Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is it a full moon?

Maybe it's Halloween. I don't know. Tuesday, one client no-showed. Wednesday, two clients no-showed and one showed up at the wrong time. Today, one client no-showed and then I no-showed! I'm thinking maybe we should all go back to bed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In case you were wondering . . .

. . . the lunch went fine. The icky parts were that the other minister talked too much and that he introduced me as "a licensed professional counselor gal." But there was an upside: I had the best spinach salad I've ever had and I met a nice woman who I'll probably never see again. But no, the project isn't going to go forward and I've decided that there are some people I probably just shouldn't work with.

Happy Fall

Isn't this an incredible picture of fall? I found this photo on another favorite blog and wanted to share it. Brin, the blogger, lives in East Texas and I'm assuming that's where this photo was taken. Water, and streams and rivers in particular, have been a powerful spiritual symbol for me for years. I want to step into this photo and follow the stream and see where it takes me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Making things more complicated than they have to be

I got a phone call earlier this week from the counseling minster at a big-steeple church in our part of town. He told me about a project he was working on and an upcoming lunch meeting with a woman in our area who may be able to take the project to the next level. I thought he was about to say, "I know from our conversation at the Marriage Summit that you are interested in this project so I'd love for you to join us." What he actually said was, "Our church has a policy that we don't meet with women alone and so I was hoping you would come to the meeting to be the third person at the table."

I'm vibrating with frustration. I'm frustrated that I said yes. I'm frustrated that he couldn't just talk to me like a professional colleague (his subsequent email said, "Thanks for helping me stay above reproach"). I'm frustrated that I'm not going to call him out on it.

Sarah Palin's emergence on the political stage has held up a fascinating mirror to our culture and to women. I have shuddered when foreign dignitaries from countries unfriendly to women leer at her during photo ops. I was repulsed when a gross old man in Alaska said to a reporter, "If she wasn't married, I'd definitely bang her." I get irritated when young men talk about how they will vote for her because "she's hot." I've been encouraged by conservative women's willingness to embrace her as a working mom and I've been disheartened by liberal women questioning the same.

I've also been intrigued by the nation's response to her overt femininity. Hillary Clinton is derided sometimes as a "strident" feminist and ridiculed for her wrinkles and her pantsuits and other reminders that she is an "older" (meaning, post-feminine) woman (although I think she also garners respect from women for the same thing.) Condoleeza Rice is widely respected but is portrayed as asexual, which seems to put everyone at ease. (Last winter, when she was photographed wearing high-heel knee boots, you would have thought she had taken up pole dancing!)

So here is a woman who is young, beautiful and knows how to use her feminine power. Men all over America think she winked directly at them during the debates. As Amy Poehler observed, when she is backed into a political corner, she becomes "even more adorable." Being a PTA mom (a form of community leader, by the way) is suddenly taken seriously by many. I think that's an improvement. I'm interested to see where this all takes us.

So, back to my lunch today with a secular professional woman in business and a well-intentioned ministry guy. If I get there and realize that I'm part of the team and that the project will go forward, it will be a win for everyone. If I realize, though, that I'm just there as a chaperone, I'll cut my losses and move on.

I'm working to get the chip off my shoulder. As a wife and as a Christian protecting my own integrity, I appreciate his commitment to avoiding temptation and/or avoiding compromising appearances. I just wish that these guys didn't bring it up every time--and I do mean every time--we have a conversation, especially since we have only met in public conference rooms and lobbies. It implies that there is something illicit about our working together and reactivates the archaic Christian view of women as "temptresses." Surely we can do better from both ends. And, I really do believe that if I'm not willing to talk with him directly about it, I'm not allowed to hold on to all this resentment. That's passive-aggressive and unfair. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I've been waiting forever for Emily Giffin's new book Love the One You're With--got it from the library yesterday and just now finished it. I have thoroughly enjoyed all her books and am mostly sad now that there won't be another one for awhile. Like Elizabeth Berg, Giffin has an uncanny way of describing how normal people feel but don't know they feel until they read it in a sentence.

Now, this is not literary fiction, since literary fiction is mostly about tortured, neurotic people. But it's not "chick lit" either (well, especially Berg)--just real writing about real women (or women that seem real and make you wish they were real). This is the hardback printed version of comfort food--fried chicken and mashed potatoes and watermelon--eaten with friends, laughing in somebody's den . . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This is more like it!

I have 15 clients scheduled for this week and it looks like 15 for next week, too. That's three short of my ideal but two over my "minimum acceptable." This feels like a place of momentum, like maybe the place where the fly wheel takes over. I also have several lunch meetings coming up having to do with connecting with people who may help form vision community for future projects (two lunches in one day, actually, not to be confused with C who once had two dates in one night. Before we were married. But I digress . . . )

So, slightly less than one year after I signed the lease on my office, I seem to be getting there. I've talked to everyone in town that anyone has told me to talk to. I've been to meetings, joined coalitions, attended summits, served on panels, and learned my way around Austin. Even better, I've met some terrific people and had a chance to see what God is doing in this "weird" city. And as far as I know, my friends in Houston have forgiven me and still love me. This is good.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NOT a political post, really

This is from the comments section of a post made on one of my favorite blogs: The commenter's username is janeybird and I have no idea if this is original with her or not. Also, this is not intended to be nor should it be read as political commentary. Instead, I'm interested in how it surfaces some implicit assumptions we have about race and class. Here it is:

Ponder the following:
What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?
What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
What if Obama couldn’t read from a teleprompter?
What if Obama was the one who had military experience? What if that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?
What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on occasion, a serious anger management problem?
What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money from beer distribution?
What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

Again, take off your political hat and put on your sociological one (you do have a sociological hat, don't you? Sheesh . . . ) and it's an interesting and thought-provoking exercise.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mowgli is home!

