Begin Real Reconciliation with a Conversation

I started a blog post at the beginning of this year that I never finished. It was tentatively titled “On Speaking Up in 2014” and it was inspired by my friend Osheta Moore. Osheta wrote a fantastic viral blog post that called for white Southern lady-bloggers like me to use our voices to validate the experiences of non-white women who did not have our same privilege. Osheta wrote (and I agree) that white women writers must realize that their ability to choose whether or not to speak about an issue is directly related to their privilege in that situation: by saying nothing, they lose nothing because they already have everything. In early January, I told myself that I would spend this year of “ATTACK” speaking up; I wanted to practice taking risks in small ways so I would be ready for the big moments when they arrived.

But speaking up is hard work, and a number of internet scandals and real life disasters have come and gone since the New Year and I haven’t even gotten around to publishing the draft blog post that says I want to practice participating! It’s pretty cozy over here on the sidelines, where I can roll my eyes at internet crazy from a safe distance.

I’ve ignored that inner voice a lot this year, but over the past week it came right out and surprised me. I saw something that I thought was wrong, and before I could count to ten and calculate potential liabilities and decide not to get involved in a messy situation it was too late. I was on the record saying THIS IS WRONG. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HURTING ARE PEOPLE I LOVE. THEY MATTER. MAKE IT BETTER.

My words didn’t necessarily bring about a better result, but I received a surprising number of private messages from women who were afraid to speak until they heard my voice, who told me that they felt braver and stronger because I went first.  They began to share their opinions too. The opinions were all different — of course we did not all agree — but we had a dialogue that was mostly healthy and that I was proud to participate in. This week was sad and stressful and there have been a couple of personal emergencies and family health crises on my mind. Each of the notes I received and each instance of robust and impassioned dialogue I witnessed has been special to me. I enjoyed seeing women I respect disagree well. It was beautiful.

And so, I pulled this draft blog post out and I’m dusting it off a bit. I’ve learned this year to get right to the point in my writing so here it is:

We often think about oppressors as them. But sometimes the oppressors are us. Sometimes we are the ones whom we should be speaking against. When the people we love and respect are the ones committing wrongful actions (whether it is a relatively minor power imbalance or something big and terrible like systemic racism or institutional poverty) it is so much harder. Because then we have to not just speak out for the weak, but speak against those we love. That is WAY WORSE.

But even when we disagree with those we love, staying silent doesn’t reconcile or redeem.  We may think it is noble to stay silent to preserve relationships; we may even call this “peacemaking” and claim our special place among the Blesseds.  It is not.  It is not noble to protect the feelings of the majority at the expense of the minority.  It is not peacemaking to sit quietly and watch evil or fear or prejudice or injustice run the world. That is just plain old self-interestedness, the kind that reinforces majority status and others everyone else.  And really, there are enough people reinforcing majority status and othering everyone else.  It’s time to be real reconcilers, real peacemakers. We can do that by starting a conversation.

ADVICE NEEDED: What cell phone do you use?

I told you back in July that I purchased a new iPhone 5, broke the screen, paid to have the screen fixed, and then lost my phone to theft within the scope of about 7 days.

That still sucks. Since then, I’ve been using my handy iPhone 4 (no S) which works, but is slow and has memory issues and low battery life. There is nothing “wrong” with my iPhone 4.

Except — during those five days I had a working iPhone 5s, I really loved it. It was crisp and beautiful and took amazing photos! I purchased extra memory to boost my mobile blogging options and LTE was fast. So fast. As spoiled and ridiculous as this sounds, I was really excited about my upgrade, and I still want a new phone.

The problem is that I already used my upgrade/contract renewal. If I purchase a new phone, I have to pay cash. And a new iPhone is pricey. Without the contract renewal off-set, it could be $549.99 to $749.99. And my inner Scrooge is not on board with paying more for a phone than, like, an entire month’s worth of groceries.

Can a new phone really be worth this much? Is there a better way? I thought you might know some tricks or an alternative for paying full price, so I’m just throwing this out there and looking for your thoughts. Is your iPhone 5s worth it? Will the prices drop when the iPhone 6 comes out? What would you do?

