Author Archives: stacy

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, & Lena Dunham


women-voters

 

It’s been 36 hours since Lena Dunham’s “Your First Time” video touched a nerve somewhere deep inside of me, and since I can’t stop thinking about it, it must be time to write about it.

Maybe you will read this and think I am totally uncool, unhip, and out of touch with pop culture.  You are entitled to your opinion.

But I hardly think appealing to a woman for her vote via thinly veiled innuendo about losing her virginity is what Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, et al had in mind as they bravely fought for and won our right to vote through the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

My job and other activities keep me daily in touch with the youth of my community, who I believe are a fair representation of the youth of our country, and I can promise you this:  they need, crave, and deserve better than this.

Though I have a myriad of feelings about what the popularity and praise for this ad says about our culture, mostly I am sad.

I am sad for Ms. Dunham, of whom I was completely unaware prior to Thursday night. Apparently she has quite a following from her show “Girls” on HBO.  How pitiful that a young woman who is clearly talented would allow her hard won platform to be used for a cheap political trick.

Her message to young women is clear and ironically the exact opposite of the suffragettes – don’t think for yourself, do what I say everyone else is doing, do what I tell you is cool, otherwise you are a loser.

Do young women, who are, from the cradle, incessantly bombarded with the conflicting sexual messages of our culture, really need this?

Do young adult women really need to be told that they should cave to peer pressure like an insecure adolescent?

Is this not degrading in every possible way?

Instead of raising the bar for independent thought and action, and calling young women to expect and wait for a fulfilling sexual relationship to develop within a covenant bond, sex is used as a bad metaphor for casting a ballot for the coolest guy you can find.  Sadly, this is false advertising of the worst kind, both for sexual relationships and our electoral responsibility.

I am also sad for Michelle Obama.  To have to sit by while your husband and his campaign lower the bar for young women while disrespecting the sacred union of your marriage must be humiliating.  Maybe my sympathy is misdirected and she is fine with this.  But somehow, if that is the case, I feel even worse for her.

I have a hard time believing that President Obama actually wants his 2 beautiful daughters to hold Ms. Dunham’s low view of sexuality.  I doubt he wants a newly turned 18 year old Malia to shop around for the edgiest campus hipster to have sex with just so she can say she had sex with him.  I truly believe, that like any loving father, he wants his daughters to find intelligent young men who treat them with honor, love, and respect.

Why would he promote the exact opposite to millions of other men’s daughters?

How does he plan to explain this dichotomy to Malia and Sasha?

I am sad for President Obama.  He holds the highest office in the land, I believe in the world.  That alone requires presence of mind, wisdom, prudence, and restraint.  In this case, he has failed.

Has he surrounded himself with advisors and campaign managers who are so foolish as to believe that this type of vulgarity will actually assist him in victory?

And even if it would, is such a Pyrrhic victory worth it?  I would bet that he has lost the same number of votes he has gained if not more.

Finally, I am sad that so many people think this is ok.  Yes, Putin did the same thing.  Not ok.  Yes, the ad wasn’t really about sex, it was about voting.  Not ok.  Yes, it was clever and edgy and got lots of attention.  Still not ok.

There is nothing about this, for any reason, at any time, that makes this ok.

When we start devaluing women’s minds by believing they can be reduced and manipulated by crude, debased, and frankly creepy attempts to win their votes, then we have strayed very far indeed from the intellectual respect half of our citizenry deserves.

My senior year at the University of Arkansas, President Clinton was running for his first term.  Sitting around the Kappa lunch table, there was a lively debate going on because Girl #1 had said she was not going to vote.  Girl #2, active in student government and avid Clinton supporter, was telling #1 that it was un-American not to vote, that she needed to exercise her civic responsibility, that women before us had fought for decades just for us to have the right, and she needed to honor their sacrifice.  They ended up with quite an audience.

Two days passed, #1 walked back in to the dining room, and she announced that she had been convinced by #2’s impassioned argument and had decided to vote after all.  #2 smiled and told her she was proud of her.  #1 then said, “after researching both candidates, and thinking about which one best represents my views, I have decided to vote for George Bush.”  #2 didn’t understand how she could come to this conclusion, they debated some more, but #1 stood by her decision, and they remained close friends despite their ideological disagreements.