We're so happy! Our house is noisy this week. We're so quiet with him gone but when he's home, he shakes the house playing his bass and he bounds down the stairs with big thumps and he calls in his deep voice from room to room and it's wonderful!

For those of you who know him, you'll be happy to know that he loves Guilford--loves the challenge of it, loves the opportunity to know his professors (which he's obviously taken full advantage of), loves the independence. His grades are good (I was ready to talk about whether he needs to drop his physics class since he had mentioned how hard he was struggling with it, but no, he's doing great) and he has lots of friends. We're just so happy for him.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This poem is beautiful and haunting and heartbreaking and you must read it if you have any little girls in your life, even if (especially if) your little girl is almost a grown woman now or if you have any compassion for all the little girls everywhere who never have a chance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Narrowing it down (part 3)

Here's my last post about the books I read this year. Someone has pointed out that I don't actually read that much in my field and in a sense, that's true. I have a large stack of books that I'm currently skimming and even more that I use for research and I have a favorite journal (The Psychotherapy Networker) but I'm not typically reading books in counseling/psychology. A few exceptions: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog was terrific for professionals and lay readers alike. The author, who was the psychiatrist who treated the Branch Davidian children as well as other notable traumatized children, explores the role of trauma in the child development. Revisiting Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Golman was also important to me this year--and it is as interesting and as relevant as it was when it came out more than a decade ago. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison was given to me by a client who said that it described her struggle with bipolar disorder perfectly and I can see why. And all the books I read about marriage were excellent--I'm not sure why I didn't list them. Anyway, the Marriage Makeover by Joshua Coleman is great for partners who are staying in unhappy marriages that are unlikely to change (for example, for the children or for religious reasons) and How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Love and Stosny is also excellent.

All the rest of the books I enjoyed fit no particular category, so I'll just give them their own random paragraph. Parting the Waters: The King Years by Taylor Branch was fascinating to me. I wish it had been shorter and more concise but the parts that were powerful were really powerful: the spiritual dimensions of the civil rights movement, the factions within the movement and the leadership King had to provide in the midst of that, the stories of brutality I had never heard, the "behind the scenes" of the "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln's Melancholy was another historical book that I would have rather read in a condensed version but was a fascinating description of Lincoln's likely depressive illness and the way his culture and his personality gave him the tools to rise above it. Also, The Year of Living Biblically was fun and interesting: What would it be like to follow the Old Testament law perfectly, to the letter, for a year? It made me deeply grateful for grace. A beautiful book given me by a dear friend is The Beautiful Ache by Leigh McLeroy--definitely the kind of book that has to be reread before it can be fully absorbed. Two more challenged me spiritually: Live the Life by Bill Hull (see my review here) continues to challenge me, as does Amish Grace, which explores the Amish school shooting and the subsequent forgiveness as a response made possible by the consistency of Amish culture.

As you know, I love to read. Reading nourishes me, entertains me, challenges me and transforms me. I'll try to keep the recommendations coming.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This quote from Richard Rohr meant far more to me than the debate results:

Jesus and Francis (of Assisi) had no pragmatic agenda for social reform.
They just moved outside the system of illusion, more ignoring it than fighting
it, and quite simply doing it better.

Don't waste any time
dividing the world into the good guys and the bad guys. Hold them both
together in your own soul
--where they are anyway--and you will have held
together the whole world.

You will have overcome the great
divide--in one place of spacious compassion. You, little you, will have
paid the price of redemption. God takes it from there . . .

Two kinds of people

I think an election year spotlights one thing: that there are people who are aware of their prejudices and people who aren't. I find myself seeing my candidate more favorably than the other candidate, even when they are doing the same thing. I think, "Well, my candidate wouldn't have done that if his opponent hadn't done it first." I am more outraged when the other party does slimy, outrageous things. I have a different name for it when my party does them. In fact, they don't usually seem slimy or outrageous at all.

Social psychology has consistently shown this. When football fans are shown tape of a game, they overwhelmingly notice the unfair calls against their team and rarely notice the equally unfair calls against the other team. When poor tippers are given an opportunity to comment on other poor tippers' habits, they justify their own behavior and condemn that of others.

It's indisputable that this is what happens during an election. How else to explain the way that sincere voters, who describe themselves as "objective," almost always shake out along party lines when they are asked to evaluate a debate or a campaign commercial? And voters who say they're undecided? Actually, we can predict with almost 100% certainty how they will actually vote just by looking at a scan of their brains. The primitive, emotional part of our brains know how we will vote before we do.

So, it seems that the best we can do is to be aware of our prejudices, our mental models, our distorted lenses and learn to take them out, look at them from different angles, evaluate their ultimate truthfulness as best we can and listen to people who differ from us. Especially that.