A Tale of Two Stores

So once upon a time, an employer and I went to check out this pottery outlet store. Walking in, it embodied everything I hate about certain American stores. The second we walked in, we were swarmed by a couple of women who claimed they were too busy to tell us about the product, yet one stayed and proceeded to blubber on and on. We said we knew about the product but she had to finish this prepared speech she had. We wandered a bit through aisles and aisles of a product that felt cheapened but the quantity they had available. (My employer is convinced it actually was a knock off but it’s hard for me to tell if it that belief was based from product or simply by presentation. I’m willing to trust her as she knows the product.) And we had to sit through a similar speech 3 times before we left 10 minutes later. They would not leave us alone. I will never go back because I hate being harangued by sales people.

Compare that with the experience I had at another Polish pottery store. It is a bit of a drive, about 30 minutes more one way than the other store, but I’ve been there twice so far. We walked in. There’s one salesman behind the counter. He nods hello and continues with what he’s doing. After we’ve browsed a couple of moments, he gets up and silently walks around the store a little. Not where we are, but it made him feel available to questions. My dad asked him about what different pots were created for and he was so knowledgeable about it all. Definitely products he personally used on a regular basis. No prepared speech. I went back this week to grab a couple of other pieces, including a jug to make sauerkraut in. Once again, he was talkative after I had initiated a conversation and he had so many practical tips for making sauerkraut. Talked about his own experiences. Things he had tried that were definitely right or wrong. All with a charming Polish accent, friends demeanor. Definitely worth the drive there. Plus his prices were actually the same or cheaper as the overstocked outlet. They do most of their business online, so if you’re in the market for beautifully created and very durable pottery, do visit http://www.polishpotterymarket.com/

Can we get back to this practice of letting people browse in peace. I promise, I buy more when I’m left alone. When you bug me, I grab what I absolutely have to have… or leave empty handed because you’ve made me so uncomfortable and violated. The best part is with that European approach – and yes, I have witnessed it in multiple places, particularly in Europe – it meets different peoples needs. I can have my quiet browsing time and, someone like my mom, if she knows to initiate contact, can have all of the conversation she prefers. There are plenty like me too and you’re doing your store a disservice. 

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Pasts and Histories

I was recently reintroduced to an idea that I first learned about in college 10 years ago. Christians are claiming they’re “revirginized” after a divorce or breakup. HUH? First, there is an actual medical procedure you can undergo to physically do this, but these people are claiming it as an emotional state of being. The first place I heard the concept was in a program at my conservative college. I remember thinking that it was a ridiculous concept. The speaker had recently gone through a bad divorce and I think it was her way of starting over. But what about her children? If I had been them, I would have felt that, in some ways, my mom regretted having me and she wanted her body back to the way it was before me. Even if it was a bad marriage, there had to be some good times, otherwise you shouldn’t have gotten married. If it was a horrible marriage, you got some wonderful daughters out of the deal. Now that I’m married myself, I’m even more bothered by it.

Why would you want to relabel yourself with a term that came with fear of the unknown? The problem is multiple societies have place such a high value on female virginity, bringing on a huge gender double standard. There is no similar element for men. Sure, to a smaller effect, but history has so emphasized the importance of feminine virginity vs. male virginity (young men being dragged to prostitutes by their fathers to make them a “man”), it’s difficult to escape. Our society today has swung to the opposite extreme. All or nothing. Sex being thrown away as nothing instead of being valued.

For me, there’s so much more power in someone choosing to live a celibate life. It’s not that you don’t know what you’re missing out on. There’s nothing to run and hide from. But there’s something of value as well. It’s not an act to be disregarded by either female or male. Whether to engage or not is a personal choice. We have to stop seeing it as black & white. A choice to take a break from sexual relationships is exactly that. A Choice. Not a return to a previous state. Learn from mistakes you’ve made; regard them because they matter. It’s through our difficult times that we experience the most growth. Take life experiences & use them to grow. Embrace them.

Ramblings about Standards

We all know every woman is dying to be a mother. Of course that’s the only reason we get married. But a man doesn’t have that same inbuild need. Or does he? 