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 09.13.2014

Five Things New

Hi!  This week — it was a killer.  I’m not sure how I made it to Thursday evening, but somehow I did.  I’ve been crashing and pulling things back together since Friday morning, and still have a bit of laundry and packing to do (a quick three day/two-night trip to DC starts tomorrow around 1 . . . ) but I’m feeling better.  I have fewer awesome things to share with you this week than normal, since I spent my little down time with my nose in this 850 page paperback (I only have 75 or so pages left but I’m a little bored with it now so I haven’t finished.  Funny how things turn out, eh?), but there are still some pretty great things out there I want to share:

1.  This is the nerdiest and best thing I’ve read in a while: it’s about statistics, theology, liberals and conservatives and spreadsheets.  Seriously.  It starts out a bit slow but keep working because it is beautiful at the end.

2. Check out this good advice about confidence and professionalism and faking it until you make it.

3.  The internet world has been talking about civility in discourse and I have been listening, but I’m not quite ready to articulate what I think yet.  I absolutely hate yelling.  I think it ends conversations.  But, when powerful people in a conversation start yelling at weaker people, I turn up my own volume quickly.  I really appreciated these comments about this issue.

4. If you love long-form journalistic storytelling, don’t miss this piece in the New York Times Magazine on the women of West Point.  I’m still working through all of it but it is beautiful.

5.  And, if you’re a planner/dreamer/person-who-lives-on-the-future like I am, you might enjoy this interview about finding happiness and living in the moments of your life.  It is certainly something to think about.

 

That’s it!  And, in case you’re needing a little pick-me-up today (I certainly am), this is for you.

Not Guilty Pleasures

I like to say that I don’t have any guilty pleasures.  From time to time I’ll even correct someone, asking why they should feel guilty about enjoying the things they love.  It goes something like this:

Friend:  You know, watching that show Dating Naked is one of my guilty pleasures.

Me:  You mean, one of your pleasures.  Why feel guilty about something you love?  Plus, that is a great show.  (I mean, it really is great, isn’t it?  You can reach out and touch the awkwardness.  And who knew so many 25-year-old virgins watched VH-1?)

But the thing is, with all of the above-quoted bravado, I really do feel a bit sheepish about admitting some of my favorite things.  I keep them to myself and really only talk about the “cool” things I do.  Which may be why this blog is sparse of late. . . Anyway, when I do reveal some of my less cool activities, I protest the “guilty” label but find myself blushing a bit or doing that awkward smiling thing where you really aren’t happy but your face is stuck in smile-mode and then suddenly you realize that your face is SO TIRED OF SMILING that it feels as if your eye-balls might pop out of their sockets.  So probably I still feel guilty about it.  However, I’m faking it until I actually achieve my desired level of enlightenment.  Like a pro.

This week, I’m right in the midst of one of my NOT GUILTY pleasures:  reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

I know, I know, it’s 850 pages of ridiculous time-traveling historical fiction that is mostly a romance novel.  And yes, it is true, there aren’t any dragons so it’s nowhere near as good as Game of Thrones.  [I did spy a 18th-century version of the Loch Ness monster in there, but it wasn't scary, so I accept this criticism.]  But sometimes, when you spend so many hours walking the path of giant spreadsheets and the technical application of specialized jargon written by congressional staffers and interpreted by regulation and applied and defined by administrative boards, it’s nice to have a little magic in the evening.  Even if it is completely ridiculous and even if the romance parts stopped being interesting a few hundred pages ago.

And so, I just wanted to tell you:  I’ve worked two eight-hour shifts and mopped the kitchen and cooked dinner for my husband several times but also, I’ve had the first Outlander book in my possession since about 6 p.m. on Sunday and I’m already 567 pages in.  It feels good to tell the truth.

 

So, do you believe in guilty pleasures?  And have you read the Outlander books?  Am I completely insane?

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 9.05.2014

Five Things New

1. Abi Bechtel for SheLoves Magazine in an essay entitled Her Face.

2. Justin Lee for Crumbs from the Communion Table with Did Daniel Pierce’s Coming Out Video Upset You?  Here are 5 Things You Can Do.

3. On Twitter Reputations, “Being Kind” and the Golden Spirit, by Esther Emery.

4. Abby Norman on her blog with Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead.

5. Engaged in Paris, the story of my friend Katherine’s engagement which was inspired by me!  (well, I mean, not entirely inspired by me.  The engagement itself wasn’t my idea, just the way that they told their story.  But I’m still taking credit.)

Honorable mentions to one thing I have in common with Jenny Lawson, and the most beautiful pregnancy reveal post from Ms. Sarah Bessey.

