Why Getting Married Older Works for Us

If you google ‘reasons to get married young’ you will see list after list of reasons and justifications people have given for why getting married young, as in 18-23, is a good idea.  I didn’t read all the articles but most of the ones I read or skimmed made sense, they have valid points.  Many of the authors admit that there are also cons to getting married young but that’s true with almost anything.  There are also lists of why not to get married young but those I find less convincing, possibly true but fairly selfish.  Anyway, if you google ‘reasons to get married older’ you really aren’t going to find much more than a couple lists for people considering marriage after 50.  And that’s not the kind of older i’m talking about here.  My point is that Ryan and I are 34 and 29 respectively and getting married older works for us.

Ryan still is a big proponent of young marriage but that wasn’t God’s plan for either of us.  I also have many friends who are older (*gasp* late 20s or 30s) and would love to be married.  This post is for you.  I’m not saying these things will end up true in every relationship or even that marriage is the ultimate goal.  But here are some great positives that Ryan and I have found just in our first month or so of marriage.

Getting married older definitely works for us and here are 12 of the reasons:

1. He’s self sufficient.  This is the something I remind myself on a regular basis.  Ryan has survived on his own since moving out of his parent’s house.  He made it to 34 without someone reminding him to eat vegetables, do his taxes, floss his teeth or buy new underwear.  He can do his own laundry (he actually is better than I am at taking care of his clothes and separating colors) and he can feed himself (his pizza and pasta making skills are excellent) and he knows how to clean too.  These are very basic things but they are a huge perk.  Of course I don’t always make him feed himself or do the laundry or clean the house but knowing that he is fully capable is wonderful.

2. Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.  So I wouldn’t really advocate for this one but it has proven true for us.  Past relationships are definitely formative and hopefully, whether good or bad, we learn from them.  I would like to think that even without my previous relationships, I would still value Ryan very highly but there is something about looking back at ‘what could have been’ and for me, being abundantly thankful that I didn’t choose that road.  Comparing can be a dangerous thing but in this case Ryan is head and shoulders above the rest.  Both figuratively and literally.

3. We know how to be good roommates.  Because Ryan and I have both lived in many different situations other than in our parent’s home or the dorms, we know how to live with other people.  We definitely have our way of doing things but we’ve had to deal with other people, sharing space and making it work.  These are über valuable skills.  Although I think i’m pointing out the obvious here when I say that there are major differences between having a husband or wife and having a roommate.  But even with that said, we’re thankful for the past roommate/housemate experiences.

4.  We didn’t need to date for years.  I’m so thankful that Ryan and I only dated a year before getting married.  If we had lived in closer proximity it might not have taken that long but even so a year was long enough but not too long.  Once we knew, it just made sense to get married.

5. He’s the right oneI have no doubt that Ryan is God’s best for me and Ryan knows that I am God’s best for him. It may have taken us longer but we didn’t settle for second best or someone who could work.  Of course there are compromises and things that we might have wished for on our dream lists (sorry Ryan that I don’t have an angelic singing voice) but we focused on the very important qualities that will sustain us in the long run.

6. God worked on us as singles first.  In the Bible Paul talks about not getting married because then your attention will be divided.  Of course marriage sanctifies you but Paul has a point.  Ryan and I both value our time as singles and the work that God was able to accomplish in us and through us.  We are abundantly thankful.

7. “She knows how to be creative in the kitchen.” So this one might really be unique to us but after living in Papua New Guinea I learned how to cook and be creative when it comes to using what’s in the house.  Ryan definitely has his food preferences and I am still learning how to please him.  But even he would tell you I’m doing a great job.  It helps that I know how to follow a recipe, I am not afraid to take chances, try new things, make mistakes but eventually get the recipes to work for us.

8. We have good family habits and boundaries already established.  Ryan has lived in California for over 10 years and also lived in North Dakota and Colorado.  His family is in Wisconsin and although they love to see him, they don’t expect him there for every event and holiday.  I’ve been here, there and almost everywhere so my family loves it when I make an appearance during the holidays or any time really but they don’t expect it.  Ryan calls his parents once a week but if he forgets or something comes up, life goes on.  I don’t have a regular time that I call my parents but we have our own system.  Because our families have realistic expectations for our time, Ryan and I now have the freedom to figure things out ourselves and establish our own family traditions and habits.

