ignorance is [not] bliss.

I have noticed a trend emphasized by social media that makes me cringe and sometimes even fearful.

Can I put out a desperate plea?

Can we please stop celebrating ignorance?

I want to make the distinction first between celebration and admission.  I firmly believe that admission of ignorance on any given topic whether it be in public forum or discussion between friends is absolutely useful for creating environments of humility, not to say anything of creating strong bonds between people.  If there’s anything that will bring people together more than a common interest, it’s a common coming out of dark about a lack of awareness or know-how about something.  Trust me I have experienced the blessed relief of knowing, “whew, I’m not the only one who has no idea what I’m doing or what to think about this.” My favorite conversations are then the ones that follow, where I try to learn something, to be informed and educated.  That is admission of ignorance, an action that promotes a healthy self-awareness and keeps our egos in check.  Celebration of ignorance is over-embellishing the degree of ignorance and letting ourselves off the hook a bit too easily.  We are better than that.

I will be the first to raise my hand and say I don’t have a clue about many things in life, but I’m desperately trying to figure out how to live it well.  I try to take advantage of opportunities where I can learn something, especially from people who share viewpoints different than mine so I can gain a better perspective and greater understanding. At the same time this is not a plea for us to all try to become know-it-alls.  Besides, we all only have so much mental capacity and things we can afford to ponder in a day while managing our own selves and families  The issue is bragging on our ignorance in attempt to make ourselves more likable, to appear funnier.  Let’s not trade a humble quest for knowledge for shallow and fleeting solidarity among the peanut gallery.

Let’s not glorify in a facebook post how we don’t know how to operate our iphone.

Let’s not glorify to our friends how we don’t understand anything about retirement plans.

Let’s not glorify to our coworkers how impossibly complex the global trafficking issue is.

I have mentioned before how sometimes this world just seems like too much.  Problems are just too big and too hard to solve.  That is a dangerous mentality to get comfortable in because it takes us from despair to indifference.  But that’s the thing, if we are going to be a people that matter, in the sacred words of Schoolhouse Rock, “knowledge is power”.  The injustices of this world require people who 1. want to pursue understanding and 2. use it for good.  So when we start to feel overwhelmed by our lack of  understanding about something let’s do something about it or keep our concerns to ourselves.

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We have several options, but the option of elevating ignorance to celebration status is the worst one.  If we celebrate ignorance in the small things like not understanding technology it is a slippery slope to celebrating ignorance in the big things.

1. Ask for help. Do go ahead and put out an APB on facebook to get help for your iphone problem, understanding troop involvement in Chad, or bitcoin [I’m still lost on that one, but it falls into #3 for me].  Don’t post a conversation to social media between you and your husband showing how “funny” you are because you know nothing about cell phones.

2. Research.  Start with reputable sources you trust and go from there.  Don’t let yourself off the hook with the excuse that “you don’t know where to start”.  Google is your friend.

3. Move along.  If you find yourself in a conversation where you are not familiar with the topic, it’s really ok to just say so, admitting ignorance, or an even rarer feat, say nothing.  I think it is a very healthy and respectful notion to not feel compelled to jump into a conversation and fake your way through it.  At all costs, do not aggrandize your ignorance by saying it is “over your head” or the like. If you are not interested in the subject, move on from it or listen and learn.

If you want to celebrate ignorance make it a party of one. If you want to admit ignorance, learn something, and carry that with you, then by all means, party on.

 

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thinking things.

White privilege doesn’t mean what you think it means // Rage Against the Minivan

If I believed that “white privilege” was a term meant to diminish my personal achievements . . . if I thought “white privilege” meant that I had to apologize for things that happened before I was born . . .  if I thought that “white privilege” meant that I need to be ashamed or embarrassed for being born white . . . if I thought that “white privilege” dismisses the very real hardships and challenges that I’ve had in my life . . . if that was my understanding of white privilege, I’d probably be a little resentful about it, too.

Here’s what our fresh-faced Princeton undergrad gets wrong as he spends several paragraphs outlining the struggle of his own family:  the concept of white privilege does not deny individual hardships.

The phrase “check your privilege” is typically invoked when someone is being woefully ignorant or insensitively dismissive of the oppression of minority groups.  It’s not because someone wants a white person to apologize for being white, or dismiss someone’s opinion based on race.

But here’s how a privilege check usually works:

If I suggested that black people were over-reacting about Trayvon Martin, I might be told to check my (racial) privilege.

If I said that gay people should stop complaining about marriage rights because they are free to love each other and that’s all they need, I might be told to check my (hetero) privilege.

If I suggested that my kid’s school should stop sending home paper assignments and just let the kids do their homework from their own ipads, I might be told to check my (economic) privilege.

If I whine about the presence of handi-capped parking spaces at a concert venue, I might be told to check my (ability) privilege.

Being told to check your privilege has nothing to do with apologizing for being white. It has to do with being insensitive to the life experiences of others. “Check your empathy skills” might be a better phrase, but nonetheless, it’s not an attempt to shame someone’s race, but rather to point out that someone is refusing to acknowledge privilege differentials.

