Where Logic Meets Love

Can We Please Stop Trying to Make Things Illegal and Actually Fix the Damn Problem?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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Can We Please Stop Trying to Make Things Illegal and Actually Fix the Damn Problem? | Faith Permeating Life

Let's get controversial today, shall we?

One thing that I absolutely do not understand is why people believe that making something illegal means that it won't happen anymore.

Here's an analogy. The kids in your neighborhood have rock fights. They find big rocks and chase each other and throw rocks at each other. You think that this is horribly dangerous, not to mention the possibility of breaking windows, etc. And so you create a big sign for your front lawn that says, "Please do not have rock fights anymore." And then you go back in your house.

What have you accomplished? You haven't talked to the kids and explained the dangers of what they're doing. You haven't talked to their parents to see if they're aware of what's going on. You haven't attempted to provide a positive alternative, like giving them Nerf guns or something. If anything, they may stay off your lawn while having their rock fights, but they'll probably still have them.

Yes, I know that with actual laws there are consequences, like getting a fine or going to jail. But so far that hasn't eliminated theft or murder or drugs or any number of things for which you could get into trouble. It just hasn't.

I'm fired up about this for two reasons.

One is that we just passed the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which always stirs up laments (at least in my church and among my Facebook friends) about how terrible it was that abortion was made legal. You want to know something? Do you know that before Roe v. Wade, the number one cause of death among pregnant women was botched abortions? (For more info, see the awesome and frightening book Birth by Tina Cassidy.) Now I realize it's impossible to measure the number of illegal abortions because they're, well, illegal, and typically done in secret, so it's impossible to say what Roe v. Wade did to the total number of abortions in this country. But I can confidently say that Roe v. Wade did not cause women to start having abortions. And making abortions illegal again would not mean the end of abortions in this country. That's just the plain and simple truth.

This is what, frankly, pisses me off: A lot of the people in America who want to make abortions illegal are the same people who want abstinence-only education and who want to prevent any kind of "socialist handouts" to anyone, no matter their situation. So basically, you want to take a girl who grows up in a culture where everyone she knows is having sex in middle school, you want to avoid telling her how not to get pregnant except that she shouldn't have sex at all, then when she gets pregnant you want to make her have the child but give her absolutely no help in feeding the child, getting health care for the child, having a place to live with her child, and so on?

I am not an advocate for abortion. But I am an advocate for having a basic responsibility to take care of each other as a society. And I believe that making abortions illegal accomplishes nothing of value. If you want fewer abortions, you need fewer unintended pregnancies and more help with actually raising children. Period.

OK, you say, but what if she gives the child up for adoption?

This brings me to point number two why I'm fired up about this.

In reading more about adoption lately, it's come to my attention that some people want to completely abolish adoption. The reasoning is generally that it's traumatic for the child and it's always better to keep the child with the birth parent(s). In some cases, the writer will say that we should be providing more education and support for parents so that they don't need to place their child with another family. Fine. But I have yet to read an actual proposal for how we as a society would provide said education and support. Instead, the point of the article or the post is always, "This is a bad solution. Let's end adoption [or sometimes, only allow it in cases where the child is physically unsafe]."

Once again, this does not solve the problem. By all means, start up an organization. Educate pregnant women. Raise money for baby supplies. Fight for paternal rights. These are all good things, and these are all being done by many people in many places across the U.S. But that hasn't stopped some parents from simply abandoning their infants, or from getting hooked on drugs or ending up in jail and having their children put in foster care. It hasn't stopped teenagers with no income and few skills from getting pregnant and having no way to feed themselves and their baby. This is the reality of our country, and you can't just say, "We shouldn't have adoptions anymore," and magically every parent will decide to keep their children and take good care of them.

You know what would probably happen? We'd probably end up with more abortions, legal or not.

Here's something else I don't understand: the term "big government." Apparently, if the government wants to help people and provide something for them they can't get themselves, that is "big government." But for the government to step in and declare something illegal because certain people think it shouldn't be happening, that is not "big government." I don't understand this notion that we as a country need to follow one (Christian) moral code as legislated by our government, but yet the government should be prevented from making sure that its citizens are fed, clothed, sheltered, and given medical attention?

