Hello, My Name Is

I have one of the most common names there is — Sarah.  Everyone knows a Sarah or five.  It’s one of the female names that are timeless, like Elizabeth or Anna.  Names go in and out of style, but there are always those few that hover near the top of the list no matter what.  Of course that goes for boy names, as well — how many Johns, Christophers, or Michaels do you know?

I was named after my grandmother, and despite having one of the most common names of all time, it’s never bothered me.  I like the name Sarah.  And while I’ve had close friends named Sarah, distinguishing us hasn’t really been too much of a problem.  One of us will go by our last name, or we’ll add an adjective to our names — I’m the short Sarah.  It’s annoying occasionally, but it’s more often funny.

But while having a common name doesn’t bother me as a Sarah, it bothers me as a learner of other people’s names.  My fiance and I just moved to a new city, and at his job, he works closely with a group of four other men.  One of them has the same name as his brother, and since I’ve never met the coworker, I always end up thinking my fiance is talking about his brother.  But he usually is not.  It’s confusing.  And I can’t tell you how many Samanthas, Rachels, and Emilys I know.  Having to add descriptors to a few like-named people is fine.  But having to do it for everyone gets exhausting.

When I was in middle school, I wrote a lot of stories for fun.  At that time, it was popular for parents to name their kids something normal, but spell it really weirdly.  I liked that trend, so I ended up with a bunch of characters named Emaleigh, Haeli, or Lorynn.  (I also only did it for girls.)  Looking back, I seriously cringe at that.  Thank goodness that stage happened before the appropriate kid-bearing age.

But while I scoff at that attempt at uniqueness, the idea of having more unique names appeals to me now.  Why do we use the same names over and over, when there are literally millions of words we could be using instead?  Does the world really need another Sarah?  Wouldn’t that hypothetical person be the same with the name Juniper or Desdemona?

Names do have an effect on us, of course.  I’ve read before that children named Joseph Allen III, for example, think better of themselves than children named Joseph Allen Jr.  (One gives a sense of a whole identity while the other makes one feel like a mere shadow or copy of their parent.)  Names that are traditionally non-white get turned down more for job interviews.  And people with names like Storm or Ocean might be less likely to be taken seriously (even though people don’t usually name themselves, so it’s not their fault…but I’m getting off topic).  Naming a child is an important task, and one that should not be taken lightly.  Parents know this, and know that there are many factors to take into consideration, so more common names are often the safest options for multiple reasons.

But you don’t have to sound like a hippie to pick a more unique name.  There are plenty of “normal” names below the #100 mark on popularity lists that work just as well as the more popular ones.  Parents could decide on a meaning first, and then search for names based on that.  They can search cross-culturally and cross-religiously.  I’ve even seen ancient place names listed as possibilities on baby name sites, and not all of them were that weird.

There’s an infinite world of possible names out there.  Giving people more unique names will definitely make them more memorable, and it may even make the world a better place — if a kid has an uncommon name, who’s to say it won’t give them uncommon confidence?

Realistically speaking, I know it won’t happen that way.  Humans are creatures of habit, and that won’t change.  I also don’t really want kids of my own, so unless I change my mind, I can’t even do anything to make my dream world of unique names a reality.  Until then, you can call me Arazou Kaegan — it means wishful thinker.

Discussion: Political Statements in Jane the Virgin

I posted awhile ago about all the reasons the TV show Jane the Virgin is one of my favorites.  As season 3 comes to a close, every one of those reasons still holds.  Jane the Virgin is definitely in my top five favorite TV shows ever (up there with Parks and Rec and Breaking Bad, in case you’re wondering).

Jane the Virgin is also one of the most politically active fictional TV shows I’ve seen.  Other shows may use politics as a small plot point here and there, but Jane the Virgin sets itself in modern day, where the characters can react to politics and other current events as they happen.  It makes the show even more relevant than it already is, and may serve to get viewers more interested in current events and activism.  And it makes so much sense that the show is like this, because Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, is very politically and socially active.  She advocates for many minority groups on social media, and has an Instagram feature called #MovementMondays where she highlights minority actors and activists to get her followers learning and excited about change.