I implore you, man or woman, young or old, to exercise your right to vote for the candidate of your choice for the exact same reasons.  Please encourage others to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

10 (Good and Not So Good) Books I Read this Summer

“No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.”

 ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

stackofbooks

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.

I love Greene’s writing, so it was no surprise to me that I enjoyed this book.  But I didn’t expect for it to leapfrog onto my top 20 favorite novels of all time.  Read on a rainy Saturday, I couldn’t put it down, and it stayed with me for days.  The human journey from unbelief to belief through the realization that you can’t be angry with a God who doesn’t exist is framed through the lens of a tortured love affair in London.  Read it, savor it, and keep it to read again.

 

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

This was a selection for our book club, and is Akhtar’s first novel, a coming-of-age story centered around a Pakistani immigrant family.  I felt the characters were fairly one-dimensional other than the narrator himself, but it was an easy read and an interesting look at an Islamic family assimilating into American culture.

 

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

This book was also a book club selection, several years ago, and I just now got around to reading it!  Bohjalian brings Daisy Buchannan and Jay Gatsby to life through the story of a young woman recovering from a severe trauma.  He weaves a fascinating plot, creates compelling characters, and gives an interesting twist to a classic American novel, all while documenting the life of a woman having a breakdown.  I highly recommend it.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not much to say that hasn’t been said.  The Double Bind made me pull this off the shelf and read it again.  Of course, it didn’t disappoint.  If you haven’t read it since high school or college, I recommend you do so at once.

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

I have no idea why I picked this book up and brought it home.  It just looked interesting, and I have to say, I really, really liked the stream of consciousness style.  Hilarious, cynical, innocent, sardonic, nauseating, clever, sad, and probably full of more truth than I want to believe.  Yes, it’s a war novel, and yes, there is a LOT of language, but that is what makes it real.  These guys are soldiers in their late teens and early twenties.  If they didn’t cuss, it wouldn’t be believable.  Read it and let me know what you think.

 

King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

My friend Molly Rapert recommended this book to me, and although it is listed under summer, that is only because I finished it this summer.  It took me 4 months of reading it on and off with other things to finally come to the end.  It is a non-fiction account of the terrors of the Belgian Congo brought on by the deceptions and ambitions of King Leopold II of Belgium.  Well written, with descriptions that haunted me, I now see where Conrad was coming from with Heart of Darkness.  A difficult but necessary read.  Thanks, Molly.

 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This has been on my shelf for 2 years waiting for me, and I grieved when it was over, forced to resurface into a world where Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Stone, Grosh, Hema, Shiva and Marion didn’t exist.  Beautifully written with characters who were uniquely flawed and individually heroic, it transports the reader from India to Ethiopia to New York City through a powerful story of loss, selfishness, sacrifice, love, betrayal, and redemption.  You have probably read it already, but if you haven’t, stop what you are doing and start.  You won’t regret it.

 

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

I took this older novel on vacation, because Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, and his new book wasn’t out yet.  I had never been interested in reading this one but am so thankful I did.  It’s set in Vermont with memorable characters, a life changing event, ethical challenges, and is narrated by the teenage daughter who is now an adult.  Overall very good and recommended.

 

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

This book exhausted me.  Both the reading of it, and the life this woman led.  Everytime I put it down, I was thankful to be an anonymous woman living in the 21st century.  I noticed a few editorial mistakes, and the lack of chronology made it a little frustrating at times, but I learned an enormous amount about Europe, Russia and Catherine that my history classes never touched on.  I found myself wanting more information about her relationship with her children, and the last section became my least favorite.  If you enjoy biographies, or have a special interest in royal courts and european monarchs, you should enjoy this book.

 

Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt

This book showed up in my mailbox last week, ordered by my husband.  I had never heard of it, and since he isn’t really a book lover, I was immediately interested in why he ordered it.  So I sat down and read it.  She gives a very readable account of the consequences of the sexual revolution as they have played out over the last 50 years backed up with empirical scientific evidence.  While I don’t agree with every point, it is very well written, well footnoted, and well reasoned, I hope it is also widely read and discussed.  Thank you, John, for ordering it.

 

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Have you ever read a Jess Walter book?  If not, you need to.  Beautiful Ruins has an entertaining, intricately woven plot with memorable characters, and great insight into human nature without being preachy.  I just finished Beautiful Ruins this afternoon, thoroughly enjoyed it,and highly recommend you read it.