There is such a double standard these days. Society assumes that a woman isn’t fulfilled unless she had given birth. But why don’t we assume that about the men around us? With this fight for equality around us, we need to get over this belief that we are all the same or that genders have certain characteristics that we share. I am coming to the belief more and more that people are on a plane of existence and not a continium. In sexuality, in drives, in stereotypical gender roles. We give men a much greater variety of desires when it comes to children. But women are all expected to greatly desire them. 

G was a bit ambivalent about children. I had to initiate conversations about them. I decided it was time. He is an amazing father, but he would have truly been okay with kids or no kids. I, on the other hand, was sure I wanted them. Have my timeline all worked out (although it has modified slightly). 

From certain moms groups I’m in, some moms have had kids because it’s expected of them and they’re bowing to pressure. Others have simply unintentionally gotten pregnant. Then there are those like me who planned and did it all on our time tables and very much intended for our children. But no matter what’s going on in our lives, we all suffer judgement on the choices we make about our wombs. Now, I will say our husbands do get a little say in what happens – maybe 10%. But definitely no where near a deciding vote. Just a little bit where, if we’re on the fence, their advice is welcome (but not necessarily followed).

Where are all of these thoughts coming from? A friend who is thinking she only wants one. A cousin who is sure she doesn’t want any. And they will both have to fight society for choices concerning their own bodies. 
Have an even number of kids I’ve been told – when I mentioned I might want three. Overheard an older lady at church tell an acquintance “maybe next time you’ll have your girl!” as the mother wrangled her 3 boys.  Others looks for the perfect family of a boy and a girl. Why should we be made to feel inadequate because we have only birthed a single gender or want an uneven number of children. God is the one who determines the type of bambinos we need in our lives. The genders, the personalities, the numbers. Family dynamics don’t guarantee siblings will pair up perfectly. I have three brothers. I was often off reading while they did their thing.

Ultimately, it’s my womb. My opinions. My God-given desire for no children. My God-given burn for one, six. My God-given heart for adoption or fostering. 

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God doesn’t love you if you’re…

There’s a group among us who has been persecuted for years, even put to death over a trait with which they were born. Even today, we tolerate them and sometimes have to make a consession for elements of their being. In my extended family, we carefully figure where they will sit at family dinners so they don’t offend the others around them. Well, even at this young age, I’m suspecting my son is one of them. (Won’t my uncles be thrilled!)

I am speaking, of course, about lefties.

The Bible talks about the righteous being seated at the right hand of God and the lost at his left. This was taken to mean that anything on the right is right and the left is wrong. (Which caused some difficulties for me when I was young concerning politics.) That attitude that the Bible says it, so we must obey no question. People with left hand dominance must not be good people. Never mind all of the other things we ignore because it’s less convenient to our lifestyles.

Various languages make this same assumption. Right is correct, left is those who are not included. French has similar distinction. Droit means straight and law. Gauche is clumsy and awkward. Guesses on which is which? In the middle ages, children were killed if they were lefthanded because they must be a child of Satan. In more recent times, we’ve simply forced the small 5-30% to conform and use their right hands or struggle with equipment is awkward for them. Scissors, cars, even credit cards machines (until the new pin machines are finally up and running) are all geared towards people who are right hand dominate.

This happens across cultures. Just because most people are wired one way, does that mean we should make people wires another way feel like a lesser citizen. Some areas of life just can’t be helped. Writing systems need to be more comfortable for the majority. Could we all learn to read backwards from right to left when needed? We absolutely can. Would that make english that much harder for people to learn and be proficient in? Absolutely. But I also think technology is creating a more level ground when it comes to written communication. (A problem in and of itself, but not something I’m going in depth on at the moment.) I think the issue also says a lot about our society & how we treat those who are different than us and our expectations.

The Bible can be used to show anything is correct or wrong. Instead of nitpicking, we should look to the example Jesus showed us in His treatment of everyone around Him.