 

reading things.

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I’ve recently hit a goldmine of excellent reads and the common theme in all of them is people trying to figure out life.  Day by day, the right or wrong choices and the right or left choices, it can feel so overwhelming sometimes trying to navigate life well, with love and purpose.  These women have all crafted beautiful reads that made me feel not so alone in my screw-ups and hang-ups and misadventures, they poured nourishment into my heart.

1.  Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist – please, just read it.

Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweet rots both your teeth and your soul.  Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.  Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.

I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts and one of his most useful tools.  I’ve learned the hard way that change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us.  It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways.  I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and I’ve learned that in many cases change is not a function of life’s cruelty but instead a function of God’s graciousness.

2. Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt – this one resonated with me in so many ways, I wondered if I had subconsciously written a book and it got published.  Her memoir of her life change as a single 27 year old teacher to go on a crazy, life altering adventure with so many unknowns hit home, as you can imagine.  Even as she described her life in the first pages I wondered if I was instead reading descriptions of candid camera footage of my life.  More than that, her stories of abandon and stretched faith are refreshing and humorous.

Baggage is like that.  You pick it up one piece at a time, and it grows heavy over time, so you hardly even realize you’re carrying it.  And the only way we know we’re holding it is if we go somewhere. As long as we stay stationary, we’ll never realize how full our arms and our suitcases, really are.  But when we decide to go somewhere, we discover we can’t take it with us.

It was scary to want something…wanting something meant feeling the pain of not having having it, and feeling the pain of chasing it down.

The only way to make sure we’re packing light is to take inventory of what we have – over and over again – and always be willing to leave things behind.

3. Carry On, Warrior Thoughts on Life Unarmed, Glennon Doyle Melton – So good.  One woman’s story of letting down her guard and living a life unashamed of the story God has written for her life.  Such hope found in her words.

I was so focused on building my little teeny altar to God, my head down, sweating, cursing, stressing, furiously working with broken tools, that I missed the city of cathedrals he was busy building around me.

When you give it all away – the stuff – you learn that it is impossible to lose whatever it is that cannot live without.

That’s the thing about becoming a family: you gotta melt.  You have to keep melting into each other until you become something entirely new. The only constant family rule is that everyone has to keep showing up.

4. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, Anne Lamott – just read it.

Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice.  The equation is: life, death, resurrection, hope.  The horror is real, and so you make casseroles for your neighbor, organize an overseas clothing drive, and do your laundry.

Our lives buzzed by.  The grown-ups we trusted did not share the news that life was going to include deep isolation, or that the culture’s fixation on achievement would be spiritually crippling to those of more gentle character.  No one mentioned the peace that was possible in surrender to a power greater than oneself.  Teachers forgot to mention that we could be filled only the truth that suffuses our heart, presence, humanity.  So a lot of us raced around the rat exercise wheel, to get good grades and positions, to get into the best colleges and companies, and to keep our weight down.

Without stitches, you just have rags.  And we are not rags.

5. Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul, Jennie Allen – another just read it, whoever you are.

The only exercise that works 100% of the time to draw one close to the God is risk.  To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through.  He starts to get real when you live like that.

I fall because I can’t keep pretending I am okay when I know deep down I’m not.  But I also fall because I find God in the sand.  I find God with my face in it.  And then he gets to be the lifter of my head, rather than my pride.

But God seems unconcerned with helping us maintain same, simple lives where everything fits and works.  I don;t know what God’s plans are for you, but I do know that we don;t hear from him until certain things die.  He doesn’t compete.  And when he does speak, it typically costs something.

6. Cold Tangerines: celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life, Shauna Niequist – wonderful vignettes.

When I pray, something freaked-out and dazed inside me finds a place to lay down and rest.  When I pray, I don;t feel so alone in the universe.  I feel like there is a web, a finely spuun net, holding it all together keeping it spinning.  I feel powerless, and prayer reminds me that I may be powerless, but there is power and the one who holds the power is good.  Prayer reminds me that the universe is not powerless against the evil and loss that seems to be swallowing up this season.

True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves.  We have to give something up in order to  get friendship like that.  We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect.  We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us.  We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave.  But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us.  Friendship is about risk.  Love is about risk.  If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, that it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.

7. Travelling Mercies, Anne Lamott – Great memoir about the search for faith and how we work it out.

Here are the two best prayers I know: “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

8. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple – The only fiction work I’ve read in a while, but so good, so funny and clever, my favorite combination.

My first trip up here, to Seattle, the Realtor picked me up at the airport to look at houses.  The morning batch were all Craftsman, which is all they have here, if you don’t count the rash of view-busting apartment buildings that appear in inexplicable clumps, as if the zoning chief was asleep at his desk during the sixties and seventies and turned architectural design over to the Soviets.  Everything else is Craftsman. It’s like a hypnotist put Seattle in a collective trance.  You are getting sleepy, when you wake up you will want to live only in a Craftsman house, the year won’t matter to you, all that will matter is that the walls be thick, the windows tiny, the rooms dark, the ceilings low, and it will be poorly situated on the lot.

eating things. [paleo, dairy free breakfast casserole]

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First let me say, this is SO GOOD.  And easy to portion out and/or make ahead and freeze.