9. No one questioned our marriage.  So maybe that should read, no one questioned our marriage to our face.  But I think this is something people face when getting married young, all the questions “Are you sure?” and doubting statements “But you’re so young!”.  I guess the older equivalent is “Did you wonder if you would ever find someone?” and “Are you settling?”  But all of that aside Ryan and I did wonder who God had for us, when it would happen and we are both so glad we didn’t settle.  I think it was obvious to our families and friends that Ryan and I would be Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Reiter.  And it is good.

10. We know that we want marriage. I definitely still need the reminder that God would be sovereign even if I were to have been single the rest of my life and now that I am married God is still sovereign.  But Ryan and I both really wanted marriage.  We didn’t just want marriage because we were in love with the idea of marriage.  We didn’t just want marriage because it’s a social norm or because it’s the next thing to check off the list.  We wanted marriage because we want to share our lives with each other.  We recognize the joys and sorrows that will come and we choose marriage over our lives as singles.  We choose a life together with no regrets of what we might be missing had we stayed single.  We are thankful for our single years but now we are thankful to be married.

11. We come in with great life experiences.  Ryan and I are both grateful for our experiences and journey before marriage. Although we are looking forward to a lifetime of shared experiences and memories, we both bring to the table unique knowledge, different perspectives and parts of the world unknown to the other.  We get to draw on those varied experiences and have them add to our strength as a couple.  A small part of me does wish I had met and married Ryan earlier but if given the choice now, I would not give up the experiences in my 20s, not even for this wonderful man.  We’re not even sure the 20 year old Joy and 25 year old Ryan would have liked each other.  🙂

12. It’s what God had for us.  And that’s the simple truth.


Washing Machines, Dryers and Dishwashers

I now live in an apartment that has a dishwasher, a washing machine and a dryer.  These things can all run simultaneously, in any weather and at any time of the day.  Sometimes, when everything is running, I like to just sit and listen to the sweet sound of my work being done for me.  Even as I write this post, I can here the swish of the dishwasher, the buzz of the washing machine and the clicking tumble of the dryer.  It’s a modern household symphony.  These are the little things that you learn to appreciate once you’ve lived without them.  In the village in PNG, this is what my washing machine and dishwasher combo looked like:



And the same water was also my bathtub too but don’t worry, I always bathed after washing my clothes and dishes.  The dryer looked a bit like this:



The little girls weren’t always a part of the system but on this day in particular, the post holding up the clothesline broke so the girls were just standing in while someone went to get us a new tree.

Now washing machines, dryers and dish washers all exist in Papua New Guinea.  In the cities moreso than the villages but you can buy them and run them as long as you can afford the electricity and water.  Some people (mostly expats) even have these conveniences out in the village but they definitely aren’t the norm.  And in the cities, it is more common to have a washing machine but not a dishwasher or a dryer.

In the US, going without these modern conveniences is now part of a trend to use less electricity and unnecessary water.  Not running your dryer can save you a bundle as well as washing dishes by hand.  It is good for your budget and the environment.  And even though I know this, I still take great pleasure in listening to the machines working for me.  My towels are fluffier, my clothes last longer because they spend less time in direct sunlight and to my american sensibilities, things just feel cleaner when not washed in a river.  Now I realize that my Papua New Guinean friends aren’t trying to make a political statement when they take their laundry and dishes down to the river, for them it is just a way of life.  And maybe that should be a way of life for more of us.  But just give me a little longer to enjoy my washing machine, dryer and dishwasher.

My Kindle- Is it love?

I don’t know about love but I definitely will never travel without my Kindle again.  I read 6 books during the last month and for this reason alone, it is worth it’s weight in gold.  I would have never been able to carry 6 books in my suitcase but on the Kindle this was nothing.  But as great as this is, it was also frustrating in its own way.  Yes, the Kindle can hold a whole library of books and I have scarcely used even a portion of this memory.  However, it’s this amount of choices that is sometimes overwhelming and makes it difficult for me to finish books or choose what to read next.  This is hardly a normal library because even if you download free books, for me all the books I have chosen, I want to read.  I guess I will get use to this with time and it does open me up to books that I might never have chosen otherwise.