One example of current politics done well in Jane the Virgin is the status of Jane’s grandmother, Alba.  Alba is a Venezuelan immigrant, and when the show begins, she is completely undocumented.  For this reason, she is deathly afraid of police and other authority figures, and wants to apply for her green card but is afraid her lengthy illegal status will get her deported if she applies.  Jane and her mother help Alba overcome her fears and apply for her green card, and she later ends up marching in a protest to advocate for herself and for her boyfriend, who is undocumented when they meet.  It’s a very real situation for many here in the US, and Alba becomes a stronger character because she overcame her fear.

But there are other political statements that feel like they’ve been forced into the plot.  For example, Jane begins dating Fabian, one of her father’s coworkers, and feels she is ready for casual sex.  So she goes for it, showing up at his apartment dressed to impress, but Fabian ends up talking to her for two hours about books.  She’s frustrated, obviously.  But at the beginning of the scene where Jane tries to bring up her intentions, Fabian first asks a question about one of the books, to which Jane replies with a statement about free speech for everyone.  Then they launch into the sex conversation.

To me, that interaction felt forced.  It didn’t flow like a real conversation might have.  We didn’t see any of the previous book conversation, and after that one statement was made, there was no follow-up.  It wasn’t part of the plot, or part of any character’s development.  It was social commentary with no basis in the story, stuck into a conversation seemingly at the last minute.

Another thing that bothers me is the use of Jane’s child, Mateo.  At this point in the show, Mateo is about 4 years old.  Like any 4-year-old, he notices things about the world and wonders about them.  But I don’t know if the statements he makes are ones that a 4-year-old would think to ask.  He asks about abstract and complex concepts often.  Of course, young children are often much wiser than we give them credit for, and can surprise us with incredibly deep questions.  But the way they ask them is different than the way an adult or an older child would ask them, and I think Mateo’s writers may need to further study the way 4-year-olds process information.  Also, the fact that Mateo is even used at all to further the show’s political agenda (because it’s clear there is one) is a tad cringe-y to me.  Kids themselves do ask intelligent, political questions, but Mateo is used more as a mouthpiece for the writers than his own character, and that’s not the high quality storytelling that Jane the Virgin has shown previously.

Another show that makes political statements often is the comedy Last Man Standing.  Its views are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from those on Jane the Virgin, but the statements are usually more tastefully made because the characters’ political leanings are often a crucial part of the plot.  The father character on the show, Mike, holds opposite political views from his oldest daughter and some of his friends, and these differences are sometimes the basis of entire episodes.  As a sitcom, political differences make good fodder for jokes intertwined with the characters’ (and presumably the writers’) deeper values.

Last Man Standing, which aired on ABC, was discontinued on May 10, 2017 after 6 seasons.  Six seasons is a pretty good run for any show, but some are saying that ABC stopped it because the show is staunchly conservative.  I hope that’s not the case, for two reasons.  One is because TV shows should be protected under freedom of speech and expression, and removing a show because it differs in values is a little sketchy.  The other reason is because having different perspectives represented in TV is important.  People use TV for a ton of different reasons, but arguably the biggest is to relax.  Most people have come home from work or school and vegged out in front of the TV for a few hours, because it gives us a break from our own reality.  It gives us a reason to laugh or cry, and it gives us something to enjoy even when we’re so exhausted we can barely move.  Different perspectives need to represented on TV because everyone watches, and we all like to see ourselves.

Since we’re all watching TV anyway, adding some political and social commentary in there can be beneficial.  When it’s done artfully, it gets people thinking, and then maybe acting.  When it feels forced or not genuine, it alienates people from the perspective it’s trying to portray.  That’s why the best way to insert commentary is to do it subtly, make it an important plot point so that it doesn’t feel forced, and don’t overwhelm the show with it.  Regardless of my complaints, I feel that Jane the Virgin, overall, does an excellent job balancing social and political responsibility with superb storytelling.  I just hope the writers don’t go overboard.

