama because my legs were a temptation!!! Ok, first of all, gross, and second of all, NO. I told him that if he had a problem with me doing what I had been doing for ages before he showed up, HE could go in the closet while I finished!

I should have expected what was coming next. One day, I was demonstrating a technique. He wasn't doing something right so I did the technique to him to show him how it should feel. I do this all the time and had demo'd on him before but for some reason, he was a little odd about that particular time.

The next time he came to class, he had an announcement. "Jesus came to me in a dream and told me I was no longer to touch women even to shake hands."

Really. Jesus. Jesus came to you in a dream to tell you that. Privately, Stephan said, "I think Jesus is code for his WIFE."

I had about had it with George. I get that some orthodox religions don't allow interaction between men and women. But, really, this wasn't one of those cases. We aren't a large school where you can pick and choose who you train with. And he isn't Muslim or Jewish or a member of some FLDS group. Just a weird dude using religion to manipulate us.

Apparently, Stephan's legs are not a temptation.

I took a deep breath and told him that I wouldn't make him violate the command that JESUS HIMSELF came down to deliver. "HOWEVER, I am the senior student and an instructor. I will teach whenever Stephan is unavailable. I will teach when we are covering something I teach well. I make a lot of the decisions about the school because I am the administrator. The school is small and you will not get your maximum training here if you cut out training with me. As long as you can deal with that and a woman in leadership, I don't care what you do."

He actually lasted a little while after that. Eventually, Stephan decided he wanted to take a break from teaching (it was brief because I badgered him back) and George shopped around at the other schools, giving them his list of demands: No Satanic symbols, no bowing, no touching women, no women allowed to fold hakama in his sight, among, I'm sure, other things! One school wouldn't even talk to him. The other told him that he wouldn't be a good fit with his "requests" and to consider other places.

I don't know what ever happened to George. I get vaguely concerned that he'll show up again, haha. But I don't think he will because our main school is a very, very long drive from his small town in Arkansas. At the time, I wanted to strangle him about every other day but now the memories tickle me and he's one of my favorite dojo stories!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Day to Mike

Happy Father's Day to Mike! Thank you for being the dad I dreamed of having when I was a little girl. I am so glad Autumn and I have you.

This was our big project yesterday. Autumn and I went out to Mike's parents' house and took some photos in the backyard. Autumn wasn't too happy about getting dressed up and holding letters but after a bit she really got into it. I'm so glad because some of the pictures turned out wonderfully!

And we put them in a scrapbook frame with linen for the background. This isn't the final version because I just printed these out on my printer. I'll get actual prints from Costco this week.

Also, Autumn would like you to see what she made for papa. :) From Autumn: "it has hearts on it and me, mama, papa, and molly. And it has a sun and green on it. I have yellow lines on it because I'm pretending it's sparkling. And it has clouds of the colors that we like."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day Links

Father's Day has always been way awkward for me. This year everyone is putting up Facebook photos of their dads and happy stories and I think, man (in a whiny mental voice). I am happy people have great dads. I certainly do have great father figures in Mike's dad, Boppa, and Stephan and I am thankful for that. At the same time, I guess Father's Day is always going to be as bittersweet as Mother's Day. Seriously, I'm thinking about just staying home from church tomorrow to avoid all the to-do.

Anyway, I have a happy post for tomorrow. Autumn and I did something super fun for Mike and I hope it turns out. In the meantime, friends and readers who have dad angst, who have lost children, who have difficult relationships with your children, who long to be dads: I know you are there and I am praying for you this weekend.

Some things I've come across:

Sarah Bessey wrote 'In Which God has asked too much of us' just this week and reading it took my breath away. Beautiful and raw. Can anyone face the sight of a soft baby-blanket carefully laid out on the altar? This is not the end, this is not the end, I am singing over and over through the hot tears and the white anger and my aching longing for mercy for us all, God.

Be sure to take a moment to read the tribute our friend Kenneth O'Shaughnessy wrote for his daughter Kaylee. We knew exactly who you would be, where you would go, and how much we wanted you. What we didn’t know was that you would never arrive. We got to see you once, as through a glass darkly.

Still Standing Magazine has a section on A Father's Grief. I found an article by a dad named Gordon, talking about protecting the memory of his daughter Vivienne. I see echoes of Mike in this one because one of the things we try to do together is maintain Garrett's legacy and make sure his story is one of hope and love. Ultimately, it is up to us and us alone to safeguard her memory and make it possible for others to carry Vivienne in their hearts.

