This is a Stick:

 

Courtesy of boggletheowl.tumblr.com

Boggle the Owl

 

I have *always* hated the term “a cry for help”.
It’s demeaning, dismissive, and in the end? Utterly UNhelpful.
This comic is right on the money.

Quiet:

 

Sorry I’ve been all neglect-y for a bit.
There’s been a lot going on,
while simultaneously having nothing going on.

Amazing, that.

The wedding plans are still on for February.

I’m moving.

I haven’t been able to make Good Art (sorry, Mr. Gaiman).

Planning for LauraJane’s baby shower.

Mostly holding together.

 

One of the things that I find confusing
is that for someone who has never really been ambitious,
career-wise,
losing my job (four times now)
makes me feel more pointless, worthless, and stupid
than any other disaster that has wandered my way.

I’m just afraid that I’ll be under or unemployed
until I hit my 40s,
at which point no one will ever want to hire me
because I will be Too Damn Old,
and there will be approximately 1.5 billion 20-year-olds
willing to work longer hours for less pay for any job I may be interested in.

 

Does anyone else feel like this?

 

ps (We are still doing Crossfit–I’ve just been losing my little post-it notes that have our WODs written on them…)

Yes:

 

“Maybe we visited a place so dark that we couldn’t see anything but the trauma or our loved one’s absence and maybe when we came back, part of that place stuck to us like a layer of soot across our eyes. Or an iron weight in our throat. A shadow that filters how we feel and think about the world, tinging everything with shades of gray.”

Nudes:

 

My former and dear professor, Dr. Horner,
posted a painting on his Facebook homepage,
with this fascinating quote about reflection in art:

 

“I do not know why painted things have so much grace in the mirror. It is marvellous how every weakness in a painting is so manifestly deformed in a mirror…” Leon Battista Alberti, 1435, ‘Della Pittura’ (‘On Painting’)

 

"Woman Standing in Front of Mirror" - Christoffer Wilhem Eckerserg

 

And oh,
the sturm und drang that ensued over the nudity,
and how “I don’t want to see this on my Facebook feed!”
and “She’s not my wife! Therefore I cannot look upon her nakedness!”

It was all terribly overwrought,
and one person started making …nasty… cracks about the conservative protestors,
and the protestors got all self-righteous in response…
Just kinda…gross, all told.

 

And here is what I don’t understand about some of my fellow Christians:

If something bothers you,
or moves you towards temptation,
or leads your mind and body towards sin,
avoid it.
Don’t do it.
If it crops up on a friend’s blog, facebook page, or newsfeed,
remove yourself from the situation.

If you are in a close relationship with said friend,
talk to them about it.
Maybe they can censor their posts so that you will not see them
(I already do this for several of my more conservative friends).

But if you are in the position of being a “weaker brethren”,
understand that the onus is on YOU to take charge of your own weaknesses.
You cannot expect everyone around you–if they are not close to you–to know that drinking or nudity in art or yoga or strong language or or dancing or certain movies or amillenialism causes you to stumble.

If you need to,
remove yourself from the situation.

Be nice about it,
and you will find that most folks are far more willing to be sensitive to your needs.

 

On the converse side,
it is difficult to be understanding of a friend who isn’t
comfortable with something.
I am, frankly, terrible at this.

Partially,
it’s a push-back against the prudish behavior that I grew up with.
Partially,
it’s a push-back against my own uncomfortableness with my body.
Often,
I am just unaware that someone might be uncomfortable
with what I’m saying or doing
(Really! I’m usually oblivious! And I’m trying to be better with this, I promise).
It is my responsibility to pay attention to the people I love
and to respond to their needs,
regardless of my personal opinion or belief.

And?

That goes both ways.

As Christians,
we are called to have compassion on each other.
We are called to submit to each other in love.

Teetotalers need to play nice with Wine-drinkers.
Wine-drinkers need to play nice with Teetotalers.

