~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

Favorite Finds: March 2013

Here are some of my favorite finds from this month:

Favorite image: Paris, from Rays of Light by Bethany Salvon on Beers and Beans:

Hat tip: @AprilA2Z.

Favorite health reminder: Your Phone vs. Your Heart by The New York Times' Barbara L. Fredrickson:
Our ingrained habits change us. Neurons that fire together, wire together, neuroscientists like to say, reflecting the increasing evidence that experiences leave imprints on our neural pathways, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Any habit molds the very structure of your brain in ways that strengthen your proclivity for that habit.
Hat tip: Dirk Stanley, M.D.

Favorite piece of life advice: Always Go to the Funeral by NPR's Deirdre Sullivan:
Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

"Always go to the funeral" means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don't feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don't really have to and I definitely don't want to. I'm talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy.
Hat tip: Larry Levi, MFT.

Favorite weird-but-true-story tweet, by Sarah Pulliam Bailey: "Big Cheese: Man busted for stealing 21 tons of Muenster worth $200,000. Cheese=most stolen food in the world (ABC)." (Fair warning: ABC plays different videos in sequence after playing the one you loaded the page in order to play. Annoying-but-true.)

Favorite shows of vulnerability by courageously telling a hard story: I Wasn't Raped, But I Was Still Violated by Caris Adel (trigger warning for abuse, victimization, assault, creeps):
[I]t’s on me to handle it, right?  It’s the woman’s job to suck it up and deal with it.  I know creeps count on women who shut up and just sit there.  And even after all of these months of learning about feminism, equality, rights, abuse, victimization – I still found myself incredibly vulnerable.  I knew the information and yet I still sat there, terrified and uncomfortable.  Side aching from the tension and the stress, and the unnatural position I was in.

And On Feminism: The Rehumanization of a Soldier and the Reconstruction of a Man by Luke Harms at Living in the Tension (trigger warning: sexual assault and violent sexuality):
Feminism was what allowed me to begin reclaiming my own humanity by seeing that exact same humanity in others. Starting at that fundamental precept, the "radical notion that women are people," I was confronted with my own privilege and my propensity for dehumanizing others. It started right here at home, with the way I saw my wife and the way I saw our relationship. (In fact, if you go back to the first post I ever published on this blog, you can actually see the metamorphosis taking place.) I stopped seeing her as a means to validate my own masculinity, and started seeing her for the incredible human being that she was in her own right, regardless of (perhaps in many ways in spite of) her relationship with me. It was feminism that gave me the tools to critically deconstruct the false idol of masculinity that I had fashioned over the first 25 years of my life. When there was nothing left, it was feminism that allowed me to reconstruct a healthy view of maleness that respects the humanity, the Imago Dei, within us all.

Favorite hilarious parody: How Sesame Street is Undermining Biblical Values by Matt Mikalatos at The Burning Hearts Revolution:
I know, you might think I'm overreacting, but the Bible is very clear on the role of bears in human relationships. They are meant to be voracious killing machines. I mean, the ONE COMMAND God gives specifically to bears is to "Arise and devour much flesh." This attempt to anthropomorphize and humanize bears strikes at the heart of everything the gospel teaches about bears.

Favorite analysis: "But That's What the Bible Says" by Kristen Rosser on Wordgazer's Words:
And this is the sad thing.  That we'd rather live with cognitive dissonance, believing that women are somehow equal but yet somehow lesser-- or that they are to be restricted for no reason, but that God is still just-- than to believe it's possible we're misreading our Bibles.

We'd rather restrict women and have the Bible be "clear" than admit that we just might be wrong.
Hat tip on the previous three: Rachel Held Evans.

Favorite pointing out of an amazing-but-often-unknown reality: When the bias of our blinders changes the Bible by Fred Clark at Slactivist:

Junias is a character in some translations of the Bible.

More specifically, he’s a character invented by translators and inserted into the Bible. He’s a made-up person with a made-up name.

Junias never existed. And Junias’ name never existed.

Favorite defense: ...But I'm Still a Christian! by Perfect Number, guest posting at Love, Joy, Feminism:
Apparently, Christianity is about holding certain political views. Apparently, it’s about gender roles. Apparently, it’s about not asking too many questions. And if you just go along with all those things, you get to call yourself a Christian, and no one will challenge that claim.

Why is this? Why is it that, in the section of evangelical Christianity I come from, those issues are so tied up in the definition of “Christian”? I thought Christianity was about proclaiming Jesus as Lord. I thought it was about loving God and loving people. I thought it was about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I thought it was about proclaiming freedom and healing and rescue. I thought it was about taking up my cross and following Jesus, no matter the cost. I thought it was about studying and obeying the bible—what the bible ACTUALLY says, not what we’re told “the bible clearly teaches.”

Favorite takedown of a theology that deserves to be taken down: Bite Me, Joel Osteen by Chad Jones at Randomly Chad:
My Best Life Now? Seriously?

Does that best life include:

My sleep apnea

My wife’s:

Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, and allergies so bad she can’t breathe through her nose for months on end?

My son’s chronic back problems?

Loved ones dying of cancer?

What part of this is “best,” Joel?

Favorite posts about the giving of one's heart: Hearts are not construction paper by Aprille at Kindred Grace:
A broken relationship can leave you with a broken heart, but it can’t leave you with less of a heart. Your heart is still yours, and you can choose what you do with it. Mr. Knight-In-Shining-Armor-Who-Fell-Off-His-White-Horse doesn’t carry around that piece of your heart in a box somewhere…it’s not collecting dust on his shelf. It’s where it’s always been. Within you.