I just ran across this from Thoughts of a Recovering Seminarian. I, um, am really glad to know there's a pastor out there who doesn't want to go to church tomorrow, either. So I reiterate what many said on Mother’s Day, but that so few are saying now: as you celebrate Father’s Day at church on Sunday don’t forget to leave space for grief. Men grieve too, even if they don’t always show it, and you, church, are responsible for helping all people see God in their lives, whether in the joy of life or the tragedy of death.

Finally, a poem I ran across. I know many men who feel the freedom to show their emotions and Mike has been blessed with friends who ask him how he is and know he hurts, too. But, I also know that is not the case for everyone.

To be a man in grief,
Since "men don't cry"
and "men are strong"
No tears can bring relief.

It must be very difficult
To stand up to the test,
And field the calls and visitors
So she can get some rest.

They always ask if she's all right
And what she's going through.
But seldom take his hand and ask,
"My friend, but how are you?"

He hears her crying in the night
And thinks his heart will break.
He dries her tears and comforts her,
But "stays strong" for her sake.

It must be very difficult
To start each day anew.
And try to be so very brave-
He lost his baby too.

Eileen Knight Hagemeister

An addition: You’re Going To Be a Daddy, by Sean Hanish. What I have learned is that I was a daddy on that day in July 2005. And I am a daddy now–a daddy who never met his first son until after he was gone. Yet, that son has left me a precious gift–I lost one life and found a new one, one which I cherish with all of my heart and will for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Gym Adventures: Return of the Guardian Angel

There I was in the gym after class minding my own business. On Wednesday mornings, all I want to do is put away my stuff, wade through the zumba people staking their spots, dodge the seniors who occasionally think that I'm the person to complain to about the loud music, and go home to my everyone else.

That morning, I managed to put away my weights with no trouble. Nothing left but my steps and risers. I grabbed the step in my left hand, stacked the risers and draped them over my right forearm. I paused to adjust the step when I suddenly felt someone grabbing my risers.

I spun around aikido-style, hands full but ready to throw something if necessary. The risers ripped out of the person's hands and I turned to find...the elderly lady who is always offering to carry my weights and checking to make sure I survived another class. And she was still trying to yank the risers off my forearm.

On one hand, I appreciate that she's concerned. Fine, I'm really freaking short. But holy cow! I do this class almost every week! If I were going to keel over and die, I would have done it already! And now I feel kind of bad because I let her sneak up on me and then almost tore her arm off.

In the end, I smiled, firmly pulled the risers out of her grasp and assured her that I am perfectly capable of putting up my risers but thank you. Hopefully I didn't do anything bad to her arm when I spun away from her! I guess I'll find out next week because last week I left a touch early to get Autumn to swim and I didn't make it this morning.

This morning, I let Autumn sleep in because she's been pretty under the weather, a rare occurrence. It started out as allergies but now she has a bit of a phlegmy cough. She only has one more swim lesson left in this session so hopefully she can make it tomorrow and then have a few days to lay around and do nothing. I have to say I didn't object to the break! I finally taught some classes--three classes with a grand total of 4 students! On the plus side, it can only go up from here, hahaha. But between doing my regular workouts, the new classes, aikido, and practicing the routines, I'm beat! Not complaining though--so far I'm really enjoying both the weight classes and the kickboxing classes.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Two Years

Two years.

It's been two years since our son Garrett was born asleep. Perfect, adorable, and silent.

I am a little more empty than I was last year. It seems like we are in a season of heartache. In this second year, we missed those milestones that Garrett would have achieved. We are estranged from a family member because of choices she made and refuses to own. Friends have left, either by moving or death. We had Grant for a moment and his loss is almost like a death, even though we pray that he is healthy and happy somewhere. And we wait.

It's been two years since I almost died.

I remember seeing the doctor covered in my blood, even as they tried frantically to replace the 8 units I lost. I asked her if all of her days were this horrible and she said no. I remember Mike's face as I faded away. And then two surgeries. Months of rehab. Autumn's terror that I might not come home. Sometimes it feels like a dream and then I move wrong or I do too much one week and I think, oh yeah. I refuse to take anything I can do today for granted because I was so, so close to death or an organ transplant. I don't know what God saved me for when he took Garrett home and left me behind but I hope I am doing it.

