Monthly Archives: February 2012

Dancing to the first number

I couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old when, somewhere in the hour and half stretch between Ohio and Indiana, my father directly broached a subject that probably never would have otherwise come up, at least for awhile.

He took me out on dates a lot, and we always called them dates.  It usually meant lunch, sometimes it meant a day in the city (the city being Fort Wayne, which always seemed exotic and far away.)

In the car, we sang loudly along with the music, or to no music at all.  He always held my hand and stopped to tell me that he loved me.  He said, I was intelligent and that was going to do things he never could do and that I was pretty.

I couldn’t wear anything I knew my dad didn’t think I looked pretty in.  I still can’t.  I care what he thinks.

Arriving at our destination meant nothing, he would keep singing, and being that he didn’t have to focus on the road anymore, he would dance.  In big, loud, exaggerated motions he would take my hand and hold my waist, and with his bellowing voice drawing the eyes of everyone within earshot, we’d dance to White Christmas with the summer sun beating down in the waiting area at Bob Evans (back when we liked Bob Evans).

I never cared that everybody watched, because  I was dancing with my Daddy, and if anybody ever had any problem with that, they would have to take it up with him.

I knew that I was special, because of how he treated me.  I knew that there was a very important difference in how my father honored me and how the whole class got certificates and stickers for doing our homework. I knew that in my father’s eyes, I truly was something really special.  His words were never hallow, because I never doubted them in his actions.

So as I sat in the car on that day, as a little third grader, his words sunk like a branding press on my heart.  He said, “Tori, see how I love you.  See how I treat your mother.”  We talked about Galatians 3:28 and how God loves me.  He talked about the gifts I had and my responsibility to use them to further the Kingdom.  He explained the fall in the garden of Eden and how God created men and women to interact with each other and with Him.

He said that I was young, but that I was a talented leader.  He said that there would be people in the church who would tell me that I can’t lead and that a very loving, God-fearing man, might interpret Scriptures differently.  He urged me to be continually mindful and wise.

He said I needed to step into the fullness of the Word and of the talents God has given me and to never let “you’re a woman” stop me.

However randomly out of place that conversation felt at the time, it wasn’t anything I ever forgot, and as I got older, I investigated my father’s claims.

At my request, he dug out notes from his college classes and gave me all his books on the subject.  I remember trying to understand a technical exegesis on women in ministry in middle school.  The book was least four years ahead of my analytical comprehension skills, but I wanted to know so bad.

I now know what the Bible has to say about the roles of women and not simply what my father taught me it said. But until today, I never realized how incredibly free I have always been because of how my father loved me and taught me.

I’m by no means “there,” wherever “there” is, but from self-led trips in Morocco to speeches in front of massive, emotional crowds and the most pro-active, aggressive career research/networking path I’m capable of pursuing, I’ve clinched to the boldness in who I am because of this freedom.

I cherish this, because as any student in Prof. Grimmer-Solem’s CSS Post-Imperial history tutorial could tell you, freedom’s no end goal.  It is what we strive for, but it’s what we do with it that counts.


500 Seats, 175 for students?

a small part of the line

On Thursday, March 8th, Wesleyan University will host U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

I sat down as the 12th person in the line for Justice Scalia tickets at 8:03am, three minutes after Usdan officially opens.  Within 20 minutes, we were pushed against the wall, and by 9:00am the line extended beyond the Usdan doors by Fayerweather and folded back toward the black couches.

Obviously, student anticipation for this year’s Hugo L. Black lecture is high.  However, as the line and anxious students counting the people in front of them indicates, the number of seats available to students (175 of 500) is a concern.

After it was announced that Justice Scalia would be this year’s speaker President Roth commented, “I think it’s really important for Wesleyan to bring speakers to campus who don’t just preach to the choir, who don’t necessarily fit into what people think Wesleyan students think.”  I agree with him.  I just wish that more students had an opportunity to actually hear Justice Scalia, in person, when he comes.

(Author’s note: A portion of this blog post was submitted as a WesSpeak to the Wesleyan Argus, and will hopefully run in this Friday’s paper.) 

I am my mother

Minus the clear complexion and cooking capabilities.

Inspired by the infamous CSS paper-return let down (that ugly moment when you realize you didn’t quite pull it off last week), I baked a cake.  Or rather, I went to Wesshop for the 3rd time today, because I was craving chocolate and decided to bake a cake.

Now, you know this project was destined to fail when I bought the mix thinking to myself “I’ve never seen a cake baked in a pan like the one I have, but if you can cook an egg in the microwave, this has gotta work.”

Rest assured,  the young adult demographic is still out there to prove that, just maybe, we could learn something from Heloise’s hints.  (sorry, inside joke for my mother.)

