Ode to the Hardware Store

I love our hardware store
The folks there are just the greatest
I truly couldn’t love it more
Here, let me tell you of the latest:
Our lawn mower was broken
It needed to be fixed
“We need to buy one that’s new!”
No sooner had that been spoken,
Than that idea was nixed
Our love for the hardware store grew.

George will always help us,
Always stop to chat.
Even when we’re in a rush to catch the bus,
He’ll help us to do that.
All the smells in there combine,
The screws, the wood, the paint,
The sandpaper, all the little parts,
All send chills up my spine.
George keeps coming through, like a Saint.
We’ve got him in our hearts.

If you want to write your own ode, let e-how help you! And yes, with a little bit of help, we managed to fix our lawnmower and our washing machine for under $10.


Opinions and Identity

Today I realized that sometimes it’s ok to not voice my opinions.  That sometimes, it’s more helpful to just listen, even when stating opinions doesn’t seem to be directly harmful. 

In church last week, one of the “applications” of the lesson that day was to be “careful about forcefully inserting our opinions into most conversations.”  Val, the pastor giving the sermon, shared the insight that in this region of the country, people are often mistaken to be whatever we think or whatever opinions we state.  Having a strong opinion is often lauded, and in fact, expected.  People sometimes look upon people who do not participate by loudly stating their opionions, as less intelligent, callous, or otherwise uninteresting.  At the time, that piece of the message did not really connect for me; I was focused on some of the broader applications such as “forgo judgment” and “be quick to say you’re sorry.” 

Today in the graduate course I’m taking, I realized I was judging some of the other students for not joining in on a debated topic.  Our professor seems to enjoy throwing out controversial topics and seeing where it takes us.  As a child of my father’s (and a child who grew up in the Netherlands), I have become well-versed in these types of conversations and am quite comfortable taking a side on an issue.  This doesn’t mean that I’m married to that opinion, it’s just a way of responding.  Another way of responding was demonstrated today in class – with some people not participating unless they were specifically asked for their thought on the matter.  Our professor wasn’t particularly inclined, so during lunch I realized that five of us were debating these topics, while 15 others (many more knowledgable than us who were speaking!) quietly sat and listened.  And for this, I judged them and grew frustrated.  After all, I wanted to learn from them!  Why couldn’t they see this?! 

During my lunchbreak walk I realized that perhaps I should be keeping my opinions a little less strong, and instead ask the other students what their thoughts are.  Asking thoughtful, open-ended questions has always gotten me to answers and great conversations around topics where I realize I want to learn more.  What was the purpose of my opinions today?  It was to show that I knew what I was talking about.  Hm… that doesn’t sit so well. 

I realized I’ve been doing the same on this blog, and it’s actually because I read it somewhere!  Some site that teaches you how to get more traffic to your blog… It actually said “make strong statements, have strong opinions.”  The theory is that this invites comments and counter-arguments, and we can learn.  However, I now think that is an extremely cultural thing, and that I’m just as likely to alienate people as to “invite” them when I make strong statements.  Some things are worth my strong statements, but some are not.  So be ready for more posts that raise more questions, more posts that include a direct invitation for dialogue on an issue, on a topic.  I have always been open to other views, but some folks operate culturally differently and less confrontational.  I learned that with my coworkers, and now I’m learning it with classmates and the blogosphere. 

What works best for you?  A strong statement that gets you riled up and ready to jump in with an objecting comment?  Or an invitation for comment, for thoughts, for other ideas and experiences?  Or am I still missing pieces of this picture? 

Our “Red Shoe” Accounts

“Uh, MrH?  Don’t look at our credit card statement for a few days, ok?”

You see, I had been shopping on Zappo’s.  I know some folks get sketched out by online shoe-buying, but I’m one of those people whose shoe-size isn’t carried in the department stores.  Or, woe is me, DSW!  So I frequent sites such as Zappo’s, 6pm, onlineshoes, and shoes.  YEAH!  Anyway, back to my statement above.  MrH, bless his heart, calmly asked me why I made that request.  I explained about the free two-way shipping and I promised to return 5 of the 6 pairs of shoes I’d ordered. 

At that point, I remembered something.  In our pre-marital counseling, we’d discussed the idea of each having an account in which we regularly deposit a pre-determined amount of money, for the purpose of making personal purchases.  We agreed on what types of purchases we’d be expected to make from that account, such as daily lattes, weekly basketball leagues, and yes, shoes.  We called it the “red shoe” account, since our priest shared a story of a fight she’d had with her husband over a pair of supposedly “unnecessary” red shoes.  Now I will say that red shoes never appear to be unnecessary to me, but hey, clearly he disagreed.

