Frozen Is Taking Over My Life

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Frozen is taking over my life.

Which I suppose should not be a surprise, considering that a) I have a daughter, and b) we just visited Disney World.

Incidentally, we did NOT stand in line to meet Anna and Elsa. We did chortle vindictively every time we rode the carousel, watching the “stand by” clock next door oscillate between 105 and 140 minutes. Who would DO that???? we kept asking each other. No, this was some girl we bumped into at the Christmas store in Downtown Disney. But Julianna nearly shot into the stratosphere, she was so excited.

Incidentally, we did NOT stand in line to meet Anna and Elsa. We did chortle vindictively every time we rode the carousel, watching the “stand by” clock next door oscillate between 105 and 140 minutes. Who would DO that???? we kept asking each other. No, this was some girl we bumped into at the Christmas store in Downtown Disney. But Julianna nearly shot into the stratosphere, she was so excited.

We were kind of late to the Frozen party. We took the kids to see it in the theater and we thought it was a great movie. Then, of course, the kids began singing That Song–or at least their faulty memory of it–twenty times a day for the next ten months, in combination with the Lego movie theme (surely the worst song ever written) and “What Does The Fox Say?” And since That Song is a phrase you use all the time in real life, people were constantly bursting into song at random intervals, thinking they were being funny. I found it so annoying, I kind of put a wall up around the movie.

But I downloaded the soundtrack for the road trip to Florida, and by the time we got home I was as big a fan as my kids.

The music is really good, first of all. Obviously the songs are the wormiest of ear worms, but the lyrics are clever (winter’s a great time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I’ll be a …………..happy snowman!), and I love the rest of the soundtrack. I think that opening is probably my favorite movie opening of all time. Some of the music is very Disney (which is good, but it really smacks you in the face with its Disney-ish-ness), but a lot of it is quite beautiful in its own right.

The other night as we were supposedly going to sleep, I said something about my heart rate monitor not quite working. “It told me my heart rate was 199,” I said. “I knew that wasn’t right. Then it got frozen there.”

“Did you let it go?” Christian asked.

You know that guttural, back-of-the-mouth sound of deep disgust? Yeah, that was me at that comment.

“Or did you just put up with it because it was the first time in forever?”

Oh, he thinks he’s soooo funny. ;)

On the wall of the Christmas store at Downtown Disney. By the way, do you notice how cold Julianna looks? What IS it with this idea that Florida is warm year round? We've been there four times in the winter/early spring now, and every single time It. Has. Been. Cold.

On the outside wall of the Christmas store at Downtown Disney. By the way, do you notice how cold Julianna looks? What IS it with this idea that Florida is warm year round? We’ve been there four times in the winter/early spring now, and every single time It. Has. Been. Cold.

But it’s not just the music, it’s the storytelling. Anna and Kristoph are so instantly likable. In my fumbling attempt to write a new novel during November, I never really finished figuring out my characters–I know their stories, mostly, but I’m not inside their heads yet. I begin to despair of ever being able to write characters who instantly have you rooting for them. (“Whoa there, Feisty Pants!”)

And a plot line that takes something very, very predictable and does something very, very special with it.

I actually read the Wikipedia entry on this movie, and took heart from what I found there. Frozen has a long, convoluted history, one that involved a lot of failed attempts and not-quites. It gives me hope that if I keep poking at this fiction thing, someday I’ll figure it out. I know my writing is good enough. I just have to find the right concept and characters that will sell.

In the meantime, I have to make sure I don’t over-expose myself to all things Frozen. The last time I did that, I was in junior high, babysitting a little girl who always, always, always watched The Little Mermaid. I got so sick of it, I ran the other way for twenty years.

What about you? Are you a Frozen fan? Or are you ready to hire the snowman to throw the Arendelle sisters out?

The Way We Talk To Each Other Matters

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In the spring and early summer of 1994, I was a sophomore in college. I spent the late semester gnashing my teeth about who got which solo parts in the orchestra, and my summer working on the farm. I was aware enough of the world to know something awful was going on in a country I’d never heard of on the other side of the Atlantic, but it was hard to get worked up about it, especially since there was nothing I could do.