Imagine my excitement when I came home to find that I actually do have cake pans.  This was a significant realization.  I have a couple casserole-like dishes, a spatula, a cooking spoon, and dishes for three.  Notice missing kitchen basics (pots, skillets, etc).

I had all the ingredients too.  I thought I was home free.

But, of course, the moment I put it in the oven, failure started creeping my way again.  I didn’t set the timer again, so, it burned (just a little).  I peeled off the black parts and figured it would be okay.

I felt like such a homemaker when I set the loaves on the edge of my counter by the open window, where the chocolate scent wifted by the students walking home in the street.

Let’s call that the height of my triumph.

After letting it sit for some time (geez at least 20 minutes), I got bored with 20th century family dynamics in Vietnam and put my reading down.  Given that the cake was sitting under a cold window, it had to be ready by now.

The edge of the plates were cold to the touch, but it was still radiating substantial heat in the middle under the plates.  Again, I thought to myself…”It’s cool enough that the frosting won’t melt.  Why else would you actually need to wait until to frost it?”

So, with Heloise scoffing at me in the background, I frosted it (with bad prepackaged frosting no less), and I learned why you wait.

The poor thing crumbles apart if it’s not cool.


So, in summary, what did I learn?

1) Mom baking when she’s angry is a good habit to mimic.

2) Mom’s patience when she’s baking is also a good habit to mimic.

3) Making chocolate-something, instead of just eating chocolate-something will give me time to cool off, which consequentely leads to a drastically lower calorie intake.  That’s a good thing too 😉

Unpromising Start

The assignment, “Respond to the quotation.”

First four hours of work.


I love the College of Social Studies, but social theory gets me every time.  Analysis of history (is eternally) > Analysis of thought, which is what this is.

Valentines and a Thesis

Valencia, Spain

There’s something about that excitement that puzzles you down in your stomach, like butterflies, but instead of connecting to your heart, it’s connected to your head.

It’s what drives you to abandoned stacks and through dense analysis.  It’s a question, although often one that you can’t quite articulate yet.  It’s the place where ideas come from.

And tonight, my cup runneth over. 

I’ve toyed with thesis ideas since freshman year.  The prospect of spending an entire year and a half, leaned over my own books, pursuing my own interest, and actually creating a substantial original work has always excited me.

My ideas have gotten clearer over the last few months, to the point that I have created lengthy lists of books to read and people to interview and attempted to articulate my exact research question.

I’m still not quite there, but I think I’m freakishly close(ish), which is probably why my mind is fluttering too much to actually take in Jurgen Habermas’s explanation of the role of technology in a rational society right now (CSS social theory reading for tomorrow).  And, being Valentine’s day, the timing couldn’t be more ironic.

In short, my thesis question will generally look at the emerging church movement, political affiliations of protestant congregations, and the rise of female leadership in conservative political movements in the United States.

More specifically, I’ll (hopefully) be dealing with the question of why/how churches geared specifically for ministry to post-modern cultures are often politically left-leaning and generally hold a very conservative few of women in ministry and in relationships.  I will juxtapose this research with churches largely composed of conservative parishioners who hold much more liberal views of women.  Both of these observations will be made in the context of the current US right-wing political scene.

As a conservative, evangelical Christian from the midwest at a thoroughly secular, liberal, New England liberal arts university who’s friends are mostly atheist, agnostic, or Jewish and/or Asian, Asian-American, or African my facebook newsfeed is could give you whiplash.

Political comments are often comical and a mix of the super-far left, conservative intellectualism, die-hard libertarianism, devote socialist, wish-washy moderates, well-spoken and educated (and poorly-expressed and uneducated) tea party-esque remarks, and anything just about anything that falls in between.

Point being, it’s a mix.  Add religion to political discussions with my friends, and you have an atom bomb.  Throw in an ever-dicey question about gender in this mix and the affect is paralyzing (at least to me).

This mess of expressing exactly what I mean and think to an ever diversifying array of friends is quite literally risky business.  One misplaced word, and I really can be shut-out.

That said, I find the mix fascinating.  It is through my relationships that I observe these questions.  I’ve noted that the audiences at academic lectures on conservatism are mostly Catholic and Reformed males.  I’ll never forget the paralyzing look one of these guys once gave me because he thought I was asking him out (I wasn’t, but that’s beside the point).  His look wasn’t because he was that appalled at the thought of spending time with me.  It was because a woman was initiating a relationship (even though that part was just a misunderstanding).

In New York City, I went to a church that was the very definition of the ministry Dan Kimball describes in his book The Emerging Church.  Everything about the ministry of this church was designed to minister to the city’s secularized, post-modern culture.  I found it fascinating that it was here, more than any other place that I had ever been, that the principle of “wives submit to your husbands” was taught to mean a secondary position in a gender hierarchy.

