Category Archives: Holistic/Regular Life

Teaching Men about Women’s Issues: Home Edition

1950’s paradigm: Man goes off and earns the paycheck; woman stays at home and does the child-rearing and housework.

200X paradigm: Man goes off and earns a paycheck; woman goes off and earns a paycheck. oh btw…woman gets to do the child-rearing and housework too…

M and I don’t consider ourselves awfully progressive. In fact, on a lot of things, we’re quite conservative. When we got married, though, we discussed that we saw ourselves as part of a team and that household chores should be split in ways that make sense. I’ve always tried to be an active dad, and when G was little stayed home and watched her mornings and worked in the evenings. Furthermore we worked on the input-output rule: M breastfed so I changed all the diapers. I still change a lot even though the breastfeeding days are long over and H’s diaper days are drawing to a happy end.

With M going to work, I’m the at-home parent since my commute is to my office in the basement. Since our schedule is currently arranged so that M works out in the mornings before work I’m:

  • waking the girls
  • making four breakfasts
  • packing three lunches
  • dressing 2 girls
  • taking 1 girl (G) to the bus stop
  • cleaning the  kitchen.

Then my “real” day starts with spreadsheets, coding etc…
[Insert laundry here as I work near the washer & dryer]
Come lunch-time…

  • sneak in a run
  • plan dinner
  • start dinner prep

Then it’s back to the spreadsheets until:

  • pick up G from bus
  • finish cooking dinner

sometimes in the midst of spreadsheets. I was dicing onions during a conference call the other day…

Then after dinner it’s:

  • clean kitchen
  • help G with homework
  • put girls to bed.

Is this lifestyle what they had in mind with “women’s liberation”?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; this is just what we have to do to make sure everything moves steady. Nor am I listing all of the stuff that M is doing—so please don’t think for a minute that she’s slacking or that I’m accusing her of it. Far from it!

Rather, it’s opening my eyes to the assumptions that we men tend to make about who does what and how we contribute to the household. And, it’s making me realize that M has been doing far more than I’d ever guess while I work away.

So—thank you, M!! And the rest of you guys with households–get off your butts and lend a hand… ;-)

 FYI, today’s run will become a literal run to the grocery store to pick up a couple of missing ingredients for dinner. I’m shooting for butternut squash risotto with balsamic marinated chicken and brocolli. Feel free to stop by—and bring a fork… :-)

To the Farmer-In-Chief

bls points us to this article in the NY Times magazine–a letter from Michael Pollan to the next president. The whole thing is worth a read and here are some juicy excerpts to whet your appetite…:

There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler:we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done — fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.

. . .

We emptied America’s rural counties in order to supply workers to urban factories. To put it bluntly, we now need to reverse course. We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America — not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.

. . .

Changing the food culture must begin with our children, and it must begin in the schools. Nearly a half-century ago, President Kennedy announced a national initiative to improve the physical fitness of American children. He did it by elevating the importance of physical education, pressing states to make it a requirement in public schools. We need to bring the same commitment to “edible education” — in Alice Waters’s phrase — by making lunch, in all its dimensions, a mandatory part of the curriculum. On the premise that eating well is a critically important life skill, we need to teach all primary-school students the basics of growing and cooking food and then enjoying it at shared meals.

To change our children’s food culture, we’ll need to plant gardens in every primary school, build fully equipped kitchens, train a new generation of lunchroom ladies (and gentlemen) who can once again cook and teach cooking to children. We should introduce a School Lunch Corps program that forgives federal student loans to culinary-school graduates in exchange for two years of service in the public-school lunch program. And we should immediately increase school-lunch spending per pupil by $1 a day — the minimum amount food-service experts believe it will take to underwrite a shift from fast food in the cafeteria to real food freshly prepared.  

These last points are vital. We need to teach our children about gardening, cooking, and food in general. We’re trying at home, but school reinforcement is always good. I’ve been looking quite seriously at these resources recently at the National Gardening Association’s site and have been wondering what it would take to get an organic gardening/composting project started at Lil’ G’s school.

Solemn Te Deum!!

