Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stupid Questions

Over the past week, I have become aware of the existence of something called a "meme".  It's pronounced "meem" like "dream", even though all normal people (like me) will want to pronounce it "mee-mee".  Do not pronounce it "mee-mee", because people will laugh at you.  And this will be a problem, because as we see in this particular rendition of the meme, people are probably laughing at you anyway.

I won't go into my problems with the copy-cat meme concept at this point, because I think the bigger issue is the mean-ness of this particular video.  I am told that the actors are all seminarians.  As seminarians and young ministers, we were all exposed to these questions for the first time at some point.  By now, most of us have gotten pretty much all of these questions, give or take a few.

If this had been a video shown only for, say, a seminary-audience-only variety show skit, it would be different.  These are exactly the questions we all know and laugh about when we are in groups of colleagues, sitting around with a nice single malt at a table after the clergy conference meetings have wrapped up for the day.  These are the questions that I tell my husband about over the dinner table, or sometimes, to some very cool parishioner friends, share the latest "Guess what I got asked today?".   I would never want to be the wet blanket of the group of clergy at the next sushi/coffee shop Bible study, because these questions ARE funny.

My problem with this meme is the Queen Bee attitude, the snarkiness and the willingness to point fingers while not seeming to be self-aware enough to project empathy.  To me, there seems to be a real sense that the actors are mocking what they perceive as "stupid" questions from the dumb people they are unfortunate enough to interact with every day.  (Don't even get me started on the hipster glasses on one or the unkempt long hair on that man.  I'll leave the appearance critiques to Peacebang's Beauty Tips for Ministers.)

My problem is that "oh, my Gawd, I can't believe I have to put up with your stupidity".  And in the world of ministry, the second you start believing that you as the minister hold a special sort of intelligence, or that your ministry population is beneath you in any way, you have already lost.  The second you start dismissing and making fun of your people for "stupid" questions, you have already shot yourself in the foot as their minister.

Our people- human people- aren't there to be MADE FUN OF.

This is valid whether your parishioner is a professor at the local university and a published author, or a PhD who rides bikes 8,000 miles a year, or a person recovering from a TBI, or the person with schizophrenia, or the local bike shop wrench.  The second you start making fun of your people, you as a minister dishonor your profession.

Making fun of your people is different from laughing with them or recognizing that people do dumb and funny things all the time.  (And laughing at the dumb things people do is different from despising them as human beings, and this is a distinction I make all the time in the emergency professionals world.  All emergency professionals have laughed at people who had dumb accidents, myself included.  That is different from resenting all stupid humanity.)

Just yesterday, at the local bike shop, I got the question of, "Oh, so it's your day off.  They let you have those?"  It didn't mean the bike shop wrench was just a dumb grease monkey.  You know what it was?  That person had seen me both in my collar and in my bike shorts on a ride, and felt comfortable enough to ask me some questions about my world.

I think I returned the favor with some of my dumb questions about the latest tri bike that has a space for a water bladder on the bike.  I'm sure the wrenches go into the back of the shop after I leave, saying "Oh, my Gawd, she was in again today and I had to fix her stupid derailleur yet again!"  but my favorite wrenches never miss the opportunity to tell stories and to engage me in the world of the bike.

See the difference?  The wrenches never shame me.  They recognize that I'm just not dialed into the bike world like they are, and that answering my "stupid" questions gives them the chance to share about part of their life that they love.

That's what I see lacking in this particular meme.  It's not that we don't get those questions.  It's not that the questions aren't funny.  It's not that I have never rolled my eyes after being asked for the umpteenth time "What?  You mean you get a day off?  Really?"  But part of being a professional in the world of ministry is realizing that these questions often aren't being asked out of ignorance or meanness, but just because people ask questions as a way to connect with other human beings.

I think I have one other reason why I have such a strong reaction to this particular meme.  It's all these fully able bodied people walking around whining about getting stupid questions.  Hello, I'm deaf.  I have a cochlear implant.  I have dealt with stupid questions and stupid reactions from people my entire life.  "Oh, you can just turn me off when you don't want to listen to me."  (I hate that one).  "Where does the cochlear plug into your head?"  (It's magnetic, it doesn't plug in.)  "Can I feel the bump?"  (Depends on how comfortable I feel with you...)  "Can you color coordinate those things?"  (I can, actually.)  "How did you go deaf?  Did your mom do something wrong?  Did you listen to too much heavy metal?  I think I'm going deaf like you.  Maybe I should get hearing aids, and then I can be like you.  Do you speak sign?  Do you want to be the deaf campus chaplain in Gallaudet instead of here in Eugene?"  And on, and on, and on.

I had to learn how to not be annoyed by those questions a long time ago.  I had to learn how to treat them as an opportunity to engage other people.  And I get really, really annoyed by these able-bodied hipsters who act as those they are the only ones who ever had to deal with humanity.  This huge problem of theirs is nothing I didn't have to learn to deal with in another way years ago.

So to the cooler-than-thou twerps who pointed fingers and made fun of the world, please just get over yourselves.  Getting asked "dumb" questions is nothing that doesn't happen to all of us at some point.  I had to learn to suck it up and deal when I was a little kid.  Learn a little empathy for humanity, or get out of my beloved line of work.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday At Home

I'm not really into fung shui.  But ever since I participated in a liturgy course with the All Saints' Company out of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, CA, I have believed in energy in buildings.  Did you know that if the presider stands as little as one or two feet out of place, that person is not only  very hard to hear, but actually looks smaller.