My choice of Kindle was the Kindle Touch.  It is a bit bigger than the basic Kindle but not too big and I also splurged for the lighted cover.  The reviews for the lighted cover were all over the place but I have used the light often and with no problems.  It makes the Kindle even more useful in airplanes, for reading in bed and anywhere else the light isn’t bright enough to read.  It also isn’t an issue that the cover doesn’t latch closed.  I’ve had no issues with it opening when it shouldn’t and it is very nice to have something to protect the screen.  It didn’t take long to get use to reading on the Kindle screen either but I do find it annoying when I brush the screen accidentally and it makes the pages go crazy.  I’ve slowly figured out how to make it go back to where I want it but some time as well as a few reading frustrations.

Having no reference for where I am in a book is also a challenge for me.  I know there are numbers and percentages at the bottom of the Kindle page to help with this process but it’s not spacial enough for me.  When finding quotes or a certain place in a novel, I usually don’t use bookmarks but instead just a feeling for how far along or what part of the page I am looking for.  This obviously doesn’t work on the Kindle because the Kindle looks the same no matter what.  Each page is exactly the same.  So while lamenting this loss, I have been trying to get use to the highlighting and note-taking features.  These are very useful but I don’t like to write in books because of the permanence of it.  However, with the Kindle the notes and highlighting can be erased and redone anytime.  I appreciate this and have been trying to highlight more liberally.  Of course there is also the search features but this all takes some time to get use to.

I know the e-reader people have worked on ways to make the Kindle as book-like as possible.  Although the sharing features definitely leave me wanting.  It is very satisfying to be able to recommend a book and then to be able to put it right into a friend’s hand.  You can check out books at libraries and share books for 14 days but you can’t pass them along.  Something about it just isn’t the same.  I also miss the look of books.  Being able to peruse someone’s library just by looking at the spines and picking out what’s interesting.  You can look through someone’s Kindle but once again, it just isn’t the same.  And of course the feel and smell of books is also missing.

So after a month of traveling and extensive use, I come away very appreciative of my new Kindle but i’m not sure if I really love it.  I know the Kindle will ever replace books for me.  Yes, you can read on the Kindle but it’s not a book.  It doesn’t even meet the basic definition of a book as a “written or printed work of fiction or non-fiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers.”  I do like the benefits of new technology and when I move overseas once again my Kindle will be packed and useful.  It will be filled with everything from cookbooks to reference books and novels that would otherwise not be use the weight they take up in the suitcase.  The Kindle now has a place in my life.  I’ll even give it an important place but I don’t foresee it ever replacing my beloved books.

Time Well Wasted

I saw this sign in a room filled with typewriters.  “To save time is to lengthen life.”  This was then accompanied by a list of that same quote in 84 different languages.  I can only assume that this was referring to the time saved since the typewriter was invented.  I could elaborate on why I disagree and find this quote pretty amusing but instead I will just put it out there for you to draw your own conclusions.

*This was found in the Slovak Technical Museum which has some very interesting exhibits on communication technologies.  The museum also displayed some copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s work which included models of some of his drawings and inventions and how they worked.  Needless to say I thought the museum tour was a very interesting and worthwhile… and my life is no shorter for it.

Tales of Dating in California

My last date before I tried online dating was…hold on i’m thinking.  Maybe sometime circa 2007.  Now you have to give me a little leeway because of Papua New Guinea but still we are talking a good 4 or 5 years here.  I was never really the girl who needed a boyfriend.  I’ve had a few past relationships but it was pretty clear in college that for various reasons, these weren’t the right guys for me.  I learned from these college relationships that no matter how great the guys is, if our faith and theology aren’t compatible then it isn’t going to work.  And well, if all we have in common is our faith and theology that won’t work either.  So with that in mind I plunged headfirst into the online dating scene.  I figured I would keep an open mind and get a few dates under my belt.  Now 8 first dates and a couple second dates later I am a little wiser, have two new friends, am still single and that’s ok.  If anything, I have some new stories to tell so here you go.