Fast forward twenty years. Someone somewhere on the internet mentions a book called Left to Tell, a memoir of the Rwandan genocide. I check it out of the library and suddenly I am carrying it around the house reading while I prepare food and unload the dishwasher, because I cannot put it down.

It’s a horrible story, and Immaculée Ilibagiza doesn’t pull her punches. This story is compelling and so nauseating because of the way people turned on neighbors and friends. People they had been interacting with, going to school with, working with, worshiping with, for years. Ilibagiza tells of kids who grew up as friends suddenly hacking those friends to death. And over what?

Photo by billadler, via Flickr

An ethnic distinction so subtle, they had to have ID cards to make it clear, because they simply couldn’t tell by looking.

We can’t imagine something like this happening in America. We have free and open media that doesn’t spew the kind of ugliness toward groups that she describes in the leadup to the genocide. Our open elections and diverse population prevent us from ever falling down this kind of path.

Well, sort of.

Photo by cobalt123, via Flickr

See, it was language that stirred up the hatred. Propaganda that was so outlandish, reasonable people didn’t give it credit. They just ignored it, figuring nobody could possibly be swayed by language so dehumanizing, so polarizing, and so obviously not based on reason.

And a huge amount of the political, philosophical and religious discourse in America also fits that description.

Photo by tuaussi, via Flickr

The political fundraising letters, written in cataclysmic terms full of bold-face and italicized language, making sweeping generalizations about the motivations and even the worth of those who think differently from you and threatening apocalypse if you don’t act RIGHT NOW.

The Facebook diatribes beginning with the words “I’m sorry, but…” (or any other number of inflammatory openers).

The anonymous (or not anonymous) comments left on blog posts and news articles, ripping into previous commenters with scathing derision.

The email forwards whose only purpose is to stir up self-righteous indignation and “mobilize the base” (which translates to “move to the extreme position and dehumanize everyone who doesn’t come with you”).

Photo by Les_Stockton, via Flickr

Political ads of all stripes, narrated in a tone of voice full of derision and scorn while using half-truths and skewed facts to bamboozle a lazy electorate into thinking issues are black and white, when really they are very nuanced and can only be prised apart by–gasp–the application of REASON.

What I’m listing is not at the same level as what Ilibagiza describes. But it is definitely on the same spectrum.

We do not want to be on that spectrum.

So I’m just asking everyone to stop and think before you react. Before you make any statement about gays/Muslims/Catholics/Protestants/damn liberals/damn conservatives/whites/blacks/cops/municipal leaders/homeless/poor/fat cats/fill in the blank. What sort of tone of voice are you using? What sort of descriptors? Are you using your God-given intellect, or are you expressing bigotry and prejudice through an emotional reaction?

Think about the human dignity of whoever you’re tearing into.

The stakes are too high not to.

Birth Control Really Isn’t Health Care In The First Place

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It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I am a not a fan of birth control.  I think it’s unconscionable that women have been expected to suppress or perhaps even damage a healthy, normal part of who they are in the interest of unrestricted sex. Contraception has led to an expectation that women must be sexually available at all times. And it has facilitated relational dysfunctions like the hookup culture, which could not possibly exist without it.

I don’t normally comment on things political, but given this passion, I do want to make one observation in the wake of the supreme court decision earlier this week.

Birth control occupies an unusual, perhaps even unique, place in medicine. The purpose of medicine is to fix what is wrong with a human body, and birth control does not fix a woman’s health. In fact, it inhibits the normal, healthy function of her body. I am hard pressed to think of any other comparable situation in medicine (aside from vasectomy, which is part of the same topic).

Yes, the pill is slapped like a band-aid on any number of conditions, and I’m willing to concede that in some cases it can be useful to treat symptoms (although not the conditions underlying them). But birth control as a family planning method–which is what we’re talking about–is not treating a health problem. In fact, you could argue that it’s creating one by shutting down the way the body was designed to work.

For this reason, birth control’s presence in the health care law has always bothered me. I get why birth control must be administered by medical professionals: it’s a pharmaceutical, and where else in the regulatory hierarchy are you going to classify a pharmaceutical? But still–family planning is not health care.