Both ways.
Ambivalence.
Compassion.

 

But getting back to that particular painting…
I believe there is value in celebrating the human form–
even in this fallen, broken state.
I love beautiful nudity in art,
and I believe it is wonderful
(and this painting is absolutely breathtaking.
Look at the light, the shadow, how natural her gesture is,
how the painter let us see a tiny, sunlit moment…it is glorious).

I also believe that it can be abused–
that art can be titillating instead of sublime.
And that those lines are very, very fuzzy.

The intention of the artist matters–
the approach of the viewer matters.

But I do not believe that it is acceptable for a Christian
to blindly suppose that their own particular struggles
should be the burden of all Christians,
nor is it okay to make a sin where there is simply…
struggle.

 

Life is hard enough.
Vive l’Grace of Christ,
and also:

Don’t fight with strangers.
It’s bad form.

More Book-ity-Books:

I was trying to remember what all I’ve read in January and February,
and I know I’m coming up short by two or five books.

But here’s what I’ve got so far,
with blurbs on the books that needed blurbing:

 

January:

Faithful Place, Tana French
A continuation of her Irish detective series (In the Woods, The Likeness),
French delves into the history of a secondary character–Frank Mackey–
from those novels.
Her prose is, per usual, well-crafted, but I found myself wishing for the authenticity of the female narrator in The Likeness instead.

We’ll Always Have Paris, Ray Bradbury

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

Best American Short Stories, 2007, ed. Stephen King
A fantastic collection. King knows how to pick compelling stories.
His introduction, which is actually a defense of the short story
as a lasting literary form, is pure genius.

Savvy, Ingrid Law
YA fiction, and quite enjoyable. The characters are true and sympathetic,
and the small romances that blossom in the narrative completely avoid schlock,
which is refreshing from a YA author.

Dust of 100 Dogs, A.S. King
Meh. A great initial idea–a young female pirate is cursed to live the life of
100 dogs before returning to her human form–
but the idea gets lost in repetition and tired, quasi-feminist rants.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
So very lovely. And so very sad. The essential concept is that a young girl can detect emotions through food–
whatever the cook was feeling, she can sense it.
Which makes for awkward high-school lunches.

The Writing on my Forehead, Nafisa Haji

Unexpected Magic, Diana Wynne Jones
Her short stories were a bit of a letdown
after the magnificence that is Howl’s Moving Castle.

Best American Short Stories, 2002, ed. Sue Miller

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Safran Foer
Man, I dislike this genre.
It’s this dreadful combination of confessional, solipsistic over-sharing that sometimes feels like the author just slapped his LiveJournal into a bound book.

That said, there are moments of greatness. Foer has two parallel narratives running in this novel, and all the best bits are from the story of the protagonist’s grandparents. Through their marriage, they begin dividing up their home into sections of existence and nothing–their unwillingness to be open with each other is what leads eventually to their grandson wandering off on a ridiculous quest throughout New York, looking for an answer to why his father died in the WTC towers on 9/11.

The protagonist himself, a nine-year-old flea named Oskar, is a pompous twit,
and frankly, everything he does is boring.

That’s really all I can say about him.

Foer also thinks it’s clever to have pages and pages of numbers instead of text, as seen when the grandfather loses his ability to speak.
(that may have been interesting when Coupland did it in 1995’s Microserfs.
It’s just laziness now. )

Foer is liberal, elitist, Jewish-when-it’s-convenient, and boy, does it show;
the story is not about poor Oskar Schell and poor ignorant Americans
and how innocence is lost and we are all insignificant, alas!
It’s about Foer and his desire to be an Important Writer of Important Writings.

Raised by Manhattan Progressives, indeed.

(My opinion may be a bit controversial, but I promise, it ain’t just me:
Extremely Cloying , Terror Comes to Tiny Town )

February:

The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd
Disappointing.

Magic for Marigold, LM Montgomery
Montgomery is my go-to for days when everything is bleak.