I had no idea it would be such a hit or I would have taken more pictures along the way and at the end…lesson learned.

Another great thing about this recipe is it is easily adaptable, you could change up the vegetables to your liking or what you have on hand.  You could make this meat-free as well.

What you’ll need:

6 eggs

1 c. egg whites [I just used the egg whites from the 6 remaining eggs]

10 turkey sausage links

1 medium zucchini diced

1 medium yellow squash diced

1/2 white onion chopped

3 oz. mushrooms [I hate mushrooms so I left these out.  See? Totally adaptable.]

1 c broccoli chopped

2 cups baby spinach 

2 cloves garlic minced

1/3 c canned coconut milk, unsweetened 

bacon to garnish 

Directions:

Preheat over to 350

In a large skillet saute zucchini, onions, squash, garlic, and broccoli until tender

Cook sausage in a separate pan, cut into thirds or fourths, and then combine with veggies when cooked

While all that’s cooking, line an 8×8 pan with the spinach [you can chop the spinach if you like, I just threw it in there]

Remove the veggies and sausage from heat and let cool while you mix up the eggs

Whisk eggs, egg whites, and coconut milk together in a bowl

Combine egg mixture with vegetables

Pour over spinach and top with bacon [I forgot the bacon when I made it and it was super delish, so I would imagine bacon on top would make it that much better!]

Bake for about 40 minutes or until set.  I ended up baking mine for about 50, until it started to get golden around the edges.

This is easy to cut into 6 servings. Next time I think I’m going to make 2 and put several servings in the freezer so it’s easy to grab and take to work.  Enjoy!

repairs.

It was early, almost unbearably early, but when it is routine somehow the unbearable is just normal.

So in the early, dark morning as I made my usual route to work, the ding sounded in my car signaling some problem.  My car has lots of pictures programmed to communicate what it’s issue is.  This one was pretty clear: a thermometer floating in some liquid.

Never good.  Especially in a car you’re about to sell.

I loathe dealing with car issues.  All of a sudden fear and gray hairs sprout up like an epidemic throughout my being.  It’s rooted in having to make decisions without having expert knowledge, or ever amateur knowledge about what the problem is.  I have to rely on someone else and hope they are not taking me to the cleaners. There are always tears involved.  I praise God for the mechanic I have found in Houston who reminds me a lot of my own Dad and gives advice to me like I am his own daughter.

After some rounds at my trusty car mechanic, I ended at the dealership getting a recalled part and unexpectedly the thermostat replaced.

<$$$$$>

I paid the hefty bill.  Problem fixed with a swipe.  I drove away happy to not stress anymore wondering if fire was about to erupt from my hood at any moment.

As much as my natural inclination should have been to dwell on feeling sick at spending so much money, [be assured there was temporary stress, albeit no tears this time], I left feeling thankful that there are problems that can be fixed as simply as car repairs.  I took my car in, got a loaner, got a phone call, got a bill, got my car back good as new.

Instead I thought about all the things in my life that I wish could be repaired with the swipe of a card.  I thought about all the things in this world that I wish could be repaired as easily.  I was suddenly very thankful for an easy problem. I was suddenly thankful for a problem with an easy, black and white answer.  It gives my brain a momentary break from battling the much larger gray areas of this life that are not quick, easy fixes.  That might be the most frustrating thing about trying to solve the world’s problems is that so many of them just take so much time.  A broken heart that began with such a good dream, faded into a nightmare, and then is left navigating each day in a fog trying to wake up while the rest of the world around you seems to just be going along as normal.   A broken friendship, a loss of a parent, friend, or child, the loss of the future that would never be.  Loss is just so overwhelming.

Then there are the problems that plague this earth on such a grand scale it feels like too much.  Where to even start.  Bill Gates is currently featuring what he calls “Mosquito Week” on his blog.  Did you know that mosquitoes kill more humans that any other animal on earth, even more than humans kill each other, by almost twice as much. For those it doesn’t kill it is so debilitating it limits any potential a person has to have a full life.  Suddenly I’m laying awake thinking about how I need to donate some mosquito nets, money for malaria pills, cases of OFF, something…

Overwhelming.  Such need of repair.

I recently finished Anne Lamott’s “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair”.  Such a good read, good for the soul.  In it she says,

This is all that restoration requires most of the time, that one person not give up.

Not giving up is hard, but it makes looking at this mess of a world less hopeless.  We just have to all keep calling each other out of the dark.  Keep moving on.  As I recently saw on a sign, we all just keep walking each other home.  So in broad strokes, I will keep taking that view of things.  I take comfort in the struggle:

God often seems unconcerned with helping us maintain the same, simple lives where everything fits and works…You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really [we] don’t know the difference. – Jennie Allen

While I wish there weren’t problems to begin with, the truth is there are, and it feels like there are a lot more L’s than W’s at the moment.  So if this week the immediate problem was a problem with my car, I’ll take that kind of repair.