Saturday, we will plant another bush in the memory garden. I got a little bunny statue to go there, too. Afterward, we will eat with friends and celebrate life and what will come. If you want to join us, let me know.

We miss you, Garrett. We remember.

From this year:

Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy

O Lord, Thou didst not
Grant unto us our
Petition, O God!
And what have we now?
Arms that are empty,
Hearts that are broken,
Eyes full of weeping.
And what now dost we?
All that we canst do:
We return unto Thee,
The Giver of life,
The Mender of hearts,
The Drier of eyes.
For Thou also hast wept
For arms made empty,
For hearts pierced with swords,
For eyes that see naught
But Thy tear-streaked face.
And so we now ask,
Not that Thou wouldst now
Grant our petition,
But that Thou Thyself
Fill our empty arms
And our broken hearts
And our sightless eyes.
Grant us this, O Lord.

One Year Later, the guest posts:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

WGA: The class that wasn't & the one that will be

Sad face.
Yesterday, I was supposed to start teaching a BodyPump class at Collierville Arts. I was ready. I had a workout plan. Mike and I did a practice run on Sunday and he thought it was great. I put on my cute clothes. I got my workout music ready. I had my new watch.

Aaaand no one showed.

That's not entirely true. Mike came. But we ended up just doing the workout at our house. I was supposed to sub this same Tuesday class about a month ago and no one showed up then. Both times there was some kind of mixup where the student(s) didn't think class was meeting but I'm starting to think the class doesn't actually exist.

I'll be there again tomorrow, though, so maybe someone will show up! I told Mike not to make the drive on Tuesdays until the class is more consistent. Apparently the Thursday class has more than one or two students so maybe I'll actually get to teach!

EITHER WAY, I am happy to say that I'm going to teach a free fitness kickboxing class at Mullins UMC for anyone who is interested. If you are, you can always check out the schedule on the aikido site for when/where I'm teaching. I teach pretty much everything there except the Saturdays Stephan can make it. And even then, I rarely miss Saturdays.

I read a few articles about becoming a fitness instructor, and the joke is that you spend more money becoming a teacher than you make in the first 6 months. Between clothes, music, and little things that add up, that's definitely true but still nothing compared to the kids aikido startup! And some of the ongoing expenses. My Mullins class has grown so much (in number of kids as well as how tall some of them are getting) that I've had to buy 4 more mats!!

Because I needed a way to play music from my phone, I asked Mike to do some research for me. He's amazing at finding people just what they need and he certainly came through this time. He got me a resonance speaker. It's pretty great and we've had a good time testing different ways to mount the speaker. When I just hold it up, the music sounds tinny. When I put it on a box or a desk or a book, it turns whatever it's sitting on into a speaker! It says I can use a wall but I haven't tried that one yet. I will, though!

Behold: the Boom Box.
I carry a Kidpower teaching manual with me in my teaching bag so I am planning on using that if I can't find a table or wall that will work. I did discover one funny thing:

A plastic bowl works nicely.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In which Mike also comments and is a man of valor

Mike did something crazy tonight!

What was this craziness??

He commented on a blog. 0.0

Someone posted a link to this lady's commentary on how to be a godly wife on Facebook today. I skimmed it and immediately closed the window and then hid the link on Facebook to avoid the comments and likes because it's just better if I don't work myself into a frothing rage over people I don't know, even if their views are becoming disturbingly commonplace. I didn't think about it again until this evening when I told Mike how I avoided working myself up and he said I should check out the comments again.

Apparently people need to keep writing these kinds of blog posts because we've had some great talks between this one and the bikini lady. We talked about a lot that would just be boring for you to read about but it was good stuff, mainly on how, like I wrote yesterday, it's important for there to be relationship and dialog when talking to people about how they "should" live. Blog posts aren't an amazing way to lay down law. We also agreed that more men need to be in support of women when it comes to issues of equality and I appreciate him taking steps to be that voice, especially since his personality is to chill out and let the crazy people like me rage and flail about. Here's what he wrote:

Very interesting & commendable post. You have laid out some wonderful attributes & principles that folks should absolutely strive toward.

I would however like to bring up one point: Almost everything you laid out there can absolutely apply to a husband! (Maybe not point 5 as it deals with the Proverbs 31 woman but still the principles she embodies are admirable regardless of your gender.)

1) Keep God first, your spouse second: Totally agree. As a husband God is my first love with my wife second!

2) Understand the covenant: This is a sacred oath & it's my duty as a Christ follower to honor it. Man or woman!

