Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

How do you measure success?

My parents and I were talking on Sunday about success. My mom asked me how many of my classmates from high-school and college are as successful as me. I asked what she meant, salary level or working in the field of degree. I probably also should have asked if happiness in life was part of the equation for success.

I am a closet fan of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. He poses an interesting question in his most recent column. Is life about getting A’s?

So, if it isn’t “A’s,” money, or a job in ones field, what is success? And if success isn’t measured by the above, what is it measured by? In my career, I value flexibility and opportunity. This is why pursuing a higher degree is important to me. When a door opens, I want the ability to step in.

But, what does it profit a man to gain the world and loose his soul? I’m not saying that one shouldn’t have a skill that others find useful. I’m not saying one shouldn’t do their best on the job or at school. I’m saying that there are more important things in life then just material success.

I think my parents are successful people. They have skills that people value, yes. They also work hard. However, their drive for work did not often interfere with family life. I saw and interacted with my parents every day as a child. They believe in God and the fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and they instilled their faith in their children. My dad actively encourages the faith in others, through his book, and also in personal interactions with others. Dad encouraged my cousin Sam in his faith by having him read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve.

We should not consider ourselves more important than God or others. We ought to humble ourselves before God and others. We need to obey God. We need to exhibit the fruits of the spirit. And we should measure success the way that God does, persevering to the end. What good is it if I have lots of money and an exciting career if I am not like my parents when I turn 50? What good is it if I gain the world and loose my soul?

Strength of Preference

My dad prefers regular Coca-cola Classic. His preference is strong. Even when an adequate substitute, Pepsi-Cola, is on sale at the grocery store, my mom buys Coke for him because it is his strong preference. I prefer tea from Harney and Sons, but I’ll drink whatever is available. My mom drinks either iced tea or water. Josh drinks pop, usually whatever is available.

People question the strength of their preferences every day. My brand of toothpaste is Colgate, Total plus whitening, paste, not gel. I usually have two or three tubes sitting around in my linen closet. And I usually scan the paper for coupons and have a few coupons on hand. Last week, my current tube was low, and I didn’t have any in reserve. Plus, it has been awhile since there were Colgate coupons in the paper. So, when I went grocery shopping, I walked past the tooth paste isle. There was no Colgate Total plus Whitening paste, or gel, or Colgate Total, or Colgate paste! They had Colgate gel. And they didn’t have anything resembling the original Colgate flavor. They had vanilla mint and paradise and cinnamon something or other. Plus they had weird words like “luminous” and other such lofty descriptors. I had to question whether I was truly loyal to Colgate or whether it was time to try a new brand. I am not a big fan of Crest, or the Arm and Hammer stuff Josh uses. I sucked it in and I bought two tubes of the new Colgate and am alternating, trying to develop a preference to one or the other in case they don’t bring back Total with Whitening paste. I am currently rather indifferent between vanilla mint flavored gel, paradise flavored gel, and trying a different brand all together if I can’t find Total with Whitening paste.

This took all of a minute to decide in real life. So, before you think I am some neurotic freak, contemplate your brand loyalty and how long it takes for you to decide in favor of an alternative.

In an economics class several years ago, we talked about strength of preference and how it would be interesting to let people rank their choices at the ballot box. It was right after the Bush/Gore election, in case you’re wondering. So, let’s say you wanted the Vampire for governor. (In Minnesota, you all know who I’m talking about.) If you voted for Vampire as your first choice, who would your second choice be? And, who would you absolutely not want to have as governor?

Back to my tooth paste example. I already know I don’t like Crest or Josh’s brand, so I chose the new Colgate gel flavors because I didn’t know whether or not I like them. So, something entirely new in my brand family was preferable to me then something I knew I didn’t like.

Part of this little discussion on preferences is an exercise in picking out actions to look for among elected officials. How strongly does an elected official support a certain platform issue? Ted Kennedy supports alternative energy sources so long as they don’t wreck his view. John Kline’s son is in the Minnesota National Guard training to go to Iraq. Norm Coleman voted against a bill that included ANWAR drilling to show his strong distaste for such action, but he did not work to defeat the bill. Something that would be helpful for me, and perhaps others in the voting population, is an _expression of strength of belief in platform issues. Instead of spouting off party platform and rhetoric, rank the issues. What issues is a candidate willing or not willing to compromise on? Publishing a more nuanced platform will give the general public a better idea of what to expect in a candidate.

So, how strongly do you like your toothpaste?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Pre State of the Union Thoughts

We all know that Bush is going to give the usual lip service to Social Security and Tax Reform. I’m old enough to not take him seriously on those two points. It’s an election year. He’s also going to tout the economy. I will be listening for one thing tomorrow night, though. I want to hear what Bush has to say about Iran.

I don’t seem to understand why the War on Terror should include Iran and North Korea, and why we *need* to do *something* about these countries. No, don’t get me wrong, I read the blogs, opinion, and headlines. I understand that Iran likely has nuclear weapons and that they are a threat to us and our allies. Same with North Korea. I am just not sold on *now* being the right time.