The Maiden Name Dilemma

This has been on my mind since before I even got engaged.  To change my name, or not to change my name?  That is the question.

Lately, the more I think about it, the more I lean toward no.  I’m pretty traditional, but this is one thing that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  At risk of sounding feminazi (the horror!), I feel like it’s an antiquated practice that I could do without.  In the “olden days,” women changed their names to signify that they were now under the care of their husband rather than their father.  It was a sign of commitment, yes, but also a transactional symbol.

Obviously, that’s not really how name-changing is seen these days.  Most women change their names as an added symbol of commitment and as a public symbol of the switch from single-ness to marriage.  And if that’s what you want to do, that’s all fine and good.

To me, though, there are enough symbols without me also having to change my name. Our commitment to each other will be displayed through our marriage certificate, our rings, and our wedding.  Everyone important to us will see us get married.  We will both make the mental, emotional, and financial commitment (which really has already been made).  And after the ceremony is over, we will both wear rings on our left hand that say to everyone who sees them, I am a married person.  To me, that’s plenty.

Marriage, in its proper form, is a legal, emotional, and financial commitment between two individuals.  I am already a whole individual, and so is he.  Therefore, I think that the legal documentation, the rings, and the ceremony are sufficient public symbols.

There are obviously some cons to not taking his name.  The first and most obvious is that he is a traditional person as well, and I know he’d like for me to take his name.  That, honestly, is my biggest hangup.  It’s a little difficult to balance my own wishes with his, but that’s what marriage is.  Two individuals essentially becoming one unit comes with a ton of issues like this, as I know most are well aware.  Probably (definitely) more aware than I am.  We will have to discuss this and come to an understanding.

The other big issue is potential children.  I don’t particularly want any children, ever, but in case we do have children, whose name would they take?  I would be fine with them taking his — again, I’m fairly traditional, and I got my last name from my father, so I have no problem with them having his.  But that would be something that would have to be discussed.

I haven’t completely decided what I’m going to do yet, and I have some time before I really have to make that decision.  But it’s definitely something to think about.

I know many people have strong feelings on this; feel free to tell me what you think and/or share your own experience!

 

This Should Be Everyone’s Pet Peeve

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to get a pizza.  He drove, because I hate driving.  From his apartment, it takes about five minutes to get to the pizza place.  It’s a straight shot.  Turn out of the parking lot, drive, turn into the pizza lot.  The end.  It’s so easy.  And it should’ve been a happy drive, because I got pizza at the end.  But it wasn’t.  Do you know why?  Because in the five minutes that it took us to get to the pizza place and back, I saw five drivers staring at their phones instead of looking at the road.

Five drivers.  In five minutes.

Behavior like that infuriates me.  By this point, we have all heard the statistics.  In case you haven’t, here’s a rundown:

  • Texting while driving makes you 23x more likely to crash,
  • slows your brake reaction speed by 18%,
  • causes 1.6 million accidents a year,
  • and is the cause of 11 teen deaths every day.  Source

These are ridiculous numbers.  This stuff shouldn’t be happening.  It’s really not that hard to not use your phone while you’re driving.  And I know most of us have seen these statistics and messages at one point or another.  So why the crap are we still doing it?

