Category: Issues and Current Events

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?


Getting Over My Giant Failure Complex

It’s a little embarrassing how many times I’ve written this to you, how many ways I’ve slid references to my giant failure complex into blog posts without really addressing it. I’ve made bold claims that I’m going to stop thinking of myself as a failure and start loving the life I’m currently living in a dozen half-hearted ways, but so far I’m still just rocking back and forth on life’s teeter totter: At the top, I am so ridiculously relieved that I am working (because others I love aren’t) and that I have a healthy work-life balance and that my job is mostly fun and engaging, but when the see-saw rocks downward I remember that I thought I would be doing something different.

The “L” word still makes me feel like a loser.

I know in my heart that I am where I need to be, but I have to remind myself all the time that this life I’m living is something to celebrate, not something to mourn. Sometimes I have to say it to friends and have them say it back to me, to tell me it’s okay.  I know that I’m not the only one, but I often feel alone with this. I fold this idea into so much of my blogging because, while this blog is many things to me and hopefully a few things to you, its chief purpose right now is to remind me that life is beautiful and fun and it’s okay to just be who you are I am right now.

I loved law school. I’m not one to say “Oh, it was so hard and I’m so glad it is over,” and I’ve never regretted attending. It was one of the best things I’ve ever committed to doing. It made me smarter and more attentive and a better person. Even now, while I’m not practicing, I still did all of the things to be a licensed attorney and I can go back to being a “real” lawyer whenever I want to, if I ever really want to.

I’m getting tired of trying so hard to convince myself that I am awesome and that I am making a real difference by working hard for my country.  I am already doing these things and it’s become a bit of a broken record for me (and I’m sure not all that interesting for you, my friends). I’d like for this to become a non-issue for me, but it may be a few more months or years before I can really settle into owning my own life and living it for myself. I struggle to surpass expectations that don’t actually exist.

But I think for recovering people-pleasers and perfectionists like me, we often feel like posers in our late twenties. We’re wearing the hats and carrying big titles on freshly minted business cards but are we really good enough to hold this much responsibility? Friends from school are carrying the lives and hopes and dreams of two, or three, or four children already and I can’t imagine ever being qualified for such a hard and important job. Do you ever really feel like you know how to be a mother, a manager, a professor or scholar, or do you just jump in, throwing ideas at the wall, hoping something sticks? I’m always afraid that someone will look over and see that I’m really not as awesome as everyone thinks.  I wonder, if they knew how much television I watched in the evenings, and how rarely I finish the books I’m always buying, if they would still want me to mentor their students, or file their taxes, or write their reports.

I paid real cash monies to register for a faith and writing conference in Grand Rapids in April. And I’ve decided that I don’t want to go to this conference feeling that I’m not qualified to be there. I don’t want to awkwardly shift on my feet or avoid meeting interesting people because when they say “Oh, I write a blog about faith and life and my book is being published in October,” and then ask about me, I don’t have a good enough answer. I want to do whatever it takes before I pick up my rental car and drive two hours and forty-seven minutes around the bottom of Lake Michigan so that, when I step out of my car and into the conference, I believe I am a “real” writer and I believe that I am qualified to engage, network, discuss, and struggle with them to create beautiful sentences.

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 20, is the first of fifty days before my conference begins. This may be a rough-and-tumble sort of commitment, but I’ll be doing “the things that writers do” for each of these fifty days so that I can step into the Grand Rapids community with a few pages I can be proud of, with a project I can discuss, or at the very least with the confidence that I certainly belong at the table. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, but I’m starting this effort off with a Story Sessions writing boot camp and I’ve been thinking a bit about what I want this to journey to include. I have a working list, but before I put it out into the internet world I wanted to hear from you: what do you recommend? What makes you feel like a “real” writer, or a “real” professional, or a “real” mom, instead of just a poser? What gives you confidence in your calling?  

Check Out My Bookshelf: A Link-Up!

Today I’m sharing my bookshelf, as part of a link-up of bloggers who love books.  Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote that she loves to see others’ bookshelves, that it helps her find common ground with the people in her life.  I’m excited about participating in this link-up because I agree that what people read, and which books they hold on to, says a lot about them.  I’m looking forward to checking out the submissions!