One Year

This time last year, my son, Daddy & I were exhausted. We had been at the hospital over 36 hours & I was so overly ready to meet you. And now that we’ve spent a year getting to know you, we are so delighted to have you in our lives! (But I do wish you had chosen to sleep in a little on your birthday.) We love you very much! Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

 

Modesty and Assault

We have some teens staying at our church right now & stories about their leader have solidified some thought I’ve had lately. This man makes the girls wear t-shirts over their swimsuits if they go swimming so the boys’ thoughts stay pure. I have a couple of serious issues with this concept.

First, what message is this sending to those girls? Your body has issues & we have to make sure it stays covered. The female body in all of its photoshopped glory is so prevalent in culture, yet we can’t let young men see a real body because heaven forbid, they might get the wrong idea from seeing a girl in a one-piece swimsuit. Girls, your body is something to stay hidden. Let the boys enjoy the fake instead of the real, flaws & all. And it states that ” you (as a female) are at fault for every thought a boy has”.  What a terrible burden. No wonder we are having such issues in the society with consent and what exactly that means. (I love the tea analogy that has been circling social media lately.) Neither side is being taught the right lessons at an appropriate age.

Men have gotten the message that they are entitled to whatever they believe women are promising them. And depending on the guy, their definition of what is an invitation can be so different from what the other party’s is. Modesty is such a cultural thing. (Hold that thought. I’m coming back to it.) This is one of the problems I have with certain conservative Christians. That notion that I’m not responsible for myself. “The Devil made me do it. She tempted me.” Learn some self-control already. Decide that you either can or are going to work on your thoughts and actions, regardless of those around you. Deuteronomy talks specifically to rapes happening with no one else around. Is the woman blamed for it? No. Just the man is put to death and the assumption is made that the woman cried for help. Innocent. No question of what she did to encourage him. Why does our culture assume that women brought an assault on themselves instead of questioning the way we bring up our boys.

The internet has led to an increase of men seeing all women as objects. Let me rephrase that because objectification is nothing new. Rather, the internet has given all types of people a larger pool of subjects to objectify. We all do it. The movie star, the model, and everyday people whom we get to know on social media. And the distance through which we often interact leads to amplify certain parts of a person’s character. For example, I’m pretty quiet. I was practically non-existent on social media until I had my son, and even now, I limit what I post about him. I don’t want to live his early childhood out before he has any say on what he wants his online persona to be. I’m careful about the pictures I post and how often. I try to think about what I would have been comfortable with my parents posting about me. But someone who is an over sharer can take that route of going too far with what they choose to share to the detriment of their children’s futures. The guy who might be a little bit of a jerk suddenly becomes much more of one when he can hide behind the anonymity that can be found online. It removes our filters in way we could have predicted but didn’t think through the chance of losing that filter in real life. It amplifies us and that is starting to carry on into real life.

Now back to our notion of modesty. To me, it’s such fluid concept in society, especially Western society. Loved this post on modesty by Rachel Held Evans. I remember walking barefoot in France and being told it was shocking and immodest. Yet, no one batted an eye when I went barefoot at my wedding here in the States. Our perceptions on which body parts can show and which ones are improper is so arbitrary. We make a big deal about breastfeeding here in the US, but in other countries where breasts haven’t been sexualized, it’s not a problem. Christians should be the biggest proponents of breastfeeding yet they can often be the biggest critics. “It’s dirty.” “Cover up.” Give me a break! If we didn’t make our girls be overly “modest”, a baby eating would be seen more like the beautiful thing it truly is. And due to the internet, it’s become this battle. Do you or don’t you? And there is no winning, not matter which side you take, because it ultimately stems from problems in our society.

We will probably never know the answers, but might as well as the questions. Would porn be so prevalent if these conservative kids were allowed to see each other in appropriate settings without the “oh no” factor? Would our struggle with body image lessen if we didn’t compare ourselves to airbrushed models and weren’t condemned for showing a little skin? Would we have stronger mother and child bonds and less parents on government assistance if we encouraged breastfeeding instead of only allowing breasts to be seen as a sexual plaything vs. having multiple purposes?

Ultimately, it’s the duality that gets us.