Sunday, April 29, 2007

When reality TV goes right...right into your own psyche

I like the show, Little People Big World. I like it because it's first a show about people, a family, that is done in a true documentary way. There isn't any interference from the show makers to create some lively drama, no artificial situations...or at least it doesn't appear to be. I like it second because it's a show that teaches me about a way of life I wouldn't otherwise know anything about.

I find myself alternately surprised to consider something little people have to face and sympthetic because I know how something feels (e.g., parenting issues, life situations, remodeling challenges, time management and balancing acts, etc.).

If the Roloffs' intent was to demonstrate that (and I loosely quote something repeated at the beginning of each show) little people can do everything anyone else can do, just in a different way, they've succeeded. If they want people to get to know them, and have the show morph from a program about little people into a program about people who happen to be little, then they've succeeded.

Still, I can't help but think that the lily is a little gilded.

In one program, the microphone caught some idle chatter that was troubling. Amy was hosting a post-preschool graduation reception at the gorgeous Roloff farm. One mother was describing her daughter's and her own first impressions of Amy, that is, Amy as a dwarf. The mother was using that light, jokey tone when she said, "She kept coming home telling me she was taller than her teacher, and I thought..." insert nervous laughter.

Amy said, "You thought..." and the mom interrupted and said, "She was..." Amy spoke, "Yes?" The mom laughed, somewhat nervously again, "I thought she was crazy or else her teacher was a..." And Amy said, "Little person. Excuse me." Amy walked away. Amy has a somewhat dry and practical tone most of the time, so it was pretty hard to tell what she thought.

I winced.

Good grief, what an odd conversation to choose to have with one's host. Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln's concept of, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

What possible purpose did that entire conversation serve?

Was it the height equivalent of, "Oh not to be racist but..."

Was the mom nervous? Ought I have pity for her (misguided) attempt to show she was acknowledging Amy's dwarfism but "cool" with it?

See, that sort of thing---joking like that---indicates to me that a person is not actually cool with it.

I don't make comments about height. It's a button for me. In fact, I don't like to make comments about the most obvious thing about anyone, not straightaway...especially about something that is simply how a person is made.

It's not usually very cool (who wants their most prominent feature--good or bad---immediately noted out loud, and commented upon?) and it's frequently teasing. I generally find teasing a vicious tool of bullying.

I doubt anyone would sanction a comment like, "Hey you must have a great sense of smell with a nose that big!" or "Hoo YA what a rack!" or "I bet you have no balance problems with those huge feet!"

Therefore, I don't think any conversation with another person---especially one you don't know well---needs to center around the most prominent physical feature of that person, even if done somewhat kindly.

A person's physical being is---although fairly available for public viewing---still a somewhat private thing. If we aren't close, and don't know one another well enough to know exactly where the bull's eye on the target is, then any comment on the physical---that being features of yourself that you cannot control, and were simply born with---have a high possibility of straying way off target, regardless of how it is intended.

Yeah, it's personal. As a woman who happens to be very tall (the exact opposite problem of Amy Roloff) I have no patience for the comments, nor do I have it for the commenters...who are typically men, and even more typically men shorter than me who lie about their height.

"How's the weather up there? Bwahahahaha."

"You must play basketball. Bwahahahahahaha."

"You're one long drink of water! Bwahahahahaha."

"How tall are you, anyway?"

"I guess you never get to wear high heels!"

"I feel so short next to you!"

And on and on.

For the record:

* The weather at 5'10" is the exact same as it is for you, at 5'7"

* I don't play basketball. It's not a lack of physical coordination or ability (I have been known to acquit myself fairly well); it is instead a total miss on the mentality required for competitive sports.

* I believe the average human is comprised of 60 percent water (70% of the brain, 90% of the lungs, and 83% of blood) and this is static regardless of height.

* I am exactly as tall as I am, as my genes designed me. If you must know more (and it is clear that you must), I am 5'10" and A HALF. Do you need to know my measurements, as well? You hand-tailoring clothing for me? Otherwise, I can't possibly imagine what business it is of are a man shorter than me and the next reply from you is, "NO WAY! I'm 6' and you are taller than me. You must be 6'4" AT LEAST!" In which case I say, "Sure...I must be 6'4" at least because you are definitely 6' tall. Sure. Okay. I'll make sure to notify my doctor at my next physical."

* I do wear high heels, however, as rarely as possible. They are uncomfortable, and don't work well with the reflexive sympathy dystrophy. When your nerves don't carry the appropriate messages and signals for your muscles, it can get a little dangerous to walk. High heels just make it worse. However, this isn't something I like to talk about. It's nearly impossible to explain without sounding like a shameless plea for pity. Or a conversation trump card: hello, I have a disability and don't you feel like shit now! Ha! Who wants to be that way. Not me. So then I'd have to go into the brave, brave me show and all the work and so forth I do to keep it managed. UGH. Just believe I am too ashamed to wear high heels since I am already so tall. Much easier.

* This one stumps me. Is this a problem? Do you want to go stand next to someone else?

In any case...I can't imagine why anyone would ever say anything like this.

I'm supposed to laugh, smile, play along, be a good sport because they don't (consciously) intend any harm, right? I usually do just laugh, smile, play along, be a good sport. Now and again, though, I'm in the wrong mood, or it's the wrong person, or the comment is so egregious that I respond with sarcasm. Instead of any kind of apology, all this nets me is, "Hey, you should take it as a compliment, a lot of people would kill to be so tall. You need to be okay about your height."

I am okay with my height, actually. I've lived long enough with it to see the pros. But, as with everything, there are cons, too, and it can be an aggravation. And these sorts of comments are one of the bigger ones.

And the notable absence of such on Little People Big World make me wonder. Has the show been sanitized? Or does it just not happen as much?

I don't get too many comments these days.

I'm not in school, going to clubs, or working in an office---the most likely places. But I'm also older, and it's post-PC.

Have most people cleaned up their acts?

Or have I just gotten better at avoiding Those Sorts in general, or does it roll off my back better so that I barely take note?

The truth is, no, my tallness isn't any kind of disability and I'm not even trying to compare it to dwarfism. I'm just saying that if we look within our own life it doesn't take much, I suspect, to find something to draw upon for a basis of understanding why one just would not make a joke about how someone looks, especially if it is out of the ordinary.

Differences aren't to be ignored as if they don't exist, but they aren't to be in the limelight either, as if it is the most prominent feature of the person within, just because it is the first thing you notice. It's not something to be studied or probed, joked about, or feared. I'd say see it, then look past it. Use intuition to determine how to proceed, and use good manners until you have enough information.

Two people have caused me to think long and hard about this: Matt Roloff and Rob R-H.

Rob is a blogger I've read for gosh, probably more than a decade. I found Rob's online journal when there weren't many online journals, and I read and kept reading as he detailed his life, all its changes, and his thoughts about the world. He's one of the most engaging writers I can think of. Rob has transitioned his journal many times, until now when it finally morphed into a blog called Schyler's Monster: The Blog. This blog---unlike his previous journals---focuses itself solely on his parenting. He had two recent posts---both very moving---about differences:

Fragile Innocence

Coffee Talk

One episode of Little People, Big World focused on Matt's nonprofit group, Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy. In the show, Matt was facilitating having CODA cover the legal fees for a family adopting a young boy with a type of dwarfism. Matt provided a tremendous amount of education about issues little people face in a world built for average height people and physical problems little people might have to deal with (such as this young boy who was on an oxygen tube). He was very inspirational about children with a form of dwarfism who seek families.

We never can walk in another person's shoes. So some toe-stepping is inevitable. I'm an insatiably curious person and trust me, I make many gaffes when my curiosity overwhelms my good manners and judgment.

Still, since I judged her, it's fair enough to ask me what I would have done in that mother's shoes when talking to Amy Roloff.

I hope I would be gracious and lovely, say something along the lines of, "Your farm is simply lovely. Thank for for sharing it with us for this special event. So wonderful...thank you."