How You Do It

A solemn Te Deum can be placed at the end of a Mass or Office or may serve as a stand-alone liturgy in its own right. If the last, a procession may well be the way to do it in which case the solemn Te Deum occurs as you leave the station to which it went; the Te Deum is sung on the return to the altar where the versicles and responses are sung but the altar itself is not censed.

The text of the liturgy is fairly simple: it consists of the Te Deum itself sung to a solemn setting. Most traditional settings include the standard versicles with the canticle. The ’79 BCP, however, decided to hack them off and to make them Suffrages B of Morning Prayer. If you’re doing a procession, you may want to append them based on the distance or rate of speed traveled. What makes a solemn Te Deum an act of thanksgiving, though, is the presence of additional versicles which are a mash-up of the Benedictus Es and Ps 103:

V. Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our Fathers :
R. And to be praised and glorified forever.
V. Let us bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost :
R. Let us praise and exalt him above all forever.
V. Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven :
R. And to be praised and glorified, and exalted above all forever.
V. Praise the Lord, O my soul :
R. And forget not all his benefits.
V. O Lord, hear our prayer :
R. And let our prayer come unto thee.
V. The Lord be with you :
R. And with thy spirit

Let us pray:

[Insert here the General Thanksgiving found at the end of the Office]

Needless to say, candles, banners, and at least one thurible are absolutely required.

Why You Do It

Any occasion of celebration and thanksgiving are suitable for a solemn Te Deum. Common historical examples occur at the ends of wars, the securing of lines of succession, etc. It need not be a huge national event, however; miraculous healings were also celebrated by such liturgies.

My reason today is because M has a job!! It’s at a parish fairly close to here where she’ll be the associate. We both get a great feeling from the rector, staff, and parish and this rector seems amazing and is interested in all sorts of interesting things. Best yet, M and the Rector seem to have a great rapport already and both are very excited to see what happens. She starts on Sunday.

Deo gratias!

Finding Patterns

Life adjustment is proceeding here… There’s still chaos in the form of unpacked boxes, unorganized living spaces, and incomplete funding streams. Nevertheless, some good patterns are taking shape.

M and I are in a good fitness routine now; we’re hitting the YMCA six days a week with weights and cardio. She’s taking yoga, I’m doing tai chi. (I used to do quite a bit of martial arts before wife and kids–I’m just now getting back into it…)

We’re all sitting at the table to eat breakfast and dinner together. Lil’ G has recently insisted that we start doing abbreviated morning prayer at breakfast and we’re happy to oblidge her. 

This weekend I put in new screens on the back door and in the girls’ room, replaced incandescents with compact flourescents, and did a bunch of lawnwork which included some good additions to the compost pile. The mint and lavendar are in the front bed now, and are looking much better for it. 

M’s maternal grandfather is ailing and probably won’t be with us much longer. We had a scare last week with his heart and one of the true blessings of our new location materialized: SIL swung by after she finished classes and she and M went to visit their grandparents spending a lengthy–and potentially final–visit with her grandfather. Neither of those things could have happened at the old place…

So things aren’t perfect, but they’re going quite well. Already our rhythms here are much better than they were before.

Green(-washed) Kid Lit

The other night, I read Lil’ H a title we picked up from the library this past weekend: Dora Saves Mermaid Kingdom.

***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

Well, as much as there can be surprises and spoilers in a Dora book… :-D

In this particular work, our intrepid bilingual heroine assists mermaids whose kingdom is imperiled by a mean octopus who dumps trash in the ocean. The mermaid princess tries to get a magic wishing crown to set things to right but is captured by the mean octopus. Dora finds the crown, transforms into a mermaid, and uses the magic wish power in an attempt to clean up the kingdom. The wish is not entirely successful, so she gathers her mermaid friends to clean things up. She then saves the mermaid princess and the octopus is left covered in his own filth.

There were two things here I liked:

  1. The environment was an issue to be placed before children, and
  2. wishing alone doesn’t solve the problem; it takes collective and personal action to clean things up.

Overall, however, the book left me a bit annoyed… The offense? green-washing. The perpetrators? The entertainment industry with the collusion of the latte liberal set.

The take-away message for little children is not a bad one: trash doesn’t belong in our oceans; we need to clean up trash when we see it even if we didn’t put it there.