3) Submission but for my reasoning I'm going to user the term Service: This is certainly a contentious area in our modern culture & you're right that these words have taken on a negative connotation. Though we may have differing roles, the idea of submission/service speaks to the laying down of our rights. As a Christ follower (husband or wife) we should seek to serve & love one another with selflessness. I fear that as Christians we sometimes put so much emphasis on "submit to your husband" that we make it seem as if the husband has no obligation to serve his wife. On the contrary we husbands are to love our wives as Christ loved the Church and He exemplified this through His countless acts of service and His commandments to serve and love others throughout the world!

4) Speak edifying words: Another wonderful & universal principle! Bless your spouse with words of praise!

5) Proverbs 31 woman: Like I mentioned earlier, a bit tough to draw a totally direct comparison but I believe we're shown here a woman of honor and valor here living a life with excellence. Even as a man, I should desire this type of ethos in my own life!

6) Do it anyway: All about loving and serving unconditionally. Again, a wonderful principle for all of us! I do disagree though with your statement that it's not your job as a wife to discipline or correct a husband. If I'm acting wrong or doing something sinful then I would absolutely want my wife (my helpmeet! my companion!) to call me out and speak truth in love to me! (As I should do for her if she is sinning.) As my sister in Christ I would hope that she would help me to get out of that sin before the Lord himself has to do something more drastic!! :)

7) Communicate: Yup, you better practice it and do it for your marriage to be healthy! Semi-coherent grunts don't count...

8) 80/20 principle: A great point as this is also a huge danger to men. Always let your heart be captivated by your wife! So many warnings in scripture about letting our eyes and minds wander.

9) Strive to please: I'm glad you mentioned that you think it's not okay for the husband to let himself go. This again speaks back to your points in 3 & 6 that circle around loving unconditionally. Even though I may LOATHE watching Pride & Prejudice, I'm going to do it for my wife because I love her!

10) Cover in prayer: Absolutely. We'll never make it as individuals or as a couple if we don't seek out our Lord's help in our life and in our spouse's. Husbands, pray for your wives!

So those are my thoughts as a husband. Hope that's helpful to some! 

Of course, because I'm meaner than Mike, I disagree with "interesting and commendable," ha! I read stuff like "We are SO selfish and self-centered, we are ALL about ME and what others can do for us. We think we ‘deserve’ so many things" and I feel my eye start to bleed because, as Mike pointed out, it's humans. Human are self-centered. And, I'd wager that not all humans, including some women, struggle with selfishness. But, I understand that Mike's goal is to meet people where they are and, while I am working on that, I'm not as good at it as he is. Also, YOU KNOW YOU LIKED PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, MIKE!

Is it sinful for me to post this?

By the way, speaking of men's voices, I came across El Blog de Blake last night and he wrote about that bikini post from a man's perspective. I really want to cut and paste the entire last half of Blake's post but here's just a small snippet:
If a guy is going to lust after and objectify women, a little more fabric on their bodies is not going to fix that. A trash bag couldn’t fix that. Telling girls to avoid wearing bikinis in public places where guys will be is like cutting away the branches, but unless the root is dug up, the problem will remain. Not to mention that the same kind of steps aren’t being taken with the swimwear of the men.

Plus there's the fact that most men aren't slobbering jerks. The funniest-in-a-terrible-way exchange I saw on Facebook when I posted the link to Patheos was this:

Female Friend: Hey, Male Friend, how do you control your man-urges to attack women?
Male Friend: I'm an engineer:

Oh, and for anyone wondering about the Man of Valor thing, there's a book we're reading in our group called A Year of Biblical Womanhood (kindle version) by Rachel Held Evans. She talks about women of valor:

“A woman of valor who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.”
- Proverbs 31:10
Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone.  Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor.
One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor: women who are changing the world through daily acts of faithfulness, both in my life and around the world.

Later, Sarah Bessey added man of valor:
Men of valour! for standing up for, and with, us. We see you loving the women in your life well, we see you honouring us–your wives, your sisters, your mothers, your grandmothers, your daughters, your friends–we see you serving with abandon, we see you hungering for justice, we see your dedication to true purity, to wisdom, to knowledge, to honour, to respect, to beauty, to mercy.

So, there you go! Mike: Ish Gibor Chayil!