Personally, I hate letting go of a book.  I want to SAVE THEM ALL forever.  I have this fear that I’ll want to quote something I read and won’t be able to find the right book.  As if any day now I could be asked to prepare an essay on literature or history to save my life or the lives of others.  I know it’s not a realistic worry, but I still struggle to let them go.  I want to own all of the books since my brain cannot hold all of the knowledge.

The most embarrassing part of that struggle is that many of the books I’ve picked up over the years because I wanted to “read” them and “know” the contents, I haven’t actually gotten around to reading.  I want to have all of the important books, but  I will often choose to spend my free time watching a movie or going shopping.  The books I want to know and understand are meaty and intense, but my brain gets used up at work and these books that I want to soak up and study and understand just sit, unloved, on the shelf.

Since we’ve just moved, my bookshelves make absolutely no sense.  I’ve packed the books in any-which-way just so they aren’t in boxes.  It’s amazing how many books can fit on a shelf if you don’t care at all how it looks.  Here’s a snapshot into my bookshelf:

Top Shelf

The top shelf is crammed full.  As I unpacked, I stacked books on the top shelf first, so most of my favorites are on this level.  These books are nearly all mine, if we ignore H’s Michael Crichton sitting in the bottom right corner.  Some highlights from this shelf include:

  • Christy, Catherine Marshall.  Favorite childhood book.
  • My dad’s copy of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand.
  • Two books from my freshman Honors course, neither of which I have finished:  Consilience, Edward O. Wilson, and The Great Chain of Being, Arthur O. Lovejoy. I’m actually a huge fan of The Great Chain of Being even though I haven’t completed it, because it traces the history of an idea back to a place I didn’t think it would go.  It’s dense and boring, though, so hard to consume.  I read it a lot while flying back and forth to Minnesota to visit H last summer.
  • Canterbury Tales, a few history books from college, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.
  • A bright yellow copy of Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist.  Loving it.

Shelf 2

This shelf has a pretty strong mix of H’s books (do you see the Book of Basketball?  The Life of Reilly?).  It also has some Harry Potter, a Marketing Textbook, and the last Twilight book.  In the top left corner is the biography of Chuck Norris that a sweet friend gave me as a gift.  Because Chuck Norris is awesome.

  • Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.
  • Gerald Rosenberg’s The Hollow Hope.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

shelf 3

The third shelf is an interesting mix of elements of my life.  You’ll see several philosophy textbooks (something I want to study further so didn’t sell back after college), two favorite history textbooks, a Norman Shield from my days as a sorority Chapter Advisor, and the Hunger Games trilogy.  Also stuck in there:

  • Harmon’s Handbook for Literature.
  • Pat Robertson’s The Ten Offenses.  Opposition research.
  • Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (I love this book, and the movie was beautiful!).
  • Jon Meachum’s The American Gospel — a recent favorite, which I highly recommend.

Well, that’s it!  If you’d like to share your own bookshelf, or if you’d like to read through all of the posts and find some new favorite books or favorite bloggers, check out the link-up at  [I’ll update this link once the link-up goes live.]  UPDATE:  Link-up Here!  

Not Working is Ruining Everything

So I had this plan:

Work hard, work a lot, retire young, do whatever I want all day long.

After more than a week of doing whatever I want all day, I really just want to go back to work.  I still wake up between 6:15 and 7:00 to watch the morning news.  I drink coffee in my pajamas waiting for some kind of news — anything, really, that is different from what they said the day before.  When Chuck Todd comes on, I try to find something productive to do — something like taking a shower or eating breakfast.

I check my emails and continuously refresh the Washington Post website and flip on CSPAN.  Nothing is more disappointing than watching people who are elected to represent you and your neighbors say things that cannot possibly be true.  It cannot possibly be 100% X’s fault and also 100% Y’s fault without someone being incorrect.  I do not understand how no one answers questions or tells the whole truth.  Direct questions do not receive direct answers.  The same history of events is told completely differently by people who were there together.  Do we not have cameras filming all the time?  It sure feels like we do.  Can someone not just rewind CSPAN and say “Actually, team, this is what happened, and you didn’t really make any sense then, so you might not want to keep bringing that up?”