  • I need everyone to see that I’m driving fast.  Live large!  A lot of people I know Snapchat while they drive so they can put up the miles per hour filter, as if we’re all going to be so impressed that you’re going 80 in the left lane.  Congratulations, friend, all you’ve done is give me road rage from my living room and also endangered everyone on the road around you, including yourself.
  • My fave song came on the radio and you have to listen to me sing along. #totalfan  Again, this is a common Snapchat thing.  Even if your viewers share your music taste, which they probably don’t, if they wanted to hear the song they’d just pull it up on Spotify, where they don’t have to listen to your (probably terrible) voiceover.  Not only is this dangerous, it’s dumb.
  • I’m texting a romance interest and I have to reply now because if I wait too long they’ll think I’m not interested!  No, they won’t.  They should think more highly of you for practicing safe driving.  And if they don’t, well, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  • I’m a good driver; I can use my phone while driving and be fine.  I’m still paying attention to the road.  Maybe, but not enough attention.  Your brain is not wired to do two things at once.  Sorry.  See brake reaction time stat above.
  • I’m bored and I’m tired of just looking at the road.  Sucks.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to die anytime soon.  And I don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s death, either.  I think most people agree with me on that.  So I honestly don’t understand why people think this is still okay.  It’s not okay.  It’s stupid.  You can be the greatest person I’ve ever met, but if I catch you using your phone while you drive, my respect for you will plummet.  And while I know my opinion of you means nothing, the fact that you’re more likely to harm another person by texting while driving definitely should.

I’m really not trying to sound all self-righteous here (I know it sounds like I am).  (Okay, maybe I am a little.)  But really, in all honesty, I am just genuinely baffled by the fact that texting and driving is known to be one of the most dangerous things you can ever do, and yet people still do it.

Y’all, it’s not that hard to just wait.  I know it’s tempting.  I know think you’re a good enough driver.  I know there might be no one else on the road right now.  But please, for the love of God, just stop.

Spanish: More Than a Language

Since I first mentioned my Spanish capstone project on this blog, it’s changed a bit.  Not drastically — my overall focus is still immigration, and I’m still reading a lot of books.  But even though I’m still fine-tuning my thesis statement, I’ve already learned something valuable.

For background: I’m white.  I grew up in a two-parent home.  Both my parents are college-educated, and they have always earned sufficient income to give me and my two siblings everything we need, plus extracurriculars such as 4H, music lessons, and summer camps.  Spanish language and culture has been an interest of mine since I was 8, and my parents had the means to allow me to learn.  Now, I’m about to graduate college with a Spanish degree, with a highly commendable command of the language.  I’m proud of this.  And I’m grateful.

More background: for my capstone, I’m mostly focusing on the work of Esmeralda Santiago.  Santiago, if you don’t know, is a Puerto Rican woman who moved with her family to the US when she was 13.  She did not speak much English when she arrived.  It was not her choice to move here, so unlike me, learning English wasn’t something she did for fun, or because it was interesting, or because she had dreams of being able to speak other languages.  Santiago learned English because she couldn’t have survived here without it.

It hit me, as I was reading Santiago’s two memoirs, that for me, Spanish is a luxury.

I have worked hard at learning Spanish.  I’ve worked hard for confidence and accuracy.  Languages come fairly naturally to me, but it hasn’t all been easy or fun.  I’ve continued my study of Spanish just as much to gain an advantage in the job market as I have because I enjoyed it.  But that is the difference between Santiago, and every other Spanish-speaking immigrant, and I — I had a choice.  I chose to study Spanish because I could, not because I had to.  And I was not thrown into the Spanish-speaking world before I was ready.

One of my old roommates was also a Spanish major.  She now works at a refugee resettlement organization, and teaches Spanish to kids after school.  She uses Spanish all day, every day.  Spanish, for her, is a talent and a passion, but also a way to do what she really wants to do, which is care for people.  While Spanish may have started as an interest for her, now it is entwined with her purpose.

Honestly, that is my goal too.  I want to be able to use Spanish in my daily life.  One, because I enjoy it, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning it, but also because it enables me to expand the circle of people to whom I can be useful.  Being able to speak Spanish opens me up to other parts of the world, and by extension those I’m connected with.

A few posts ago, I put up a graph of the results from a personality test I took.  I scored very high on the “dutiful” aspect, which makes sense.  When I realized that Spanish began as a luxury for me, I felt kind of spoiled.  But then I thought about Bill Gates — his asset, now, is that he is very wealthy, and he puts his money to good use through philanthropy.  While being able to speak a second language is a little different than being worth millions, I can try to turn my own luxury into something that is useful to the world as a whole.

