Friday, June 28, 2013

more Living Biblically: locusts, literalism, and the gays

In his attempt to obey the Biblical dietary laws, A.J. learns that God was frighteningly specific about everything, including which insects can and cannot be eaten. What i love about this book is the copious amounts of research that A.J. does (and shares!). He has no background in Sunday School or Bible camp, he didn't go to a Christian college, he hasn't attended the same church with the same pastor since he was born. He's a blank slate. He has no preconceptions about why God said or did certain things, and is honestly trying to seek truth.

God allows people to eat locusts. According to one book A.J. read, this is because locust swarms would sometimes cause famines. If people (especially the poor) were not allowed to eat the locusts themselves, they would die. A.J. likes this. "More and more, I feel it's important to look at the Bible with an open heart. If you roll up your sleeves, even the oddest passages -- and the one about edible bugs qualifies -- can be seen as a sign of God's mercy and compassion." pg. 176 Those who think that the Old Testament God was one of wrath and violence, in contrast to the gentle hippy Jesus, should take a closer look at some of OT God's commands.

A.J. later expresses some frustration about the dozens of different angles of interpretation to be found for the Bible. It seems impossible to come to any kind of absolute, literal understanding of the text. One of A.J.'s spiritual advisers gave him some guidance that A.J. found frustrating and that i found liberating: ". . . the Bible has seventy faces. The ancient rabbis themselves don't even claim to have struck the bedrock. The Talmud -- the huge Jewish book with commentaries on biblical law -- is far from black and white." pg. 182

And in light of the week we've had, it only seems right to quote a note A.J. made about laws in the Bible. "The law of fair weights and measures appears an impressive six times in the Bible. By way of comparison, the passages often cited to condemn homosexuality: also six." pg. 230

Monday, June 24, 2013

colin you're like freaking me out

1. I'm freaking out right now

2. There are SO many good things here, but quoting them all would be lazy. Go read the article in full

"When we talk of saving oneself for marriage as an act of self-control, we necessary (sic) posit those who do not wait as unable or less able to control themselves. In doing so, we remove from them the idea that they make the decision to have sex of their own volition. It prevents those who do not wait from owning their decisions -- and thus understanding themselves as sexual beings capable of autonomy and consent, rather than souls who just temporarily lost control of their bodies.

This, to me, is where the post-evangelical discussion of self-control fails. Having premarital sex still, in this mindset, ends up being categorized as a failure of holiness, as a failure of one's will or relationship with God, which prevents the experience from being something in which one can learn about one's self and one's wants and desires and pleasures. It necessarily demonizes the flesh (and therefore one's sexuality) by making it into something that must be tamed rather than something that must be understood. Instead of framing the experience in a positive - 'Why did I make that choice and what can I learn about myself from it? Was it healthy?' - it necessarily interjects a negative - 'Failed to control myself again.'"

3. God, i love Cracked. Here's a hilarious and insightful article about how men screw themselves over in romantic situations.

"One of the weirdest things about high school is that they don't teach you the really important shit that you need in order to survive. We spent so much time in health class learning how to prevent teenage pregnancy and crotch diseases that we didn't realize until long after we'd graduated that they never showed us how to go about it when we were old enough to actually want that stuff that biology was pressing for.

Not the fucking. That's not what this article is about. I'm talking about all the stuff that leads up to it. Meeting the right person, how to approach them, what to say, how to present yourself. The most basic part of any relationship: finding someone. Because, let's be honest here, if you came into this article hoping it would answer your question of 'Why won't this bitch fuck me?' you have several stages of growing up to do before you're even mature enough to handle the discussion, let alone the woman."

4. There is still a LONG way to go before Exodus International can repair the damage they've done. But this and this are good first steps.

"From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight, or otherwise, we're all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal's older brother, trying to impose its will on God's promises, and make judgments on who's worthy of His kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father -- to welcome everyone, to love unhindered."

Friday, June 21, 2013

The next book i'm tackling is "The Year of Living Biblically", by A. J. Jacobs. A.J. is an extremely engaging writer, and his neuroses and anxieties are all too familiar. While this isn't a theological treatise or a spiritual reflection or anything like that, i'm still excited to add it to my spiritual reading list. After all, some of the books that have provided me with my greatest spiritual awakenings have been fiction, or poetry, or decidedly un-religious. God meets us where we are. And after spending the last couple of years frustrated and baffled by the large pockets of Christianity that insist on a "literal interpretation" and "straight reading" of the Bible, it's refreshing to see someone do exactly that. A.J.'s approach highlights some of the conflicts and difficulties (and absurdities) of this kind of scriptural understanding.