12 Years A Slave

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Photo by Michael Rosenquest, via Flickr

There are times when you walk through the world filled with awe and joy and gratitude, aware of the wonder, the beauty, the innate goodness of all that exists on earth.

Other times it’s like a veil is ripped from your eyes, revealing the brokenness of the world in all its heartbreaking clarity. A brokenness so deep, so profound, so widespread, you realize it’s beyond the possibility of healing by any human effort.

And sometimes, being aware of one sensitizes you to the other.

I had another post planned for today, a post about joy and the search for the beautiful and the holy. But as I watched the passing moments in preparation for that post, the brokenness made itself clear, too. It came out most clearly in the news that a shelter for abused and neglected children in my town got muscled out of its planned location by residents saying “not in my back yard.”

Then last night, Christian and I started watching 12 Years A Slave. I expected it to be disturbing, but I wasn’t prepared for how deep it pierced, how mercilessly it convicted. It’s not just about the past, you see. What I realized, watching that movie, was that the state of our world, the problems that plague our nation today, began there, with the dehumanization of an entire race of people.

When I write it out like that, it’s a clear “well, duh” moment. But I had never seen the connection before–or at least, not in a way that transcended the theoretical. Like many people, perhaps most, I’ve always placed a dividing line between the past and the present. Our nation has done so much to work toward equality; what good is there in lashing ourselves for slavery and reconstruction and Jim Crow? It’s past. It’s done. The world isn’t perfect, but the real problems have been addressed.

Watching that movie unfold in all its shattering ugliness, I realized they haven’t.

A friend of mine told me once told me a story that I’ve spent a lot of time puzzling over. In a teacher training they were told that they had to understand the culture their students inhabited: a culture in which kids thought it was normal to receive their Christmas gifts from the Voluntary Action Center, and in which parents paid for a Lexus with spinning hubcaps before putting food on the table for their kids–because that was what was considered important in the circles in which they moved.

I thought: There is no way. It sounded like a lesson told by bigots, not by educators. To this day I have trouble believing it.

And yet if, indeed, a mindset like that exists, it’s because for hundreds of years one group of people–mine, I’m sorry to say–systematically dehumanized another, suppressing the expression of intelligence and the desire to achieve in order to keep them safely under control. Whites literally tried to beat it out of them.

We don’t do that anymore. But we do blame people for not breaking out of the cycle of poverty and poor education. There’s a less obvious and more plausibly denied racism that we cling to–the underlying assumptions that poverty and poor choices are a person’s own fault, because they just didn’t try hard enough. Ignoring the history that created the culture of poverty. Acting like it’s in the past, and thus not a real problem at all.

It makes me wonder: if I had lived a hundred fifty years ago, would I have been a participant? A collaborator? Would I have had the clarity of vision to recognize the abomination for what it was?

These are the times when I see the world and I want to weep for it. For myself. So broken. So far beyond helping ourselves. I move in my privileged middle class circles and rage at the super rich like the real battle is between me and those higher on the socioeconomic ladder, when the reality is I’m just as much to blame.

But I’m grateful for the clarity of vision, however painful, because it strips another layer of sanctimonious pride off my soul. And if somewhere there is a solution, I’ll be more likely to see it.

Itching For A Fight (a 7QT post)

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It began Tuesday morning, when I pulled into a spot at the public library twenty minutes before it opened. I let Michael get in the driver’s seat and play with all those fun controls while we waited. We were not the only people killing time between school dropoff and library opening time. There were half a dozen other cars in the lot. In the white sedan beside us, a blond college-age girl sat navigating her a smart phone…with the car running. For over fifteen minutes.

Now, it was not a hot day. Nor was it a cold day. My blood pressure rose every minute she sat there spewing pollutants into the air unnecessarily. I wanted to get out and knock on her window and suggest that she shut her car off. When we all got out to walk into the library  at the same time, I sent a little prayer winging skyward: Do I speak, or do I keep my big mouth shut?

The compulsion to speak was nearly beyond control. But I could not for the life of me come up with any way to address it that sounded anything other than  nose-in-your-business.