But I might babble nervously about what struck me most, but in all sincerity that would be the fact that the teacher invited the entire class and families to her beautiful, dream of a farm. I promise you the foot in my mouth would more likely be, "Wow, it's just so awesome you invited everyone here. It's so beautiful. I would just be too overwhelmed to have so many people at my place, I don't know how you do it." I hope I'd stop before the last sentence, but you know, we all misstep now and again.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Friday, April 27, 2007

Justice and Forgiveness Roundtable Part II Update

There are a lot of excellent comments in the post for the roundtable and the links, so check it now and again for updates. Like this update:

I am thrilled to announce that LawyerMama has added her two cents:
LawyerMama wrote If Justice Is Blind, She's Also Deaf & Dumb

P.S. My new post for today is just under this one.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

What if it was about overconsumption instead of obesity?

Gwen recently wrote Blubber, a post that deals with perceptions and new tactics of dealing with obesity and weight.

She informed us about

a school district in Wyoming that has become aggressively involved in the health of its overweight students. The story led with a snippet about a sixth grade girl who is 5’2” and weighs 179 pounds***. When the school sent home information about her obesity and offered help in the form of an after school fitness and exercise program, her parents were offended. “Brittany has always been teased about being fat,” her mother responded. “And this didn’t help. And it’s not that she’s really that fat; she’s just large boned. We all are. This is Wyoming. We’re a meat and potatoes kind of family.” The school generated 200 letters that targeted overweight children; less than 25 families accepted the offers of help. One of the mothers who did respond positively said something like, “It’s not that I’m blind. I can see my child is overweight, but I don’t know what to do about it.”

I responded that I thought the action was inappropriate.

I'm not against educating for better health, and I strongly advocate for healthy living. I post my weight loss on my blog every week so clearly I don't believe in complacency when one is overweight.

However, the image this news story put in my head was one of teachers roaming elementary school halls looking for Fat Kids, writing their names on a little list, and turning it in the the principal, who had his secretary send out a "Your kid is FAT and here's what you should be doing to do better, including joining the Fat Kid Weight Loss Single Out Program After School," letter (created by the district--who might even get a list of the names too?). That sat...very badly with me.

Gwen challenged me with a question I didn't have time to answer before the conversation moved on...and anyway, if I have such a lengthy reply, might as well use my own real estate.

Her question was:

And I wonder if we framed the obesity question differently, if it would be less offensive to you, J. What if it became about overconsumption, as an economic and ethical issue, not a health or beauty one? What if someone said, you know, with food distribution inequities being what they are, is it really moral for a country such as the U.S. to consume so much of the world food supply? Would that change anything for you personally?

That's a great question and the overconsumption issue is valid, but honestly, another post altogether.

My problem---my "offense"---has little to do with addressing obesity. My issue is with the tactics we use to address it. My issue is with our perceptions and expectations of our body size. My issue is with the almost universally flawed self-image we all carry, or more to the point, the universally flawed image of how we ought to look that we carry.

First, let's do a little exercise. It's easy; no studying required. And you only have to answer in your own mind.

1. How much do you weigh?

2. What's your height?

3. Gender and age?

4. How much do you think you should weigh? How much do you want to weigh?

5. Where do you think your body size is in comparison to people your gender, age and height?

I think I am a little large. It's why I am losing weight. However, the truth is...I do fall in the healthy range. My ideal weight? Exactly where my target is: get ten more pounds off, maybe 15 if I want to be perfect (which I don't). I'm having a lot of trouble shedding the last ten. I suspect what I really need to do is cut out some of the treats I indulge in now and again and increase my exercise. But I'm healthy and I look fine, so to be honest, my motivation to shed those last ten isn't super high. I've already shed a solid 35 pounds. I was initially despondent when the scale froze: I hadn't hit goal. But other things have consumed my time and attention, it's allergy season when I feel like crap and by golly if a small cup of neopolitan ice cream gives me a momentary high then I'll take it, and maybe I'm not ambitious enough because so far "good enough for now" is suiting me. Plus, my friends? Who are way too nice? All tell me I look fabulous and think I am nuts to want to lose ten more pounds. They can't imagine, they tell me, where I'll lose it from.

I know exactly where I'll lose it from: my bottom, hips, belly, and upper thighs. The same trouble spots most women cite, including my friend Gwen.

Gwen thought she was average. In truth, she is at the very bottom of healthy weight range for her height. Gwen, my friend, this makes you thin, healthy no doubt and fabulous, but yes, thin.

What's interesting to me is that we both thought of ourselves as larger than any of the calculators I reviewed put us. I was pretty much in line with my height peers, though, in wanting to be about ten pounds less. However, most people Gwen's height would be happy to weigh 5 pounds more than she does, which I feel safe hazarding a guess is probably about ten pounds less than they currently weigh.

Gwen acknowledges this issue:

I’m not sure we—as a specific culture—even know what normal is anymore. Am I normal? Am I skinny? Am I larger than average? I’m confused, and I didn’t even grow up in this country, constantly besieged with billboards and movie theaters and television screens of very very tiny women.

I'm positive we don't know what's normal.

I see and hear an obsession with looking just like one did in high school, for example. Halle Berry, in an interview, says she kept one pair of jeans she wore junior year of high school. Every year she tries them on to ensure they still fit. "If they do," she said, "All's well!"

Really? Wow.

Healthy weight ranges change with age and stage of life.

I don't expect to be my current height (which I hit in college, not junior year of high school, when I was a full 5 inches shorter than now) of slightly over 5' 10" tall and weigh what I did when I first reached this height: 110-115 lbs---a weight I maintained for a number of years. I was up to about 120 when I got married, and stayed there until my late twenties. My weight gain began in my early thirties and got worse with each pregnancy (actually, it was the nursing that did me in).

Catherine recently had a great discussion about weight and body image, post-partum.

I know it's hard to undergo extreme life and body changes all at once. Talk about a massive mental and physical reframing, under less than ideal conditions: stressed and fatigued. I am 100% understanding that many women are distressed by their size, which might really not be healthy. I also understand when this desire to get to a "better" weight goes to an extreme of wanting to look like one did before one became a mother----could this be a physical manifestation of the desire for some of what you lost of yourself when you gained the new status of mother?

How ironic to want to lose in order to gain.

The problem is the contextual framing. Getting back to the exercise you did a little bit back, have a look at this better ideal weight calculator. It's the one I really like because it shows you a variety of options for calculations of ideal weight and suggests a formulation that is better for women as well as one for men. did your answers compare to the weights on the calculator? I'd love it if you just said something to that effect in your comment (pretty please!) (men too!).

What is your body image? Is it healthy, as healthy as your weight maybe?

And what if both need work?

Come sit by me, we can work together.

How can I possibly easily and regularly feel at peace with my body size when that perception is challenged daily by messages around me screaming: LOSE WEIGHT, be HOT, look GREAT! TV ad after TV ad, magazine covers, interviews with stars, public service messages about an epidemic of obesity that barrage you with the idea that everyone in the US is overweight and needs to stop eating, and...letters from school districts.

I do think we overconsume in this country. Across the board, by which I mean it's not limited to food. I'm happy to discuss both overconsumption and obesity, both of which are real issues.


The current tactics? Not working.

Just look at the numbers; obesity is on the rise and has gotten worse despite these campaigns:

* "Data from two NHANES surveys show that among adults aged 20–74 years the prevalence of obesity increased from 15.0% (in the 1976–1980 survey) to 32.9% (in the 2003–2004 survey)." Source: CDC

* The National Center for Health statistics has been tracking America’s obesity problem for over four decades. The following statistics support the growing concern regarding the obesity problem in America.

-- Between 1962 and the year 2000, the number of obese Americans grew from 13% to an alarming 31% of the population.
-- 63% of Americans are overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in excess of 25.0.
-- 31% are obese with a BMI in excess of 30.0.
-- Childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled in the past two decades.
-- According to the U.S. Surgeon General report obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths every year.