Every blog geared toward young Christian women touches on relationships (gee, can you imagine why?)  But each of these blogs, to varying degrees, teaches the same principles of the New York church.

Whereas, my very conservative (theologically, as well as politically) grandfather, embraces gender equality as a Biblical principle.  So does my father.

The church I was raised in (which is pretty conservative) has always ordained women, but they don’t actually have any women pastors.

The Missionary Church, which I joined at 17, rarely ordains women, even though women in leadership was an important principle to the church when it was founded in 1883.  Having visited every Missionary Church website (it was a part of  my job last summer), I know that there are no more than 2 women pastors in the entire country.  However, there are a bunch of women doing the same job as men called leaders, but this caveat is limited, because there is not a single woman on the denomination’s national leadership boards.

The church I go to now fully embraces gender equality.

Confusing much?

I realize none of those observations/half formed questions are loaded (nah, not a all), but the contradictions and relationships fascinate me.

I know exactly what I think about the role of women in ministry and relationships, because it is a topic that I’ve researched extensively for several years.  (This essay changed my life.)

But I still have other questions, like how can I apply my knowledge to a Biblical understanding of more complicated gender issues?  (Won’t be getting to that in my thesis, but I’m hoping to come across answers in my research)

So, while I had no one special with whom I could celebrate this Valentines day, I found solace in actually articulating my ideas and questions about relationships, the church, and politics.  Probably sounds pretty nerdy, but with that stomach/mind excitement pushing me forward, I got to say, it’s been great.

It makes me even more excited to go to a conference my church is having on God’s ideal for the genders.  I expect to be familiar with a lot of the basic ideas that will be taught, but I hope to use it as a launching ground to delve deeper into a few of the questions that I’m dealing with in this mess of ideas that I’ve officially named my thesis topic.

Here’s to the next year and half… and hopefully a couple of answers.  This is going to be fun.

A love letter to Papa

I don’t really remember when it was that you first told me that you read my blog, but it meant the world to me that it meant something to you.  Your comments are my favorite.

It was like when we first got you a facebook, and you went crazy.  You were connected to your kids and your grandkids in a way that you never had before, because even though we were spread all over the country (and at times, the world), you were in our lives.

I chuckled and told my mom about that one time when you emailed me because you saw a facebook photo of a guy with his arm around me.  You just wanted to know who he was.  I smiled because it was just an old friend on graduation day, but I loved how much you cared.  And trust me, when there finally is a guy who’s putting his arm around me, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Remember when we went to the Father/Daughter Ball together?  Dad took Mychelle, and I had the pleasure of being escorted by lovely grandfather.  I wore my red prom dress.  We danced, even though it made you really uncomfortable.  I always felt a little bad because I thought I pushed you too much to do it.  But you danced wonderfully, and I was proud to have you as my partner.

When I was a little kid, I always liked listening to you talk at holiday gatherings.  I actually preferred it to playing with the other kids, unless you were talking insurance.  That conversation always bored me, but other than that, I liked what you said.

I didn’t say much when I would listen, because I was mostly just learning and didn’t feel like I had much to contribute.  But as I got older, I started talking too.  I took so much pride in the fact that you actually listened to what I had to say and considered it valuable information.  You can always tell when people listen and don’t really care, but you did.  And even more than that, you listened like you thought what I had to say was intelligent.

I feel like that was a transitioning phase.  When I was really young, you always played board games with Andrew and me.  I schemed 4 way trades in Monopoly, inevitably taking advantage of Oma who always seemed willing to trade 2 railroads for something like Baltic Ave to please her placating granddaughter.  We played Flinch and Clue and Junior Bridge too.  You and Andrew always won the games, but they were fun.

So when I was little, we played games.  When I got older, I listened to you talk.  Then we talked together.

When I heard you were sick today, I was very scared.  But the truth is, almost more than any hurt you were going through at the time, I was thinking about the day (whenever that day is) that you will go and literally hang out with Jesus for the first time.  It didn’t mask any pain or concern about you at the hospital or how Oma was doing, but it was a transcending peace.

I’m by no means ready for you to leave me.  I don’t think I’ll ever will be either, but it was still a really cool and powerful thought.

I’ve had the great pleasure of being born into a family where I’ve had two relational grandfathers.  I remember talking to my mom about what kind of pastor you are.  She always emphasized how good you are with visitation and showing your love to people.

I see that in how you take care of Oma, always putting her first.  Whoever I marry is going to be a lot like you.

I love you Papa. Please get well soon.

Just when you think you got it

you don’t.

Commence the early Thursday CSS panic.  I’m behind on my reading, I’ve got too much on my mind to think about what I’m reading, and it indeed feels as though the whole world is about to collapse on itself.

But hey, that’s what Thursday mornings/afternoons are for, right?

my fridge