 

Thanks for stopping by!  I’m so excited for the blog to finally be back in action.  I’ve missed you guys!  Did you read any other awesome things this week?  If so, make sure to share in the comments or link me up on Facebook or Twitter.

This is not about Back to School

It’s Wednesday and I’m headed to work and my Feedly is full of mommy bloggers and not-usually-about-motherhood bloggers talking about sending their kids back to school, or sending their kids to school for the very first time. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate these situations. I love my friends who have kids and I often even love their kids. I like the BTS photos on Facebook, sometimes leave comments, and even said a little prayer for a few young ladies I am especially fond of.

But seriously, internet, I need a little variety in my morning commute. For any of you out there looking for something different, this is for you:

1. It is hot today in Chicago.
2. I just walked past Garrett’s Popcorn without purchasing anything. Huge personal accomplishment.
3. Today I am wearing a dress from Ann Taylor. It is navy, tan, and white with a zipper down the front. To be honest, I could do without the zipper.
4. I mean really, what is it with fashion zippers? They are not as good-looking as everyone thinks.
5. My office in Chicago has a really fantastic view of the city and Lake Michigan but it is so hot all the time that I have to keep the blinds tightly shut to keep the sun out. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the view.
6. I am really terrible at wearing shoes. Matching shoes that I own to outfits that I own is very difficult for me. It’s a daily struggle.
7. At work, I keep one pair of nude pumps at my desk and I wear them every day. And I get compliments on them almost every day. For the first two years, I wore a nude pump from Nine West with a fake snakeskin pattern. For the last 18 months, I’ve been rocking Anne Klein pumps with a shiny patent pointy toe and a matte everything else. And a stranger said “Hey I like your shoes” to me last Thursday at lunch. In six months these will probably be worn out and I’ll need a new pair.
8. I’m starting to feel silly now but I want to get to a solid ten items before posting this ridiculous list.
9. We are almost finished re-doing the guest room in our condo and now we are starting to hate every other room for not looking as good as the guest room.
10. I don’t have to fly back to DC for 11 straight days from today and I am so excited! That puts me home for a solid 16.5 days, which honestly feels like 100 days after the last few months.

Have a great day!
PB

What I’m Into: Summer 2014

Well, it’s September.  Holy cow.  How did this happen?  The summer has flown by in a blur, but there were a few pockets of awesome mixed in too.  Here is a quick rundown of some of the things I loved (or learned) over the past few months.

 

I went to a professional soccer game.  It was crazy fun.  Did you know that fans throw beer into the air after each score during DC United soccer games?  Yeah, me either.  They do.  (Pro tip: do not wear your suit to the game even if you are going after work.  Dry-cleaning is expensive.)

blog photo soccer game

 

I ate a lot of not-so-great restaurant food, but I also enjoyed some pretty yummy DC meals during my lengthy hotel stay.  For example, have you ever eaten a scotch egg?  It’s a soft-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, and then breaded and deep fried.  I think.  I tried this one at the Copperwood Tavern in Shirlington (Arlington), Virginia.  It was delicious.

scotch eggs copperwood tavern

 

During the rare minutes I wasn’t working or traveling this summer, I mostly (a) went to dinner with friends or (b) watched Netflix in my hotel room.  But one weekend when H was in town we drove out to Theodore Roosevelt Island for a little wilderness.  Did you know that even though they drained all of the water out of the fountains on Theodore Roosevelt Island and closed the island’s bathrooms for repair, the landmark is beautiful in a weirdly Soviet way?  It needs a lot of love and attention and Teddy deserves better.  I was excited to finally visit the Island and — disappointment all around.

Eagle Island

 

I took a four-day weekend over the Fourth of July and flew to Chicago to drive to Detroit to spend the weekend with extended inlaws.  I caught two huge fish and one tiny perch and bought my own fishing pole (named Ice) and a camo fishing hat from Bass Pro Shops.  It was potentially the best weekend ever.

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This summer I also saw two pretty cool people get married, ate a TON of Kansas City barbecue, went to brunch with some pretty fabulous people (really, tons of Brunch.  That’s my kind of summer.), and learned a lot at work.  After 60 days away, I’m feeling pretty comfortable in my skin and more confident about what I want out of my life.  Which is to say, a cool job is cool but it isn’t enough.