Date #1: This is the only guy out of these 8 who has given me that lovely butterfly in the stomach, don’t know if you’re going to throw up or pass out feeling.  We met on State Street in Santa Barbara, had a burger and then walked down to the beach.  It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cold, perfect Santa Barbara weather.  We pretty much cut through all the chitchat and Date#1 shared his dream of becoming a firefighter and working in LA.  He talked about wanting to use his work to share his faith and help people.  It was really easy to see his heart for LA and his drive to make this happen.  So far so good but it was pretty clear that his focus was US based.  As we brushed off the sand and headed back up to our cars, we talked about everything from our families to favorite things.  I said goodbye to him and walked away a little lightheaded and woozy from the pheromones.

I talked with a friend later that night about the date and while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t really good either.  I had yet to make my non-negotiables list so I couldn’t really pinpoint what was bothering me.  But I quickly zeroed in on the fact that he wanted nothing more than to be a firefighter and live in the LA area for the rest of his life.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it felt (and still feels) very limiting for me.  Maybe if he had been more aware of the world but that wasn’t the case.  So I met up with him a couple days later when I was driving through his town on my way back from LA.  We talked over icecream and I told him that while my Grandmother would love him (she’s always telling me that we should focus on our own local problems first), that it wouldn’t work for me.  But there were still major butterflies and at one point when he touched my hand while illustrating a point, I thought I was going to fall off the bench we were sitting on.  However, I kept myself together and our final goodbyes were injury free.

Date #2: He’s French.  We have had lunch a couple times up at UCSB.  He’s come to church with me and that always causes a bit of commotion among the church ladies.  He’s catholic and doesn’t understand why religion has to be anything but private between you and God.  We have great conversations but that’s about it.  Date #2 and I are still friends and he’s going to teach me some French when I get back to Santa Barbara.  It’s kind of fun because every time I see him, I think about the last French guy I met who just happened to be walking through Walagu.

Date #3: On this date I broke many of the online dating first date rules.  We went hiking and I got in his car.  Now keep in mind that this is small town Santa Barbara, the trails are always super busy on Sunday afternoons and it turns out that one of his company bosses is an elder at my church.  But just to make things clear I don’t advocate hiking or getting into someone’s car on a first date where you are just meeting the person.  Date #3 and I talked on the phone a couple times before the date.  And from the beginning I was hesitant but I was willing to give him a chance.  How much can you really know from talking on the phone anyway?  He seemed nice enough but somewhat stuck.  I have nothing against the fact that he lives on a boat or is in his late 30s but those things didn’t really sweep me off my feet.  We talked easily, he talked a lot but not too much.  He brought apples and other snacks so at some point we sat down and just enjoyed the day.  The hike was obviously beautiful.  I mean this was once again an amazing Santa Barbara day and the views from Inspiration point were just as I had remembered.  But the date left me uninspired.  Once again not particularly good but not bad either.

I got home and the house was full of church people including including Date#3’s boss.  So Mr. Boss and I just chatted for a few minutes about the date and his connection at work with the guy.  He’s not directly in charge of Date #3’s work so he didn’t know him super well but Mr. Boss listened, shrugged his shoulders and said that sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.

Later that night there was an email waiting for me, asking me out again.  I wrote back politely declining while trying to be vague and basically saying I enjoyed the hike but didn’t think it would be a good idea to pursue something further.  And he wrote back asking for an explanation since he had a wonderful time.  Now for all you guys out there reading this, asking why is not in and of itself a bad thing.  However, if you ask why be prepared to hear something you might not like or agree with.  I tried not to be harsh but yeah.  So he thanked me for my honesty and I thought that was it.