Why Do We Hate Discussing Controversial Issues?

I know very few people that enjoy discussing politics and controversial social issues.  Most people, including me, tend to shy away from these topics and stick to lighter, more enjoyable, less divisive conversations.  In my experience, the people who actively bring up politics and divisive issues are the ones who have strong opinions backed by very little research (not always, but usually).

I have one friend I typically discuss social issues with.  She’s a sociology major, so she often talks about current events in her classes, and we generally have similar opinions.  Even if we disagree, we know how to do it respectfully, and we both admit when we have and haven’t done research on a topic.  Last time we met for coffee, we intended to stay away from politics, but ended up discussing them and other controversial issues almost the entire time we were together.  It was intellectually refreshing.  And then we wondered why people don’t do this more often.

Of course, there is the obvious reason.  Politics and social issues are divisive.  I’ve mentioned before that talking about politics means talking about everyone’s baggage as well.  It’s uncomfortable and annoying, and sometimes not worth the arguments that will inevitably ensue.

But why do these things hold so much passion for us?  One reason is that our political beliefs are closely related to how we view ourselves — our self-identity.  I read an article the other day about what parts of our brains light up when we discuss politics.  I couldn’t find the original article, but I did find this (older) one that got similar results to the one I read.  In the study, scientists monitored subjects’ brains while they evaluated “information that threatened their preferred candidate” just before the 2004 presidential election (I told you it was an old article).  Here’s what they found:

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”  [emphasis mine]

Discussing politics isn’t the same as discussing what color to paint the walls.  Attacking someone’s political beliefs is more like insulting their kid.  The parent isn’t going to think rationally about that (at least at first); they’re going to be angry.  How dare someone say that about their kid, who they have a strong emotional connection with?  How can they believe x, when clearly y is true?  It’s hard to separate reason from that innate emotional response, and it’s much the same for politics.

I think another reason it’s hard to discuss these things is because it requires true self-examination.  It’s hard work.  First, we must inform ourselves about what’s really going on.  Then, we have to compare our moral values against what’s happening in the world, and then we have to pick a stance, and then we have to defend it.  It’s difficult.  It’s time-consuming.  In my experience, I’ve never just known what my opinion is on a hot button issue.  I have to research.  I have to discuss.  I have to mull it over.  And then I sometimes end up changing my mind.  It’s introspective, and introspection is hard, because it requires us to really know ourselves.  And sometimes, we don’t like what we find.

Other times, we think we do know ourselves.  We have opinions and we stick to them. But we still avoid discussing hot topics because what if someone has a better argument?  What then?  If my views are disproved, am I really who I think I am?  Good counter-arguments can dismantle us, and our sense of self-identity, completely.

But as uncomfortable as it is, these things can’t be avoided.  If we avoid learning and trying to form opinions, we will get used, or ignored.  We’ll be seen as ignorant or outdated.  Our usefulness to society declines.  My friend brought up this specific situation: over the past two summers, she has worked at a children’s Christian sleep-away camp.  It’s similar to the quintessential camp experience: horseback riding, rock wall climbing, and overnight camping trips.  But the staff faces big issues.  Last summer, they received  call from a mother wondering what the camp’s policy was for transgender children.

Transgenderism and gender dysmorphia is something that Christians typically avoid.  It’s incredibly difficult to understand, especially within the context of Christianity, and on top of that it has to do with sex, which is often a taboo topic in Christian circles.  But if the camp staff hadn’t discussed it, they would have come across as willfully ignorant to that mom.  And they might have missed the chance to minister to a group of children that needs love the most.

Politics and issues like this aren’t fun.  We live in a messed-up world that often just looks bleak.  But the only way to affect it is to know what’s happening, and know how we feel about it, so that we can do something to enact change.  They say nothing good in life is easy, and in this, it’s more than true.

On Trump’s Inauguration Speech + A Discussion on News From Twitter

So, I watched the inauguration.  I didn’t really want to, but it’s history, as my mother told me, and mother knows best.