Perhaps this is all because Josh is deployed. Say that if it gives you comfort. I’m trying hard not to emote right now. Maybe it’s because I’m young and direct military conflict affects my peers and the peers of my sisters and cousins in a personal way. I just see some ADD going on in the Bush administration.

I used to do math tests without the aid of a calculator just because I enjoyed the rhythm of arithmetic and algebra. It was comforting. I learned that tasks in life involve a step-by-step method and attention to detail. I also learned that one shouldn’t go on to the next problem without finishing the started problem. Even if one works on each problem on a test, but finishes nothing, one still fails.

If Bush starts talking about pre-emptive war in Iran, I will be discouraged. We are still working on Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe that we should finish that, look for Bin Laden, and then move on. I am not asking to have the price of fighting removed from my household. I am not asking that Josh never be deployed after he returns from Iraq. I am asking that we finish the job in the places we are committed before we move on. We do not want to risk spreading our resources too thin.

As a side note, yes, I do believe that a lot of the insurgency in Iraq comes from Iran. Like this is a HUGE surprise. This does not mean we have to go to Iran to fight. The United States does not believe in boarder security at home, what makes anyone think we believe in boarder security in Iraq?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Response to the Wal-Mart affect

Kathleen Parker has an interesting op-ed here talking about how Wal-Mart is changing the way people think and consume. She chides Wal-Mart for its lack of ethical behavior. At the end of her column, she asks what kind of country do we want to live in?

My folks and I were talking about this on Sunday afternoon, not in so many words, but we were talking about altruistic behavior. We hope that someone will volunteer to defend our country, but not our children or spouses. We hope that someone will pay taxes to support government services, but not us. We hope that someone will give to charities that help make society a better place, but not us. We hope that someone will be in favor of alternative energy, but not in our yard. We hope that someone will step up to the moral plate, but we don’t want to do it ourselves.

It’s easy to say that you’re in favor of the war in Iraq, or bombing Iran, or whatever the current military mission is. It’s hard when someone you love steps up to the plate. It’s easy to say, “I want to fund education, or prisons, or the government service of your choice,” but it is hard to pay taxes. It is easy to say that there should be a charity that provides food for the poor, or shelter for the homeless, or what have you, but it is hard to give of our time and resources to get it done. It’s easy to say you want to reduce dependency on foreign resources, but we won’t build nuclear plants or use other fuel sources.

It is OK to express sweeping statements that our nation is going down hill. I agree. However, the fight against moral decline does not start with the aggregate, it starts with the individual. I have to answer for my own consumption, how I spend my own time, how I treat my friends and family, and how I treat my community. Perhaps if I start to put my beliefs into practice, I may become a more conscious consumer, a more productive person, a more compassionate person, and a more responsible citizen. And perhaps through my influence, I may inspire others to do the same as I am inspired by my parents and husband.

If I want to live in a nation of altruistic people, I need to look in the mirror, confess my sins and failings before God, repent of my sins and failings, ask God for his forgiveness for the sake of Christ who paid my penalty, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, leave my life of sins and failings. I cannot ask someone to do what I will not do myself.

Being productive

Family Readiness Group (FRG) gives me a lot of things to think about. I’m still working through some of the things I picked up at the last meeting on January 14th. Our FRG leader said that she is a lot busier this deployment then she was last time because of her baby. It struck me as odd, but after thinking about it, she’s right. I go to work each day and come home and I am left to my own unstructured devices. I can go to the mall if I want. I can go out with my sister, cousins, or friends if I want to. I can pretty much do anything. And, the problem is scheduling with other people. So, I spend several nights a week crocheting or reading or whatever. Mostly I crochet.

I can get away with a lack of general things to do right now because Josh and I are still able to talk most nights. It’s important to take advantage of that opportunity. So, I do. This is going to end fairly soon. He’s Iraq bound, and we won’t be able to talk often.

So, what will I do to occupy my time? I am leaning towards going to graduate school. I gave up my intention of graduate school when Josh and I got married because we needed to pay down debt and he wanted to finish college. But my desire never went entirely away.

An opportunity like this does not happen often for a married person. My dad gave up his intentions on pursuing a graduate degree in math for his wife and their financial stability. I am sure he has no regrets. I have no regrets from my decision. But, I have been given a golden opportunity, the ability to attend night classes without affecting another person’s life. The question is do I take the opportunity?

Allow this little tangent before I answer the question. Our pastor is doing a series on heroic living. During the introductory sermon, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him mention names of women in the Bible who are heroes. Josh and I talked about it, and he asked, “Why is it important that women also be brought up as heroes?”