 

As usual, I bought more books than I had time to read, so I have a nice stack waiting to be read!

What have you read this summer?  I would love your suggestions.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

 

2 years ago, my friend and patient Ruth Hudgins inspired me to make my own laundry detergent.  This recipe is an altered version of hers to account for the harder water we have in Fayetteville.

For our family of 6, I make a 5 gallon batch every quarter for a cost of $11 per year.

That’s correct.  Less than $1 per month for laundry detergent for a very active family of 6.  And it works great.

The whole process takes 15 minutes – less time than it takes me to run to the store.

It is low sudsing and therefore perfect for HE machines.  You need 1/2 cup per full load.

Ingredients:

  • 5 gallon paint bucket to store the detergent and a smaller container to refill and keep wherever you currently keep your detergent.  I use an old Tide container and refill using a funnel.
  • Fels Naptha Soap
  • Kirk’s Castile Soap
  • Borax
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

All of the ingredients are available at Harp’s grocery stores in NWA.  The soaps are in the regular bath soap area, and the Borax and Washing Soda are in the laundry area.  Sometimes they are available at Walmart, sometimes not.

Here’s how to do it:

1.  Put 4 quarts of water in a stock pot and place on high.

2.  Cut the Kirk’s Castile and Fels Naptha in half.

3.  Grate 1/2 of each bar on a cheese grater and save the other half for your next batch.

4.  Put the grated soap into the water.  Stir until all of it is dissolved into the water.

5.  Add 1 cup each of Borax and Washing Soda.  Stir until in solution.

6.  Bring to a boil.

7.  Place 12 quarts of cold water into a 5 gallon paint bucket.

8.  Pour the detergent concentrate into the cold water.

9.  Let sit until cool.

10.  If you would like to scent it, add essential oil to achieve desired intensity.  I use grapefruit essential oil because I love citrus.

The final product is not as smooth as a store bought detergent, but don’t let this scare you.  You will love the results.

Jeff Long, Leadership, Grace, and Second Chances.

jefflongphoto

Dear Jeff Long,

Thank you.

Thank you for standing up for our state.  With our small state inferiority complex, Arkansans are so desperate to be recognized as a real contender.  We are an odd and hopefully endearing bunch, with most of us cheering for the Hogs, and no professional team to rally behind.  You seem to understand us well.

As a lifer here in the Natural State, I appreciate the way you represented us on the national stage tonight.  You showed true leadership, and that is rarely seen these days on any platform.

Clearly, this evening was difficult on you, but your show of emotion made your conviction clear and your words more powerful.  The pressure on you over the last 5 days must have been immense.  Your lack of compromise in the face of it inspires.

I must say that I was hoping for this decision.  As you so eloquently stated, it was the job, not the consensual relationship that made this untenable.  Petrino’s behavior put the reputation of the U of A, the football program, and the entire state at risk, but honestly I was worried you wouldn’t do it.  The boosters, the players, the recruits, the possibilities of the upcoming season, the leadership failures at Penn State and the University of Montana-it made me cynical and doubtful of you, and I don’t even know you.  Please forgive me.

You proved that there are still truths worth standing on, and for the youth of our state, it is a message they hear infrequently, if at all.  I know, because I see it in my office every day.  Entitlement, arrogance, and moral compromise rule the day.  Integrity, honesty, full disclosure, valuing the right thing over the easy thing, and humility are in scarce supply.

The message won’t be received well by some, maybe not even half of our fans.  Some of them will come around, but some never will.  And that’s ok.  You can clearly weather the storm.

My prayers are with you and your family, the assistants and theirs, the players, Ms. Dorrell and her former fiance, and the Petrino family.  As you said, there are things we sometimes forget to think about.  The very human things.

I hope Coach Petrino and Ms. Dorrell can enter into a time of self-reflection and repentance, finding grace and second chances are there for us all, the private and the most public offenders.

 

Thank you again,

Stacy Furlow

 

Should your child see The Hunger Games?

Katniss

Last night, John and I were lying in bed when my 11 year old continued her campaign to get me to take her to see The Hunger Games today.  We got a simultaneous text where she claims to be writing a persuasive essay making the following points:

1.  Her friend is unable to go Sunday, so Saturday is the only option.

2.  If I deny the request, she will be forced to go with her older sister and friends Sunday and this is unacceptable.

3.  If denied, she and friend will be left out of all important conversation at school this week.

4.  If denied, she will have to wait an ENTIRE week to see it

5.  It will show love and affection from me to her.  (Apparently Hunger Games is the 7th love language, sarcasm being the 6th – ahem, Savannah Conner and Ben Cashion)

Please reply. Soon.