Isn't this the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ actually said we should do?

Are We Really So Unusual?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

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Are We Really So Unusual? | Faith Permeating Life
There are a few ways Mike and I are different from many couples we know.

One is our lack of adherence to traditional gender roles. Mike cooks and cleans and plans to be our stay-at-home parent. He majored in a female-dominated field and easily makes friends with his female supervisors and female classmates. I am the breadwinner and manage our finances. My job involves data analysis and I'm starting to learn programming. I'm much more comfortable in a group of guys than a group of women, though I do have great one-on-one female friendships. You get the idea.

Another difference, I'm learning, is the level of trust, communication, and respect in our relationship. This alternately baffles and frustrates me.

For example, I hate make-up and jewelry (see point #1). The women at Mike's work will say something about make-up and say, "Oh, your wife would understand," or will make comments to him about how he should buy me jewelry. And he tells them, "No, my wife hates that stuff." And they'll tell him, "Oh, no, she just tells you she does or that you don't have to buy it for her, but she really wants you to." This irritates me because it presumes both that they know me (whom they've never met) better than my husband does, and that he and I don't have complete openness and honesty with each other. Which we do.

Way back when we were doing wedding planning and choosing things for our registry, we made all of those decisions together. And while I can kind of understand how some couples are comfortable having one partner plan the whole wedding -- it's only one day -- I don't understand how a registry, the things you're both going to live with every day, can be anything but a compromise.

I know my best friend reads this blog and I hope she will forgive my using her as an example, but this story goes beyond her to demonstrate a common theme among women: My friend wanted an art piece for their house, but her future husband hated it. She put it on the wedding registry anyway. What amazed me most, though, was the conversation that happened when she opened the gift at her bridal shower. First, she immediately laughed about how much her husband hated it. Then the giver of the gift said she'd bought it right away when she heard that the husband didn't want it. And someone else suggested my friend put it right in the most prominent spot in the house. Everyone laughed and agreed. And I thought, "Wait, are you trying to destroy their marriage?"

Thankfully my friend and her husband have a strong relationship where this kind of thing isn't a big deal, but I just can't imagine making a decision against my husband's explicit wishes. And I think part of the reason Mike and I are so open and honest with each other is we know that what we say will never be judged and will always be respected and taken seriously. Weird as I may be sometimes, Mike will change the way he says things if it's going to upset me otherwise. He could make fun of me. He could argue with me that it makes no difference. He could do it sarcastically. But he doesn't. He accepts that that's who I am and he respects my wishes.

It makes me wonder why more couples don't function this way. Or maybe they do and they're just not the people I know. But I think part of it has to do with the models we see of relationships in the media. It's considered "normal," by the standards of those depictions, to make fun of one another, to say cutting remarks, to bring each other's faults into conversation with friends. And I'll admit that when Mike and I are together with friends, sometimes I do slip into more of a "role" or tend to tease him more. I think I'm trying to draw attention to our relationship (a separate entity from either of us individually, as I've mentioned), but I do that in a negative way. It's something I'll have to avoid more consciously.

I'm interested to hear from those of you in a relationship, married or not. How do you treat each other on a day-to-day basis? And is it different in public than in private? How do you see your relationship compared to others you know? Compared to what you see on TV?

Happiness Commandments, cont.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

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Aaaaaand we're back!

(As a reminder, here's last week's post with my first six commandments.)

Still with me? Here are the other six.

7. Don't let fun become a chore
This is going to be a guiding principle for my resolutions. If I identify things that make me happy or that I find fun, I can easily see me forcing myself to do those things to a point that it is not enjoyable and therefore counterproductive. For example, I have been in love with the game Set since the third grade and recently downloaded an app for my iPad. I was playing it at lunch today and thought, "I should do this more often. Not check e-mail or think about work, just play a game I enjoy." But I resisted the urge to make it a resolution because I know that if I actually required myself to play a game, I would immediately stop enjoying it.