Source: American Sports Data

What do I think is the flaw, and why do I think that eating disorders and obesity are two sides of the same coin---and all campaigns targeted at either side are equally distorted and reflective of the problem causing both conditions?

Because both focus on size. They all focus on the incredibly vague (and potentially unhealthy) idea of thin.

Look, two women in the healthy weight range both think they need improvement. Spread that across a population and apply it to people younger or more vulnerable, and I think you see why there are eating disorders.

I'm tired of hearing everything revolve around fat and thin and looking good to someone else's standards.

Why don't these big time stars like Halle Berry worry more and talk more about health instead of being teen-aged thin? Why don't these health advocates doing these obesity PSAs put time into explaining healthy eating? Why don't the groups behind the campaign show information about portion control instead of trying to put the fire of fear into us via a Come to Jesus style of ad? Why don't school districts offer to have a nutritionist come in to the school one night a week to show families how to cook healthy meals and serve healthy portions instead of sending home Fat Letters and segregating overweight kids into after school programs?

I don't mean stop the after school exercise and fun programs. I don't mean there isn't anything out there about health, healthy eating, etc. I'm talking about the tactics we see every day trying to get us to these good ends via bad means.

Let's be constructive. Let's get healthy: body and mind, and most especially, spirit.

Now, as a reward for hanging in, a (sorry poor quality and grainy but I take what I can get) photo of me in the recent fashion show (this is the "daytime casual" outfit) (cute, for someone else LOL):

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Greek-based tragedies always include a protagonist with a fatal flaw. In fact, it's probably high school literature teachers' single favorite question: what was [name of character]'s fatal flaw?

MacBeth loved his wife too terribly well.
Achilles had a heel.
Antigone had hubris.

But it's never quite that simple, especially not on a literature exam, which historically includes the terse instruction: elaborate.

Aristotle had a solid definition of what comprised a tragic hero. In summation:

* Hero must suffer more than he deserves.

* Hero must be doomed from the start, but bear no responsibility for possessing his flaw.

* Hero must be noble in nature, but imperfect so that the audience can see themselves in him.

* Hero must have discovered his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him.

* Hero must see and understand his doom, as well as the fact that his fate was discovered by his own actions.

* Hero's story should arouse fear and empathy.

* Hero must be physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.

* Ideally, the hero should be a king or leader of men, so that his people experience his fall with him.

* The hero must be intelligent so he may learn from his mistakes.

Mrs. Morini---senior AP English teacher and bane of my existence; in fact, one might have called her my greatest antagonist---spoke at length and depth about fatal flaws beginning with the Wife of Bath and concluding quite cruelly with poor Nora of A Doll's House.

Helmer is playing the piano and Nora is dancing the tarantella.

Helmer. (playing). Slow down, slow down!

Nora. Can't!

Helmer. Not so violent, Nora!

Nora. It has to be this way.


Helmer. My dearest Nora, you're dancing as if it were a matter of life and death!

Nora. It is! It is!

And for Nora? It was. Krogstad had already dropped the letter that would ruin Nora, and those she loved. Her fatal flaw---her tragedy---was in motion.

Ever since, I have wondered, "What is my fatal flaw? And how quickly can I find and defuse it?" (Yes, you should find it terribly telling that the fictional characters I best identify with are tragic heroes.)

I love too terribly well, at times. I not only have two heels, but have been known to act quite like a heel. I have ample hubris.

Of all my many sins---my hamartia---it never occured to me that my perceived greatest---my fatal flaw?---was my willingness to speak out. In fact, I had never even considered that when examining my navel for the fatal flaw.

I suppose I should be glad I'm the sort of person who is more likely to get a purple heart than a feather, but, well, some days it's a struggle.

Yesterday was one such day.

A friend was describing an issue she was having with someone she knew. She had never stated any boundaries to this person, but this person was, nevertheless, trampling rudely over general boundaries, and taking advantage of my friend's kindness and aversity to dealing openly with conflict.

I suggested that she find her boundaries and begin sticking to them, and if necessary, communicate them to the other person.

My friend sighed in exasperation, "We're not all like you...we can't all seek out conflict and deal with it so easily."

Seek conflict?

Deal with it easily?

Whatever in the world have I done to create this impression?

I carefully tried to explain, "I don't seek conflict, however, I won't bite my tongue bloody or suffer out loud passive-aggressively behind backs if there is something that should be said and can be said. I use diplomacy, and there are times I do bite my tongue bloody. But at some point, I realize, generally, that something needs to be said to someone to solve this, and it's likely that someone isn't going to be happy with me, but all I can do is what I think is best, right, just."

And that's when it hit me: I know why I chose forgiveness over justice.

Once a harm has been done---especially a grievous one---there is no real justice. There can---and often should---be consequence, but there is no true reparation.

You can't unring a bell.

Therefore, considering this, in the end, there is only forgiveness. Even near-perfect justice---something eye for an eye like---can feel hollow because underneath is the everlasting change from the harm.

We can't always choose justice. We can't always choose what justice is served, or whether it is even attempted. Sometimes, we can't even choose to seek justice. Sometimes, seeking justice can cause greater harm than the original harm.

But forgiveness is a choice. If we can forgive, we can accept the imperfect justice---or lack thereof---and hatred just might recede, maybe a little, and possibly further harm can be avoided.

I hope my friend can forgive me for always suggesting speaking up. I hope she can speak to her friend, and resolve the conflict. I hope she can forgive her friend, and vice versa.

Most of all, I hope we can all seek and find not just mercy, but also forgiveness.

Doing kindness is the quarry of good men, but it doesn't mean never speaking up. It doesn't mean never treading in slightly dangerous waters. It doesn't mean never hurting a feeling in the short-term to save a bigger feeling in the long-term. Mercy sometimes means facing a conflict. Justice sometimes means punishment, but no relief. Forgiveness means being able to go on, anyway, or better yet, because.

Perhaps my hamartia is so close that if it were a snake it would have bitten me by now, but I guess as is typical within ourselves, I can't see the forest for the trees. (If you'll excuse the unlyrical little mixing of cliches, metaphors, and goodness, I've lost track of what else...). And perhaps, even though it may often feel like it, my outspokeness is not actually my hamartia. However, while I hope I miss the tragic hero fate, I do hope that I succeed within some of the characteristics, chiefly, "The hero must be intelligent so he may learn from his mistakes."

I'll add two more, "And courageous enough to admit to them and take responsibility for them. Then wise enough to ask forgiveness or offer forgiveness."

And now...other thoughts on why and how we choose within justice and forgiveness:

Kaliroz wrote A thousand candles.

Jen wrote the choosing

Gwen wrote I'm Going to Let it Shine

LawyerMama wrote If Justice Is Blind, She's Also Deaf & Dumb

Andrea wrote Crime and Punishment

Feel free to comment or email your link to me if you'd like to participate. Take your time. :)

You can find the links to part one at The Justice and Forgiveness Roundtable.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Blues Sisters present Rubber Chicken

What da ya want for nothing? ... a rrrrrrrrubber chicken?

We're in the car Monday morning on the way to school. It took the usual act of Congress to get ready and get in the car. So we're in the car, and Patience is clutching her show and tell, the rubber chicken (pictured above).

We're big fans of the blues around here. We're also big fans of the absurd and ridiculous. (I mean, really, look at that chicken.) The thing about being a big fan of something is that it rubs off and comes out in your life in unexpected ways, such as songs your children sing about rubber chickens, in the car, on the way to school.

Bow bow bow...

(Um, do that again)

Bow bow bow...

Have you ever heard of a rubber chicken? A rubber chicken is the kind of chicken you squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze and an egg pops out of its butt, hee hee hee...

Bow bow bow...

CHORUS (Patience): Butt butt buttbuttbuttbutt CHICKEN BUTT oh the chicken had a BUTTTTT and an EGG POPPED OUTTTTTT of its butt cuz he haaaaasssss noooooo UNDERPANTS!

BACKUP DOO WOP (Persistence): And a Poopyhead...a POOPYHEAD!