A couple days later I was at Mr. Boss’s house for Bible study and my phone rang.  We were all still hanging out and just talking so I didn’t bother answering it but then I saw who it was, Date #3.  If I had any doubt that I made the wrong decision not going out with Date #3 again, this message eliminated it.  Basically he called to apologize for every little thing he perceived as going wrong on the date.  These weren’t even bad things.  He was still picking it all apart and it really wasn’t that complicated.  The message didn’t make me want to give him a second chance, it just made me feel sorry for him.  And it’s things like this that make me feel like the ‘bad guy’ and it was just one date, let it go.  Needless to say I didn’t call him back but for his sake I wrote a brief email saying I received the message and there was nothing to apologize for.  Thankfully he didn’t respond.

Date #4:  This was the most stereotypical first date.  We met at a nice restaurant and he had made reservations.  It was a fish place and I don’t really like fish but the place has good beer so that made up for it.  We sat down, ordered and talked pretty easily for the next couple of hours.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that this guy was an adrenaline junkie with no real focus in life.  But he was interesting enough and he also thought I was funny which helps.  So we were laughing and I noticed a table of guys behind him being a bit stupid and rowdy.  I didn’t give them another thought until they paid their bill and walked by our table on the way out, throwing a small paper airplane down by my plate.  I picked it up, opened it and read something to the effect of “You’re super hot.  What are you doing with this guy?  He seems nice and all, but really?  If you want a real man give me a call.”  This was followed by a phone number.  Date #4 of course was curious but I told him it was rude and just continued the conversation.  Even if I wasn’t going to marry the guy, he didn’t need to read that.  So dinner ended and we both went out separate ways.  There were a few polite text messages back and forth, one phone conversation saying that it wasn’t going to go anywhere and that was it.

On a side-note:  The after-date text message really makes me laugh.  It’s kind of like an excuse not to call later because you’ve ‘talked’ already and feel like you’re in touch but yet they can be so meaningless.  My advice to guys:  The after-date text message can be reassuring to both you and the girl.  However, if you are actually interested, CALL HER.  Even if you have to leave a message, plan it, say something nice and ask her out again.

Date #5: Just getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks and chatting can be really comfortable.  This guy is a single dad, tall, with a decent job.  The best part of the date was seeing pictures of his adorable little girl.  He obviously loves her very much.  Once again, the after date text message.  But this time nothing followed and that’s ok.

Date #6:  Once again Starbucks,but this guy was more interested in finding someone to take home.  And well that plan backfired for him.  I think he was trying to branch out and meet a different type of girl then he normally meets at clubs and bars.  Maybe after meeting me, the girls at the club seem more attractive.  I guess i’ll never know.

Date #7:  All I need to say is Hometown Buffet.  This should never, under any circumstances be a place for a first date.  Date #7 was from West Africa but I don’t think that is necessarily an excuse.  I should have just declined once the words Hometown Buffet were mentioned but by that point I had already put him off once before and couldn’t really do it again.   He was very kind and dare I say charming but when I wasn’t completely caught up in memories of my time in Ghana, I was thinking to myself “What am I doing in Hometown Buffet?”.  And well, those thoughts can be very distracting.  The date ended and I was missing Africa but Date #7 just couldn’t compare to Charles.  Charles was a beautiful Christian African man who I dated while I lived in Ghana during my semester abroad.  Of course I didn’t tell Date #7 this and it was sort of an unfair comparison because very few men could compare to idealized memories anyway.  But we talked and I kept trying to tell Date #7 why it just wouldn’t work for reasons actually on my list of non-negotiables and he kept insisting that we should try.  I could give him points for persistence but there is a fine line there.  Eventually he got the hint.

Date #8: Beer and pizza.  Sounds like a pretty good start.  And it was but the best part about this guy is his faith.  Our first conversation after ordering consisted of him telling me how he had been praying for God to teach him dependence and how his prayers had been answered in amazing but frustrating ways.  I mean you aren’t going to think that lessons in dependence are going to be easy.  While we talked about life, language, family, traveling and other topics, it was all interspersed with the Bible and things we had been learning about God and about ourselves.  And as we talked, Date #8 was actually interested in Papua New Guinea and not just because it was weird and different.  Having traveled a bit himself, he also could relate to some of my stories and had a framework to respond and comment.  Nothing like bonding over lack of water or strange foods stories.  While the earth didn’t move or anything, we were actually having a really good time.  After we finished our pizza, we walked around a bit, got some icecream and the conversation just continued.  A few short hours later, I gave him my phone number and we said goodbye.

