Friday, November 04, 2005

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

In my personal experience -- and with nine nieces and nephews under ten years old, we're talking more personal experience than Donald Trump has assets -- little girls almost universally start talking before little boys. At three, most little girls have begun articulately expressing abstract conceptualizations, while their male counterparts are still pointing and grunting. This stark contrast between the sexes is merely a portent of the confusion that is to come.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that men and women speak different languages, and that, in spite of relationship manuals with admirable intentions but dubious efficacy such as The Rules and Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus (all of them exclusively read by women), never the twain shall meet. Although the various grammatical and syntactical structures of Guyspeak and Girlspeak are very similar, idiomatic expressions and even word choice can vary drastically. For example, when a guy says "I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes," he actually means, "I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes." This linguistic anomaly is unheard of in the female dialect, in which all expressions of time are metaphorical. "I'll be ready in fifteen minutes," in Girlspeak, may be loosely translated as, "I'll be ready when I'm darn well ready."

Another key aspect of Girlspeak is its profligate use of the Rhetorical Question. "Do I look fat in this?", "Do you think she's cuter than me?", and "Do you love me?" are examples of this genre. Woe to the man whose knowledge of Girlspeak is so rudimentary that he actually believes that such questions demand profound answers. The appropriate response to any of the previous inquiries is immediate cuddling and professions of undying, eternal devotion; any other sort of answer may result in rage, rejection, eviction, and/or a night on the couch.

Another curious feature of Girlspeak is its insistence on a phenomenon known as the Relationship Defining Talk. "Where do you think we stand?", the female of the species asks the male with a probing look, at which point the male promptly looks down at his feet and musters up some tentative response such as "On the sidewalk outside the library next to the dorms?", which is, of course, the wrong answer. Consequently, the male, whose most abstract thought of the entire day was about which burrito place in town had the cheapest beef-'n'-bean, is forced to sit down and articulate his feelings for the next 7.5 hours (an atrocity which, in some more primitive cultures, is considered a capital offense.) Generally nothing more is resolved in these conversations except that the couple is in fact, dating, a fact which the male seemed to previously consider self-evident but the female needed further assurance of.

Guyspeak, while typically not as intricate as Girlspeak, has a few of its own idiosyncracies. Here is a brief, though not comprehensive, overview:

"I'll call you sometime" = "I'll call you when Rosie O'Donnell makes People's 50 Most Beautiful People list."

"Of course I never think about other girls." = "Except for Keira Knightly in a corset... and that cute blonde from work... but other than that, never."

"No, you don't look fat in that." = "You don't consider a beached whale fat, do you?"

"What are you talking about? I love your mother." = "I think she might have even inspired Faye Dunaway's performance in Mommie Dearest."

"I'm here for you, anytime, anywhere." = "Unless I am watching the Super Bowl, making bodily function jokes with my buddies, or playing Halo."

Eventually, if one is persistent enough, one may hope to master the art of translating these sometimes-frustrating and enigmatic languages, and attain to a more thorough understanding of the psyche of the opposite sex. Consequently, the turbulent waters of intergender communication may at last be bridged, and peace will triumph.

Actually, it's hopeless, but at least you'll know why you're sleeping on the couch.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Housing Bubble Blues

We really messed up. Our house that my wife and I bought a year and a half ago is more than we can afford and we are up to our ears in debt. Once the mortgage check gets written, the rest of the cash from my paycheck goes to cover bills. Nothing is left to buy gas or groceries. When small, unforseen expenses popped up, there is no reserve to draw upon. Out comes the credit card again and again. And up goes our debt each month.

I went to my boss and let him know what was happening. I am fortunate to be employed with a good company that has several administrative offices around the country. I let him know I needed to be transferred out to an area with a cheaper housing market once the opportunity became available. Several months went by until something did finally open up. I was given a lateral transfer to just a few states away where the cost of housing is less than half than where we currently are. So my wife and I put the house on the market and started getting ready to move our four small kids out to where the new job is.

Now we have three weeks to go before finally leaving. I have worked it out with my employer so that I am keeping about the same pay. The rent for the house we have signed a lease on is about half what our current mortgage is. There is a discount grocery store not far from where we will be living. My wife has already been meeting other home-schooling moms on line from our new neighborhood. She and I have laboriously gone through everything we own and disposed of half of it to make the move easier and life simpler. I am currently arranging for a moving truck.

There is just one catch to all this. The house is not selling.

When I said yes to the promotion, the housing market was a frantic affair. Houses generally sold in a weekend or two. But it seems as if the day we signed with our realtor is the day the market evaporated. So now the house has sat, and sat, and sat, just like pretty much all the other houses. Price does not seem to be an issue. Ours is for about fifty thousand less than what most people are putting a house like ours on the market for. Nobody is able to sell their house.

So it seems that rather than devising and executing a clean get away plan for my family to escape economic ruin, I have driven us straight off a cliff. We will not be able afford the mortgage payment and the rent at the same time. On top of that, we are now looking at the prospect of trying to sell an empty house that will be several hours away.

