My Heart & My Skull

... Just the places where I store some stuff ...
"So far, the most interesting thing I have done in my life is get to know another person - and I suppose such will always be the case."
-Darius Lidell

"What I’ve found is that if you approach people out of respect and kindness, they are happy to share their struggles—and their victories—with you… In this exchange, they are providing you with a great gift: an expanded understanding of what it means to be human, and perhaps a peek into grace." 
- Brian Lindstrom

Not a Poem

Your flaws are more visible than you think.
You are more lovable than you know.
Perhaps you should try to feel.

I didn’t mean for this to be a poem
But facebook asked me, 
"What’s on your mind?"
So now this mediocre non-poem poem is on

On the neuroplasticity of ending relationships

We grieve by calling up one memory at a time, reliving it, and then letting it go. At a brain level we are turning on each of the neural networks that were wired together to form our perception of the person experiencing the memory with exceptional vividness, then saying goodbye one network at a time. In grief, we learn to live without the one we love, but the reason that this lesson is so hard is that we must first unlearn that the person exists and can be relied on

 Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself 


Let me give you an example: the relative difference in confidence between the sexes. In exploring this phenomenon, the book cites a research study of students in a surgery rotation; the study found that when asked to evaluate themselves, the female students gave themselves lower scores than the male students, despite faculty evaluations that later showed the women actually outperformed the men. 

Passed through the lens of Lean In's judgment, the ones at fault here are the women, for not being confident enough in themselves. The recommendation that comes later in the chapter: women should “fake it until they make it.”

But is this really good advice?

While Lean In might see the scenario as women lacking the confidence of men, there is a pretty glaring alternative hypothesis: it wasn’t the women who were lacking confidence — but it was the men who were too confident. It’s not that much of a stretch to suggest that the men who were more confident in their ability were the ones less likely to do the hard yards in preparation before the surgery rotation. The end result? They didn’t perform as well.

And that’s the problem that runs throughout the book. Despite spending so much time citing research about the benefits of having women in leadership positions, a lot of its recommendations focus on, to put it bluntly, making women more like men, without proper consideration of whether that would actually be a good thing. 

Amazing piece in the Harvard Business Review on Lean In.  AMAZING, I tell you.

Washcloths for everyone!

the secret of the washcloth

(Blessed is he who has uncovered the Secret of the Washcloth, for women shall appreciate him more deeply than those who clearly haven’t discovered the Secret.)

A washcloth is a very small square of fabric hanging near the shower. You use it when you’re showering; getting it wet and then rubbing it with the slippery white oblong thing also present in the shower. (Some men actually know what soap is, a lot don’t.) Then you use it to scrub anyplace that’s normally covered by clothing. If you cannot physically view those areas, you should check to make sure the washcloth comes away clean when you’re done scrubbing, otherwise go back and scrub more.

I’m not sure why men seem to think women are the ones for whom washcloths are needed. They were invented for cleaning the human body, which both men and woman have. I have no doubt that a woman invented the washcloth because women seem more vested in bodily cleanliness than the average man. However,everyonecan be improved by learning to use one of these simple little reusable cleaning devices.

Awesome.  Cleanliness tips for men FTW.  

Good Read

Now in retirement, my dad paints almost every day, and I think often of that dream deferred, or at least set aside, for the practicality of making a living. Looking at his decision, I realize that the trade-off that women now face isn’t all that new. It’s one men have always shouldered, and so in some ways, our own struggle to redefine fulfillment is just another sign that we’re inching further toward equality, just not quite in the way we expected.

Genevieve Smith in a thought provoking read, I’m For Sale: Creative ambition is lovely, but what happens when you need real money? 

Study Finds: DUH! Females pursue careers outside of STEM fields not because they are bad at STEM, but because they have other options (and maybe receive more encouragement outside of STEM fields).

This Pitt-Michigan study finds that women with both high math and verbal ability appear less likely to choose Science careers because their dual skills confer more career options.  

"Our study suggests that it’s not lack of ability or difference in ability that orients females to pursue non-STEM careers but the fact that they can consider a wider range of occupations because of their combination of excellent math and verbal skills,” said Wang. “This highlights the need for educators and policy makers to shift the focus away from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities and instead tap the potential of these girls who are highly skilled in both the math and verbal domains to go into STEM fields.”

I am one of these women. I did well on my SATs (not that I think that really means much) and scored higher in math than verbal. I am bummed I didn’t receive more encouragement to explore STEM… Teachers, family and other adults told me what a good writer I was, how well spoken I was, that I should be a lawyer or policy maker or author. Meanwhile, I was getting A pluses on calculus tests, setting the curve in my science classes, and no one was telling me I could be a mathematician or scientist. I loved the computer class I took in high school, but was never encouraged to try CS or engineering. It sounds silly, but I never even considered these fields as options.

Girls are “pleasers” (which is also supported by the research). In that vein, I wonder if girls listen more to feedback we receive and try to become what other people tell us we are good at. If a boy had done as well in math and science as I did, perhaps his grades would’ve been enough to make him consider pursuing STEM. Most of the boys who were at my level in my high school math and science courses have college degrees in math and science. Why is that? Were they getting more positive STEM feedback? Did they not require the feedback? Either way, I listened to what other people told me about myself, and no one was telling me, “you should consider STEM — you’re good at it.” 

Maybe I should take an Intro to CS course or something…

(Source: mociun)

I remember going to party soon after I’d finally figured this out. I was holding forth about something stupid and swearing a lot. “Ooo, potty mouth,” this cute guy said to me. I looked at him blankly, thinking, “Didn’t he swear half a second ago?” He got nervous. “Is this some kind of an act?” he asked. “Are you just showing off or are you really crazy? Are you crazy in bed, too?” In the past, I would’ve tried to cater to this guy’s imagination, or to correct his impression of me as a show-off. Instead, I told him, “I’m just your average bossy woman. I’m sure we’re not compatible.” This only made him more interested. But he kept making it clear that nothing I said made sense to him, and eventually he started to irritate and bore me. In other words, it was exactly like every bad two-year relationship I’d ever had, condensed into two hours. So efficient! After the party, I went home alone and ate a giant bowl of beet soup with some blue cheese on toast. Isn’t it romantic?

- Polly

Wow. Powerful.

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

-Louis de Bernières

“When everything is subject to money, then the scarcity of money makes everything scarce, including the basis of human life and happiness. Such is the life of the slave—one whose actions are compelled by threat to survival. Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time.” 

― Charles EisensteinSacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition

Let’s talk about the difference, find out what’s in the way

(Source: Spotify)

Too beautiful not to share

Ann Coulter tweeted: “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”  And John wrote this smart and compassionate (not to mention moving) response.  

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics.  See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet,
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger
Special Olympics Virginia

Things I Will Not Be Blogging About

  1. Underwear at Marshalls/Ross used to be 99 cents or maybe $1.99 for a really nice pair.
  2. Now they’re $2.99+ per pair.  
  3. You guys!  
  5. Where have the years gone?
  6. (I did get some good underwear, though)
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