Mind you, I'm trying to drive, and the speed limit is 45, but the only people driving are moms late for school and air force pilots so that means a speed minimum of 65. So we're hurtling down an eight-lane road at 60ish MPH (except I was really going 43.5 MPH, truly, for sure, especially if you are a police officer).

And Patience is yelling her song. And she's yelling at me to sing with her. And the wind is whistling past our ears. And the weather is fine. And the kids are in the back singing their hearts out like it's an American Idol audition and they want the Crazy Spot. And Patience is just squeezing that chicken, making the egg pop out, and releasing, so the egg pops back in.

"Look Mom look at the RUBBER CHICKEN! Look at its BUTT!" Bow bow bow

And I'm trying to drive.

Ummm... the other day I had a ricochet chicken.

A ricochet chicken is the kind of a chicken

that's supposed to bounce back off the wall into your mouth.

If it don't bounce back, hee hee hee,... you go hungry!

Bow bow bow...


CHORUS (Patience): Butt butt buttbuttbuttbutt CHICKEN BUTT oh the chicken had a BUTTTTT and an EGG POPPED OUTTTTTT of its butt cuz he haaaaasssss noooooo UNDERPANTS!

BACKUP DOO WOP (Persistence): And a Poopyhead...a POOPYHEAD!

Squeeeeeeeze POP

Squeeeeeeeze POP

Squeeeeeeeze POP

And the minivans with ladies wearing ponytails and sweats and the sports cars with out of state plates and men in sunglasses are passing us by. And we're passing the lawn service trucks loaded down with lawnmowers.

CHORUS: And a lawnmower chased the chicken with the butt butt butt butt butt and the egg popping out.

And we're flying by the fields with deer.

CHORUS: So the chicken and his egg butt hopped on a deer and the chicken went pop pop pop with his butt butt butt and his egg egg egg.

Squeeeeeeeze POP

Squeeeeeeeze POP

Squeeeeeeeze POP

Squeeezzzzzzeeeee POP!!!!!

And the egg fell plum out of the chicken's butt...err, bottom, uh hiney, no, rear end.

CHORUS: OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO! The chicken lost his EGG, right out of his BUTT!!! His BUTTT!! OH NO OH NO OH NO!

And I said, "Oh no! Well, we'll see if we can put it back in when we get to school!"

But the children had already flown by me and were laughing uproariously at the new big hole in the rear of the yellow, rubber chicken.

You can poke your finger in it. You can put a wipe in it. You can put a crayon in it. You can put a wipe and a crayon and a cheerio in it. You can put it on the organizer hanging on the back of the seat. You can put a pencil in it and wag it all about.

Now the chicken has a...butt hole.

New chorus.

And the street for the school is just ahead and my children are singing about rubber chicken's butt hole.

And I feel a bad case of the moms coming on.

"OKAY!" I yell over the singing, "OKAY! Listen, really, there are better words. Bottom. Rear end. Hiney. But honestly, girls, sometimes, there are just parts of the body people don't like to hear too much about unless they need to. Okay? So sing about any part of the rubber chicken, any part at all, except the butt, err, I mean bottom."

Then I feel the loophole wrap around and engulf me.

"Belay that last order. You can sing about the chicken's neck, head, feet, legs, wings, or belly. Any of those, but nothing else, nothing that we cover with underwear. Got it?"

Then I feel the loophole wrap around and engulf me.

"An addendum to that last order: no singing about underwear! We're almost at school. Do you remember the rules of school? The things it's okay and not okay to talk about?"

CHORUS---slow and sad (All): Yes, yes mom, we hear you, no singing or talking about privaatttttes. No underwear. No butts. And noooooooooooo buuutttttttholes. But we can talk about the TAIL, the TAIL, and an egg coming out of the tail!

Umm, umm, umm... the other day I had a cool water chicken sandwich and a Sunday-go-to-meetin' bun...

Bow bow bow...

Hee hee hee hee... What da ya want for nothing? ... a rrrrrrrrubber chicken?

Bow bow oooh ooh oooh oooooooo-waaaaaaaah...

Into the school we went. And I had to hand Patience over to her teacher, with a straight face, and say, "Patience has a rubber chicken for show and tell...and it has a hole. In its bum. And she likes that. And it might come up. And I have nothing more to say on the matter, nothing at all. My mind is definitely NOT going THERE. And ummm...have a great day!"

Then I made like Jake and Elwood and scrammed.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Ah mercy, mercy me...a week of mercy


Welcome to a NEW WEEK. A new week of MERCY and KINDNESS.

This is the week when we all change what we do and how we do it, or improve on the improvements we are all already making. I say this because you know, it hasn't been going all that well in our world lately. Last week in particular.

This is the week when we shake loose the shackles of fear. I mean REALLY shake them off. We don't just say "go on in spite...can't let them win." I mean CUT IT LOOSE. Quit being afraid. Quit checking the current security alert level. Quit looking suspiciously at brown skin or worrying about any Muslims. Quit thinking anyone can be an extremist. Quit hunkering down in the sameness of us.

This is the week when we reach out with love and compassion. Smile at your checkout lady, ask how her day is...her family. Make eye contact with your fellow human beings, and give a slight nod (if you're up North) or a friendly howdy (of you're down south). Let them know you acknowledge them, and that they are a valuable member of the human race.

This is the week you make your friends ask you,"Are you freaking NAIVE?!?!?! It's a SCARY WORLD. You can't just be NICE!"

This is the week when you reply, "Doing kindness is the game and quarry of good men."

This is the week when you remember the Halliburton protestors. The week you remember that this month the Coalition of Immokalee Workers finally won against McDonalds (who I think also won):
McDonald's Corp. agreed Monday to pay a penny more per pound for its Florida-grown tomatoes to help boost wages for the farmworkers who harvest them, after a two-year campaign by an advocacy group that called for the increase.

And from this, that and the other, you know that one small action joins up somehow with other actions and makes a difference.

This week, I am combining Jen and Gwen's ideas and not just because I think they are awesome and the freaking blogging wonder twins. I'm doing it because I have good judgment and they have good ideas.

So on Wednesday, if you would like to join in or continue on with the Hump Day Hmms, you have an assignment.

The original question was which is of greater necessity: justice or forgiveness. Jen asks you to dig deep and:
I think we need to next talk about choice. You asked earlier which we would choose. But deeper, right, is how and why we choose.

And what choice really means. Do we all have the same ability to choose? Is it really a present tense concept?

How do we choose anything (forgiveness, justice, compassion)if we don't know why or how choice is really made?

Next week will be a new element.

This week, also, you won't see too much of me around, live. I've saved up some previously written blog posts that I'll put up so there will be fresh content (in other words...COME AROUND, PLEASE!) I've stocked my freezer with easy meals for my family and I'm otherwise engage with the fundraiser.

This week is number two Big Fundraiser. This is the one I am in charge of, so it's all on my head. So far so good, but the Big Day is fast approaching. Imagine coordinating a really huge event with raffles, auction, meal, selling tickets, entertainmet, etc. for hundreds of people. If you can easily conceptualize it, for goodness' sake EMAIL ME. I take all suggestions. On the line are scholarships to preschool for disadvantaged kids. So the bright future of some awesome kids is the only thing on the line; no pressure. LOL

I'm fortunate to have amazing and wonderful committee heads and friends who are adding to this and making it successful. I think it will be okay. It will be okay.

I'll check in on Wednesday and put up links for any roundtable participants. And I'll be around as I can.

This is the week for doing good.

This is the week for part two of the roundtable. I can't wait for the next round, I really can't. You guys blew me away first go-round.

This is the week I am too busy to be a good blog-friend.

This is the week of being a part instead of apart.

Check back tomorrow for a funny story. To add drama and suspense, here's a teaser:

What happens when the Blues Brothers, a rubber chicken, and butts meet in a car on a Monday morning?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Friday, April 20, 2007

Finding mercy

"He who needs mercy finds it," says Jalal Al-Din Rumi, a 13th century poet, jurist, and theologian. Born in an area now Afghanistan, Rumi is considered one of the greatest Sufist poets, whose works such as the Mathnawi continue to influence the Persian culture (Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) as well as the world through multiple translations.