Boy, Roald Dahl
Remind me to never send my children to a British boarding school.

Horns, Joe Hill
Man, he has style.
Hill is always a compelling read, and like his dad, Stephen King, he manages to touch on philosophical/theological debates without preaching.
I don’t agree with the particular philosophy he presents (that good and evil are the two halves of a coin, or in this case, a person),
but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a good novel.

Currently Reading:

Julian, Gore Vidal
Interesting history. Floppy prose.
Seriously, if it takes me more than a month to read your 400 page novel,
you are doing something wrong.

Atonement, Ian McEwan
So far, not terribly impressed.

Master & Commander, Patrick O’Brian
I need a naval dictionary.
No, really.

Admit It:

You have a least one completely, utterly, unabashedly ridiculous thing you wish for in a husband/wife.

I think we all do.

 

Mine?

Legion.

 

But among them,
I have this spectacularly obtuse desire to marry a wealthy man.

The kind of guy who drives a fancy car.
(even though I mock them on the freeway)

The kind of guy who doesn’t bat an eye at a $400 dinner for two.
(even though I would have a brain hemorrhage from that kind of frivolity)

 

I think a great deal of that stems from this last while of being
unemployed, necessarily frugal and scared.
Even though I know (I know!) that wealth does not mean happiness,
and even the most wealthy can lose every penny,
I just…long for tangible security, I s’ppose.

 
 
So there’s my ricockulousness.

What are yours?

(re)Test:

A year ago,
I turned down a fairly lucrative job possibility at UCLA.

It was for their stem cell research department.
I asked if they used adult stem cells,
but no,
it was all embryonic.

I walked away from that possibility
because I knew I couldn’t stand before God
and admit to being a part of killing children
just because I was afraid I couldn’t pay the rent.

And I’ve been able to pay my rent,
in spite of that
(because of that?)
decision.

One week ago,
I got a call to interview with a company called Break Media.

I called The Boyo,
excited to have an interview after so many months without one.

He looked up the company.

And I heard hesitation in his voice.

They’re a company that “knows guys”.
Because “guys” flock in droves to their sites,
Holyta*co being my favorite example of the unapologetic misogyny they represent.

If I took this job,
I would lose any right I have to speak up about
unfair representation of women in the media.
I would be a part of the industry that contributes to
my eating disorder on a regular basis.
I would be a part of pretending that it’s “normal” for guys to behave like animals.

It isn’t.

And that’s probably the most insulting part of this company’s M.O.–
it would almost be better if they were *actually* dealing in porn,
instead of dismissing their onslaught of photos and videos of girls in
compromising clothing and positions as “boys will be boys”.

That’s a lie.

Boys can be Men.

If I took that job,
I would never be able to ask that of any man I love or care for.

What went through my head as I found out more about this company was something like this:

“Again?

Another job possibility I can’t follow up on for reasons of morality?

But I passed this test!
Why must I take it again?”

I didn’t understand.
I don’t understand.

I know that God’s ways are mysterious,
but sometimes?

I wish He would pull back the curtain,
just a little.

One of the hardest bits of this whole hellish year
has been feeling as though I have to bite my tongue–
I’m healthy.
I have a roof over my head,
clothes on my back,
shoes I can hock if I need to,
amazing friends who have covered my ass in more ways than
I could possibly count.

When I think about what Friend Mary went through–
cancer-losing-her-house-in-a-fire-chronic-pain-surgeries-surgeries…
my problems are so…beige.

But that doesn’t make the hurt
and the disappointment any easier to bear.

There are a few ordeals that happened this year
that I still don’t talk about with anyone, really.

It just feels like one test
after another
after another,
and no matter whether I make good decisions,
right decisions,
decisions that continue to imperil me on the graces of
unemployment and uncertainty,
the tempest still comes.

It is a hard hard thing to realize
that happiness is not my inalienable right.

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