The take-away for parents and anyone old enough to see through the paper-thin allegory is what bothers me: we are righteous when we raise children’s consciousness about environmental issues; we are righteous in our disdain for greedy corporate interests (obviously played in this case by the trash-dumping octopus).

This message and this way of framing the debate and the moral meaning is a common one from the left-leaning entertainment industry. The theme of righteous good guy taking on illegal and unprincipled corporate trash dumpers is a staple of both action films (I’m thinking, for example, of an unfortunate Steven Segal movie here among others) and children’s material (I believe this was the central conflict in the cute penguin movie “Happy Feet” from a few years back). It’s one favored by latte liberals, but I find it fundamentally flawed. Yes, our kids need to hear environmental messages but this one misses a much more important and much deeper issue.

In a lull in the conversation about Lil’ G’s school day last night at dinner, I brought up the book. We talked for a little bit about two simple questions:

  1. Where did the mean octopus get his nasty trash from?
  2. After Dora and her mermaid friends cleaned up–where did they put the trash that they collected?

An obvious answer here is: the same place.

Who’s the real villain in this story? Is it the octopus (yes, certainly), or is it also the people who consume “disposable” items that are in turn thrown away for the octopus and his ilk to dump willy-nilly?

Latte liberals and the entertainment industry like the idea that trash shouldn’t be dumped in the environment. Not in the oceans, not in our forests–not even in our landfills. And there’s much to commend this. But they pass in silence over the deeper and more fundamental issue: We are the ones who generate the trash that gets dumped. The key isn’t bashing an easy and obvious target–those greedy corporate interests (thankfully the lattes were paid for by bartering hand-woven organically-grown hemp items; God forbid our latte-sippin’ superiors actually work for corporate employers…)–rather the key is raising awareness about what we do and how our unthinking acts of consumption and disposal cause the problem in the first place.

So I asked Lil’ G what Dora and her friends could do to reduce their trash. She told me (quite earnestly) that they need to do more recycling and composting. M then explained that this why we pack her lunch in her lunch box in washable containers rather than “disposable” bags and juice-boxes. (Yes, I’m indulging in some smug self-righteousness here…) That’s the message that I’d like to see the entertainment industry take up–but, hey, they too are an industry that depends on consumption and disposable content for their survival.

One of our new family rituals here is morning composting time. Before G gets on the bus for kindergarten, we take take our accumulated food scraps out to the compost pile, bury them, water the pile if needed, and check in on our small contingent of herbs. (I’ve got bugs in my basil and yellowing on my lavender; too, our compost pile has acquired a small swarm of fruit-flies—something’s not right in our method….)

So, last night for bedtime after reading about Princess Jasmine we read a nice children’s book (with great watercolors) on composting, Compost! Growing Gardens from your Garbage by Linda Glaser. My favorite part was the way Lil’ H kept interrupting me as I read: “Hey! I do dat! I compost!”

Rule of Life Resource

Whilst poking around websites of churches in my new area (with some helpful pointers from Brian M…) I came across this very nice write-up an a rule of life from an Anglican perspective.

I say “from an Anglican perspective” because it properly begins with the rhythms of Mass and Office shaped around classical prayerbook spirituality, then proceeds from there.

M and I have been talking for a while about a family rule; I’ve been thinking more and more about a personal rule that fits inside of the former. (Actually–that’s one of our key findings so far—a family rule needs to have the openness to embrace different personal rules within it.)

We’ve both been hitting the gym a lot more since our move (more on that later) and I was confronted quite sharply yesterday. I set the treadmill for 35 minutes and about halfway through said to myself, “you know, I’ll just do 30 today…” To be completely honest the change wasn’t because I was hurting, it wasn’t because I couldn’t or shouldn’t do—it was because it was hard and I didn’t want to do. Then it hit me: I’m a physical fitness sarabaite! (I figure that since we’ve joined the Y I no longer fall under “gyrovague”…)

I need a rule and perhaps a session with a decent trainer to help me get it set up—and with the electronic tracking system I know that the trainer can log on at anytime and check my fidelity…

As with my physical fitness, so with my spiritual fitness…

A rule, a spiritual director: both good things—and a new start in a new place is the best possible time to get it going.