For example, when discussing the struggles that he and his wife had to conceive, he cites the command to "be fruitful and multiply". It's the first thing God tells Adam to do, the first commandment in the Bible.

"Now, if I were taking the Bible absolutely literally, I could be "fruitful" by loading up on peaches at Whole Foods Market and "multiply" by helping my niece with her algebra homework. I could scratch this commandment off my list in twenty minutes flat.
"This hammers home a simple but profound lesson: When it comes to the Bible, there is always -- but always -- some level of interpretation, even on the most seemingly basic rules."

There are a couple of things i want to point out here: first, because the phrase "be fruitful and multiply" is so old, and because the concept of fruitfulness has so long been tied to human fertility, and because the concept of increasing your family has been so important to so many cultures for so long, we forget that this is actually a metaphor. It's easy to see those words and read their meaning and forget that we are interpreting, but we absolutely are. It is not possible for a human being to literally be fruitful, although multiplication is certainly attainable.

Second, i'm neither a history buff nor a math whiz, so i may be wrong here, but i'm not sure that multiplication was invented when God said that. I'm not even sure it was invented whenever that passage was written. I think that the original word is probably more like "increase" than "multiply", which means that even if A.J. had done a few quick sums, he would still have failed at a perfect literal following of the text, because of a translation error. The Bible is full (like, bursting and exploding at the seams full) of translation errors and oddities, and probably tons of transcription errors that we don't even know about. What is the virtue of following the Bible literally if the words are not correct? Do you get points just for trying? And if so, why is it not okay to try to interpret the text? Do you not get points for trying to get closer to the meaning that the author actually intended?

A.J. also had some really great insights about prayer. This is something i've been struggling with a lot lately: why do we pray? How do we pray? When do we pray? What do we pray about? I won't ramble all of my thoughts here now, but i will leave you with A.J.'s:

"In Deuteronomy, the Bible says that we should thank the Lord when we've eaten our fill -- grace after meals, it's called . . .
"I'd like to thank God for the land that he provided so that this food might be grown . . .
"I'd like to thank the farmer who grew the chickpeas for this hummus. And the workers who picked the chickpeas. And the truckers who drove them to the store. And the old Italian lady who sold the hummus to me at Zingone's deli and told me 'Lots of love.' Thank you . . .
The prayers are helpful. They remind me that the food didn't spontaneously generate in my fridge. They make me feel more connected, more grateful, more aware of my place in this complicated hummus cycle. They remind me to taste the hummus instead of shoveling it into my maw like it's a nutrition pill. And they remind me that I'm lucky to have food at all. Basically, they help me get outside of my self-obsessed cranium."

I've been doing a lot of reading and writing and thinking lately (really, for most of my life, if i'm being honest) about food and food ethics and how i can consume more ethically and what is healthy for my body and what is healthy for my mind and heart and spirit and what is healthy for the bodies of others. So connecting that whole food conundrum to spirituality, and particularly to the prayer conundrum, was really eye-opening.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ten points if you get that reference.

1. I also hate mayonnaise, and i can't wait to make this potato salad! (Side note: i have a bizarre desire to make my own mayonnaise some day. I don't understand why. Though i've been told that comparing homemade mayo to store bought is like comparing homemade chocolate chip cookies from scratch to stale sugar-free store-brand chocolate-flavored chip cookies.)

2. I waffle a little with Sarah Bessey. She has amazing stories to tell, and you can't deny her talent, her voice. But sometimes she's a little too sappy and feelings-y for me. Just personal taste.

Other times, however, that sappy feelings-y nonsense taps deep into something unexpected, and i find myself sitting at my desk, holding back tears. This is one of those.

"What is there to say? What can we do but huddle into rows of chairs, and clutch our hearts, and sob into our shredded balled-up tissues? What can we do but stand around and drink juice, red-eyed and hicupping? We'll sign up for a few meals when what we really want to do is lay out on the floor, beside you, and cry until we're empty because what else? There aren't old stories to tell, no laughter breaking through the sorrow. This is lamentation. I am fumbling for hope. Is there really comfort in the idea of a baby in the arms of Jesus when all we want is for that baby to be in the arms of his broken mama? . . .

God has asked too much of us."

3. So i've been on this whole get healthy kick this year, right? I want to be less jiggly, and have more energy, and generally feel happier and healthier in my skin, right? And then i read this article on Cracked, and i remember that terrible quote (i think from Kate Moss?): Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. And i think, skinny can't possibly feel good enough to make any of that go down easily. Also, bacon. It's just not worth it.