 

We were amused by her cleverness, and this afternoon I entered a line for those with pre-purchased tickets that wound through and outside the theater halfway around the building, something I hadn’t experienced since John and I went to the opening of Jurassic Park (yes, we confess and repent of  being Dino nerds early in our marriage).

From the previews:

  • It appears that we will have the opportunity to see not 1 but 2 live action movies based on Snow White – one funny and one dark.  I am on pins and needles.
  • A new Spiderman franchise is starting.  Speechless.
  • Per the G.I. Joe movie, “The world ain’t savin’ itself”.  I am pretty sure this is true, and was settled by Jesus a couple thousand years ago on the cross and in the subsequent resurrection.  But the muscled up guys dressed like ninjas seem to think it’s up to them.  Whatever.
  • There is new movie that makes Dads look like idiotic buffoons.  Big surprise there.  Really showing off Hollywood’s creativity with new material.
  • There is more Twilight ahead.  Great. Awesome. Shoot me now, please.

Here are a few random and not-so-random observations for those who have asked for thoughts on the movie as it relates to taking kids:

  • I enjoyed the movie.
  • It was filmed in NC, but it looked exactly like the area around the Buffalo River, specifically Lost Valley.  If you have never experienced the joys of hiking the area, take advantage this spring.
  • If you took the short stories The Most Dangerous Game and The Lottery, added a little Lord of the Flies, 1984, any post-apocalyptic film, and The Bachelor and put them into a blender this is what you would get.  I don’t mean that in any sort of derogatory way.  It’s just that it echoes with themes of the predatory, atavistic nature of man, oppression, random injustice, and mass manipulation with a courageous hero or two fighting to maintain their humanity against all odds.
  • Self-sacrifice as the ultimate form of love is on display through both Katniss for her sister and Rue, and Peeta for Katniss.
  • The garish capital is repulsive in it’s pursuit of happiness at the expense of innocent life.  It is an alarming commentary on current society where the destruction of a life is all part of the day’s news or your favorite reality show.
  • “May the odds be ever in your favor” sounds like something taken from a Joel Osteen prosperity gospel pep-talk.  That’s right, I am not a fan.
  • The reference of the contest to a pageant pretty much sums up my opinions of pageants.
  • We should be well aware that the behind-the-scenes manipulation of the “reality show” is sinister and likely very similar to what goes on with some of the most popular shows on today.
  • President Snow’s assertion that “too much hope is dangerous” should be pondered by today’s Christ followers.  We have the ultimate hope, and therefore should be dangerous to injustice, violence, and oppression everywhere.
  • Jennifer Lawrence is well cast for the role and looks like an actual woman with curves and natural beauty.  This is fantastic for every woman and teenager watching the movie. Refer to above comment about pageants.
  • I noticed no language, however, my daughter did, and pointed out that “damn” is said twice and “hell” is said once.  In my opinion, Hell is not a cuss word, it is a place.
  • The violence is harsh, though not in a large view Gladiator/Braveheart sort of way.  It is up close and chaotic, almost as if one of the fighters is holding an iphone and fighting.  So it only occasionally shows the actual fatal wound as it happens, but it is clear what has just occurred.
  • I thought Woody Harrelson was great as Haymitch.
  • Amandla Stenberg as Rue was perfection.  Strong and vulnerable, clever and innocent, exactly what she should have been.

So the big question is what age is this appropriate?

  • I agree with the rating, almost all 13 year olds should handle the content without problem.
  • If your child is 11-12, I would be very cautious.  If your child is 10 or under I would not take him/her to see the movie.  Abstract thought typically emerges at age 12, and your 10 year old is most unlikely to be able to process what s/he is seeing.
  • My daughter is 11 and had read the book as had the friend who went with us.  They are both very emotionally mature for their ages, and neither was shocked by the themes or the violence.
  • We are quite conservative with what we allow our children to watch, and had she not read it and understood it, I would not have taken her.

So for those who have seen it, what do you think?  What age do you think is appropriate to see the movie?  Do you plan to take your children?