About 1000 text messages and a short time later he asked me out again.  I wasn’t going to say yes but my best friend was excited about him because at the very least he had all the non-negotiables (as far as I could tell from a first date).  Similar faith and theology. Check.  Bigger worldview/International Outlook.  Check.  Want to have and provide for a family.  Check.  And so I said yes.

The second date was just as easygoing as the first.  Our initial plans didn’t work out because of the weather but the backup plans were great.  I really enjoyed myself.  However, it’s not just about a list or about being compatible Christians.  Date #8 and I talked and basically both came to the conclusion that for now, for the two of us it isn’t time to start a relationship.  Maybe one day circumstances will be different but being just friends is a good place to start.

Marriage and Mr. Right

All the channels feeding me information about marriage are fairly conflicting.  Our society insists that it’s all about love, physical attraction and passion.  And if that fizzles then get out of the marriage.  It’s all about your own happiness, right?  In Papua New Guinea there was more of an emphasis on finding a partnership that benefited the couple as well as the extended family.  True love was only viable if it made sense for the community too.  And women come with a price, a bride price.  In fact every culture has its own view of marriage.  Depending on your culture, some of these views may seem normal but others will seem radical, crazy and even absurd.  The Bible has lots to say on marriage including metaphors of Christ and the church and the infamous Song of Solomon.  My family has quite a few examples of healthy long-term marriages but even we aren’t immune to the divorce epidemic.  Besides my immediate family, I have many examples of strong marriages in my church family.  And my friends are in every stage imaginable.  I still have single friends, most of whom (but not all) want to be married eventually.  I have happily married friends and I already have divorced friends.  Then of course there are books, movies, television and other media that have their own opinions too.

During my time in Papua New Guinea, there really weren’t too many eligible expatriate young men around.  My social circles were limited because of the situation and if I had met someone, where would we have gone on a date anyway?  Hamburger night with the rest of the Ukarumpa community?  To the Ledcafe?  Or to the Kainantu Lodge?  I can’t dismiss this entirely because many a happy love story has come out of Ukarumpa but it didn’t happen that way for me.  There are single Papua New Guinean men too but let’s be honest, I would be a terrible PNG wife.  Mostly because I am completely incompetent when it comes to providing for a family in a village setting.  So in PNG the expat men were few and far between and the PNG men weren’t an option.  But despite the single men vacuum, I was constantly aware of my limitations as a single white female.  I have never wanted to be married more than when I was in PNG.  I am very aware that having a husband wouldn’t have solved all my problems but it seemed like it would have at least helped.  Having a husband while living in PNG would mean having a built-in advocate in a male dominated society, someone to walk you places at night, someone to go on vacation with, someone to drive you to the airstrip or Kainantu, having a go-between with male co-workers and other helpful things.  I realize that none of these things are really reasons to be married but they were definitely perks while living in a place like PNG.

So now I am back in California and there are single men everywhere and while I still want to be married, I feel content once again with my singleness.  I am free and independent here.  I can go out at night alone, drive across the state, travel, shop and talk to strangers all on my own.  In America I don’t need a man.

But I do want to be married and just because a single male is coherent and breathing doesn’t mean he will make a good husband.  So that’s where I am.  Trying to navigate dating and relationships as a Christian immersed in American culture with my heart still floating internationally.  Trying to figure out where to meet men and once you meet someone how to determine if he’s the ‘right’ someone.

Ok so let’s work backwards.  Before finding him, I need to figure out who he could be.  Like most girls, I have always had a list but over the years my list has changed.  Now it’s easy enough to just joke that I want tall, dark and godly.  But at the end of the day, while godly might, tall and dark definitely won’t sustain a relationship.