4. I'm a white woman, so i can't really comment meaningfully on the Black Male Code, but i thought that this was a fascinating read. And, based on stories i've read and people i've talked to, this sounds like depressingly good advice.

"I thought my son would be much older before I had to tell him about the Black Male Code. He's only 12, still sleeping with stuffed animals, still afraid of the dark. But after the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I needed to explain to my child that soon people might be afraid of him.

I was far from alone in laying out these instructions. Across the country this week, parents were talking to their children, especially their black sons, about the Code. It's a talk the black community has passed down for generations, an evolving oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could easily cost black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life."

5. Patton Oswalt is freaking amazing. I've been thinking about this letter all weekend and will likely continue to ponder it for a long time.

6. Okay, seriously, Hayley Campbell? I love her.

"I think Pumping Iron -- and I don't think I'm alone here -- is one of the greatest films you can watch in nine parts on YouTube. For starters there's Arnold Schwarzenegger, all smiles and absurd accent, being genuinely charming but mostly weird in tiny underpants."

Humorous writing, just like all other forms of artistic expression, is partly art and partly science. The science part -- knowing how to set up a joke, knowing how to structure the punch line, knowing what should follow the punch line? Hayley has a Ph.D. in that science. She also has the raw talent to pull of the "art" part. And she apparently lives a life of absurdity and adventure (and normal, banal things like going to the gym) which is rife with material. I seriously love her. Hard.

Friday, June 14, 2013

In the Name of Jesus, part two

Okay so, if i'm being honest? I kind of hated this book. Honestly, i don't even have things i can point to and say, "Here! This is why it is bad! Bad theology! Bad writing! Bad sexism!" or anything like that. It's an extraordinarily mild and inoffensive book. It sort of reminds me of Velveeta: not a lot of flavor, not a lot of substance, and you can't really explain why you hate it (aside from all the chemicals and sodium and whatnot). I don't think this book is wrong. I don't think it's dangerous or offensive. I just think it's really boring.

Two things i will comment on,  however. First, the conclusion:

Nouwen has spent this whole book telling us that it is important for ministry to be communal, that we must find ministry partners and let go of the temptation to be relevant or powerful or a rock star. He has also spent a large chunk of the book talking about the huge change in his thinking and attitude when he started living and working with the disabled. And then he concludes with a story about going to a conference where he was supposed to give a talk with another person. The other person that had been assigned to him was Bill, one of the residents of the home for the disabled. When Nouwen was preparing his presentation, he prepared it alone, and he assumed he would be giving it alone. This despite the fact that it was composed largely of ideas and theories and teachings that he had already presented and worked through in the home; in other words, material that Bill was already familiar with. In fact, he was surprised when they got to the conference and Bill joined him on stage with every expectation of being an equal part of the presentation.

Because he hadn't prepared anything for Bill, or asked Bill to prepare anything for himself, or even considered the possibility that Bill might be an active participant in the presentation, Bill's role ended up being this: he helped Nouwen turn the pages of his notes and collect the ones he was done with, and he occasionally threw in interjections like, "I've heard that before!" Afterwards, he took the microphone and told the group that he was glad to be there with them.

Bill was selected by the community to be Nouwen's partner in ministry for this conference. The community clearly thought he had something to offer. Yet Nouwen did not approach this as a group presentation, but as a solo event. And his whole attitude seems to be, "Hey, look how neat it is that Bill found his own special snowflake way to participate!" rather than, "Wow, I'm an idiot. I should have prepared WITH him."

Seems like Nouwen still has some growing to do.

The second thing? The book is a small paperback, just over a hundred pages, with wide margins and a ton of white space. Each new chapter/section starts about halfway down the page, and every few pages there is a blank page with a small illustration and a quote pulled from this very book. It is a very small book, and doesn't really have a whole lot of text in it, is what i am saying.

It is $14.95.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grrrr. Arrrrgh.

Guys. Let's talk about avocados for a minute.

Now, i am not one to turn up my nose at a perfectly ripe avocado. It is, after all, perfectly ripe. It is tender and buttery and rich and you half expect it to melt in your mouth. I like perfectly ripe avocados mashed into guacamole, or sliced on top of burgers, or simply dipped into sea salt and eaten alone. I even like avocado ice cream. Savory, sweet, or naked, a perfectly ripe avocado is pretty irresistible.

But sometimes, what i really want is a slightly under-ripe avocado. (DO NOT eat an over-ripe avocado. They taste like over-ripe bananas. Bad idea.) Slightly under-ripe avocados remind you they are, in fact, a fruit. They are tender yet firm, like a peach, and so sweet and mild in flavor. You can taste the richness ahead, but it's still soft and delicate.

Let's talk about how to eat that slightly under-ripe avocado. And let's do so while ignoring the mess on my bed. (Except for Volume Two of Buffy: Season Eight. Yeah, that's a yellow sale sticker you see on Faith's perfectly tousled hair. Six bucks, whatwhat?! Shout out to New England Comics!)

What you see here is a masterpiece of a meal. I bought this five-grain blend at Marshalls (quinoa, brown rice, red lentils, two other things, who cares), and cooked it slow and gentle, risotto-style, and then melted in some Parmesan. I did that a few days ago and had leftovers in the fridge, so a healthy serving of cold grains were the first thing in my bowl. Next was falafel. You can just see the yellow grittiness of it, above the blurry rainbow grains and below the brilliant scarlet mess of gazpacho. Yes, gazpacho. Homemade. Garlicky and vinegary and chock full of veggies. (Actually, side note: SO MANY of the things that i usually think of as vegetables are really fruits. Like avocados. And tomatoes. And peppers. So this dinner is really fruit soup with fruit slices and fruit patties and grain.)

So. Yes. Gazpacho. I've made this every summer for the past three years. My recipe is based on one from the "Quick and Easy Seven Dollar Meals" cookbook, but it's a little different every time i make it. I'm pretty happy with this batch, though. I'm especially happy with the way that it melts into the falafel and the grains and the whole thing makes a heavy, intensely flavorful stew. Thick enough to eat with a fork, and all sloppy and healthy and colorful, and topped off with those sweet, firm, buttery avocados.

Eat while watching Buffy: Season Three. And then follow immediately with an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream.

Monday, June 10, 2013

1. I know it's become almost trendy recently to hate on denominations, to say that we shouldn't put up divisions between one another and that we are all one body in Christ, and i agree to an extent. But then i read things like this and think, "Differentiated instruction is a good thing." I still think we need to do things together, so that we can be reminded that "other" does not equal "wrong" or "lesser" or otherwise bad, but i don't think it's a bad thing to say, "I like contemplative prayer and long services with lots of space for meditation and quiet, and you like praying in tongues and energetic services with dancing and shouting and call-and-response, and it's okay for us to worship separately." Of course, most denominations aren't divided this way, but wouldn't it be cool if they were? Wouldn't it be great if we made room for differences without building fences and alienating?

"All my life, I've just assumed that everyone else had maps of the year in their head that may/may not be similar to mine. It never occurred to me that something so basic as how one sees the calendar year could vary so much in between people. Within a few seconds this morning, my entire world shifted and grew larger.

Perhaps part of the issue of continuing disagreement in human life and, more narrowly, the church isn't necessarily chalked up to the theodicy explanation of "brokenness" and "sin," but to the simple fact that some people literally see the world differently. People literally experience God in different ways."

2. This was SO interesting to read. I love how Rachel always allows for so many voices, and so many points of view. It's so refreshing to see a bunch of smart, thoughtful people tackle a problem (especially such a sticky [no pun intended] issue as masturbation), and to see that all of them have come to different perspectives and still love and respect one another.

3. If you don't spend a lot of time in churchy circles, you're probably not familiar with conversations about "biblical inerrancy", and can therefore ignore this link. But if you do, this post may help you clarify some of your thoughts.

"You see, it's ok to believe that Noah's ark was filled with all the animals on earth when you're 5 years old, and then change your mind when you realize the physical impossibility of that when you're an adult, but still have faith in that story. Why? Because the truth of Noah's ark is not found in zoological arrangements. It's found in the message of a God who watches over and cares for His creation even in the midst of a storm."

4. Okay, when i read this, i kind of felt like someone had been reading my diary and posting it on the internet. Except that i don't really keep a diary anymore; it's pretty much been replaced by this blog. But still. This is so much of what i've been thinking and feeling about God in the past few years.

"Scripture references and sound logic are dangerous when the God they paint is a monster.

Words about God are heavy. Don't sling them about carelessly."

5. I don't just read about theology and feminism, FYI. I also read hysterically funny essays about home taxidermy.

"In order to fully explain what went wrong, in stages, I would have to look up the thesaurus entry for 'inexpertly' and then deploy every word listed and that would getting boring, so let's just say: I did some crimes.
. . .
You watch how their legs fit together, how their wings don't go like how you made them go like when you got all excited while stuffing that duck. One day you might notice one of them dead on the grass. In real life . . . (We could pretend this is hypothetical but obviously that would be lying.)
. . .
I wanted to explain but I was too embarrassed. I used words like "time sensitive delivery" and "awkward" and "no really". I envisioned a pair of mouldering squirrels in a bloated parcel in the Post Office depot with my name on them. Literally with my name on them. I further envisioned myself marching back to the Post Office with the unopened package and returning to sender. 'DEAR P STAINES,' began the letter in my head. 'UMM.'"

6. I am neither gay nor Mormon but this still made me tear up big time.

"I told her that some people are taught that [being gay is] wrong and don't want to believe differently. And that this parade was to celebrate the fact that being gay is no more a mark of one's character than being straight. She nodded and then asked, "Is there going to be candy?"

7. Oh God. I had so many of these conversations with my parents. In fact, over Christmas, i had them again. I am twenty-three years old and my parents still feel like they can and should comment on my size. (NB: Let me just say that my parents are awesome and affirming in many ways, but fat shaming is so deeply ingrained into the collective consciousness that even awesome people don't think twice about saying, "You've gotten bigger and should get smaller again. Let me give you some tips.")

8. It sucks, but sometimes we are just stuck with our feelings for a while. That's just kind of how it works.

Friday, June 7, 2013

In the Name of Jesus, pt. 1

This week, i've been working my way through In the Name of Jesus, by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen is pretty famous in evangelical circles, and i had to read another of his books for a class once. This particular book was selected for a campus-wide study last year. I stole one of the extra copies and it's been sitting on my shelf since last July, untouched. I had a lot of Batman comics to catch up on, okay?

Strictly speaking, this is not a devotional. While Nouwen often references scripture, he does so in the same way that he might reference a scholarly article: to support a point that he is making. He is not reflecting on the Bible, he is reflecting on his own life and experiences and relating them back to the Bible. Which is totally fine; i just want to let you know what i'm reading before i start talking about it.

It's a very small book and a very quick read; this week i read up to page 63 (through "The Task: Feed My Sheep", if you're in a different edition), and i'll finish it next week. I like it okay. It's not earth-shattering, but i'm not arguing with most of it.

This book is subtitled "Reflections on Christian Leadership", and while it is certainly that, it is also describes what Christian leadership should look like. And while some of what Nouwen says is amazing and wonderful and good, i do take issue with some statements.

On page 27, the very beginning of the section on the "temptation to be relevant", Nouwen talks about his experience living in a community of the disabled. Having spent much of his career teaching at institutions like Harvard, he was used to working with the best and the brightest, so moving into this facility was a huge change for him. "The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house with mentally handicapped people was that their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done till then." He segues this into a very important point: at the end of the day, all we have is ourselves. If we have published books or given lectures or attained degrees or been awarded with the highest honors, that may be enough to get us through the door, but we still need to be able to do something once we're there. Your résumé might get you hired, but it won't get you promoted, or even guarantee that you keep your job. At the end of the day, you can (and should!) be proud of what you've accomplished in that day, but when the next day begins, you're back at square one. He revisits this on page 37 (The Question: Do You Love Me?). Referencing Peter's conversation with Jesus, Nouwen says, "The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?

On page 30, Nouwen says that Jesus' "first temptation was to be relevant: to turn stones into bread." I'm pretty sure that's bullshit. Jesus' first temptation was to turn stones into bread, but that temptation immediately follows a passage where He fasted for forty days and was "famished" (Matt. 4:2). It seems like a bit of a stretch to say that someone who hadn't eaten for forty days and was then asked to make Himself food was tempted to be "relevant". It seems more likely that He was tempted to be self-serving and impatient.

Later in the book, particularly pages 55 and 57 (From Popularity to Ministry), Nouwen talks more about this temptation to be "relevant". He relates it specifically to pastors and other kinds of ministers feeling like they need to be in the spotlight, like they need to be successful performers in order to be successful ministers. On page 57, he says that he finds it "hard to be truly faithful to Jesus" when he is alone. And because he has found it so, he tells us that ministry is essentially social. He points to Jesus sending the apostles out in pairs and tells us that ministry requires community and partnership. While this is true, it's also an extroverted view of ministry. Some of us do not insist on solitude so that we can be the star, some of us insist on it because it is the only way we can remain energized when engaged in ministry. Some of us find it much easier to be "truly faithful to Jesus" when we have alone time. Maybe it's because i just finished reading "Quiet" and "Introverts in the Church", or maybe it's because i'm an introvert, or maybe it's because Nouwen is not entirely right, but this definitely didn't sit well with me.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


There are a couple of quick meals that i eat at least once a week. For example, when i stay at my boyfriend's house (three or four nights a week), i pack a breakfast for the morning. It has to be something ready to eat so i don't have to do any cooking, and it has to be in one container so i don't have to carry too much back and forth. Enter: yogurt!

I start with a layer of frozen fruit. From a bag. Stop judging me. I use fresh when it's in season, and i roasted some fresh peaches recently (omg, peach pie for breakfast. sooooo gooooood). Anyway, this is mixed fruit: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and mango.

And then i drench them in raw honey. This was a Himalayan acacia honey.

And then there's that blanket of Greek yogurt. I like the Cabot Creek full fat kind: heavy, creamy, and smooth. One bite and you'll never buy fruit-on-the-bottom again.

On Mondays, i eat vegetarian. And obviously, i still need protein. And flavor. And a filling meal.

So i throw some kale or spinach into a skillet with tomatoes, garlic powder, and butter or olive oil, cover it, and let it steam and saute until it's all tender and flavorful.

Oh hey, leftover waffle with melty Brie. I see you there.

Veggies layered on bread and cheese. More melting happens.

And then some poached eggs and pepper. And then eating. Lots of eating.

Dinners are a lot more variable, because i have more time and have spent all day thinking about what i want to eat. And working, obviously. But these two meals show up pretty frequently during the week.

Stay tuned for more food!

Monday, June 3, 2013

ladybusiness and hilarity

1. So, i have a confession to make: i am in love.

I don't remember now how i first found Lucy Knisley. I know it had to do with her most recent book, Relish, and that i quickly put all of her books on my Amazon wishlist, along with a few of her iPhone cases. Her iPhone cases were instrumental in my decision to get an iPhone, which i probably will soon, maybe. I'm torn between her Wonder Women and St. Julia designs, and if they weren't so darned expensive, i'd buy both. But maybe i'll ask for them for Christmas or birthday presents.

Anyway, this whole post could easily become about Lucy Knisley, so let me just share one of my favorite .gifs that she created to celebrate the fourth season of Arrested Development (yeah, she's a fan. Like i said, i'm in love.)

2. Have you ever read the letters people write to advice columnists and wondered, "What answer are they hoping for? And how did 'Abby' make it all the way through her response without once using the phrase 'monumentally thunderous stupidity'?" The answer to your second question is, Abby is a pro. Or at least her editor is. The answer to your first question is this tumblr.

3. Here's a thoughtful essay about how much it sucks when a guy puts a girl in the "girlfriend zone":

"I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I'm a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don't want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can't help it, I guess; it's just how they're wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It's true -- I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class."

4. Yes.

5. This is worth reading, even if only for the kick-ass illustrations. But the words are pretty kick-ass too.

"'Women have always fought,' he said. 'Shaka Zulu had an all-female force of fighters. Women have been part of every resistance movement. Women dressed as men and went to war, went to sea, and participated actively in combat for as long as there have been people.'

I had no idea what to say to this. I had been nurtured in the U. S. school system on a steady diet of the Great Men theory of history. History was full of Great Men. I had to take separate Women's History courses just to learn about what women were doing while all the men were killing each other. It turned out many of them were governing countries and figuring out rather effective methods of birth control that had sweeping ramifications on the makeup of particular states, especially Greece and Rome.

Half the world is full of women, but it's rare to hear a narrative that doesn't speak of women as the people who have things done to them instead of the people who do things."

6. This is two weeks old and it's still making me tear up.

7. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it."

8. For those of you (like my brother) who have apparently lost the ability to detect sarcasm, let me make this clear: the following excerpt, as well as the whole post, are sarcastic and joking. She actually is a good mom who cares about her kids. If you don't believe me, read her three recent posts about adoption ethics (yeah, two of her kids are adopted).

"Teachers, we need to make a deal that after April testing, we don't have to do anything else. You don't. I don't. I don't care if you watch movies in class five days a week and take four recesses a day. I mean, Caleb had to bring an About Me poster with five school days left in the year. In September, this might have produced something noteworthy, with pictures perhaps, even some thoughtful components to describe his winning qualities, but as we've used up all our bandwidth, we yanked trash out of our actual trash can, glued it to a poster, and called it a day. I am not exaggerating when I tell you this is the very most we can do on May 29th."