Inaction, injustice, and Penn State

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  ~Edmund Burke

pennstate

Back in high school, my english teacher would do quiz bowl in class on Fridays.  It was always girls vs. guys, and most of the time the girls would win.  When the score got out of hand, he would ask the guys, “who is the greatest football coach of all time?”

Answer:  Joe Paterno.

Maybe he is the greatest of all time, but he will now be known by a failure of leadership and apathetic passivity that resulted in sexual crimes against children in his community.   It’s crazy how the greatest coach of our most aggressive team sport could fail through a lack of action.

I spent some time today reading the entire grand jury report.   A few things stuck out to me, and one thing haunts me.

1.  I am always amazed at how well sexual predators hide their activities behind a facade of goodness, in this case The Second Mile philanthropy, but the church and the Boy Scouts are no different.

Usually, the people closest to them have no idea until they are caught, and then things that never made sense start to fall into place.  Most have also had some “near miss” experiences where suspicion was cast on them and they have succeeded in talking their way out of trouble.

2.  The actions of Penn State officials is typical – limit our liability and stay out of it.  The fear of what might be found prevents further probing.

It is likely Paterno, Schultz, and Curley knew there was more going on than they claim.  The action they took – banning him from the locker rooms is at it’s core self-protective.

If they didn’t believe there was a problem, why do it?

And if they thought there was enough of a problem to take this protective measure, there was enough of a problem to follow through with a full investigation.

3.  These victims are only the beginning.  There are more.  There are always more.

4.  But the thing I can’t get out of my mind is the Grad Assistant, now the wide-receivers coach Mike McQueary.

Walking into the building to put shoes in his locker, he sees Sandusky sodomizing a 10 year old boy up against the wall in the shower.  He says they both saw him.  He walked away, “distraught”, and called his father for advice.   The next day he told Paterno.

A 28 year old man, an athlete, a former NCAA quarterback, a man training to become a coach of young men, was an eye-witness to a man sodomizing a 10 year old boy and did nothing.  

He did not stop the crime taking place in his presence.  He did not intervene and did not call the police.

He turned his back.  He walked away.

Let’s be clear, his father, Paterno, Schultz, and Curley all failed, miserably, but it should never have gotten that far.  McQueary failed first.  He had a moral responsibility to act.  The first Paterno et al should have heard about it is from McQueary calling from the police station to explain what had happened.

 

Put yourself there for a moment.  I know it is hard.  Do it anyway.

You are a 5th grade boy, no father, at least not one that cares to see you, a mother who is barely making ends meet.  You are an “at risk” youth, and your school counselor connects you to an organization that specializes in reaching kids like you, helping fill in the gaps.

The director takes notice of you, and what a guy he is.  A local celebrity taking interest in you, a nobody.  You are one of the chosen.  Special.  Soon, you are going to some really cool places, the sidelines of Penn State games, golf tournaments, Philadelphia Eagles games – places you never dreamed, meeting people you see on TV, welcomed as part of his family.

You belong.  You are wanted.  You are loved.  

Strange things start to happen, things that make you uncomfortable, things you don’t understand, but you don’t say anything.  You aren’t sure what you would say anyway.   Nothing has really happened, and you are having a lot of fun.  None of the other chosen boys seem concerned.   Things progress, you are confused, and soon, this man you trust is victimizing you, exploiting you in the worst of ways.

He is powerful, you are weak.  

Who can you tell?  Who would believe the former Defensive Coordinator for Penn State, the director of The Second Mile, local hero is raping a 10 year old nobody kid?  So you keep your mouth shut and tell yourself you will handle it.  You will hide from him, you won’t answer his calls, you won’t be alone with him.  But this doesn’t work.

Once again, you find yourself in the place you swore you would never return – victimized.  You mentally escape, willing it to end soon, when a savior appears.  Your eyes meet.

A moment of shame that he sees you like this.  Then relief.

Justice has arrived.

The predator is exposed.  This madness will now end.

And then the unthinkable.  He walks away.

The soul crushing realization that this man will not intercede on your behalf.  You, after all, are not worth defending, and are left in the hands of the predator to do with you what he will.

Despair, shame, and self-loathing wrap themselves around you and don’t let go.

9 and 1/2 years later, they hold you still.   A ten year old boy, now a 20 year old man searching for a cure for the pain.