After an hour or so of checking emails, texting, facebooking, or tweeting friends, reading all of the blogs in my reader, I’m sick of the nonsense and edit a chapter of a friend’s manuscript.  It’s really a great manuscript, and I am excited to see the final product whenever it is ready.  I write a few paragraphs of something too, but find myself easily distracted and struggle to see purpose.  What is there to write when everything is insane?  I had feelings about these things once, proud feelings about our country’s ability to keep getting better and my choice to be a part of that — but now I just hate feelings and hate thinking and am blocking it out with fall TV premieres. I’m going to write a post for you telling you which shows you should be watching because if anyone knows which new shows are good, I do.  I’ve seen them all.

I will be accompanying my husband to a business dinner tonight.  So I’ll be dressing professionally, applying make-up, and styling my hair for the first time in days.  It’s a good thing I grabbed my nude work heels when I left work last Tuesday, just in case I needed them while I was at home.  I usually keep them in a filing cabinet along with a spare toothbrush and some mints.  Business dinners are hard enough for me, an introvert who’s always been committed to public service making small talk with people who think nothing of giving a $500 bonus to employees for a good job on a single project.  I cannot even imagine getting a bonus for doing a good job.  I’ve been doing a great job this year and my reward was to lose an entire week’s worth of pay from Sequestration. But what exactly will I be able to talk about now?  Certainly not work.

banana bread

I know — I can talk to them about the beautiful loaf of Banana Bread I baked yesterday.  It has a streusel topping, and I cooled it completely before wrapping it and placing it in the freezer.  I can talk to them about the three pounds of meatballs I squished and shaped from breakfast sausage, ground turkey, and ground beef.  I made my own breadcrumbs and these meatballs are pretty dang fantastic.  I wrapped them up and put them in the freezer as well.  I can tell them about my friend’s manuscript — that being a school teacher is dangerous, and important, and scary and hard.

What I want to tell them is the important work I am doing to make America a better, safer place for our children to grow up.  Unfortunately that isn’t what I’ve been doing.

Status Update: Hobby Lobby, Corporations, and Religious Expression

In January of this year, I wrote in a moment of frustration that my newsfeed was full of America Hates Christians Because: Hobby Lobby posts, and articulated my position that the Constitution doesn’t say you get to do whatever you want to and don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.

In comments on the blog and on other social media sites, we discussed the difference between a person – who eats and sleeps and feels and thinks and believes – and a company/corporation, which is a legal entity that isn’t necessarily able to eat or sleep or feel or think or believe in all contexts.  And I explained that people have religious beliefs and religious expressions, but that I wasn’t so sure that companies do and if they did, I wasn’t sure how they would be evaluated by the court system.  I believe it is important to tell whole stories, and this story has changed a bit over the last ten months, so I am here to give you a little more information. 

Since I published that post, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that for-profit corporations can be “persons” who exercise religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that Free Exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.  (See page 26 of the opinion.)  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals went the other way on a similar case brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties, a woodworking company owned by a Mennonite family, concluding that “for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise.”  (See the entire opinion here.)

Thus, we’re headed for the Supreme Court to answer the question.  After reading some legal scholarship on the issue, I’m a bit more convinced that this could work – that, at least academically, a for-profit corporation could assert a free exercise claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  In the context of corporate rights and freedoms, I agree that it seems weird to treat for-profit corporations differently from non-profit corporations (a.k.a. churches) in this regard.  I still feel uncomfortable with the idea that a corporation can have religious beliefs (Hobby Lobby the company certainly cannot walk down the aisle and be born again according to my understanding of Christianity!), but that does not prevent me from recognizing the argument as valid.

I think this discussion is incredibly interesting and I’m following it here-and-there to see what happens next.  If you’d like to follow it also, I recommend Volokh Conspiracy’s coverage as they usually cover both sides of the argument in an intelligent way, and SCOTUSblog for scheduling and the Court’s opinions.  Nothing is showing up for me on the Court’s calendar just yet.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week

Five Awesome things photo

On Growing Up

The Huffington Post’s 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  How many times have we heard this about unnecessary apologizing?  And I still do it.  Do you?