8. Count your blessings
One of the coping methods I use when I'm impatient -- for example, I'm walking through the icy morning wind and the train station is still 200 feet away -- is counting backwards. It helps me deal because I'm telling my brain, "It's OK, we'll be there in 30 seconds." The problem is that I suck at estimating and so it's just as likely I'll still be in the icy cold when I get to zero. So in an effort to infuse more gratitude into my life, I decided that counting my blessings could be both a guiding principle and a literal commandment. I start thinking through all the things I'm grateful for, and I always make it to the station before I run out of things to be grateful for.

9. Hold your tongue
This is a funny one because I'm actually a relatively quiet person. When I was younger I used to be really bossy, loud, and annoying. Then one day -- I'm not even making this up -- I realized that I didn't have to respond to everything other people said. This prevented me from continually saying obnoxious and sarcastic things off the top of my head. And just like that I became one of the quiet ones.

There are still situations, though, where I need to learn to shut up. I have a tendency to correct people and/or talk over them if they are telling someone a story that involved both of us -- or just me, and I told it to them -- and they get something wrong. I jump in and correct them and finish the story. But I realized that I suck at telling stories too. I need to just shut up and let them tell the story wrong and in all likelihood the punchline will still be just as funny.

10. Assume mistakes
I need to double-check everything, even if I did it myself and even if I was super-careful and don't think I made any mistakes. I do my best self-proofreading when I go into it assuming that there's a mistake somewhere and trying to find the mistake. I could use a little more humility about my work up front so I'm not humiliated by someone else finding my mistakes later on.

11. Identify the problem
This is one I stole from Gretchen, and it's brilliantly simple. I spent all last winter complaining about how cold it is on my floor at work, and how many of us wear our coats all day and people have space heaters even though they're not supposed to, etc. This year, I shut up (see #9) and did something about it. Through a combination of gift cards I'd been saving and Amazon credit from the online surveys I do, I bought myself some high-quality baselayer garments, additional long-sleeved T-shirts to wear under my sweaters, thick tights, and some convertible mittens/fingerless gloves that I love. I also had the problem that I was drinking tea to stay warm, but I hated the tea at work and it made me feel sick after more than one cup. So I bought a big box of decaf Lipton tea bags -- the only kind of tea I really actually like -- and a bottle of honey and brought 'em to work with me. Problem solved.

12. There is only love
This is the final one I took from Gretchen's list. It presents, at least for me, an unattainable ideal, but it's a reminder of what everyone should be striving for. No complaining. No gossiping. No badmouthing. A perspective that everyone has something good to offer and we should only focus on that good. There is no acceptable way to treat another person except love. This is a tough one, but I think even a little improvement, just from having this phrase in my head, will go a long way.

Two other notes for this week:

1. Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary has a fabulous post about what being "open to life" means and how it differs from the Quiverfull philosophy, which is how I hear a lot of NFP-practicing folks talk about NFP. I think she explains it a lot more eloquently than I've been able to in my previous posts.

2. Jennifer also created a tool called the Saint's Name Generator so you can randomly select a saint to study for the year. It picked for me St. Vitus. When I first saw the list of his patronage*, I was actually pretty amused, and when I read about him on Wikipedia, my reaction was kind of, "WTF?" (Great thing to say about a saint, huh?) Because it seems like most of his notoriety comes not from anything he actually did but because people used to dance in front of his statue, and apparently the dancing became associated with a neurological disorder that was nicknamed "St. Vitus' Dance." And at first I thought this was a terrible saint to meditate on for a year because I saw no connection to my own life, but then I realized that every single time I thought about him and his patronage(s?), I laughed. What better saint for the year of the happiness project?

*Actors; Against Animal Attacks; Against Lightning; Against Oversleeping; Against Rheumatic Chorea; Against Snake Bites; Against Storms; Comedians; Czech Republic; Dancers; Dogs; Epileptics

The Happiness Project has Commenced!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

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The Happiness Project has Commenced! | Faith Permeating Life
Alright, folks, as promised, here is the introduction to my stab at following in Gretchen Rubin's footsteps and embarking on a year-long happiness project.