My best friend, who is happily married, sent me this book called Marry Him, The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb.  This book is all about lowering our expectations for marriage to something reasonable and actually attainable, not compromising on the things that matter but opening ourselves up for something that might not seem right at first but in the end is actually better.  Marry Him is written to an older female audience but the principles are still applicable for me and I found myself giving them some serious thought.  I want to be open for whatever God may have for me and part of the process is figuring out what for me is ultimately non-negotiable.  Currently I would have to say that my top three non-negotiables are a similar faith and theology, an international outlook and wanting to have and provide for a family.  While being taller then me wouldn’t hurt, it really isn’t the most important thing.  Of course there are other characteristics that I might want but giving someone a chance based on the first three seems like a good place to start.

I have to admit that sometimes the book made me a bit depressed because I am guilty of at least some of the bad relationship behavior that Gottlieb describes.  But more so it made me think of the examples of people who I don’t want to be when it comes to settling or not settling for marriage.  I have a friend who chose career over marriage.  And I have another friend who married despite reservations family and friends had with the choice of spouse.  I don’t think either of my friends actually regret their decisions but I don’t envy either of their positions.

An aspect of the book that bothered me was the equation of religion to any other generic criteria someone might have for a future spouse.  Gottlieb cites many examples of relationships that work out despite religious differences.  But I am guessing that most of those people were more culturally religious instead of living their faith.  However, for me religion is different.  It’s not enough just to both be Christians but it is necessary to have someone who has a similar faith and theology.  This is because my faith influences my decisions in every part of my life and this will continue to be true when it comes to marriage and family.

With this as a main criteria, it would seem that church would be a good place to meet men but this isn’t necessarily the case.  There may be single men in the church but I won’t be holding my breath for any of them to ask me out.  This is another blog entry entirely so I won’t elaborate now but basically I think that the Christian church today has done a disservice to young men and women in how they support, present and teach about finding a spouse and marrying well.  The reasons are complicated.  So anyway, besides church, maybe being introduced to my future spouse through friends or mutual acquaintances might work.  So far this hasn’t but if you are reading this, actually know me and have a man in mind, don’t you tell me about it.  Tell the guy and let him decide if he wants to pursue the relationship or not.

After considering the options of church or being introduced by mutual friends, I thought about the guys I meet on a daily basis.  There are all sorts of stories about running into someone at the store, the gym, the coffee shop, the post office or wherever you happen to be.  However, I don’t really know how that is suppose to work either.  In Hawaiian culture they have the flower.  If it is placed behind the left ear it means you are married or taken, but behind the right ear means you are single.  So I thought of an American equivalent which could be something like the ‘ask me out’ pin.  This is what an ‘ask me out’ pin looks like:

Maybe under the right circumstances the ‘ask me out’ pin could become our equivalent to the Hawaiian flower behind the right ear.  However, it hasn’t happened yet.  Instead, in my experience, it just gains dirty looks from older women.  I actually still like the idea in theory but there are some obvious flaws with the plan.  Maybe just for fun i’ll wear as I travel to Europe and see who I meet on the plane.

While I was in PNG, online dating wasn’t an option.  I mean it really wasn’t an option because for various reasons our servers blocked the online dating sites.  I think they have changed that now but since I am in the US, I thought I would give online dating a try.  After trying out multiple sites, I realized that online dating was a fairly expensive and time consuming activity.  I would really have to be willing to put the proper time and energy into online dating for me to pay the prices.  But I could easily see my mind changing in the future.  With that said I have been on a few dates thanks to the free online dating site okcupid.  I guess since this post is already long enough, I will leave the tales of dating for another entry but, in general, I think online dating definitely has something going for it.

I guess all of this leaves me in a pretty good, if somewhat ambiguous, place.  Isn’t that just life?  While I still want marriage, I am content being single and yet it doesn’t hurt to have a few good and a few bad dates under my belt.  At this point until I have a ring on my finger, I will continue on my current path which is to pursue overseas literacy work because I love it and I can.  But I will continue to be open to, pray about and hopefully some day this will all lead to marriage.

A Conversation about The Hunger Games Continued.

It has been about a month since I read the first Hunger Games book, saw the movie and wrote about the conversation that it started for me.  If you don’t want to take the time to read my original post, basically I wrote that while the story was intriguing and the characters were interesting, I found myself repulsed by the parallels between the world of Panem and our world today.

