Category: Politics

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.

Oh my gosh, you guys…

I have something exciting to share! If you’ll remember way back to my “What I learned” post in early December, I committed to a few goals for this space and for myself as a writer. It’s taken a little time, but I’ve hit one of those goals in a big way: I’ve engaged with an online community about something I care deeply about, and as a result I’ve written a guest post on the topic which is posted on a “real” blog. An issues blog, the kind of blog that is deep and moving and serious and the kind of things I want to write about when I “grow up” as a writer.

Seriously, I am so pumped about this and I would love for you to click this link to read it! The series is entitled “Questions of Travel,” and it’s a collection of experts who have gone into “othered” cultures (think: poverty, cultural differences, racial divides, the bad side of globalization, that scary part of town where you won’t go alone, etc.) and talk about the ethical and human rights aspects of this work in a very personal, revealing way. I’ve been learning a TON as I read through the different perspectives, including to be careful how I tell stories and to watch the way I may be “other”-ing people in my own life.

And as you guys know, I’m not an expert on any of these things. . . But I’m kind of an expert on feeling confused about what to do about these things [and other things, while we are at it]. And so that’s what my guest post is all about.

If you have a story to tell where you’ve experienced “other”-ing (on the giving or the receiving ends of this), or if you have ideas for the way we should be talking about these issues, feel free to leave a comment on that page or right here. Even if your vantage point for missional living is different from J.R.’s (or mine), I hope you share my belief that we are doing something right when we talk about respecting others as we try to better our world community.

Thanks for your support as I out myself with my “real” name and my open [often confused] heart.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week: Second Edition

Five Awesome Things I Read This Week copy

  1. All of the beautiful, wonderful, encouraging comments that hundreds of you left on my blog last Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Wow. It was so nice clicking over from the blog to see your content and find connections, and that’s something I’ll be doing a lot more, especially over the Christmas holiday while I have a few days to myself away from working and such. Thank you.
  2. Stop Asking Women Why They Haven’t Gotten Ahead, a post by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. The author notes that asking people who haven’t gotten ahead to explain why they haven’t gotten ahead is pretty ridiculous — the real experts on job advancement are those who have advanced, so executives should stop passing the buck on these issues.
  3. Something delicious? THIS cocktail recipe. And THESE cookies. I’m planning on making both this week. Welcome to DC, H’s little brother S, we will feed you delicious delicious things.
  4. Shame Is A Prison, And I’m Breaking Out, a collection of personal stories about women being silenced by their pastors through shaming techniques meant to “correct.” The comments are really powerful, as is the grace the author shows to what many would label plain-old oppression. It’s hard to believe, but it is true.

  5. And I’m not sure if this counts, but I just want to throw it out there — my book signing last night with Louis Masur at the Lincoln Cottage was amazing! I haven’t read the book yet since I just purchased it, but Dr. Masur was incredibly entertaining and spoke with purpose [especially given the fact that there was a huge hot light in his eyes the entire time] and made me SO excited about America. H and I are going to see Lincoln (the movie) tonight and then I’m going to read Lincoln’s Hundred Days and tell you all about it. So get excited.

Have a wonderful weekend and if you are reading anything interesting, let me know! I’m always looking for new items to add to my list.