In the Masnavi, Rumi addressed the challenges of life: faith, hope, love, doubt, mercy, evil, reason, truth and so on. In my translation (EH Whinfield, 1898), Pain and Mercy sit side-by side: Pain first, Mercy second. Rumi originally had Mercy before Pain. However, I think Whinfield's reorganization did not detract from Rumi's original intent. Instead, I believe it shows in great relief a key concept Rumi wanted his reader to absorb. Rumi wrote:

Pain is a treasure, for it contains mercies;
The kernel is soft when the rind is scraped off.

I feel keenly my own fallibility, and thus I feel compassion when another falls.
For from abasement proceeds exaltation

But how do we find the hope and love, the exaltation in the midst of pain, without anesthesizing?
Consort with grief and put up with sadness,
Seek long life in your own death!

Consort with grief. Put up with sadness.

how long
can i lament
with this depressed
heart and soul

how long
can i remain
a sad autumn
ever since my grief
has shed my leaves

the entire space
of my soul
is burning in agony

how long can i
hide the flames
wanting to rise
out of this fire

how long can one suffer
the pain of hatred
of another human
a friend behaving like an enemy

with a broken heart
how much more
can i take the message
from body to soul

i believe in love
i swear by love
believe me my love

how long
like a prisoner of grief
can i beg for mercy

you know i'm not
a piece of rock or steel
but hearing my story
even water will become
as tense as a stone

if i can only recount
the story of my life
right out of my body
flames will grow

Translated by Nader Khalili, "Rumi, Fountain of Fire"

This poem puts a lump of hot coal in my chest every time I read it. How long can I suffer the pain of hatred of another human? How long, like a prisoner of grief, can I beg for mercy? How long can I hide the flames wanting to rise?

The anguish from tragedy, the sense of vulnerability can so easily breed contempt, anger, fury. It can also breed a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.

Recount the story of my life and flames will grow right out of my body.

Consort with grief. Put up with sadness. Pain is a treasure, for it contains mercies.

"He who needs mercy finds it. Doing kindness is the game and quarry of good men..." Wrote Rumi in his poem, Mercy, Masnavi, Book 2: 8.

I believe in love, I swear by love.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Awful Friday: The Gunman in the Building

Quick update for folks emailing and calling me re. the gunman in the building

Addendum to clarify: I do not work in this building or there. However, a number of family members and friends do.

So far I've managed to reach most family and friends. All are safe. Luckily quite a few family members were not on site today for one reason or another. Most are now offsite. One friend is there, in the building in question, however he is in a secure location and is safe.

The hitch is there are meetings in this building, so people who would not normally be there are there.

If we hear anything further I'll let you know.

Thanks for the care. Julie

P.P.S. The kids saw this live as it began. There isn't a way to keep it from them. I welcome any suggestions about how to address this situation with them. Right now all I've said is a man who is mad is locked in the building and the police are working out how to get him out. Patience has asked about all the people we know there, especially family, and I've assured her they are all okay. One friend is there, but safe. I keep emphasizing that. Any ideas about how to explain this?

Eyeful Friday

Quick Roundtable Update:

I added a new participant to the Roundtable in Part I. Check out what CeCe wrote!

Gwen and Jen have some great ideas for additional roundtable participation. I've added those in as Ideas 6 and 7 in Part 2.

Quick Pursuit of Health update:

I live. I live in stagnation. It's been a rough physical week for me. Had several flares. Couldn't exercise. Enough said.

And, now a present for Atypical:

all text and images copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Justice and Forgiveness Roundtable: Part 2 A New Challenge for a New Day

Painting by Emily Carr (Canadian Expressionist Painter, 1871-1945). She toured through aboriginal villages of Canada, and specialized in painting totems...trying to capture these before the art died out and the last ones were appropriated or destroyed.

Part 1: The initial challenge is still open. I just want to put the idea of part two out there for consideration. So feel free to continue sending your posts through Friday and I'll add the link to the list. Also feel free to continue adding comments, thoughts, etc. If you modify your original post, let me know and I'll put an UPDATED note next to your link.

Jen has reminded me that it is time for the next step. I've been chasing all of the posts and comments, trying to discern which paths are cleared, smooth and easy to travel versus which ones people are struggling to traverse.

There are several avenues we could lay for the next step...let me throw out some things I saw repeatedly, and you tell me what strikes you, interests you, etc.

I've also considered that we don't all need to follow the same road. We could each pick a path, travel it, and come back together to report what we find. Or, perhaps, the paths weave together and cross-over one another. They aren't actually mutually exclusive. Pieces of each might form a whole.

So let me know what you think of the following ideas---or add in your own idea---and let me know how you think this should go.

We can plan to do the next round next Wednesday. Or, as it happens, there are five ideas. I'm half thinking, hmm, what if I tackle one a day? (I'd probably implode, but hey, it's crossing my mind as an idea.)

IDEA 1: Rage against the machine

In comments, Mad Hatter stated, "These arguments [justice, forgiveness, and compassion] are usually framed in the notion of individual perpetrator vs individual victim. It gets so much more complex and muddy when the perpetrator is a faceless system. For most of the injustices in the world, the system is in fact the perpetrator."

Once I received a very angry email via my blog. The writer expressed fury at me...for the actions of my nation. I, too, am often angry about the decisions made or actions effected by the government or the system, but what responsibility lies with me, the individual? I know these are men's choices, but as Mad expresses, they still reflect an instituition that presents a different feel than dealing with a single person, one-on-one.

How do we consider justice and forgiveness, then, with instituitions and systems, which not only oversee the application of justice, but might also frequently be the perpetrators of injustice, either through action or inaction?

Reframe the context and discuss justice and forgiveness within something larger, a collective. The collective might be public sector, e.g. government, judicial system, military, or it might be private sector, e.g. mortgage companies, banks, cell phone companies. Then there is the wild card of health care.

Consider things such as: collective interacting with collective, system affecting individuals, individual affecting the system, etc.

IDEA 2: A Visio View


If we consider all of the concepts we've each discussed within the justice and forgiveness roundtable...consider that we've generally discussed them as a linear evolution. Reframe that context and consider them as non-linear, possibly as three-dimensional, cyclical, waves, etc.

For example, if all of the above concepts were a system within the human body, how would they work together? What could make them work better, or worse?

Or, if you created a web (flow chart) of these concepts, where would each piece fit, how would they fit together, and what information/direction would be on the lines running between?

Idea 3: Guiding principles

Jen and Bub and Pie brought up the concepts of mercy and compassion.

If we consider justice and forgiveness to be actions (more verb-y than noun-y), then what principles should guide those actions---are mercy and compassion at the heart of true justice and forgiveness?

Idea 4: A round the table post-mortem

1. Describe your entrance vehicle to this topic, e.g. personal anecdote, definition of concept, literary, current events, etc. (one sentence).

2. Pull the most representative and salient point about both concepts from your blog in the form of one sentence.

3. Pull the point from another rountabler's post that most resonated with you (in an agreement way). Write it in your own words, note the origin of it, and briefly explain why it struck you. Max 3 sentences.

4. Pull the point from another roundtabler's post that most resonated with you (in a disagreement sort of way). Write it in your own words, note the origin of it, and briefly explain your take on it. Max 3 sentences.

5. What concept do you believe logically follows this topic?

Idea 5: Break these chains...or reinforce them?

What we write and believe is governed by our own world view and experiences, In fact, you might say "limited" instead of governed. Gwen pointed out the distance she found bewteen her and her students, and atypical described the different approaches she and her husband have. Jen also mentioned discussing this with her husband, and I mentioned my Rwandan friend's perspective.