What I like about this concept is that it's essentially like a bunch of new year's resolutions, except focusing on one area of your life at a time. It takes 21 days to form a habit (or 7, or 30, or whatever, depending on who you read), so you spend a month focusing on specific resolutions to improve one area of your life until they hopefully become habit, then continue those into the next month and add additional resolutions focusing on a different area. The key is keeping a daily checklist so you have to say whether you achieved your resolutions for that day, every day.

January's goal is Health. Two of my resolutions are things I already do, I just want to have accountability to make sure I do them every day: take my vitamins in the morning and floss at night. I'm also starting up Wii Fit again, doing that two days a week, and doing my neti pot one day a week in hopes of eventually getting off Claritin (which is what finally cleared up the sinus problem I had for, oh, 12 years or so).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, another important aspect of the happiness project is the commandments. These are not specific resolutions, but guiding principles to keep in mind through all daily actions. Regardless of what happens in the course of the day, these commandments are supposed to help me remember how I want to act.

I stole three of my twelve (and the fact that there are twelve) from Gretchen, but the rest are mine. I'll go through them briefly to explain what I mean by them.

1. Be Jessica
Gretchen's first commandment is "Be Gretchen," and it's a good one. It essentially means that in all things, you should be striving to be more of your true self, and not trying to emulate others. I decided that one of the commandments I'd created previously, "Don't feel guilty if you're not doing anything wrong," rolls into this one. Mike likes to poke fun at the fact that I like to spend my Friday night reading a book and drinking tea, but you know what? That's who I am.

2. There is time
This is something I need to remind myself of a lot. If I have a lot on my plate, I start to get panicky. This is mostly because I like turning around assignments quickly. I have to remind myself that people don't expect things back right away. And if I'm doing a project for myself, like organizing my photos or researching my family tree, as much as I may like to get it done soon -- there is time. I'm 25 years old. I have a life ahead of me. Most of the time, it doesn't need to get done tomorrow, or even in the next week.

3. Prioritize right
This ties into the previous one. If I've started on a project, I want to finish it, sometimes unreasonably so. This Sunday I forced myself to put this into practice. I had been wanting for some time to sit down and go through our filing cabinet to scan and shred stuff we don't need anymore. I finally had a quiet afternoon, my computer, and my scanner all set up. But it was 4pm and I still needed to go grocery shopping. I hate going grocery shopping after dark, and right now it gets dark around 4:30pm here. Every fiber in my being wanted to stay in my warm apartment and start digging into my files, but I made myself go out shopping before I started on my project. I knew otherwise I'd never get out shopping.

4. One step at a time
This is similar to "There is time," but in practice it applies to different things. "There is time" has to do more with remembering how much time I have ahead of me, that things I want to do in my life don't have to get done in the next year (assuming I don't get hit by a bus or whatever). "One step at a time" is for those things that do need to get done in the next week, or the next day, or the next hour -- usually at work. It's a reminder to breathe and go methodically through my to-do list.

5. Don't get in a pissing contest
Also mentioned previously. I think I explained it enough before.

6. Do it before it's too late
Are you noticing a theme? Most of my faults have to do with time management. Which is weird, because people actually see me as managing my time very well, and I rarely procrastinate. But as a result, I get panicked about getting things done. Except... when I don't. Like the other day when Mike pointed out a very small tear in the knee of his jeans and asked me to fix it. What I should have said was, "Change your pants right now, I'll sew it up in five minutes." Instead my response was more like, "Mehhh ok" and I hoped that he would either sew it up himself, or it wouldn't get any bigger and I could do it later, or he would be smart and stop wearing the pants until they were fixed. Of course, none of these things happened, and now there is a giant hole in the knee of the jeans, which are sitting next to my nightstand until I have time to construct an actual patch for them and sew the whole thing together. If something doesn't have a deadline attached to it and I really don't want to do it, I have a bad habit of hoping it will go away. It doesn't. Thus this commandment.

I can see your eyes starting to glaze over, so I'll stop here for now and post the other six next week. I'm trying to post once a week on either Thursday or Friday. I'm also hoping to do Bloggiesta to make my blog a little sharper-looking and maybe get some more readers.

Stay tuned! Would love to hear your thoughts and whether you'd consider doing a happiness project for the year.
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