On Networking and Professional Dressing

Lydia Dishman for Fast Company asking Do Dress Codes at the Office Work?  For me, dressing for success is more about dressing well and feeling awesome, not dressing in a certain style.  So, good-fitting denim, a stylish blouse and heeled boots make up my go-to Getting All The Things Done outfit.  I am a powerhouse of productivity on Casual Fridays.

Keith Lee’s Natural Networking: Business Development On Your Terms provides tips for expanding your network successfully without selling out.  [Skip the beginning and start reading right under the GIF.  First few paragraphs are a bit meh.]  A quick summary:  just do stuff you like and tell people who you are; connections that develop organically are still connections.

On Adoption Ethics and How We Can Help Better

Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan wrote an excellent piece critiquing orphan care as the solution to poverty.  It is really amazing and I think everyone in the entire world should read it.  Check out How the Christian orphan care movement may be enabling child abandonment.

On the Government Shutdown and Being a Better Citizen

The Shriver Brief’s post describing how important the federal government is to housing in America, and detailing struggles that could result from a [further] extended government shutdown.  Check out Jeremy Bergstrom’s Government Shutdown Hits Close to Home for Millions of Americans.

And even if politics and government subsidies aren’t your thing, I’m so impressed by The Bloggess’s WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT.  Let’s all get busy making America a country to be proud of, starting right where we are.  Here’s one way we can do that, provided by Kid President.

Thanks for reading!  And, I’ll admit it:  it was actually six links plus a video, but I’m allowed to break the rules on my own blog!  Feel free to share other awesome things you’ve been reading in the comments.


Stand Up While #Shutdown

061* This is a photo of a pirate ship because I can do whatever I want. 

I.  The Good. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about making this space a larger priority in my life.  These days, so much has been going on and so much has been changing that I’ve avoided writing because any true sentences would probably start and end with “everything is weird and I have no idea how things are going.”

But then I thought it might be time to take up a writing challenge, like writing 100 poems with each line starting with the letter “L,” or a month of daily postings like I did last November, or signing on for this #31Days thing that people are talking about on twitter.  It’s good to have a challenge, you know, and it’s good to commit to something that is good for you, even if you aren’t really sure how it will turn out.

And then America was like “Great Idea, we’ll make it super easy for you:  just stop coming to work indefinitely.”  Thanks, country/employer for verifying that writing more was the right thing to do.

II. The Unfortunate.

It’s so close to the dream, that it is almost hard to complain.  As of today, and for an unknown number of days moving forward, my time is completely in my own control.  I can write at home or from a coffee shop or from basically any place I might want to go, with no rules and no dress code. If I feel like baking cookies or bread or going for a walk or perusing a Chicago-area museum, I can.  The world is mine for the taking – except.  Except I am losing my paycheck each day I’m out of work; except the work I should be doing and that I care about very much is not getting done.

So let me tell you right now:  this is not the dream I had in mind.

III. The Wish.

I could make a lot of comments about how low-income families need government services or about how government workers need their paychecks because MORTGAGES and TUITION PAYMENTS and FOOD IS EXPENSIVE, but if you already think those things matter, my words here won’t change your mind, and if you don’t think those things matter, my words here won’t change your mind either.

However, my colleagues and friends are facing a serious fear because they don’t know by what amount their pay checks will be reduced, and they aren’t sure they will be able to meet their personal financial obligations.  Please try to avoid laughing and belittling that fear the way a Member from my home state just did on national television.  I cannot believe the future of our country lies in the hands of those who represent us so well they laugh publicly at our misfortune, and I long for a time when enough people will find such behavior unacceptable that it is no longer tolerated.  

IV. The Promise.

Regardless of my feelings about being unexpectedly free to write, I am free and I am going to write.  I will not give up this opportunity because it is wrapped in unfortunate circumstances.  And so I will be here, and elsewhere, thinking and dreaming and writing.  I may bake a fancy cake or learn to knit or sew a quilt or practice scales on my guitar until my fingers bleed.  Because while this extended lunch break is certainly not the dream, I’m going to make it count.