Energy flows in our home too.  Growing up, my mom's kitchen table was always cluttered hopelessly with piles and piles of mail.  It's not that we were all slobs.  It's that we didn't know how to work with the energy of that house to create a "landing strip" to drop keys and shoes and mail to sort.

So on this sorta-rainy Saturday, after spending sometime tidying up the study, I realized I was ALWAYS tidying the study, ALWAYS shooing the cats off something, ALWAYS stubbing my toe or not printing a document.  I never wanted to spend much time up here. After 10 months, it was time to  re-arrange.
The new entry into the study.  The classic music stand was in the other corner, the piano had been under the window, and the secretary was next to the window where the futon now is. 

After M graduated, we kept our two desks to let ourselves experiment with how we were really going to use workspace in our house.  After all, simple graduation does not mean he's stopped studying or working at home! Being a priest, I regularly work at home.  So having a functional study is important.   Looking around, I realized (among other things) that all the light was on the same side of the room.  Deciding to figure out how to get light on the other side of the room is what sparked the rearranging. I wanted better light for my piano and more light in the corner furthest from the window.

We finally decided to let go of our "teacher desk".  This was a great old solid wood piece that I bought off a yard sale in 2004 when I was in Arlington.  It was a big old clunker that was a perfect desk for its time.  I can't even imagine how many hours I spent there.
Being unable to find a picture of the Clunker, I give you SOME of the boxes of books we own.  The cat was packed in a different box for his moving.  The Clunker is barely in the photo at the left.

Then, last year, after my parents' move, I was gifted with the old secretary desk/object of my lust.  My dad and I refinished that, and it quickly became my new favorite desk.
Yeah, actually, it IS hot.

The old clunker went to Freecycle and now lives with a local super-poor college student who had no furniture at all.  He now has a desk, and someone gave him a bookcase, and I think he's going to get a tin cup soon.

All I really did in the now-clunker-desk free study was move things from one side to the other, leaving the books entirely alone because I can't bear the thought of moving all those books right now.  My muscles ache at the mere thought.  But I am amazed at how much more 'space' is suddenly in this room.  The heat register is free and I can have heat in this room at last!  (It used to be covered by the futon).  The music cabinet is near the desk so (gasp) the printer can be hooked up!  I admit it was getting a little tiresome to constantly be walking over to the printer, balancing the laptop on my leg, and standing while things printed out.  First world problem?  Heck yeah.

We'll see how it is to live in the new study space!  And we'll also play the game of "drop really obvious hints to M and see how long it takes him to realize that furniture is in a different spot".  He's an intellectual guy.  It sometimes takes him a while to realize that things have been moved or that he has no socks because I threw all his piles into the laundry.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Actual New Year's Resolutions

So this year, I actually have a few resolutions.  Usually, I start New Year's during Advent, but I was a little discombobulated this year.  When we had severals deaths rolling in during December, we decided to stop holiday everything.  No tree.  No presents.  No cookie baking.  No codfish balls.   Nothing.  And it was necessary, and ultimately, good.

1) Wean self off Facebook Addiction.  Facebook is necessary for work, and it's the easiest way to keep up with far-flung family and friends.  But it's easy to overdo it.  Facebook isn't the center of the universe- I have to remember to connect in real life and real time too.

2) Study for and take the GRE.  I think I'll even register for it.  That'll force me.  And go buy a GRE book to study from. GRE results are good for 5 years, so I might as well get it out of the way.  This. Means. Math.

3) Keep researching graduate school options and considering what is possible.  See, the thing is that I like my job, and I'm not open to leaving my job entirely for full-time school.  Besides, I will never be able to afford that.  (Because right now, I am committed to accruing no more debt in my life, other than a mortgage.  We are paying off what we owe.  I just don't trust society enough anymore to carry debt any longer than I have to.  In college, we were told that educational debt was always good debt.  Then the triple-dip recessions started rolling.)  I wonder what others have done in lean economic times, to pursue one's intellectual hunger and balance it with one's practical financial needs?

4) Compete in more than one triathlon, with an emphasis on running speedwork.  I've got the distance base down (for an Olympic, at least!).  I think I can aim for keeping my 10K COMFORTABLE under 1 hour.  I'm totally jumping on the Butte to Butte bandwagon with all my friends and the Boss and the U of O chaplain and half of St. Mary's and most of the tri club.    

4A) Come up with goofy workout names.  I already have the Holli, a regular 5K running route, named after a friend and colleague who uses a wheelchair asked us all to spend her "wheelchair anniversary date" enjoying our legs.  And I have the Bad-Mood Garbage Run, a funk-mood buster involving sprints from garbage pail to garbage pail on trash day.  I should name other routes, right? 

5) Seek enough balance to achieve 1 workout every day that I hold office hours.  The thing with tri training and my job:  well, I work a lot and sometimes have trouble giving myself permission to go in late or take lunchtime for a workout.  I struggle with wanting to have the appearance of being in the office and working all the time, even while I know that represents a horrible, unhealthy model for all work.  (Especially work like clergy work!)  I know I'm in a place where my parish and boss blesses balance.  I know that I use my study at home very well, especially writing and thinking and working during hours that are not typical office hours.  I suppose my boss and I should mutually explore this in supervision, since he probably has the same struggles!

6)  Get together with new friends to make codfish balls.  Of all the holiday traditions (Star Wars sugar cookies with royal icing decorated in peppermint! Chocolate Italian ball cookies!  Trees with jingle bells), this is the one I missed.  And I have a new Portuguese friend (who's a chef) who needs to have herself some codfish balls.  I think we need to invent a January holiday this year, to eat codfish balls with a lot of salad.  

Happy 2012, everyone!  Enjoy the Year of the Mayan Apocalypse!