Just so we’ll be clear, I don’t like Trump.  Also, I don’t pretend to be any kind of political expert.  Because I’m mostly tired of hearing and speaking about Trump, but now we really have to, here are my reactions to his speech in bullet form:

  • His speech was all about America.  Obviously, as President of the US, it should be.  But, he also implied that the US is the most important country in the world.  While there is no denying that it is highly important as a global power, I feel that he completely dismissed the importance of literally all other countries, and by extension, the people who inhabit them.
  • He seems to think that helping or even being involved with other countries equals harming the US.  I completely disagree.  From an economic perspective, helping other countries develop and therefore become richer benefits the US because it means they have the power to buy and sell from and to us, which over time increases our own GDP.  I realize that the US as a whole, in trying to “help” other countries, hasn’t always been the most helpful.  However, I think it is prudent to maintain an attitude of mutual benefit.  No man is an island, and countries (metaphorically speaking) aren’t, either.
  • He mentioned that he was going to eradicate Islamic terrorism.  While not a bad sentiment, I think this wording showed his skewed worldview.  The terrorist groups that claim Islam are not recognized as truly Islamic by the vast majority of Muslims.  I’m all for ending terrorism, but I’m definitely against perpetuating xenophobia.
  • His speech really was more of a campaign speech than an inaugural address.  I watched NBC’s live stream of the ceremony, and the reporters noted that some of the paragraphs were verbatim from campaign speeches.  I’m not sure if that means he is too inexperienced/doesn’t care enough to prepare a real inaugural address, or if he is so insecure in his support that he still feels he must garner it.
  • The NBC reporters also noted that he kind of insulted all the former presidents with him on the podium as well as the Republican senators.  I agree, because he implied that the government has completely failed in most respects.  I’m not saying it did or didn’t, but the way he put his views was quite tactless.  Although let’s be honest — he’s not known for tact.

That’s all the thoughts I have on that.  Stay tuned till Thursday for a much more enjoyable discussion on coffee culture.  Or read on if you feel like talking about Twitter and news.


So, Twitter.

It took me awhile to get into Twitter.  I don’t use it the same way I use Instagram or Facebook.  While those are ways to keep up with people I actually know, I use Twitter to get my news.  I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch televised news much, and I barely have enough time to read the books I need to for school, let alone various news sites.  So Twitter it is.

Here’s a breakdown of what I follow:

  • Business/entrepreneurship journals
  • Local TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers from my hometown and college town
  • Local police and emergency services accounts
  • Major US newspapers — Wall Street Journal, NY Times, etc.
  • Various BBC accounts
  • Celebrities
  • Bloggers

As far as news goes, I normally scroll through and read tweets and headlines, and I’ll read the articles I think are most important or that have to do with my hometown.  If several separate sources are writing about the same thing, I try to pay attention.  I’m also guilty of scrolling past stuff I don’t want to see, because let’s be honest — news is usually depressing.  I also try to pick and choose somewhat strategically what articles I click on, because most newspapers will only let non-subscribers view so many articles a month.  I try to save those free ones for important stuff.

Yesterday, someone mentioned something along the lines of, “That’s the danger of getting your news from Twitter.”  I don’t remember why they said it (I should probably pay more attention).  But it made me wonder why some people feel that way, because I think Twitter is a pretty good place to get news.

First, for my part, I follow well-known, established news sources.  I know journalists can never be completely objective, but to work for such established organizations means to follow ethical and objective journalistic standards to the best of your ability.  I tend to believe the best of the general population, and don’t think that a professional journalist would willingly jeopardize their career by reporting nonsense.  Readers do need to read critically, of course, but it is in everyone’s best interest for journalists to report objectively.

Second, I don’t just scroll through headlines.  When I see something important, I read the article to get the available details.  If I have time, I’ll read about the same event from another source.  I don’t do this all the time, of course, but I know that getting information from more than one source is preferable.

