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Posts tagged family

Andy:
from "An Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief," by Michael Pollan, NYTimes.com, 9 October 2008 :: via Arts & Letters Daily

The choice of White House chef is always closely watched, and you would be wise to appoint a figure who is identified with the food movement and committed to cooking simply from fresh local ingredients. Besides feeding you and your family exceptionally well, such a chef would demonstrate how it is possible even in Washington to eat locally for much of the year, and that good food needn’t be fussy or complicated but does depend on good farming. You should make a point of the fact that every night you’re in town, you join your family for dinner in the Executive Residence — at a table. (Surely you remember the Reagans’ TV trays.) And you should also let it be known that the White House observes one meatless day a week — a step that, if all Americans followed suit, would be the equivalent, in carbon saved, of taking 20 million midsize sedans off the road for a year. Let the White House chef post daily menus on the Web, listing the farmers who supplied the food, as well as recipes.

Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.

When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population.

Andy:
from "'I Just Called to Say I Love You,'" by Jonathan Franzen, Technology Review (free registration required), September/October 2008

My friend Elisabeth assures me that the new national plague of love yous is a good thing: a healthy reaction against the repressed family dynamics of our Protestant childhoods some decades ago. What could be wrong, Elisabeth asks, with telling your mother that you love her, or with hearing from her that she loves you? What if one of you dies before you can speak again? Isn’t it nice that we can say these things to each other so freely now?

I do here admit the possibility that, compared with everyone else on the airport concourse, I am an extraordinarily cold and unloving person; that the sudden overwhelming sensation of loving somebody (a friend, a spouse, a parent, a sibling), which to me is such an important and signal sensation that I’m at pains not to wear out the phrase that best expresses it, is for other people so common and routine and easily achieved that it can be reëxperienced and reëxpressed many times in a single day without significant loss of power.

It’s also possible, however, that too-frequent habitual repetition empties phrases of their meaning. Joni Mitchell, in the last verse of “Both Sides Now,” referenced the solemn amazement of saying I love you “right out loud”: of giving vocal birth to such intensity of feeling. Stevie Wonder, in lyrics written 17 years later, sings of calling somebody up on an ordinary afternoon simply to say “I love you,” and being Stevie Wonder (who probably really is a more loving person than I am), he half succeeds in making me believe in his sincerity—at least until the last line of the chorus, where he finds it necessary to add: “And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” No such avowal is thinkable for the person who really does mean something from the bottom of his heart.

Andy:
from "A history of tables," by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, catapult magazine, 12 September 2008

A photo is floating around our attic somewhere, probably in a Converse shoebox. In it, I am just barely fifteen years old, a sophomore in high school, wearing an oversized green sweatshirt, jeans, and perhaps the shoes that came in the box that now holds the photo. The setting is my school library. I am sitting at a table where I appear to be studying, but across from me is Rob, another fifteen-year-old sophomore. The look I’m giving the yearbook photographer is an exaggeration of innocence. Though our books are open, pens in hand, Rob has just finished giving me directions to his house for the party he plans to have while his parents are out of town.

At twenty-eight years old, nearly eight years in to my marriage to Rob, I can see this sly study hall meeting around a library table as a fulcrum on which much of my life story turns. I can also see tables—those ubiquitous pieces of furniture that invite gathering by their nature—as a key image for exploring where I’ve been and where I may be going.

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate has all sorts of interesting political implications, which are being diced and parsed as I write. But I’m more interested in the long-term cultural implications of the choice of Palin, whether the McCain–Palin ticket wins or loses in November, for one of the most vexing horizons of impossibility in our culture: the abortion rate among unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Upwards of 85 percent of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome elect to terminate the pregnancy, according to several studies in the peer-reviewed journal Prenatal Diagnosis. A 1999 British study in that journal found the termination rate to be between 91 and 93 percent. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I remember seeing many people my age and younger who had the distinctive facial and behavioral characteristics of Down children. These days I rarely see a Down Syndrome child at all.

What is peculiar about Down Syndrome as a reason for termination is that, plainly put, you rarely meet a Down Syndrome “sufferer” who is notably unhappy. The condition has a range of manifestations, some more disabling than others, but many, many persons with Down Syndrome thrive as children and adults, even if they may not have the same range of capabilities as you or I do.

The fact that this syndrome has become a reason for termination is evidence of the terrible power of culture. A culturally neutral artifact (prenatal diagnosis of congenital diseases) combined with a culturally tragic artifact (elective abortion) begins to make it plausible that parents should avoid the challenges and risks of a Down pregnancy by ending it. The decreasing number of children born with the condition begins to make it more difficult to imagine that “normal” families can absorb the stresses of raising such a child, and undermines public support for public programs that support families who have made that decision. Which, over time, makes carrying a Down Syndrome baby to term ever more inconceivable, leading to increased rates of termination, leading to decreasing plausibility . . . until one day the burden of bringing a Down Syndrome child into the world is seen as so grave that less than 10 percent of parents take the risk.