Monday, June 3, 2013

In which I ramble and share a lot of links

If you're on Facebook and have any friends who identify as conservative Christians, you've probably run across a blog post called the Bikini Question written by a super hot lady in a one piece (seriously, her header pics are like pinup photos--I'm not that hot in a 2 piece much less anything else I wear ever). I get what she's trying to say and, hey, if this is her epic sacrifice for Jesus because she's convicted about it, that's fabulous. And, I obviously think there are appropriate ways to dress for appropriate situations. Example: grappling.

At the same time, I do agree with many people who believe her post contributes to what is called rape culture. Two bloggers do a much better job of parsing this out than I ever could. I encourage you to visit Defeating the Dragons and Libby Anne on Patheos and read the articles at those links, possibly before you even read more of what I'm about to say.

Also, this is probably the most revealing swimsuit I have ever worn, lol.
I have two (really long) thoughts on this whole thing. The first involves intention vs. impact. This is something I have been learning about over my years with Stephan. Sometimes I can say or do something without meaning to hurt someone. My intentions are good. But the impact on the recipient is painful.

For a silly example, someone comes up to me and says, "hey, short stuff." They are likely trying to be friendly but the impact is that I feel devalued. If it's someone I have a relationship with, I'll usually say something like, "hey, I'd rather you call me Sharaze." And then we can talk about it. If it's a stranger, I roll my eyes, move along, and then complain on Facebook. Again, silly, simple example but you get me, I hope.

I think that this bikini thing is similar--although don't get me wrong, I am so not a theologian and this is just the result of Mike and me talking yesterday. It's true that the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 8: be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. At the same time, I can't reasonably be the thought police for everyone everywhere. There are so many things to consider: culture, a person's individual weaknesses, location, situation. All I can do is make wise choices and take care of myself. If I am causing a brother or sister to stumble--and not just with clothing--then I need him or her to talk to me individually. Although my intentions were (hopefully) good, my impact is causing someone pain. I may or may not agree, but I think what's important here is dialog and relationship, not just a blanket statement that, hey, this is what I do so you should, too, or you're causing people to sin.

Or, like I told a couple friends, everyone is hot to someone so we should all just stay inside. :P

The second series of thoughts that I have involves assault. I am pretty sure that the blogger meant lust in her post but, as the aforementioned links say better than I can, the implications of "women are like chocolate cake" aren't pretty. Women are not consumed. Cake cannot consent. Victim blaming is a thing.

I have mentioned before that very few rapes or assaults are stranger crimes. This Bureau of Justice report says that in 2005-10, 78% of sexual violence involved an offender who was a family member, intimate partner, friend, or acquaintance. Here's another link from the CDC which breaks down the stats among men and women. So, obviously, there is a bigger issue here than what people are wearing. It just isn't that simple. Instead of teaching Autumn an arbitrary line on clothing, I want to teach her about healthy relationships and healthy self-image so that one, she is less likely to get in a high risk relationship and two, if the unthinkable happens and she experiences a violent crime, she has a strong foundation and support system to fall back on.
I always tell people in my self defense classes that no matter what you are wearing, no matter what you are doing, no matter who the attacker is, an attack is NEVER EVER EVER your fault. Ever. The attacker made a choice to be violent (I think the same argument can be made for lusting, too). At the same time, we can make choices that minimize our risk. If you look at the site I often refer to, No Nonsense Self Defense, there's an article on How Rape Really Happens. It's good. The whole portal on the subject is good. There is information about high risk behavior, but it isn't just getting blackout drunk in a frat house (don't do that, seriously, bad idea), it's up to and including relationships that spiral out of control. And you know who keeps coming to mind as I type this? Heather.

That's all I've got for now. I might post some of the interesting conversations I've had with friends. I would also like to know your thoughts. And I'm sure the bikini blogger never thought her post would send some of us on tangents about violence and crime statistics but there you go!

Here are some links you might find interesting:

The Only Thing My Double D's Ever Got Me Was Kicked Out of Church at Bookworm Beauty

What If We Responded to Sexual Assault by Limiting Men’s Freedom Like We Limit Women’s? at Wronging Rights 

Committing pornography with your life {how modesty rules hurt women AND men} at Elizabeth Esther

Three blogs that discuss Elizabeth Smart and her words on Purity Culture:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” 
Elizabeth Smart, Human Trafficking, and Purity Culture at Rachel Held Evans 
Elizabeth Smart & the life-threatening danger of shame-based purity culture at Elizabeth Esther
Shame-based sex education: we can do better at Rage Against the Minivan