 

AND THEN I came home.  It was beautiful.  I crashed the first night in Chicago and then got to work, making our two-bedroom condo overlooking the city mine.  My return home was one year after our move to Chicago (weird how anniversaries work, isn’t it?) and only a few days before our fourth wedding anniversary, and I didn’t want to enter this new year without fully unpacking from our move and settling into our space.  We still had a few boxes of photographs and art pieces that needed to be hung, and we had crammed all of our excess belongings into the guest room closet (seriously, it was treacherous), and it was time to dig in and clean out.  We made a huge contribution to Goodwill and have a few more furniture pieces headed that way next week.

 

I built these flower boxes on my balcony when I got back to Chicago.  And by built, I mean I purchased them from Home Depot and encouraged my husband while he attached them to our balcony with screws.  But I planted them myself and so far only 1 out of 10 of these plants is showing signs of death.  And only a slight shade of death, so that’s a pretty successful planting experience for this black thumbed girl.

flower boxes

 

Here is a photo of my beautiful clean kitchen.  I emptied every cabinet, dusted and cleaned, scrubbed the appliances, rearranged our dishware and even set up a cookbook display to add some extra color.  It doesn’t look exactly like this every day, but we are trying to maintain.

clean kitchen blog

 

And, while cleaning and sorting and donating has taken up a lot of my non-work minutes, we’ve also made sure to spend a little time out in the city.  Chicago is a beautiful place to live, and I’m so happy to be home.

chicago love

Today’s post is part of Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into Link-Up.  To join the link-up or check out other posts, please click here.

 

Pressing Reset

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I love to work. I feel pride when I create an excellent product, or write a smart and convincing paragraph, or (more recently) learn a trick in Excel that allows me to sort efficiently through data to find fact-based answers instead of opinions or conjecture.

I feel most like myself when I’m working well. While I don’t live to work exactly, I do gain a lot of personal fulfillment from my career. When I’m putting in a lot of hours or trudging through a difficult project (like I am now, with a dark and twisty project I am managing that sometimes feels like it is managing me), it is easy for me to flip to the dark side. I can begin to despair: I am terrible and worthless and stupid and eventually they will notice and my career will be over. Which, as a side note, might be because smart girls are socialized to believe they received innate smartness at birth instead of learning that good results are achieved through hard work.

Have you been here too? Have you obsessed over the tiniest details of your workload on a Saturday afternoon while going through the motions of a weekend shopping trip? Do you stare out the window of the car mentally re-hashing a meeting or remembering things you should have or could have done while the other passengers are jamming out to AC/DC? (You do still jam out to AC/DC, right? There really is no better driving music.) Have you spent too many evenings in a row, crashing on the sofa after dinner and binge-watching television that really isn’t that interesting (I’m looking at you, The Killing) so you don’t have to think or talk or decide anything?

When over-focused on work results, I begin to slip out of my personal life. I lose track of time, or forget things I would otherwise always remember. I recognize it quickly, but sometimes it takes me a few weeks to take action. (Once I act, I always feel really stupid for waiting so long.) When the working is too big and the living is too small, what I really need is to create something beautiful.

The underlying problem of it all is that I’ve forgotten to do the things that make me feel alive and proud in my non-work hours. When work demands a lot, it is too easy to give up writing time, blogging time, photography or reading or biking or yoga classes. But I’m learning that it is precisely those things that I often consider selfish or unnecessary extras that keep me alive.  To bake bread, plan a delicious dinner party, browse a used book store or plan a trip or choose a new fall color scheme for this space.

When work gets hard, I must force myself to remember what is so easy to forget: I get to choose what I do, what I value, and where I focus. This week, I choose to live a beautiful life.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 8.23.2014

Five Things New

It’s been a long time, my friends.  I have SO MANY links that I’ve saved to share here, but let’s start with five.  Because that’s the way this works, right?  Right.

  1. Justice for Michael Brown Rests Almost Entirely in the Hands of One Man, by Professor Angela J. Davis for The New Republic.  Also, Greg Howard with America is Not for Black People; Men without a Country: Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, My Father and Me, by Arthur Chu; Austin Channing in Black Bodies White Souls.   (Okay, so clearly we are going to have more than five links.)
  2. How to Be a Good Dinner Guest, at Dinner: A Love Story.
  3. We Need to Talk More about Melinda Gates, at Penelope Trunk Blog.
  4. Carpe the Hell out of your Diem, by Caris Adel.  Also, Nish Wieseth in Thoughts on Depression, Suicide, and Being a Christian.
  5. 45 Ways to Avoid Using the Word “Very”, from Amanda Patterson at Writers Write.