Find a way to challenge and carefully consider what you believe about forgiveness and justice---and all the concepts between and within---and see how that definition and belief might vary from another context, another view, another set of experiences. Find a different voice and take on this, and carefully consider all of the influences that shape your belief. How stable is your belief? Under a different set of circumstances, would it change? Consider socioeconomic, culture, past history, gender, personality, etc.

Idea 6 What Jen Said

I think we need to next talk about choice. You asked earlier which we would choose. But deeper, right, is how and why we choose.

And what choice really means. Do we all have the same ability to choose? Is it really a present tense concept?

How do we choose anything (forgiveness, justice, compassion)if we don't know why or how choice is really made?

Idea 7 What Gwen Said

Maybe for the next month/five weeks or so, you could make Wednesday SomethingJusticeMercySomething Day. Then we could tackle it slowly and other people could contribute or not as they find time, inclination, inspiration.

Looking forward to thoughts...

P.S. One more enormous effusive thanks to all participants, writers and commenters. This is really amazing. As Alice said, "So exhilirating to find so many powerful voices out there." Yes, so exhilirating, and still more so to have so many new ideas to ponder. Thanks! And...thanks for playing and not leaving me to look like a jackass. I swear, I was having, "Will anyone come to my birthday party?" sweats, LOL. Your RSVPs in advance and's the world, my friends.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Justice and Forgiveness Roundtable

Once upon a time, I subscribed to the League of Justice approach to life. I believed I was obligated to right every wrong. I thought forgiveness was for sissies, and justice via the legal system was a necessity. I was angry, and I considered it a righteous anger, fuel for needed improvements in the world.

Just slap a white tunic with a red cross on it over my head and call me Crusader.

This was my response to Not Being a Victim. I'd been gotten before and by gosh not only would I never be gotten again, I'd work my tush off ensuring that nobody else got gotten either.

Instead of being stuck in a dysfunctional psychodrama in which I alternated between trespassee and trespasser, I set myself to the side in the role of avenger.

Then one day, in my hometown of Pleasantville, I awoke and the world was color. I realized that life wasn't a cheap melodrama in which we are locked into caricature roles. I grew to understand that instead we have complex characters, and the vantage point from which you view people and situations is everything.

I took a hard look at myself and observed that I perpetuated the cycle of violence, victimization, and victimhood by cementing myself into one role, and others into another role.

Most importantly, just as I finally grasped that money isn't the only currency, I had another developmental spurt, and comprehended that justice isn't limited to the court system and prisons aren't exclusive to large blocky structures in out of the way towns.

Justice is integral to a society. People need to know the rules, and the consequences for breaking them. People must understand that there is a line, and if you cross it, you are no longer welcome in polite company.

It's always my hope that nobody gets to the point of being removed from society. It's always my hope that we can prevent, or at least intervene, before it gets to that point. But the cracks are large, and many people fall through. This is our problem, our responsibility.

It's also always my hope that once someone has been removed from society they will accept the opportunity before them---despite its many challenges---to work towards freedom from their metaphorical prison while trapped within the literal prison.

The metaphorical prison being so much more influential to our actions, after all.

But too many people can't see that opportunity---don't get help seeing it---can't get past their own victimhood, to see the harm they rain down on see how they themselves have morphed from victim to victimizer. And so the cycle continues.

Thus, we must incorporate forgiveness---a turning of the other cheek, simplistically and metaphorically speaking---to create life not trapped in the cycle of violence.

And what does turning the other cheek, forgiving, really mean?

It means turning your attention; it means viewing it from another angle; it means weighting it differently.

It doesn't mean evaluating the people and actions, designating one as right and one as wrong, and assigning reward and punishment, as justice does.

It doesn't mean accepting something as okay. It means being okay anyway, or being okay because.

It also doesn't require a grant. By this I mean it doesn't require one person to bestow forgiveness as a just reward.

Most importantly, it doesn't mean reconciliation with another person, although it does ask for an internal reconciling.

But first, we always ask, how could this have happened? Why? What can we do? and thus discussion runs circles around the key concepts of justice (which is public) and forgiveness (which is personal).

I say, when reaching for that answer about what to do, ask, "What will create a sense of hope and empowerment? And how can we keep that going, spread it further, use that to hopefully prevent...?"

In just a minute, I'm going to list some of the best bloggers around who address---in their very individual, but collectively thoughtful and eloquent, ways---ideas about justice and forgiveness.

But first, I'm going to tell you about an initiative that has recently attracted me. I learned about this through Naomi Judd. Don't ask. And if you know, don't tell. ;)

The initiative is Amnesty International's Imagine Campaign.

It should figure that I am initially attracted to anything musical, especially what is possibly one of my most favorite songs and poems ever. So while that garnered my attention---another reason why I love the tactic: the attention-grabbingness of it---it's the movement and action behind it that has held my interest:

Yoko Ono Lennon has given Amnesty International a wonderful and generous gift: the rights to use her late husband's song "Imagine" in a campaign for human rights. In her words:

"Those who know the song 'Imagine' understand that it was written with a very deep love for the human race and a concern for its future. It is about the betterment of the world for our children and ourselves. Like the song, Amnesty International gives a voice to the importance of human rights. And like the song, it has been able to effect change."

expresses the hope and idealism that inspire Amnesty International's vision: that of a world in which every person enjoys all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In its appeal to the power of imagination, the song echoes Amnesty International's faith in the power of the ordinary individual to make a difference.

That's Gandhi's influence: the power of one...never underestimate the difference one person can make.

(It amazes me that I lived in a world with both Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Who are their successors? I live in anticipation.)

Once we are all dignified with human rights, I think---truly---that we can enjoy justice, and forgiveness, and a non-violent world. Or at least one in which violence isn't the first---or last---response.

So what is the answer?

Some of the best minds around tackle this question. Prepare to have your mind blow, just a little. Mine has.

Now, without further ado, the Fabulous Bloggers responding to the call of Hump Day Hmmm's call to address Justice and Forgiveness:

Gwen at Woman on the Verge wrote This Little Light of Mine

Jen at One Plus Two wrote i choose neither

Chani at Thailand Gal wrote Cho Seung-Hui and Compassion....

Kaliroz at Fortune and Glory (after a cup of coffee) wrote Forgiveness.

Mary-LUE at Life, the Universe and Everything wrote Justice v. Forgiveness: Which is of Greater Necessity?

Aliki of World of One Thousand Different Things wrote Shame

Boogiemum wrote Justice v. Forgiveness - What I have learned…

K at After the Ball wrote Justice for Frogs

Sage at Notsosage wrote WWW XI: Ravin' Song

Atypical at Nonsensical Text wrote weighted in the balance...and found wanting

Bub and Pie wrote Forgiveness

Cece at It Is What it Is wrote ForJustiveness

NOTE: There is still space. I know quite a few of you said you'd have something later today, tomorrow or later this week. I'm leaving this up for a bit, so don't feel cut off or rushed. You can put it up on your blog, or email it to me for here, as Slouching Mom did, or simply participate by commenting (we love writers and commenters equally). There will still be space. I'm saving a seat for you, so come sit by me.

Slouching Mom wrote:

Which is of greater necessity - justice or forgiveness?

Let’s pretend that Monday’s shooter did not succeed in killing himself. What would have happened? Obviously, there would have been a trial. He would have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison, if not to death. Justice would have been served to the extent that one believes that imprisoning someone is a punishment. Certainly if he had been sentenced to death, he would have been punished, although many of us would argue that the punishment in that case is highly immoral.

Had he been allowed to go free, part of the foundation for society would have been eroded, because we live together under the assumption that what holds for one person holds for all the rest. If that assumption is violated, there is no reason for people to choose to continue to live in a society. Living in a society requires certain sacrifices, sacrifices that people would be unwilling to make without the assurance that they would be treated no differently in a court of law than any other member of the society.

So justice is a necessary prerequisite for society and also helps maintain it.

Now what happens if a set of parents who lost their child in Monday’s shootings chooses to forgive the shooter? Forgiveness sets an example for other people. It shows others that human beings can transcend their individual circumstances, rise above individual pain and suffering. Forgiveness proves our humanity. Forgiveness encourages us all to strive to be more civilized and more generous, whether or not we ourselves choose to forgive.