And so I didn’t say a word.

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This is not an easy dilemma to solve. On the one hand, it seems clear that life in this world will be much better if we stay the heck out of each other’s business. I may not agree with your choices, but it’s wrong to stick my nose in and give you the third degree about it. Our personal choices are our own.

A friend articulated it this way later that afternoon: “I kind of think whether people run their car for half an hour is their prerogative.”

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Not so fast.

Photo by Rachel Knickmeyer, via Flickr

Because it’s not your prerogative to do things that screw up the world for everyone else. We all have to live on the same planet, and that means we all have to think about how our actions impact others. That’s the reason we have rules at all. Nicholas has been asking questions lately like, “Why does green always mean go?”

“Because that’s the rule they made, honey.”

“But why?”

There is no why, it’s just a rule someone came up with so we could all coexist peacefully.

This issue–unnecessary consumption–is a global issue. It impacts all of us.

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Christian has tried for years to convince me that arguing with people is useless, that no one changes their mind because you engage them in flame wars or even spirited debate. All that happens is everybody leaves with bad feelings. This philosophy wars with my nature–I come from an extensive, widespread net of extremely opinionated people  dating back at least two generations, and probably further, only I was too young to know them. But in the past decade and a half I’ve come to recognize the truth of what my husband says. More often than not, I take deep breaths and abstain from pointless argument.

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But then again, evangelization can’t be limited to people who already agree with us. And if I feel convicted on an  issue because of my faith–in this case, that we have a responsibility to take care of the earth we’ve been given, and that there are dire consequences if we thumb our nose at that responsibility–then I’m not really living out my call to discipleship at all, am I?

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Dawn on Cloud Nine, by Krasnickaja Katya, via Wiki Commons

So…I’m opening a can of worms I’ve been avoiding all week. I’m just going to say it.

I believe in global warming.

I know that a good number of my readers probably don’t, but there it is. I don’t see how you can look at the explosion of devastating storms and years-long drought in recent history and not think, “Gee, isn’t it just possible that something we’re doing is having an impact on this?” These weather events are not judgment from God, and they are not just oh-well-it’s-a-fallen-world-after-all. If they’re getting more severe and more common, we need to take a hard look in the mirror and think about this quote from Fitzgerald:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

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I don’t see how we can close our eyes and pretend this isn’t happening, and say “it’s nobody’s business but my own if I burn fuel for fifteen minutes, or half an hour, in a parking lot.” I don’t see how we can say “it’s nobody’s business but my own if I don’t recycle.” Actions have consequences. How can we call ourselves Christians if we put “it’s-my-own-business” ahead of “the good of the whole world and everyone in it”?

End rant.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about winners, 100th birthdays, blue blocking glasses, and my desperate need for Youtube recommendations

Big Boys, crazy hair, and sex ed (a 7QT post)

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We had a friend over for dinner last weekend, and as we were asking her about her studies and her plans for the future, Alex sat across from her shaking his head. “This is why I don’t want to grow up,” he said. “There’s too much work.”

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This reminds me of what I always say about my two younger boys. Nicholas is desperate to be a big boy. Michael thinks he IS one.

Michael 2

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Michael’s been in speech therapy since the beginning of March, and I don’t know that I’ve talked about it much. We’ve taken the last two weeks off because his therapist was out of town, and Michael took so long to warm up to her–he’s been going through a raging case of secondary separation anxiety–that I didn’t want to set him back by having a sub. She says he works very hard, but it’s really difficult for him to make the various vowel sounds. He does have one very consistent word now–“Ma-ma!”–and a few inconsistent ones–baw (ball), tsoo (juice), meh (milk) and “wa-wa” (water). He also calls every color purple: “poh-poh.” He can point to the right ones, he just calls them all purple. And although he can’t talk, he makes an engine noise, something between “zoom” and “shooo” and “brrrrrr,” to illustrate all his various engine-powered toys.

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See, this is why I don’t talk about Michael’s speech therapy. Because lists of words are BOR.ING.

So let’s try something different.

Hair closeup

What in the world is THIS?

Hair closeup 2Oh, it’s just my 9-year-old’s head after he visited the hairspray booth at Julianna’s school festival.