But Sarah and Todd Palin have done it. I cannot think of any other public figures in my adult life, at least of the prominence they are about to enjoy or endure, who have made this decision. They will cause many, many families to reconsider the horizons of the possible. Their public example could very well lead to a cultural sea change—a dramatic shift in the “horizons of the possible.” That phrase from my book is no metaphor. Those horizons are so real that, for a future generation of children and their parents, they are quite literally a matter of life and death. For this reason, which utterly transcends politics and this year’s election, the sudden prominence of the Palins is, in the deepest sense, an extraordinary act of public service.

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from "DadGear - Diaper Vest Wearable Diaper Bag"
Andy:
excerpt The natural way
Andy:

Phaedra Taylor abstained from sex until marriage. But she began researching birth control methods before she was even engaged, and by the time she married David Taylor, she was already charting her fertility.

Taylor, a fresh-faced 28-year-old who would blend in easily with South Austin bohemians, ruled out taking birth control pills after reading a book that claimed the pill could, in some cases, make the uterus uninhabitable after conception occurred. She viewed that as abortion, which she opposes.

“I just wasn’t willing to risk it,” she said.

Taylor wanted her faith to guide her sexual and reproductive decisions after marriage. Natural family planning felt like the best way to honor God, she said.

Update: See David Taylor’s response to the piece on his blog here. “After all these years of trying to get the Statesman to print something about the church and the arts in Austin I now have the honor of having a portion of my sex life on the front page.” You go, David!

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Chapter four of Culture Making begins with a description of our family’s chili—and has prompted several requests for the recipe. Ask and you shall receive . . . after a brief check to make sure that posting recipes isn’t an infringement of copyright (turns out it’s complicated, and actually a very interesting example of culture at work . . . ).

This receipe is adapted from the terrific cookbook Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, where they call it “Red, Gold, Black, and Green Chili”:

1/2 cup bulghur
1/2 cup hot water
28-ounce can of canned tomatoes, undrained

Bring the bulghur, hot water, and about 1 c. of juice from the can of tomatoes to a boil in a small saucepan, then simmer until the bulghur is cooked.

3 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
3 cups chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce (we omit this—our kids would really go crazy!)

Sauté these ingredients together until the onions are soft.

2 green bell peppers, chopped

Add the bell peppers and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Chop the tomatoes right in the can and add them to the pan.

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups drained cooked black beans (14-ounce can)
1 1/2 cups drained cooked red kidney beans (14-ounce can)

Stir in the corn and beans, and heat thoroughly on low heat.

Add the cooked bulghur, simmer for a few minutes longer, and salt if necessary.

We always top this with grated cheddar cheese.

Enjoy!

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NASA photo :: via the Boston Globe's The Big Picture blog.
Nate:
Andy:
from "No Babies?," by Russell Shorto, The New York Times Magazine, 29 June 2008

There would seem to be two models for achieving higher fertility: the neosocialist Scandinavian system and the laissez-faire American one. Aassve put it to me this way: “You might say that in order to promote fertility, your society needs to be generous or flexible. The U.S. isn’t very generous, but it is flexible. Italy is not generous in terms of social services and it’s not flexible. There is also a social stigma in countries like Italy, where it is seen as less socially accepted for women with children to work. In the U.S., that is very accepted.”

Nate:

The change in the way these children address their parents probably stems from baby boomers’ less authoritarian child-raising practices. Technology is a factor, too, given the offhand style that people use in instant messages and cellphone texts. The Internet has made people comfortable using names that are not their own - in particular, the frequent use of screen names online has made naming a bit more elastic, said Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska who is a former president of the American Name Society, a group that studies the cultural significance of names. Screen names, he said, “might have made people freer to think of the same person addressed by multiple names, and that’s what nicknaming is.”

Nate:

The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries. Under the Kanun, the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same - 12 oxen.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the patriarch of the family died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

They dress like men, adopt a male swagger and spend their lives in the company of other men.

Nate:

A major Iranian state-owned company has told its single employees to get married by September or face losing their jobs, the press reported on Tuesday. “One of the economic entities in the south of the country has asked its single employees to start creating a family,” the hard-line Kayhan daily reported.

Driven by a shared dissatisfaction with South Korea’s rigid educational system, parents in rapidly expanding numbers are seeking to give their children an edge by helping them become fluent in English while sparing them, and themselves, the stress of South Korea’s notorious educational pressure cooker.

More than 40,000 South Korean schoolchildren are believed to be living outside South Korea with their mothers in what experts say is an outgrowth of a new era of globalized education.