Finally, even if Twitter is not the best source of news, I would still rather stay updated through Twitter than not make an attempt to stay updated at all.  I try to be a good citizen (4H drilled that into me) and staying informed is one of the best ways to do that.  Until I make enough money to have cable and newspaper and magazine subscriptions, I’m going to keep using Twitter.

How do you get your news?  What’s your opinion on Twitter as a news source?

Thanksgiving 2016

So I was planning on doing a photo gallery of things I’m thankful for in my life, because today is Thanksgiving and I didn’t want to write a whole post.  But turns out, I don’t take that many photos — and also, I had a different idea.

  1. I’m thankful that I live in a country where we get to elect our own president and representatives, even if the results aren’t always what I wanted.  It hasn’t even been 100 years since women got the right to vote in the US, and here I am, never having lived in a world where I couldn’t.  Unlike many, many women all over the world, I got to voice my say in my own government on November 8.
  2. I’m thankful I live in an area that has clean water.  As of this week, Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water.
  3. I’m thankful that I have the money to mostly pay my own way for my living situation and college education, and I’m thankful that my parents have the means and willingness to make up for the little I don’t have.
  4. I’m thankful that I have a good chance of soon having enough disposable income to support the causes I feel strongly about, because I am tired of feeling and not doing.  I’m thankful that I’m privileged enough to have this be one of the things I’m thankful for.
  5. Finally, I’m thankful for the ability to blog and the community I’ve gained from it.  Blogging and reading other blogs forces me to think through hard issues and exposes me to viewpoints very different from mine.

All these, of course, are in addition to the things you all know I love — my boyfriend, my parental units, friends that still love me even when I suck at texting back, books, coffee, and the fact that cats exist — just to name a few.  I could go on and on, and I probably should because thinking through all these things forces me to have a better attitude.  (Maybe that should go on my goals for the new year.)  But I’ll go ahead and sign off now, because I know there is Southern-style dressing and turkey waiting for me.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Oh — and don’t forget to #ShopSmallSaturday!

Discussion: LifeWay’s Decision to Pull Jen Hatmaker’s Products

On October 25, this interview with Jen Hatmaker was published on religionnews.com.  In it, she talks about her views on Trump (dislikes) and Clinton (open to supporting), the Black Lives Matter movement (supports), and LGBT rights (supports).  Two days later, LifeWay pulled her materials from its stores because of her opinions on LGBT rights.

First off, let me just clarify that obviously, LifeWay is a private company.  They have every right to pick and choose what they make available to customers.  We live in a free country, and if LifeWay doesn’t want to sell a product for whatever reason, they are perfectly within their rights not to sell it.  I understand that.

That said, I think their choice was a little bit silly.  I looked through Jen Hatmaker’s website for the books she has written, and while I must admit I’ve never read any of them, none of the descriptions seem to insinuate that they have anything to do with what Christians should believe about the LGBT community.  They’re what you would expect from a well-established Christian author — devotionals for women of all ages, a 7-month plan to combat excess in 7 areas of life, and a few in depth Bible study books.  If you hadn’t read the interview, you would never know her views on LGBT people.

Second, Jen Hatmaker is not the only Christian who supports LGBT rights.  Those two things are not mutually exclusive.  By pulling her materials, LifeWay robs its customers of the freedom to choose their own Christian role models.  It’s almost as if they do not trust their customers to pick the “right” materials, even though the majority of their customers are church leaders who have had extensive training in ministry and theology.

Finally, a good friend brought up this question: if Hatmaker weren’t so high profile, would LifeWay would have cared about the interview?  Do they extensively research every single author, artist, and publisher whose products they carry, and reject them if they don’t exactly match what LifeWay believes?  If not, how do they know they aren’t carrying products by authors who are even more liberal than Jen Hatmaker?

By October 31, Hatmaker published the below post on her Facebook page in response to LifeWay’s actions.  In my eyes, she handled the ordeal with grace.

Hi, everyone.