I can't possibly return these... So MrH and I have been faithfully putting our agreed-upon amounts into the accounts and I will say that I’ve reduced my latte habit and now more frequently make coffee at home (which, by the way, comes from our grocery account.  Ahhh tricky!).  Anyhow, until our interaction described above, I’d forgotten that I should be purchasing my shoes on my personal credit card, not our joint one!  After all, the shoes I was looking for were black – it’s all in a name, right? 

Anyway, overall, money fights have not been a huge part of our marriage, and I believe that our red shoe accounts are a big reason for that.  Being a wife doesn’t mean not buying fun shoes, it just means ensuring you have your own money to do so!

Being Green and Christian

It bothers me no end when with the label “Christian” come all sorts of other assumptions about who you are and what you believe.  The assumption that you must: vote for W., be conservative, associate only with other Christians, be anti-abortion, anti-gay people, anti-sex before marriage, believe that women must submit to their husbands, and apparently, that you can’t care for the environment.

I just ran across this article that talks about how being green has, for a long time, been seen as unnecessary because Christ is coming back so why bother to take care of the Earth.  WOW!  That’s a thought that has never even crossed my mind; does that mean I’m spiritually empty, or does it mean that perhaps there’s  a crazy standpoint there?  I’m a little riled up by all this.  Nobody knows when He will come, and isn’t the whole point to live as well as we can in the meantime?  Experiencing mass flooding, crazy weather patterns, and the extinction of vast numbers of species doesn’t sound like that!  It doesn’t sound like what God has for all of us. 

Thankfully, there are others who won’t hide behind some sort of moral superiority.  There are ones who are brave and stand up for what they believe – even if it’s unpopular within their religion (Jesus was never much one for religion anyway).  The Evangelical Climate Initiative speaks about the following four claims:

  1. Human-Induced Climate Change is Real
  2. The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest
  3. Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem
  4. The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—;starting now.

Well, I’ve never heard that believing in climate change has anything to do with believing that Jesus Christ is real.  Now that this idea is out there, it makes me wonder what my church thinks about this?  What my friends think about it?  It also makes me want to go pray for all those people who won’t look at the facts and act according to the urgency of addressing the issue of global warming.

“The Five Things Post” Phenomenon

Apparently in blogging world it’s “hip” to write top 5 or top 10 lists about certain things.  Apparently it’s also cool to then tag others who are somehow obligated to do the same thing.  Almost a month ago, my dear friend Alissa tagged me and I’ve been trying to think of whether and how to respond to that.  It made me immediately uneasy: “you can’t tell me what or how to blog!”  Look soon for another post entitled “the privacy of blogging.” 

So when you do a google search for this phenomenon, pages upon pages pop up with people listing five things about themselves that others don’t know.  Many start with “I haven’t played tag in ages, but here goes…”  or “I’m not sure why I’m doing this, but hey I was tagged.”  “I hate you for tagging me…”  “I’m sooo boring, honestly, untag me?”

Jeff Pulver is widely blamed (or credited) with getting this activity re-started, though it’s hard to find much info going back before him; he didn’t list the originators. 

Then of course, people began just blogging about their five things without ever being tagged.  I suppose that’s where these activities remind me of Facebook and Friendster, and start measuring how many real friends you have:
“you were never tagged?”
“oh no, but that’s ok.”
“I can’t believe nobody tagged you.”
“what does that mean?”
“well, just, you know, you seemed to have plenty of friends…”
“that’s it!  I don’t need to be tagged, I’m writing it on my own!”

Someone here even started following a whole tagging tree, detailing who was tagged and whom they then tagged.  Thankfully I’m not the only one who fails to continue the madness!  Though I will note an interesting trend, which is that the closer to the originator you are, the more likely you are to actually continue the tag.  I suppose that after that it becomes a matter of “do I follow the crowd?” or “do I choose to rebel?”  (or, I suppose “do I really have time for this?”)

So there you have it.  I’d have spent less time listing five things, but hope this might have been more thought-provoking.  Let me know if you know more about this phenomenon pre-Jeff Pulver. 

Playing House

During the moving process, I realized that I still desperately wanted to be able to host people.  It was getting ridiculous in terms of the packing thing.  I would pick up, say, my french press, but not be able to pack it away because “my, wouldn’t it be nice to serve coffee if someone came over?”  As we got closer to the day, my thoughts changed to “well, our friends who are helping might want some coffee!”  Never you mind that there is a plethora of wonderful coffeeshops in our neighborhood (both old and new) and that we were moving at 1 in the afternooon. 

Anyway, what I think it all points to is twofold:

  1. I really love to host and have people feel comfortable in our home. 
  2. I really enjoy the little rituals such as having a cup of coffee in the morning.

Both of these things can become difficult in the midst of a move because they both feel so impossible.  Not only are there no seating surfaces that aren’t covered in boxes, but most of the time I don’t know which box all those little things are in!  Thankfully, I found my french press just four days after moving and was able to sit on my couch, write in my journal, and enjoy a steaming cup of homebrew. 

Everything else is peanuts!