Why yes, in fact his head does still look like he’s on the set of a bad horror flick every time he takes a shower. Thanks for asking.

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We have a nest full of baby birds in the bathroom vent for the basement bathroom. They are really noisy. About every three minutes they send up a chorus of chattering that lasts ten seconds, and then stops again. All I can think is that every time something moves outside their vent, they think it’s Mama Bird bringing them juicy worms or whatever they eat. Man, and I thought my bunch never shut up.

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Yesterday Michael decided he needed a snack an hour before dinner. He got in the refrigerator, perused the offerings, and brought me….wait for it…

A chocolate syrup bottle and a caramel syrup bottle.

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One of the unanticipated benefits of teaching natural family planning classes in our home is the way the information permeates the kids’ environment. I did a series of interviews a couple of years ago with families who were second-generation NFP users. I wanted to know what made the message “take.” I asked them how they went about The Talk, and do you know what they said? “We never did The Talk. It was just in the air.”

The more I think about it the more convinced I am of the wisdom of this. The Talk is a big, threatening thing, and it compartmentalizes a topic that should not be compartmentalized. If we are going to live our lives through the lens of our sexuality, then we can’t treat it like it’s a one-and-done lesson. It has to be part of everything we do.

I spy NFP charts on the TV screen on a Sunday afternoon...

I spy NFP charts on the TV screen on a Sunday afternoon…

Clearly we’re on that path. Crossing my fingers that it works as well for us as it did for the people I interviewed.

Fastest-written 7 quick takes ever! Go me!

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about hanging out with The Glitch Mob, a new meaning for #SOTG, and that terrible moment when you get cilantro bath soap and nobody cares

Parenting In Fear

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Last week I read a news story that really disturbed me. It was about a woman who was arrested after leaving her kids in a vehicle while she shopped for a phone. The story is really short (you can read it here), and there aren’t many details given. But here were the things that I thought as I read it:

1. She obviously didn’t go anywhere out of sight of the kids, because the story says as soon as the officers approached the car she came out.

2. In April in Connecticut, it is unlikely to be dangerously hot in a car.

Perhaps there is more to the story. She was reported to be “uncooperative.” Maybe she was belligerent and if she’d been rational and calm, they wouldn’t have arrested her. Maybe in the course of the confrontation, she revealed other things that showed her to be an unfit parent. I don’t know. But purely on what was reported, this story disturbs me.

I’ve debated for a week whether to blog about it because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if I say publicly, “This is an overreaction. This is not child endangerment. What did this woman do to deserve being arrested and having her children taken away from her?” that it puts me at risk of having someone knock on my door and say, “If that’s how you feel, maybe we need to take your kids from you.”

And this, at heart, is what I find so disturbing. I shouldn’t have to live with that fear.

We live in a society that is becoming steadily more judgmental about parenting decisions. In the back of our minds, we’re always aware that if we misstep in public, or if someone disagrees with a choice we make, we could be reported to the authorities. There’s always that threat of having our children taken away. Case in point: a blog reader told me once that she let her child play outside with another kid, and DFS came by and did an investigation because they thought she was endangering/neglecting her child.

Making parenting choices based on the fear of what other people think is not a recipe for good parenting.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think child protective services are the enemy. There are a lot of children who need much more and better than what they’re given. And there is such a thing as endangering a child by leaving them in the car. But there’s got to be room to weigh individual circumstance. There’s a big difference between someone who runs an errand at a strip mall, within sight of the car, for ten minutes when it’s 50 degrees outside, and someone who goes into the Mall of America for an hour or three when it’s 85 or 90.

Most parents weigh their decisions carefully, taking into account a wide range of factors unknown to anyone on the outside.

It makes sense to me that police officers would come up to a car when they realized there were kids in it and no adult. It does not make sense to me that when the mother immediately appeared–making it clear that she did have her eye on the children–they would arrest her for not having her eye on them.

Like I said, there could be more to the story. But this is what has been bothering me for the last week. What do you think? Have you ever made a parenting choice based not on what you thought was the right thing, but on the fear of being judged unfit by others?