But this morning along with my coffee I had a kind of epiphany. If you are trying to do evil, the devil messes with the best laid plans. And if you are trying to do the right thing, well heck, that has never been very easy. Nor do things always go the way you think they will. So now all I can do is something I have not been doing enough of: just have faith.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

March Together For Life


Submitted by MarchTogether.com

Proverbs 31:8
- "Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction."

There are thousands of Pro-Life organizations and millions of Pro-Life individuals who want abortion to end. We need to unite frequently to send out a united message to our representatives. MarchTogether.com is a place where we can unite once a month to do that.

I know there are many things we disagree on in the Pro-Life world, such as how people are saved or what it means to end abortion, but we need to set aside those differences to show solidarity and speak out for the unborn.

While we argue about how people are saved, 4,000 people die every day. While we argue about direction, Christian ministry or activism, 4,000 people die every day. While we argue about Pro-Life wording and structure, 4,000 people die every day.

MarchTogether.com is you and me. We are a grassroots, non-corporate bunch of Pro-Lifers challenging other Pro-Life individuals to speak out and/or march on local, state and the federal government monthly.

How can we stop abortion on demand? We can stop it by uniting our voices and speaking up against the horror of this procedure which pretends to protect women's rights. The statement "woman's right to choose" needs to be taken to its conclusion. If a woman gives birth, a human being is born. If she chooses abortion, a human being is killed. There is no other way to describe what happens to us when we are involuntarily taken from this world by the hands of another.

Our goal at MarchTogether.com is to unite all people who want to end abortion on demand through monthly activism.

Changing the law is only part of the equation of stopping abortion, but it is an important component. Legalized murder is wrong and we must end it.

We can succeed in changing the law. We can unite in our message and be heard speaking out against a horrible injustice against the most innocent, the unborn children, God's children.

Even if you already do something to help the Pro-Life movement, this takes as little as 15 minutes of your time once a month.

While people are misinformed by the media and Planned Parenthood, MarchTogether.com is not an information site to help people decide whether or not abortion is wrong. Many of you out there already do a great job of serving God and the public with this kind of ministry and we link to your sites for people to turn to.

This is a time for action. It is time for decent human beings to speak out in defense of those whose words cannot be heard.

Mark 10-14
"Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them for of such is the kingdom of God."

Unite with us at MarchTogether.com once a month and help send the message to
our representatives that we want abortion to end!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Shades of Dr. Laura

"Oh! How cute! You're Snow White!" I exclaimed over the blue-and-yellow clad curly-topped moppet standing in front of me. Her face was sticky with orange lollipop, but she beamed, suitably princess-like, as I oohed and ahhed over her costume.

By some vast cosmic glitch, I was scheduled to work Halloween tonight, and the mall in which I work promotes safe celebration of the holiday by offering candy to all the little tykes who come trekking by in costume begging for their requisite "tricks-or-treat." So there I stood, behind my counter in the retail store in which I work, while throngs of children clambered in, eager for sugar. Little boys streamed in dressed as Batman, Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, and all sorts of other heroic characters who embark on deeds of daring and have hair-raising adventures.

As the night wore on, however, I began to notice that approximately eighty percent of the little girls who came into the store were dressed as either brides or Disney princesses. While I am as much of a princess fan as the next girl--my dorm room is even papered in pink Disney-princess posters--and I hope to be a bride someday as well, I couldn't help but muse as to what this stark contrast between the little boys and girls' choice in costumes says about the current state of society.

For as much as we, as a nation, claim to have produced several generations of independent, bright, motivated, "free-thinking" women, to have successfully defied traditional gender roles and done away with the atrocity of sex-based discrimination--we still fundamentally subvert our own best intentions by weaning our daughters on pink, frilly, unrealistic fantasies.

Don't get me wrong. I don't consider myself a rabid feminist. Marriage, and motherhood, are incredible callings for those to whom that grace has been given. There is certainly nothing wrong with a little girl aspiring to such a vocation. However, we have fundamentally and tragically, I think, etched into the minds of our children that boys have superpowers and fight crime while girls sit around having tea parties and being generally bored for about twenty years until Prince Charming comes along and rescues her from her own meaningless existence. We might as well be telling our daughters that life begins at marriage, because that's the message they're getting when we plunk them in front of Cinderella at age 5 and in front of standard-issue chick-flicks at age 15. And then we have the reprehensible naivete to wonder why our little girls wind up with such low self-esteem, why they have learned to define their identity solely by what man's elbow they're hanging upon this week, why they're having premarital sex at younger and younger ages out of a desperate desire to feel loved and appreciated.

We do a far better job of instilling a sense of independence and self-reliance in our boys, and it's time we did our little girls a favor and let them know that they don't have to be a bride or a Disney princess to have human dignity and worth, that singleness is a richly fulfilling vocation as well, and a vocation to which all of us, at least at some period of our lives, are called. They need to be taught that marriage isn't the sole purpose and end of a girl's life, but rather a happy and lovely part of some girls' lives. They need to be given genuinely courageous female role models, instead of learning to idolize Cinderella for getting the guy and Barbie for having an impossibly small waist.