And I stopped guarding my heart ten years ago. by Emily Maynard at Prodigal Magazine:

As with all significant events in my life, I bought a new journal, hoping for a fresh start and new inspiration. I didn’t end up writing much in it, but I wrote one thing in there that has been written on my life since: I will never withhold the words I love you. When they are true, I will speak them. This applies to family, friends, boyfriends, puppies, and strangers.

I made that small commitment with a heart that had been ripped open by new grief. I didn’t even really understand what I was saying or if it would stick. But it did. I’ve gone back to that open-hearted idea over and over in the past ten years. Every time I want to shut down emotionally, every time I’m feeling bashful or embarrassed by my affections, every time I’m scared I’ll love something I can’t have, every time a wave of unexpected grief knocks me down again, I go back to that scrawled choice. I’m committed to a whole heart in all relationships, not just romance.

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What's your favorite thing that you've read or written lately?

Dear Mayor

San Diego mayor Bob Filner has announced that he will declare June 28 (the first day of Camp Widow West 2013) Camp Widow Day! While that might not sound like the biggest deal, it could very well have positive outcomes not immediately apparent. (You'll see what I mean below.)

Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, which puts on Camp Widow, has asked those who've benefitted from it to e-mail their thanks to the mayor. I have done so...and I thought I'd share that letter here as well:
Dear Mayor Filner,

Thank you so much for declaring June 28 Camp Widow Day!

I love that Camp Widow is getting this kind of recognition not just because this event has come to mean so much to me but also because: the more people who know about widowed support, the better.

Michele Neff Hernandez, founder of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and creator of Camp Widow, has spoken publicly about how she continually battles the stereotype that many in the media have regarding the widowed and discussing widowhood: that widows are solely little old ladies with rocking chairs, knitting, and grandchildren--and that talking about widowhood is only depressing. In a sense, one can hardly blame them: our culture simply does not deal well or even much at all with death and grief.

But here's the thing: it doesn't just happen to elderly women. It doesn't just happen to women. It doesn't just happen to married people (I myself am an unwedded widow). It doesn't just happen to straight people. Far too often people in these situations have their loss minimized and their relationship dismissed...as if somehow it doesn't mean as much just because one of these other factors was true. As one who's been told over and over that I am not really a widow because my fiance and I were not married when he passed, I could not appreciate Soaring Spirits' inclusiveness more.

And yes, clearly, a depressing thing has happened to us--among the most depressing things that can happen to a person. But the end of our partner's life doesn't have to mean the end of our own as well...as much as it can feel like it, for a long time. That is where Camp Widow comes in: to tell those on this journey, "You are not alone. Others are walking this road with you. And those of us who are farther along, we'll light the candle of hope for you until you can light it for yourself." That is precisely what Camp Widow was instrumental in doing for me. Besides which, the bond between widowed people is like nothing else. When you've all survived the worst, when you can speak your loved one's name without worry that the other person will be uncomfortable, when you "get" each other and don't have to explain...well, that's like gold.

Mayor Filner, your declaration can help to dispel these myths and to spread the word that help and hope are out there. and for that I thank you very much. As far as I'm concerned, if even one person who could benefit from it hears about Camp Widow (and other forms of widowed support) through this declaration, then every single bit of effort that went into the declaration will be worth it.

I have family who have lived in San Diego for many years, so I've been to your fair city many times--and love it. Now...I love it even more.

Photo source: City of San Diego - http://www.sandiego.gov/home/graphics/photomayor.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30688829

"Special Sizes"

screenshot from
Dear Major Department Stores,

I am what you and most people today would call a "plus-size" woman. And while I'm glad the world has come as far as it has in acceptance of and fashion for women of my size, when I go to your website, and I see this (screenshot, right), I have a few thoughts:

My size is not "special." It's just...the size that I am.

My size is bigger than some people's and smaller than others'.

My size should not mean that to you, I am a whole separate category. Apparently, to you, I'm not "Women"; I'm a "Special Size." (As are "Juniors" and "Petite"s.) Um...seriously??

screenshot from
What if, instead of lumping everyone not in "Misses" (who came up with these category names, anyway?) into "Special Sizes," you just put all clothing for women under...oh, I don't know, "Women's Apparel"?

And if not everything comes in every size, then feel free to have a "Shop by Size" section in your navigation...in addition to the general categories and subcategories.

If you did that, then maybe--just maybe--more women would be inclined to shop at your store, because they wouldn't feel like that store is treating them based on their size and not on the fact that they are women.

Humility and Van Cliburn (R.I.P.)

The world lost a musical giant last week. Van Cliburn (July 12, 1934 - February 27, 2013) will forever be known for winning the very first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 (at the height of the Cold War, no less). When he returned to the United States, he was honored in New York City with a ticker tape parade. He is the only classical musician, indeed the only solo musician of any genre, to be honored in that way.

Not long after his win, he recorded Tchiakovsky's First Piano Concerto, and that album became the first classical music album in chart history to sell a million copies. To date it has sold over 3 million.

Van's first piano teacher was his mother, Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn. She was taught by Arthur Friedheim, who was a student of Franz Liszt. Franz Liszt.

Oh and his other accomplishments? They're pretty impressive, too.

But what might be the most impressive thing about Van Cliburn is his humility. Though honors flooded his way, he shirked the attention. He viewed himself as a servant in the cause of classical music. Richard Rodzinski, who presided over the The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for 20 years, related that Cliburn took the word ("servant") seriously and said, "He feels he is serving the purpose of being able to bring beautiful music as he sees it, from his garden to an audience." In 2011 Cliburn returned to the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow for the first time since his 1958 victory, this time to serve as an honorary judge. He sincerely asked his friends, "Do you really think they'll remember me?" He was mobbed in the streets.

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Dear Van: Thank you for serving. Thank you for serving the cause of classical music. Thank you for bringing your magnificent playing to the world. Your playing delights me. Your humility inspires me....Rest in peace.

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© A Road Less Traveled

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