A couple of quick thoughts on all these tender things:

1. First, regardless of what you see from strangers on the internet, our real friends and ministry partners and colleagues and fellow pastors have been across the board, carte blanche, by the dozens and dozens and dozens…kind and good to Brandon and I this week. Every one of them. We can’t even keep up with it. So know that regardless of headlines, we have very much experienced a faithful witness to Jesus through our friends in our real life this week. They give the church a beautiful name worthy of its source.

2. I’m not here to defend or explain right now. I have very open hands here. I have nothing to protect, nothing worth losing that I am not afraid to lose. I have zero agenda for myself. I don’t feel self-protective or defensive or scared or angry. I am neither trying to gain applause or start a war. Some people are throwing parades and some are burning books, but I am not motivated by either; I’m neither overly encouraged or overly discouraged. If you believe the hype, you have to also believe the hate, and neither is fully true. Some are certain I am after “the approval of people,” but here is the truth: I don’t love the approval of people, but I do love people. I love them because Jesus’ love for us is so insane and big and outside our templates and it reaches and reaches and reaches past our comforts to draw people to Him, and He does this with or without our permissions and sanctions and rules and hierarchies, and He has done it for all of time and will continue to do it for all of time. We are standing outside the city gates with people He asked us to stand with, and that is the beginning and end of it.

3. The time will come to discuss and talk about this together, but know this: we deeply, sincerely, with our minds and hearts both engaged, including perspectives all along the spectrum, in deep discussions with people we trust and respect, with prayer and careful study and deliberation moved into this space. We wrestled with and through Scripture, not around it. Our view of the Word is still very high, as is it for the hundreds of thousands of faithful believers who believe likewise.

4. Regardless of your position, please remember this as you respond, discuss, and take this conversation to both your Facebook walls and your dining room tables this week: all around you, the LGBTQ community is watching. They are listening. They are watching how we respond, how we talk about them, how we actually feel about them in our churches. They are your neighbors, your colleagues, they are in your churches already, some of them are in your homes, some of them are your children and you don’t know it. Most of them are quiet because they are scared. With good and obvious reason. But they are beautiful people loved by Jesus and no matter what, we should speak in a way befitting the way of grace, the same way that found and saved and redeemed and healed us too. Please don’t mistakenly take me to the mat in public or private and imagine it doesn’t carry weight with tender, beloved people who are bearing witness to all this.

I love you sincerely. I am always grateful to be your sister. All of you. And I hold those of you who are angry or shocked or confused with me this week very tenderly, too. I love you and I am here in the tension, committed to our little community and to all these sisters of mine. I am still here, hands open. Please remember with kindness and mercy the eyes on my page this week, so impossibly dear to God.

On the Election

I didn’t want to write about the US Presidential election at all.  I dislike getting into politics.  I don’t know a lot about it, and I just don’t like what it does to the vibe of a room.  You bring up politics, and you bring up everybody’s baggage right along with it.  Obviously, politics are incredibly important, and paying attention to current events is just part of good citizenship.  But that’s not what I want for my blog, so I’ve refrained from posting about it.

However, this election is different than any other election we’ve had here. I was stunned to wake up yesterday morning finding out Trump won. I honestly didn’t think it would happen. 

But what shocked and saddened me more than anything were the blog posts I saw throughout the day. Nobody in my area made a big deal about the results in person (at least that I saw), but the internet blew up. I didn’t realize how many minority bloggers I follow until yesterday. It didn’t truly hit me how scared people are until I read the reactions. 

I am also afraid of a Trump presidency. But I’m a white, straight, middle class woman. I have much less to fear than black people, gay people, and immigrants. Yesterday, I read about people wondering if they should leave the country before they get deported. I read about people getting physically sick with anxiety over what may happen to LGBT rights. I read about people getting harassed like it’s the 19freaking60. 

I don’t want to be upset about the election. I want to stop thinking about it, and remember that there are checks and balances, and just focus on my semester of school. But I know that a lot of people can’t because they are afraid. 

I don’t know what I can do to make things better. The election is over. All I can do right now is say that I see you. I see your fear and your anger, and I am so sorry that America has failed you.