Let's start teaching our little girls that life is about more than Prince Charming, that marriage is a mutual partnership intended for the spiritual good of both parties, and not a magical solution to life's problems. So, to every little girl who came in today dressed as Sleeping Beauty: you, too, can be a superhero...ine. Even without a sidekick.

Monday, October 31, 2005

American Girl... Revisited

Well then….touched a nerve, have we?

The Girls Inc. “About Girls Inc” message now says, in part:
“Recently, our mission to help girls develop their self-esteem and self-reliance has become the target of false, inflammatory statements from people who are pursuing a narrow political agenda.“
http://www.girlsinc.org/ic/intro.php


Let’s just consider this statement for a moment. Aren’t the “false, inflammatory” statements based on *quotations* straight from their site, where they celebrate the “reproductive choices” and such for girls? Some concerned people pass on the message that this organization supports some things that we don’t find acceptable….and that makes the message false? By all means, I would LOVE Girls Inc. to come out and say the organization is NOT pro-choice and pro-“alternative lifestyles,” etc . However….I don’t see that happening. So, until the company wants to speak to specifics, the “false” accusation is bogus, as the quotes are about as straight from the horse’s mouth as you can get.

The other hilarious thing is the “narrow political agenda” sneer. So…is it just because it’s a “narrow” political agenda that it’s a problem? Because the company, again, in its own words, supports certain things which are absolutely political issues. So…apparently, then, disagreeing with the company’s political agenda means you have a “narrow” political agenda. But even so, unless, there’s something *wrong* with the political agenda what difference could it possibly make that such an “agenda” is “narrow“? So basically…the organization is tossing off meaningless insults as straw man arguments, instead of being willing to face up to the fact that its nice, friendly, happy, generic façade is crumbling.

So….that’s Girls Inc. for you. Moving onto American Girl itself…In response to complaints, American Girl has replied, in part:

”The donations from American Girl to Girls, Inc. are earmarked specifically to support their work in the areas of intellectual development, leadership, and sports programs, including:

- Girls Inc. Operation SMART®, which builds girls? skills in science, math and technology - Girls Inc. Discovery Leadership®, which develops leadership skills and community awareness

- Girls Inc. Sporting Chance®, which encourages athletic skills, cooperative and competitive spirit, and an interest in sports participation.

We chose Girls Inc. as our benefit partner because of their strong focus and commitment to help millions of girls realize their potential in these fields. American Girl believes that the girls we serve and support today will be the women who make a difference tomorrow. Our support of these three Girls Inc. programs allows us to have an even greater impact on today's girls, particularly those in high-risk, underserved areas. “
Prolife Blogs


It’s been suggested that perhaps American Girl specifically identified these programs as the beneficiaries of the donation, in order to avoid the potential controversy from an unspecified donation to the organization. If that’s the case, it was pretty shortsighted to think that people wouldn’t take issue with a donation to a polarizing, political organization, solely because the three things the money was supposed to go for were “good programs." If that's not the case, it's interesting that they gave the money with specifications.

American Girl is still being encouraged to sever all ties with Girls Inc, and if it doesn’t do so soon, there will likely be an “official” cry for boycotting the company. So if it comes to that point…or if you’re already Christmas shopping for that special doll, but are looking for an alternative to an American Girl doll at this point…allow me to suggest a few alternatives.

A Life of Faith:
http://www.lifeoffaith.com/shop/cart.php

Life of Faith, Books, Dolls, and Accessories offers a selection of four dolls. Each doll has a series of books about “her” life. They each have their own wardrobes and accessories to purchase, just like the American Girl dolls (although some of these accessories do seem a bit pricier). In addition to being able to purchase online, here's a list of bookstores which carry the products.

The Vision Forum, Inc.:
This site offers two different dolls, clothing, and books about famous woman in history: Priscilla Mullins, Dolley Madison, Sacagawea, and more. The clothing prices are more in line with the cost of an outfit from American Girl. Unfortunately, this line of dolls doesn’t really offer much in the way of accessories.

Live and Learn Educational and Classic Toys:
http://www.liveandlearn.com/gotz/ (Scroll down to “Precious Day Girl Collection”) These are Gotz dolls, and Gotz actually designed the original American Girl dolls. I have not found a current connection, but because they were connected in the past, you might want to do a bit more research before choosing this as an alternative. International Playthings is the company currently producing Gotz dolls.

Seat of Wisdom Books and Gifts:
http://www.seatofwisdom.net/
The Glory of America Series includes four different dolls. You can also purchase 18inch Blessed Mother dolls, and smaller Catholic girl dolls.

Several major retailers also offer their own 18 inch dolls, in a similar style.

I’d love to add more alternatives to this list, so please let me know if you know of another site offering similar dolls.