Gratitude and Marriage

“When couples struggle, it is seldom over who does what. Far more often, it is over the giving and receiving of gratitude. The struggle for marriage in the contemporary context is the struggle to cultivate gratitude between men and women.” – Arlie Hoschild, The Second Shift

Gratitude grows out attention, appreciation, and humility. Acknowledging the importance of the Other. Taking time to notice what they do, the little things, the tiny ordinary graces. These are the soil of a fertile marriage. My greatest Achilles heel is that I get spun up in cloud of activities and distractions so that I fail to stop and notice, pay attention to little things, and appreciate. Prayer in my life needs to serve that function – slowing down, paying attention, appreciation.

Along those lines, reading Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson has been a prayerful experience. It has done wonders in that it has connected my left brained engineering side to my sense of wonder at the ordinary stuff of domestic life. It makes me want to go home at lunch and hug my wife, air the bed, dust under the couch, and read care labels. I read along this morning in gape-mouthed fascination at the unlocked mysteries of such things as dusting, ironing, and folding laundry. It made me want to go home and try my hand at folding a fitted sheet.

Reading all this was pretty overwhelming. Any manual pf proper care sets a standard that the limits of life, time, and space make it impossible to measure up to. But reading Home Comforts so far has mostly been an exercise in increasing my attention, appreciation, and humility about things domestic. And gratitude for the wonder that is my wife.

Storytelling at Work

Chris Corrigan has been busy writing a series of posts on storytelling and facilitation which he should really write up and formalize (hint hint).

More and more lately I see the applicability of storytelling in my technical work environment, from requirements analysis to process improvement to tacit knowledge capture. His posts are very timely for me. He also pointed me to this very useful site about facilitating storytelling for work. Thanks, Chris.

Poem: The Shipfitter’s Wife

Yes, I’m back from Oklahoma. More later. Meanwhile…

I love poetry about devotion, especially between spouses.

“The Shipfitter’s Wife”

I loved him most
when he came home from work,
his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,
his denim shirt ringed with sweat
and smelling of salt, the drying weeds
of the ocean. I would go to him where he sat
on the edge of the bed, his forehead
anointed with grease, his cracked hands
jammed between his thighs, and unlace
the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles,
his calves, the pads and bones of his feet.
Then I’d open his clothes and take
the whole day inside me – the ship’s
gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,
the voice of the first man clanging
off the hull’s silver ribs, spark of lead
kissing metal, the clamp, the winch,
the white fire of the torch, the whistle
and the long drive home.

– Dorianne Laux

Heidi Speaks

Every once and a while, Heidi sends something I wrote on my blog via email to one of her friends. It’s nice to know that she occasionally likes what I have to say enough to share it further. Well, it’s time to reverse things. She sent an email that expresses an issue – a gripe I have about us “conservative Christians” – better than I could. I was trying to choose something to post that would stand up well while we go on five or so days of summer vacation, so I’m blogging my wife. It bears reading several times, especially for us “conservative Christians”:

John,

Read your blog. Do you really want to know what I have to say about gay adoptions?

First off, in a perfect world, every child would be born to a mom and dad who are financially stable, present, supportive and loving. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Right now, there are more than 1,000 foster children available for immediate adoption in Harris County. Children born addicted to crack. With fetal alcohol syndrome. Children ho’ve experienced severe neglect and unspeakable abuse.

You won’t be surprised to hear that there aren’t exactly a lot of heterosexual couples lining up to adopt them. In fact, not a week goes by that I don’t see a Catholic Charities article in some community newspaper trying to recruit adoptive parents. There simply are not enough to go around.

Houston’s city controller is Annise Parker, who is gay. She and her partner of many years have adopted two (African American) teenager girls and are in the process of adopting their brother. These kids languished in the system for years without prospective parents. After learning they were being adopted by two gay women, their foster mother told them they’d burn in hell if they went to live with Annise and her partner. They chose to be adopted anyway. And now they’re growing up in a lovely, stable home with a pool in the back yard, parents who help coach their softball teams, parents who help tutor them in math and reading, and parents who are helping them work through issues of anger, sadness, trust and abandonment.

Two gay men we know own a beautiful bed and breakfast on the west coast. One comes from a wealthy family in Hawaii and the other works in the NICU at the hospital. After a baby was born with a severe heart deformity and abandoned for several months, they stepped forward to
adopt her. Because of the wealth of one and the medical expertise of another, she is now thriving.

I’m going to digress here a bit, but when our caseworker at Catholic Charities told me in mid-November about this preemie who’d been abandoned and without a visitor for the last three months, I called a friend of mine who works in the NICU to get more information. I
naively assumed Marie would immediately know the baby I was talking about. Sadly, I found, there are many abandoned babies in the NICU. I met three of them myself during the weeks I visited Olivia before she was able to come home with us.