So forgiveness helps maintain, and perhaps even elevate, society.

So which is more important? I’d reluctantly choose justice, because while justice is important to both the formation and the maintenance of society, forgiveness becomes a motivator only after a society has been established.

All that said, I’m more interested in forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult, and, I think, rare. It requires subsuming one’s own pain and anger in favor of the common good. It is maybe the most humane gesture there is.

The Rape of the Ear...but I was soooo asking for it.

I need to take a brief break from the roundtable preparations to confess that...well...last night I had PURE thoughts about Sanjaya. No, don't trouble yourself shaking out your ears. I said I thought NICE things about Sanjaya.

1. I did not think he was the worst singer/performer last night. You heard me correctly: Sanjaya was not the worst. For the record, Chris was, IOO (that's "in our opinion"---"our" being me and my husband who now, after lo so many years, do share one brain). And let the record reflect it is my husband's best guess that Chris is slotted to go next.

2. Friends. God help me. Last night, I found myself almost liking Sanjaya.



The reply to the write-in question. That was hilarious, "I'd like to see Simon Cowell sing Shiny, Happy People to display his true personality."

That was like Bush level awesome unimpeachable backhanded slam. WABOOM!

What could anyone---including the aforementioned Shiny, Happy Person---do but laugh their rear ends off?

I just want you to know that this visual is warring in my head with one of a rubber chicken strung up on a fishing pole. Just trust me; the blog post explaining that has been written since this past Monday and will go up after a suitable interval.

I just love it. You know, I'd pay money to see Simon sing that song.

Back to the subject at hand:

I'll be cruising your blogs today (those of you who said, "Yes! Count me in!" The words that are like music to my ears---thank you, since my ears? They were otherwise cruelly assaulted too many times yesterday.) and collecting links. I'll put them together and post up the master link list tomorrow.

And now I leave you with this:

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Join the roundtable discussion: Justice and Forgiveness

I just got a few email questions asking me about this roundatable discussion, what it was, how it worked, etc. So I thought I'd put up a brief explanation (brief for me, guys) explaining it better than I have. But of course, feel free to ask me if I need to explain more/better.

About two weeks ago, Mary-Lue asked me an amazing, challenging, thought-provoking, and intriguing interview question: Which is of greater necessity - justice or forgiveness?

Everyone had such great thoughts on this topic---but without adequate space in comments to fully develop an idea---that the Hump Day Hmmmmm was born.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 18, if you'd like to join us (and I hope you do!) write something about justice and forgiveness---any thoughts you have; feel free, for example, to answer the question, or feel free to go free form, whatever works for you---and post it to your blog.

Send me the link to your post (comment to me here with a link or email me at j pippert at g mail dot com) and I'll post a master link list, probably on Thursday-ish, just to give everyone time tomorrow to write and post.

If you feel like it, link back to the master link list so your readers can see all the other people who wrote about this topic.

If you have any questions, let me know. So far, some awesome bloggers have signaled participation. I can't wait.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


Monday, April 16, 2007

It's a cold comfort

Another catastrophe devastates us all with its unecessary tragedy today. 33 dead at Virginia Tech.

I can only imagine how the people lined up against the wall and executed, or hunted down, felt. I hope I never know, I hope my children never know. I hope we always only can imagine. And this, this thought, is exactly what every person, every parent hopes.

Today, some lost that hope. And that may be the least of the loss.

Gwen said she's so glad to know it's people who kill people, not guns. She begs us to consider the damage the Virginia Tech murderer might have inflicted with a knife.

I said good point.

Jen said God has been noticeably absent.

I said, "It is a tragedy beyond words.

I will say...God gave man freedom of will. This was not God's will; it was man's will. God was not absent. I am sure God was more present than ever. But he will not remove freedom of will. I am sure God was more anguished by heart than any of us, and that's both saying a lot, and very, very cold comfort. If it helps to blame God, that's okay. He can take it. Just remember he is always open.

Right now, the only thing is grief. I say let it wash over us so we feel it and know it, and are changed by it."

Chani, in the midst of her own grief, said, "May there be some peace for all those who died, are wounded, their friends and families." and in her own life, said, "I must find compassion for the hole in his soul. I must. Because it is the only acceptable thing to do. The anger has to stop somewhere."

I said amen.

Bones listed statistics and asked what we should do.

I said listen, pay attention, hope.

I think for the rest of us---those not with a true loss---the biggest challenge is to not feel hopeless. I think, in truth, hopelessness is a direct contributor to this tragedy.

More than ever, I feel the drive to write about justice, and forgiveness. Please join me on Wednesday. This week. I'll list you here, and others, some of whom may really want to read words about this, can find something valuable.

Tomorrow I teach. I teach a class about managing conflict between and among students and their peers. Tonight I stay awake late quickly re-arranging my curriculum and talking points.

Tonight...our best friends came over. We grilled, drank raspberry iced tea, and the kids ran and played. Tonight my five year old's biggest concern was counting how many mosquito bites she had. How beautiful is that.

After dinner, while my friend and I prepared dessert, the dads played silly faux-monster wrestling games with the kids. They wrestled---one man against five kids---in turn. The screaming was delight. The yelling was joy, and fun. This is the sound that rings in my ears.

I never have any promises of anything tomorrow so today, I seized the day. It felt beautiful to find beauty and enjoyment in tonight.

Today is not my grief, but I respect that someone else feels the need to stop all the clocks.

W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

P.S. Please just email me or comment with a link if you wish to participate in our roundtable discussion of justice versus forgiveness: which is more crucial? j pippert at g mail dot com.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative publishes Porn for Women

At some point, someone somewhere was talking about Sexy Men and What Women Want. I said I know full well what this woman wants, and it isn't some sexy young man sidling up to me at a bar trying to entice me into joining a fitness club.

If he was in his dress whites while doing the aforementioned sidling, and then murmured, low and sexy, "I'm a fully vetted, licensed and endorsed fabulous childcare provider...let me care for your children while you recline on your bed and alternate between reading and napping. I cook, clean, and tidy up behind myself and the kids, too. Plus I'll solve that pesky little potty training regression you've been dealing with, and if you like, I can fix the hitting and tantrums in the two year old." Now we're talking!

Apparently, that this is what women---young and old, rich and poor---want is no surprise whatsoever.

The Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative (did you know there was one?) recently published Porn for Women.

98 pages of photos of hot men doing all the things that make women go oooohhhh ahhhh and oh yesssssss, such as

* cooking

* cleaning

* listening (and, I assume, paying attention and replying after internalizing your gem-filled words)

The Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative (CWPC) was formed in 2005, "to redefine the way we look at pornography. Our mission is to recover the term ‘pornography’ from the gold-chained, hairy-chested, leisure-suit-wearing, mouth-breathing knuckleheads, and reclaim it for the rest of us. CWPC members have opted to keep their membership roster unpublished, out of concern that our colleagues in academia, medicine, and the media may still have underdeveloped senses of humor. We hope this book will change that.”

They created this humorous book after allegedly interviewing women---all across the age, socioeconomic and marital status scale---to discover what really turns women on.

In two years, they have accomplished what Cosmopolitan has been striving for since 1886: demystifying for women (and men) what it is that women really want.

Fortunately for everyone, women are a collective who all want the same thing all the time. It does take 98 pages to explain what women want, which is probably longer and more complex than some out there had hoped---but at least it's very visual.

There is, of course, no question about what men want. There is, of course, the well-accepted assumption that we all already know what all men want. In case I need to spell that out for you, it's supposed to be sex. Men are supposed to be driven in all aspects of life to seek sex, aka The Thing Men Want.

I do not recall spending any point in my life, single or married, feeling confident and foot-sure about men because I already knew exactly what they all wanted. Sex. My friends and I found (and find) men confusing creatures. They seemed to be more complex than a bundle of hormones looking for quick release.