Instead of going off on an equal opportunity monologue, I pointed out that a lot of young men in church want to marry “Proverbs 31 women” but few can quantify what one looks like in a practical application. A man requesting a “Proverbs 31 woman” is like a woman requesting an “Ephesians 5” man. However, women are brought up with the same Bible lessons on the male heroes of the Bible, so they can quantify a specific characteristic that they are interested in. “I want to marry a repentant man like David.” “I want to marry a defender of the faith like the prophets or Peter.” It is important to also have women on the forefront because the Bible expresses valuable characteristics that both men and women should emulate by using women. And it is important to express a feminine bravery like in Deborah and Esther, or a feminine faithful love like in Ruth, or a feminine humility like in Hannah.

So, Josh has been reading a biography of Martin Luther. And in our conversation the other night, he said, “Liz, you’re a lot like Katherina Luther.” Since I’m not a Luther expert, I asked him to elaborate, and he complemented my household skills that revolve around the business end of things. I save and invest money, I pay off debts, and I keep the household liquid. So, Josh said that when Martin Luther was off doing reformation stuff, Katherina Luther was being an active land manager and running things that were typically a “mans” domain.

The overall point is that I should take the opportunity I have been given and go back to school. I should follow the example of Katherina Luther and pursue things as I have the opportunity to do so, especially when I have given up opportunities in the past.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another reality check

I had a very educational weekend, deployment wise. I was given a bit of a reality check as to what things would really be like communicating with Josh while he’s in Iraq. It wasn’t a fun reality check. I guess the questions I have to answer are “What did I expect?” “Didn’t you know what you were getting into?” I honestly don’t know the answers.

Military deployments are not something in the normal scope of the lives of most people in the country. Our World War II veterans are dying off, as are the Korean War veterans. The Vietnam Veterans still feel the stigma of persecution. And with a volunteer military after Vietnam, it’s not something I share with a lot of people.

And part of the struggle I’m going through is a similar struggle other guard families go through. In my life time, the National Guard has gone from the lazy weekend warriors who can’t carry their weight in the real man’s Army to a legitimate part of the military rotation expected to serve in the same manner as the full time military. The National Guard went from maybe one or two deployments in a twenty year career to at least one deployment a contract. There’s a 23 year old soldier in my husband’s unit who is on his second eighteen month deployment since he graduated high school.

Another part of my struggle is that I did not have time to emotionally adjust. I had eight weeks. Four of the eight weeks was the time of never-ending good-bye. And volunteering for this doesn’t make it any easier. I love my husband and I want him to succeed in his choice of career. But the eighteen month separation is not made easier by the volunteer nature. Oh, and here’s another little whine: full time Army guys are gone TWELVE months. Josh is gone for EIGHTEEN. And according to my elementary arithmetic class, twelve is less then eighteen. (Just an observation that I’ll probably address later.)

Sure, we’re the few, the proud, the ones who are trying to be all we can be, and yes, we can. But, our best friends are gone. Our sons are gone. Our husbands are gone. And it’s hard. Calling a military volunteer is not calling it easy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

On Pat Robertson

So, I had this really good post on what the boundaries of Israel are according to Genesis 15, the book of Joshua, and how the World War I Allied Forces were REALLY responsible for the initial break up of the Promised Land. I also touched on how if Evangelicals REALLY believe a literalist interpretation of the Bible, then they should ask Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and others to give land back to Israel. But my desk top ate the post, and I'm not up on finding lost documents.

Anyway, here's the summary: the winners of WWI divided the spoils, leaving Israel smaller then what the Biblical boundaries of the Promised Land are. So, Pat Robertson has no business pointing the finger at Ariel Sharon as America is more responsible.

So, let us say for a minute that Pat Robertson is God's spokesman. Isn't he picking a rather easy target? I mean, it is not unusual for a man in his seventies who is overweight and has a history of strokes to have a massive stroke and almost die, nor is it really unexpected. So, how do we know if Mr. Sharon is being punished, or if he's suffering because he's old and likely to have strokes?

Pat Robertson is being horrible. His behavior is wrong. It is the job of Christians to preach the news of Christ and to call people to repentance. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict of individual sin. And Christians should not call others to repent if we will not ourselves repent first. Pat Robertson should examine his heart for sin, and if he is putting his political opinion above the great commission and replacing God's word with his politics, then surely he should repent. I don't know, I don't know the man, and I don't want to judge his heart. I'm just saying that there is something wrong with his attitude and my guess is that he is sinning, himself.

The Lord's blessing on Mr. Sharon:
"May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord shine his face on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace."

It's been awhile

Sorry it's been some time since I've had a good post. I was diagnosed with depression in December, and I was under a lot of emotional stress. I had several good rants waiting, but upon further reflection, it was just emoting. And it's never good to emote when you're not really sure you mean what you say.

So, anti-depressants, a visit from Josh, and the flu later, I feel kind of normal again.

I got promoted, I am going to work in Washington DC for a couple of weeks, and I get to see Josh again before he leaves! Oh, the wonder of it all!

And I'm going out with my sister and my cousin this week.

Live is good.