I say if a gay couple in a stable relationship is willing to step forward and adopt, then God bless them and don’t let me get in the way. At least not until more heterosexual couples find the grace and courage to step up and love those whom others deem unlovable.

Finally, I just think it’s more than a little ironic that the kids who are in the foster system now are there mostly because of the poor decisions of heterosexual couples, not homosexual couples (emphasis mine – cody). Given all that these kids have already endured, I don’t think they’re too worried about who’s going to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day. They just want a loving home for good and forever.

There you have it. My two (er, ten) cents on gay adoptions.

Love ya anyway.

Heidi

I’ll add that Annise Parker hit it right on the head – if you are opposed to people like her adopting children, get out there and adopt unwanted children so there is no need for people like her to adopt children.

And with that, we’re off to Oklahoma, the center of gravity for conservative Christians who oppose gay adoption.

Quiet is the new Loud

I am always looking for search terms that, when added to a search will catch people talking about trends and futures stuff they are concerned with. I sometimes use “*-is-the-new-black” to catch people talking about percieved trends in a given subculture, for instance. Then sometimes I’ll try variants just for fun.

If you plug this variant string “*-is-the-new-*”into Google and you get some interesting stuff. Stuff you can make into faux-hip, ironic, and creepily Orwellian found poetry.

Quiet is the new Loud
Fifty is the new Thirty
Fat is the new Tobacco
MFA is the new MBA
Small is the new thin
India is the new Japan
Chocolate is the new Olive Oil
Organic is the new Kosher
Glam is the new Metal
Knitting is the new Rock and Roll
The Drug War is the new Jim Crow
Fear is the new Drug of Choice
Hate is the new Love
Fake is the new Real
Butt Crack is the new Cleavage

Outdated and Overweight

This Harvard Review survey of the obesity issue in America is great reading. Especially fascinating is the anthropological theories of how we got into this predicament. If I can summarize, we have bodies that are evolutionarily adapted for a pre-historic age that is radically different from what we have now. We need a design upgrade.

And that reminds me of a book I read a few years back which was saying the same thing about our brains – that at the “operating system” level, we are neurologically adapted for a prehistoric paradigm and we need an upgrade. Unfortunately I cannot remeber the title or author. Anyone out there recognize this thesis?

Proof That I Am Old

More evidence that I have to face up to the fact that I am in middle age – this video game trend appeals to me. I am in a middle age, middle America cultural demographic despite my strident efforts to to appear ‘alternative’ and ‘eclectic’. I am one of those who eschew the high learning curves and large time investments of online role playing games (though they sound intriguing). My elderly brain is instead attracted to online parlor games like Hearts and Scrabble. Remind me to pick up some assisted living community brochures on the way home.

My little friend Rhys

“I like to make movies with my Hot Wheels video camera. One day, I’m going to be a famous actor. My favorite actress is Lindsay Lohan. I really like comedies and funny TV shows.” – Rhys

My friend at work has a son named Rhys. Rhys is ten years old. Rhys has Asperger’s Syndrome. Rhys really likes Thomas the Tank Engine and Lindsay Lohan. Rhys writes better 1KBWC cards than most adults. Rhys now has a blog.

Tomorrow’s God?

Apparently, according to Neal Donald Walsh, we are gonna get a new God sometime in the next 30 years. The old one – or our ideas about the old one – is outdated. Even though his description of the new God seems a bit wimpy and new agey for my taste, I agree that most of our ways of thinking about God are outdated too. That’s not my main beef with Walsh.

He describes this “coming spiritual awakening” that will transform the way the world understands God and he offers no evidence in the present world to support his prediction. It sounds more like wishful thinking to me.

I’d like to believe him, but I could offer some obvious evidence straight from recent headlines to exactly the contrary. I’m afraid that the old angry intolerant God survived the New Age and is back and is pissed off. I can see many directions from which religious intolerance is on the rise, so I’m really curious to know what Walsh is looking at that gives him the idea that we’re on the verge of some kind of “awakening’ to a kinder, gentler view of God. I wish he were right. I wish he had some evidence of being right.

Theology of the Body

As a lay Catholic, I find the rising popularity of ‘Theology of the Body’ seminars to be encouraging. It is a positive trend in the pastoral approach to Church teachings about sexual morality. It is nice to see that some elements of the Church understand that presenting a compelling positive vision of morality is more effective than providing a list of do’s and don’ts. After age five or so, the “because I said so” approach by itself lacks effectiveness.

If I were a cynical American Catholic, I guess I could counter that it is indeed a good thing to see laid out a positive compelling vision of sexual morality for American Catholics to ignore rather than a list of do’s and don’ts of sexual morality for American Catholics to ignore. But only marginally so. Good thing I’m not cynical, eh?