Take my husband (just for a sec, hon, I promise). He appears to have other drives, goals, and motivations above and beyond a sex drive. He has other interests, too. He is falling outside the Known Zone.

Now what am I supposed to do with that?

See, if you understand a person's motivation---what he wants---it simplifies all interactions.

You'd think this CWPC initiative and published findings (the porn book) would be the Rosetta stone for male-female communication and relationships.

However, about twenty years ago I finally gave up on anything being the Rosetta stone for that and began accepting that we are each far more than simply our sex (no pun intended). I grew to understand that every person was very unique, and traits, likes, dislikes, abilities, interests and so forth tended to fall more on the personality spectrum than the gender spectrum.

But we so frequently get hemmed in by these pre-set identities. And once in them, or even once out of them, the results aren't often what we expect.

BookDaddy says:

I'm unemployed -- sorry, I mean, freelancing -- these days. I have plenty of time to clean house and do the laundry. And my wife Sara is grateful. But our lives have not zoomed into sweaty dreamland. That's partly because Sara started teaching elementary school full-time six months ago. I'm lucky if I can see her when she's not falling asleep exhausted over a pile of student papers.

BookDaddy goes on to say:

A man who'll vaccuum the house, who'll lend an appreciative ear: Women certainly like these things, they'd appreciate them. But they're not -- as the Cooperative puts it with such scientific precision -- what "gets women hot." Trust me. If men like that truly did turn women on, George Clooney and Daniel Craig wouldn't have careers. Does anyone believe women look at those two and fantasize about sharing a cup of chamomile tea?

It's true.

These things will keep you on the list, but are not a surefire way to get anything beyond a happy and healthy relationship with your wife or girlfriend.

Vanessa at Feministing says it better than I ever could:

While a part of me feels like I need to get my hands on this book, it’s sad that we would need pictures and descriptions of “considerate men” to jerk off to rather than expect it or have it from the men in our actual lives. Porn generally consists of sexual fantasy; making me dinner should be a standard, not something I fantasize about.

It's true.

Jokes about men in dress-whites offering to clean, military clean, my house and watch my children aside, I don't actually fantasize about domestic chores. Participation in domestic chores is an expectation of mine, not a fantasy.

Who gets your vote? Clooney, the People magazine choice for sexy in 2006, or Colbert, the Salon pick for sexiest man in 2006?

'Neither' is a choice, too, or you may speak on behalf of someone else. I know women are usually okay saying things like, "That Sally is looking hot these days!" whereas I haven't heard too many men say similarly about another man.

BookDaddy is right: I don't think women look at Clooney or Colbert and fantasize about dusting and washing dishes.

See, those are needs, things that must be done.

Fantasies are about wants.

And in that, Vanessa is right: consideration with regard to needs should be a given.

That means, I'm afraid, that the answer of what "turns on" women (and men) is still Out There, and varies by person.

With that in mind---my own perfectly well-developed sense of humor aside---I have to wonder what good does it accomplish to continue feeding into the gender roles and gender divide, even if done in jest?

I might need to lighten up, but it does trouble me some.

I can't help but remember the lovely Shane of my youth who once said, speaking over John Mellencamp, "I wish holding hands still meant something..." Until that very open, honest, and vulnerable moment it had never occured to me that sex felt like a big, unwelcome pressure to some guys, too.

I had been so brainwashed---and possibly the boys had, too---into believing all guys only want One Thing. The modern age told us more than that though: girls were supposed to want it too. We were all supposed to be sexually driven creatures. It was supposed to be No Big Deal.

But for some of us, it was a big deal.

I suspect if people set humor aside, men and women would have pretty much the same answer: I want someone to look deep into my eyes, see me for real, and think I am the best thing ever.

Now that's sexy.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Friday, April 13, 2007

The irony is that hell froze over...on EASTER

That's it, folks. I've hit the big 35 lbs gone. I was going to celebrate by flashing briefly a photo of myself from the fashion show---preferably in the gold sparkly suit (so not me)---but my friend keeps citing "work" and "busy" as reasons for not emailing me the photos she took.

Yes, so busy we had time for a two and a half hour lunch yesterday. ;)

To assuage your disappointment, I will instead flash a brief series of photos of the kids from Easter.

Before the photos, I need to provide a confession, a caveat, and a note.

One confession: I forgot my camera and so my mom used hers for all the photos---this is a problem for everyone because it meant my inner bossy control freak kept annoying us all.

One caveat: My children hate the camera, HATE it, and ABHOR being photographed. Every single photo in which they look at the camera involved a bribe. Suffice it to say that unlike in years past when I confiscate all candy, they got to keep all candy.

One note: The children are wearing sweaters. For you superstitious, conspiracy-theory, end-of-world types, this is a crucial signal. It indicates that HELL FROZE OVER. Yes, that's what I said, HELL FROZE OVER. It was wicked cold here. In fact, it SNOWED nearby. It does not snow here. It does not freeze here. This is the SUBTROPICS. They said "cold front" but I admit I always scoff when they say cold front. That usually means the temp drops five degrees from 85 to 80. And, in fact, Friday it was about 80 degrees. But then a cold wind, a real one, blew through. We were out in the woods of the hill country and it was even colder there. It actually really and truly got down into the 30s. I was caught unprepared. As a concession to the alleged "cold front" I brought the little sweaters and windbreakers for the kids but they still cried about freezing to death. For myself, I had only brought tee shirts and a denim shirt/jacket. As a result, it was the fastest egg hunt outdoors ever.

Sizing up the other's haul. Noting the disparity. I'm just snapping photos as fast as the camera and my frozen fingers will go, so I'm caught unaware when Patience offers to dump some of her eggs into Persistence's bucket to even the score. I know, I mean, how nice is that?

Despite my numb hands, my mom reflexes are still fast so I quickly suggest handing the donated eggs over one by one. Shockingly, the girls agree.

And there they are, after the fact: the cutest, sweetest, most loving little girls who could ever drive you stark raving nutters.

And for a bonus, I'll include the fancy dress photos. These were taken before leaving the house. I have learned my lesson. Take photos first, always.

Because we went to the family-friendly service (which is the second service) there was still one more service to go before the church's egg hunt, so we had a while to kill. We thought Starbucks was a good idea. No, it's not. First, it's a casual place, not a fancy one. Second, they serve drinks there, ones that stain. Permanently. Take it from me, warm chocolate can be spat out so forcefully that it spatters everyone in the vicinity. And there is no getting that out. Ever. Apparently. Trust me, I've tried it all.

Luckily I had a spare change of clothes for the kids. Luckily Starbucks has a nice, large restroom. I changed the kids, and spotted the beautiful dresses the best I could.

Unlucky was the lady waiting outside the bathroom for a very long time.

Unlucky for me was her dramatic sigh, headshake and eye roll. Dear Lady: Hey I have no need for such dramatics, but you know? I hear they are shooting a movie up the road and maybe the spot for "nasty neighbor" is still open.

After that, things went further downhill fast. I ended up threatening Persistence (at the church) that if her monkey business didn't cease, no egg hunt for her. Sadly, I had to follow through on that threat. So she and I waited in the car while everyone else had the second fastest egg hunt ever.

Even more unfortunately, this entire scene played out in front of a lady pregnant with her first and due any time now. She watched with teeny bit of concern, I thought. I apologized, and she was nice, but I bet you she was thinking, "Oh CRAP, what have I DONE?!?!?!" I'm happy to always be able to provide the impetus for that "oh crap" moment with pregnant women.

But things leveled out later so we had some fun, too. And anyway, I already had the photos!

Note the look of suspicion mixed with scorn that I received from Patience when I suggested that they pose and smile while Nana was photographing them. Persistence might be cool with the whole photo deal, except, of course, Big Sister gets to set the tone.

Note the tremendous fight to keep from smiling. Her father and I were acting like monkeys in a tickle fight, complete with noises. You are REALLY motivated to not laugh if you can resist the sight that had to be!

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert