God Save us from the Biblical Marriage Ideal

Gay marriage a deviation from the biblical ideal? Really? Read the Bible. The biblical ideal of marriage is one man, lots of wives, concubines, bride prices and arranged marriages. Is this what we are defending?

If our society’s ideas of marriage have changed, why are some so intent on returning to the past? The past is not what I want to return to.

If our legislature wants to do something to defend marriage, can we not do something about the 50 % divorce rate? My concern is less the parents than the kids who now have to live with a lower standard of living, less well supervised, in two separate household, often with confusing and conflict-filled relationships. That’s a problem I’d like to see tackled. That is what I think of when I think of the benefits of defending marriage.

In reading this suggestion, do you think: How can we dissuade people from digging in and making a marriage work when they have decided it won’t? The heart is a mysterious thing. From the earliest history parents and other authority figures have tried to control who people love and marry. Great literature is written about the failure to control who people fall in love with and how they fall out of love.

We should remember this when considering marriage between adults. Let us accept this mystery and support its success.


How to Avoid Office Donations (Without being a Grinch)

            Look out! Here they come! Oh, no. You see them heading your way with smiles on their faces, paper work in hand, with pencils or pens poised. They’re the dreaded co-workers who want to separate you from your hard-earned money. You’ve given in the past and these requests are beginning to negatively affect your finances, especially in the current economy. You don’t want to give anymore and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings for asking.

            “Don’t we all want to drive a new minivan? All you have to do is purchase a few raffle tickets (the more you buy, the better your odds of winning). Plus, you don’t have to be present to win. This will help buy backpacks for needy students.  How many would you like to buy?”

            “Haven’t you been waiting all year to support the Girl Scouts by buying at least five boxes of yummy Girl Scout cookies?”

            “For only $1.00 per bar, you can help some boys win a trip to Disneyland? How many would you like to buy today?”

            “Ssssshhh. We’re going to surprise Becky with a baby shower gift. How much would you like to donate?”
            If you find yourself quietly mumbling unpleasant words under your breath as you open your wallet or purse to part with your money, consider the fact that you do have options. You are not obligated to partake in this donation ritual of “if you don’t buy something, you’re a Grinch.”
            First of all, you are not a Grinch if you choose not donate. The secret is how you avoid donating. The easiest way to avoid office donations is to:
  1. Smile
  2. Look your co-worker directly in the eyes.
  3. Congratulate your co-worker on being involved with such a worthy cause.
  4. Say, “I’ll pass on donating, but I wish you luck in raising a ton of money for ______” (fill in the blank).
  5. Continue smiling. You do not have to give a reason as to why you’re passing on this “golden opportunity to donate.”
  6. Change the subject by asking a question that is not related to the fundraising, such as, “I love your blouse. Is it new?” or “Did you see the game last night?”
      Be firm. You might be asked, “Well, would you consider giving at a later time?” Your answer is, “No, I won’t.” (Remember, keep smiling). If your co-worker is persistent, he or she might say, “But it’s only a dollar for a raffle ticket. That’s nothing.” Your response could be, “All the same, I’ll pass.”
      Don’t get caught up with weak statements such as:
  • I’ll think about it
  • Try me later
  • I don’t have cash or my checkbook on me
  • I’d love to donate, but can’t right now 
            Those statements will eventually cause you even more angst because you’ve just dug yourself into a hole from which you’ll never get out. Those co-workers will hunt you down or make a special effort to be wherever you are until you succumb.

            Keep repeating, “I’ll pass.” Remember to smile.

            Congratulations. You’re not a Grinch. You’re an honest person who is in control of your finances and will not be intimidated. Plus, you’re showing respect by being polite.

            Remember, it’s always okay to say NO.

Fantasy Football Tips: Week 2 of the NFL Regular Season

Many postulated Week 1 of the NFL would be an interesting one with multiple records tied and even shattered – it certainly did not disappoint.  Now that Fanagers have the first match up of the year under their belts, it is time to prepare for Week 2. Whether Week 1 left you with woes or wins (I locked down 3 of the latter; that’s right 3-0 to start off the year!), there are several lessons that should be taken away from last week, and more than a few that should not as you set forth in your line up determinations this weekend.
Veterans still deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sure, some players did disappoint, including some of the most historically productive and reliable players (I’m talking to you Chris Johnson), but this is a new week and Week 1 performances should be taken with a grain of salt. There are a variety of reasons that may have kept your studs from delivering their typical noteworthy peformances last week that are not likely to have the same effect this week, e.g. reprimand for contract hold-outs (still talking to you Chris Johnson) or an apparent unawareness that the season has started (Pittsburgh Steelers). Big Ben (Roethlisberger) started the season off with an abysmal performance against the Ravens last week, but I think it is fair to say that the odds of the Seahawks coming into the Steelers’ house and shutting them down in the same fashion are unlikely. So, just because one of your normally high-scoring players may have “dropped the ball” last week (pun totally intended), doesn’t mean that they should ride the bench this week.
By the same token, a solid performance in Week 1 does not guarantee equal or greater success in Week 2. I am not just talking about Cam Newton’s record-breaking rookie debut against a questionable Arizona secondary. Injuries, previous performances, opponents, and game strategy will factor into whether or not repeat performances will be seen.  Arian Foster looks to be back for the Texans this week (although how big a role he will play will depend on how thoroughly he has recovered from his hamstring issue), which will likely reduce the productivity of Ben Tate as well as Derrick Ward. Moreover, I think we can all agree that we would be shocked to see Chad Henne come through with the second-best Fantasy performance again this week, no offense to Dolphins fans.
Also, if you are going to start using statistics this week to plan your line up, be sure that you incorporate last year’s numbers or rankings into the equation as a single game will not be an accurate predictor for most teams’ success thoroughout the season. Houston was ranked 30th in overall defense last year, but after their Week 1 match against a Peyton Manning-less Colts team, they now are ranked 5th for the 2011 season. Whether their jump from the worst ranked passing defense in 2010 to the 9th ranked PD last week was due to Manning’s absence or substantial improvements made by the Texans in the off-season will be left for Houston to decide this week (although I think we know this answer).
Be conservative on the waiver wire, especially if waiver order is determined based on the number of player additions. Don’t forfeit a great waiver position unless the player you want to add is really worth it. You never know how an unknown player will consistently compete; plus, someone new may emerge this weekend who you want even more, but if you give up the early waiver preference then you may have to wait in line.
Finally, keep watching. The first 4 weeks are critical to select supplemental players that will help you make it through the upcoming Bye weeks (starting in Week 5), or possibly sooner in the unfortunate case that your team is riddled with injury or unproductive players. Just as the sun will rise, so will new talent in the NFL, and just as certain, old talents will fall.
As you head into this weekend, don’t be discouraged no matter where you stand after Week 1. As Malcolm Forbes said, “Failure is success if we learn from it”; perhaps someone should have passed that along to the Vikings.

'Chicken Skin' Condition

Despite a concerted effort to maintain good dermatological habits, many patients continue to complain of “chicken skin,” medically known as keratosis pilaris. Characterized by rough patches of raised bumps that vary in severity, the condition is extremely common and, although harmless, bothers and embarrasses many patients. The keratosis pilaris’ distinguishing bumps can sometimes be confused with acne, particularly in cases where the affected areas are red or inflamed.

Sufferers most commonly exhibit symptoms on the upper arms and legs, although other parts of the body may also be affected. Genetic destiny determines whether an individual will ultimately suffer from keratosis pilaris, while external factors such as weather, humidity, and the onset of pregnancy can aggravate the KP’S symptoms. Although you cannot “cure” KP, patients frustrated by the condition of their skin don’t have to fully resign themselves to these tribulations.

Keratosis pilaris sufferers interested in treating their condition should consider products containing glycolic acid, plus there are cleansers and lotions available ideally suited for combating the symptoms of KP. Glycolic exfoliating body wash and body lotions can help soothe rough patches and inflamed skin, improving overall skin texture. In addition, while no one can entirely cure or prevent KP, an experienced dermatologist can recommend medicated products and topical creams, such as retinoids and exfoliants, to control KP symptoms.

Furthermore, KP sufferers would be well-advised to avoid overly-drying skincare products and protect their skin against drying elements through a regular moisturizing routine and potentially the use of a humidifier. With the right lifestyle changes and treatment options, “chicken skin” doesn’t have to limit your quality of life or your self-confidence.


10 Tips in Making it Through the College Application Process

College application season is upon us and finally all that hard work is going to pay off. Students are busy writing their essays, moms and dads are busy trying not to nag, and college admission’s counselors are traveling at neck breaking speed around the nation trying to encourage applicants to apply. Here are a few tips that can help this process go smoothly for everyone involved. 
  1. Get Organized. Your young adult is going to handle the college application process the same way they have handled all academic assignments in the past. If they habitually procrastinate and wait until the last minute to do things, they will do the same during this time. You can help them by providing organizational tools such as a wall calendar with deadlines so they know when to do things like: request transcripts, take the SAT, request recommendations, attend meetings, etc… 
  1. Have an angle and a plan. It’s no secret colleges are competitive. Each college is looking for a well rounded student body not necessary a well rounded student. Decide ahead of time which aspect of your student you want to highlight for example, academics, trumpet playing, sports, passion for classical languages, etc… and develop a plan to showcase that talent. 
  1. Set restrictions up front. If your have certain financial and geographical restrictions let your child know so they don’t waste their time researching schools that are off-limits. However, be aware that financial aid is available for most schools and scholarships are often given to students who exceed a school’s admission requirements.   
  1. Partner. The college application process should be spearheaded by your young adult and supported by you. In an ideal world, your young adult will be the one arranging college visits, tours, and interviews. In an ideal world, he should also be the one in contact with the colleges. There are many reasons for having your young adult spearhead this process but among the most important are the fact that admission’s officers prefer hearing from students and not parents. Hearing from students gives them a chance to establish a relationship, and second, the more work a student does to realize his dream the more invested in the process he becomes. Encourage your child to seek your help and see you as a resource. (i.e. – “Mom, I would like to go visit these schools can you take me?” “Sure, let’s sit down with a calendar, what dates do you have in mind?”) Or, as one local mom shared. “I asked my daughter if I could ask her about college applications one day a week.” 
  1. Cheerlead. Establish how you want the process to go mentally ahead of time and talk about it often. Parent: “I’m very proud of the way you have handled this process. You have made it easy for both of us.” Let your students know when they are doing something right. Not only will it change how they view themselves in this process but it will change how you view them as well. If your child has the resources necessary, knows what expected and how to do it, yet doesn’t lift a finger, consider the possibility that they are not ready for college yet and a gap year might be a good idea. Having taught college freshman, I can say with certainty that students who are not ready for college will waste the opportunity. 
  1. Search for the best fit. Chapel Hill is an academically goal oriented town with intense pressure and pride built around academic success and college acceptances. However just because a school has a good reputation, like UNC for example, does not mean it is a good environment for your child. Some kids will do well in large classes and extensive use of teaching assistants and others will flounder. In my experience, success at larger schools requires a very motivated self-learner who will not let the professor stand between themselves and their learning. Take the time to necessary to make sure the school aligns with your child’s learning style and temperament so that success is probable. Explore things like living learning communities, class size, etc… 
  1. Talk about the future. College is one of many important stepping stones in life. Since day one, we talk to our kids about how they need to do well in school so they can get into a good college and get a good job. BYW- they can recite this verbatim. However, few of them can articulate what the future looks after college. Now it’s time to create new goals and intentions. Start talking about what the college experience will look like, ask question like: what have you considered as a possible major? What about travel abroad programs or internships? Mention how fun it will be to meet new people of differing political opinions, backgrounds and experiences. By doing this you are helping your young adult look forward to leaving high school and thus generating more energy around getting that application out the door. This type of transformation will also help both of you move more confidently into the future. 
  1. Listen. Reflective listening is a technique taught in every mental health facility, mediation program, and sales training. When you listen reflectively you seek to understand another by repeating back what that person has said minus any judgment or personal input. In other words, listen to your children vent but do not let them off the hook for what needs to be done. Venting allows for a student to dump their emotions, regroup mentally and move on. For example,
    student: “applications sucks”
    parent: “it must be a pain to have yet another thing on your plate”
    student: “it is, I don’t feel like I have the time to do them’”
    parent: “so it feels like you are under a lot of pressure, huh?”
    (note the parent did not offered to make the problem go away, they only listened) 
  1. Call in outside help if necessary. Your relationship with your young adult is one of the most important possessions you have in life. While it is completely possible to breeze through this process, and many families do, it is also not unusual for both student and parent to experience stress during this time. If the stress turns to anger and hostility than it is time to seek outside help. 
  1. Enjoy it. In the end, this is a year to be celebrated by both of you so schedule sometime to just enjoy each other.

Dealing with Sarcastic People

“Sure, you are qualified for that promotion…about as qualified as my pet rabbit. Congratulations.”

“Oh, I just love your new dress. How many cotton fields had to be picked to get enough material?”

Such statements may sound as if the speaker is trying to be funny, when in actuality; the hurtful words are pure sarcasm. According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, the word sarcasm comes from the Greek word meaning to tear flesh like gods, to bite the lips in rage, to speak bitterly, a cutting jest.

Sadly, sarcasm runs rampant throughout our modern culture and is a poor substitute for humor. There are some people who try to make a punch line out of every interaction you have with them. Everything’s a joke and they’ll make you a target of that joke whenever possible. Try to speak to sarcastic people in a serious tone about a sensitive subject and they usually tear it to bits with sharp comments they think are funny.

As a civilized professional and student of etiquette, how are you to respond to this brutish behavior? There are two effective ways to deal with sarcastic people. First ignore their sarcasm and don’t rise to the bait. After all, they use sarcasm to avoid intimacy and keep people away. If you get caught in the net with sarcastic people, do your best to give them what they want, which is to be left alone.

Second, once a person crosses the line and becomes abusive with their sarcasm, be calm, look at them directly and say, “I don’t appreciate your sarcasm and I would like you to not be sarcastic when you’re speaking to me.” After your comment, walk away.

To ensure observers always have a positive impression of you, don’t fall victim to the temptation to use sarcasm. Remember, you are always being watched.


Hard to find dirt on this politician

Every politician is the object of critical, unfriendly, and just plain bad comments. That is the rule.

But retired journalist and biographer Ned Cline may have found an exception. He had to look long and hard to find any dirt on the subject of his latest book, “The Man from Mount Gilead: Bob Jordan Helped Give Public Service a Good Name.”
The closest thing to dirt about Jordan was during his campaign against incumbent governor Jim Martin in 1988. His consultants prepared a television ad that showed a bunch of real monkeys dressed in tuxedos but acting wildly. They were, the ad implied, as ineffective as Governor Martin’s staff. It was funny and made an important point. But in the minds of some people, it was tasteless and unfair. So, Jordan quickly pulled the ad.
Democratic Party Executive Director Ken Eudy had pushed for more attack ads and told Cline later, “Bob just didn’t have the stomach for that kind of campaigning. He would have been a great governor, but he was not a great campaigner on things like that. I don’t think he wanted to win that badly.”
Cline found one other time during the 1988 campaign when Jordan drew a few critical remarks. Explaining to black newspaper editors why he was not more forthcoming on some issues that were important to their readers, Jordan said, “I can’t publicly say some of the things you are asking because I need all the votes I can get, including the redneck votes in Eastern North Carolina.”
White conservatives, racial minorities, and Republicans jumped on Jordan for a few days.
But for Jordan, “redneck” was not necessarily a negative term. He identified with the farmers and working people like many of his friends in Montgomery County. In this respect Cline compares Jordan to Jim Hunt. “Both are products of a rural upbringing.”
Both thought their rural and small town upbringings were assets, not liabilities. They understood and appreciated the conservative attitudes, as well as the aspirations and challenges, of the people who were their friends, schoolmates, and co-workers when they were growing up. Those kinds of connections can be important advantages for political leaders who otherwise might be too liberal for the North Carolina conservative rural and small town voters.
Cline points out that Jordan and former governor Jim Hunt have much else in common.  In addition to their rural upbringing, “….Both are top graduates of N.C. State University, where their devotion and loyalty are legendary. Both have served the state in multiple capacities of public service….Both were raised by highly respected, fiscally conservative, yet socially conscious parents… who focused on the goodness of people and taught their children to focus on the doable rather than negatively on the difficult.”
The differences, Cline says, are in approach, with Hunt “more like a hard changing fullback crashing through the line just to prove he can score while Jordan, more like a nimble quarterback, is more methodical in scoring by avoiding tacklers rather than knocking them down.”
Jordan and Hunt were political allies, but Cline’s book leaves its readers speculating whether or not they might have found themselves running against each other for governor in 1992 if Jordan passed by the 1988 campaign and waited until 1992 to make his run for governor.
Hunt told Cline, “I really don’t know what I would have done if (Jordan) had waited until then and run…But it would have been hard for me to be a candidate if Bob Jordan were a candidate.”
We may be left to wonder about that possible 1992 contest, but Cline’s cataloguing of Jordan’s contributions to political and public life leaves no doubt that his service and example have been a great blessing to North Carolina.

It's Not Obdurate Stupidity (Response to "Common Science")

This T.W.O. Cents Column is in response to“It’s a Theory That’s Out There” – from Common Science, by Jeff Danner.

You ask what people, and especially politicians, mean when they say “no” to science, and particularly evolution. I believe it is because people compartmentalize their understanding.

Science is perceived to be the first step toward engineering, toward control. That’s great for cell phones and rockets. Evolution is about sex and death. The perception of science’s connection to engineering means that evolution is the first step to controlling who has sex and who dies, and that it’s not going to be the way our parents did it. This perception is not wholly without foundation: eugenics was a “scientific” idea – and now we’re trying to figure out reparations. Birth control and abortion have shaped behavior in a way that horrifies traditional communities. You’re probably not familiar with the details of nuclear weapon detonation. For similar reasons, many think that teaching human evolution is a questionable idea.

Human evolution is on the wrong time scale for the 24 hour news cycle.

A six thousand year time scale fits better with most people’s imagination than a 13.7 billion year history. It is disturbing to many that human beings (the ones that matter, anyway) might be importantly different from the ones described in sacred texts.

Philosophy and religion are not studied in our schools, and therefore when most people seek capital T Truth, they look to sacred traditions that have often become quite parochial, and many of those traditions have no trouble believing creation to have been so polluted by Satan that false evidence (e.g., fossils) permeates the world the way evil desires permeate the soul.

If you, as I, think that capital T Truth includes evolution, then we must first talk about Truth, and then we have to connect evolution to what people value – even if they think they value something more than Truth, which may sometimes be safety, sometimes compassion, and in a few sad cases, simple comfort or fleeting power.

It might be quite a departure for a “science” column.


Unrestrained Joy

Something happens when your kids go back to school. Your life, if you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad, becomes a conveyor belt. You, your kids get up, eat, they leave for school, you restore your house to some sort of order, volunteer, do some contractual work, they return from school, eat, do homework, and eat some more. Then everybody goes back to bed.

It starts to get boring, and the boredom is relentless. It pushes you to do something, anything. What to do on the cheap? Wrightsville Beach is three hours away. Surf, walk, order pizza — and relax by the water.


Hush Your Mouth!

Girlfriend, you won’t believe what I just heard. Don’t tell anybody, but …” How many of us thrive on hearing the ‘dirt’ about others? It’s called gossip and man, oh, man can it be fun to be the first to know.

The down side is gossip damages the reputation of the person being gossiped about, and to a lesser degree, damages the reputation of the person who spreads it. Gossip can be entertaining when it passes long positive and interesting information, but is dangerous when it demeans or endangers another person’s character. Once you develop a reputation as a gossip within your company, those in positions of leadership will avoid giving you sensitive, confidential, and timely information and you will be shunned by those in circles of power and influence.

Gossip takes away from the business at hand and steals time and productivity from your company as surely as stealing money from the office’s petty cash drawer.

Gossiping becomes a habit like any other daily behavior. While the image of people enjoying congenial chats around the proverbial water cooler may conjure up pictures of laughter and harmony among your associates, it’s not always that way. As soon as someone in your group begins maliciously gossiping about people in your office, they take the chance of damaging their career as well as the person being gossiped about; that is when gossip becomes an unacceptable professional behavior and a major etiquette faux pas.

There are times when passing along some salacious tidbit about someone seems too tempting to keep to yourself, so you whisper it with a conspiratorial admonition, “Don’t tell anyone, but…” After three or four people have shared the same information, the original story gets diluted by half truths and exaggerations and invariable some gets hurt.

People gossip about others because they think that having information and passing along hot scoops gives them some sort of power only known to insiders.

Do Men Gossip?

Surprise, surprise, surprise! Men are just as guilty of gossip as women, sometimes being worse. Women are more skilled than men at making gossip entertaining. A study found that 33 percent of men indulge in gossip almost every day, compared with 26 percent of women. What do men like to gossip about? According to Sharon Supriya, a famous Indian researcher, men gossip as much as women about colleagues they would like to go to bed with and (shock) they are interested in talking about potential girlfriends and sexual rivals, even those who already have a girlfriend or partner. Men also spend more time talking about themselves than women. They call the conversation ‘networking.’ Men mostly gossip with work colleagues, and female friends; women prefer to “dish dirt” primarily with female friends and relatives.

Men gossip about work, politics or other highbrow topics less than 5 percent of the time, unless women are present.

Men and women love to read, watch and talk about celebrity gossip. Men love to watch gossip shows. If you don’t believe it, think about ESPN. It is the gossip heaven for men.

Gossiping about others also keeps an individual from looking at themselves and their own life. Those who gossip may be bored, petty, immature, or just nasty people who enjoy passing along information about other people’s weaknesses, foibles, and idiosyncrasies. They need an audience to satifsy their desire to draw attention to themselves as they trash others. Listening and providing such people with an audience makes you guilty of having the same weak character they have.

Benefits of Gossip

There are many articles on the net that talk about ill effects of gossips and the plight of gossip victims. However, do you know that there is a place for gossip? Scholars say that gossip fulfills an important role in our daily interactions and it is essential for human survival as gossip unites people, calms them, warns about bad behavior and even entertains them.

Gossip is a social skill, not a character flaw (unless a person is really socially on tilt). It’s only when you don’t do it well that you get into trouble. However that doesn’t give us the freedom to talk anything about anybody. One has to keep in mind to watch what he or she says about others because you would not want false information floating about you the next day.

From an etiquette standpoint, if you want to look poised and professional at all times, keep yourself above the gossip fray.