Now I have finished the two other books and feel ready to continue the conversation.  My dueling minds continue as I have to admit that I am truly fascinated by the luxury and excess of the capital.  And the ways that are invented to torture and kill inside the arena and out are sickeningly brilliant.  Panem attacks all senses.  From the ticking clock in the arena to the death pods in the Capital.  But this opulence contrasted with the brutality of war and add in the relationships and my mind can’t handle it all.

The second book, Catching Fire was necessary to get us to the boiling point in Mockingjay.  But I found myself more emotionally involved with Mockingjay.  Last night as I closed the book for the final time I had three conversations that I wanted to have and all of them were comparisons and starting points for looking at our own selves and the world that we live in.

#1: The Capital.  Are we (in the United States and maybe the West in general) that different from the people in the capital?  If we just look at three basic comparisons, I see the similarities are more evident then the differences.  Our love affair with food, our love affair with entertainment and our love affair with our own image.

The food objectification is obvious in both books.  The crazy banquet in Catching Fire where people throw up, just to gorge themselves again.  People are starving but they still feed their faces.  It’s delicious but food is no longer looked at as a means of survival but instead another activity and form of entertainment.  In America we glorify food too.  We eat too much and throw out food while others starve.  While most of us don’t do this out of malicious intent, we still are culpable.  I love food, food is good, we are meant to eat, we need to eat but when food becomes an obsession at the expense of others, then it’s too much.

Entertainment runs the lives of most people in the capital.  The Games are the obvious example of this and the brutality of this doesn’t need to be further explained.  Our entertainment in the United States hasn’t made it to the point of children killing children but we do put a premium on entertainment.  Think of all the money spent on concerts, ball games, movies, etc.  It’s not all about violence and like food, entertainment itself isn’t bad but glorifying it is.

And finally self-image.  The Capital is all about over-the-top image, to the point where people dye their skin color and reconstruct their features until they no longer even look human.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and at some point the capital has crossed the line from beauty to ridiculous.  I love the conversation that Posy has with Octavia.  She tells her that she would be pretty in any color.  I am not saying that how we present ourselves isn’t important, we all have two eyes and no matter how hard we try, we will still make judgments based on how people look.  However, I am saying that the US (and maybe it’s a bit skewed in California) but we do put a very high price on looks.  Think about the amount we spend and the importance we place on hair, nails, skin-care etc.  Even plastic surgery is the norm in some circles.  Tattoos and body art aren’t uncommon.  But at what point do we cross that line?

#2 The Effect of War on Children.  Do we really understand what happens to children who grow up during a war?  Do we understand what it means to have lived in survival mode?  Innocence once lost can never be regained.  The children can never go back to the way they were before.  There isn’t enough history to go back.  Killing is something we shouldn’t ever take lightly.  But in Panem killing became necessary for survival.  Despite her apparent ease when shooting to defend, Katniss never becomes hardened to the effects of killing, especially face to face.  And she even struggles with what to tell Gale when she starts to see anger and indifference building up in him.  I would argue that it is indifference and distance that is the most dangerous.  In the United States we can live in our safe bubbles and not see the reality of poverty, violence, hunger or and number of other things that are not uncommon in the rest of the world.  This distance allows us the luxury of being apathetic and then leads to the next step of indifference.  This is not an argument for exposing our children to too much, too early either.  But I think at the end of the book (the epilogue actually), Katniss does have the right idea with how she deals with the history and moves forward with her own family.  It is all about balance, let us teach history so that we can learn from the past but still be able to focus on acts of goodness the are repeatedly happening and part of our lives now.

#3 Revenge.  Another Hunger Games for the Capital kids?  Really!?  This is probably the only part of the book that made me mad.  And I think it is because after being in Papua New Guinea, I have seen firsthand how a culture lives with the idea that revenge is the only way.  It’s not pretty and it never solves anything.  It just escalates to the point where no one has anything left to give or take.  I think if anything the Tributes would have seen through their own experiences that another games wouldn’t solve anything.  But I guess it is human nature to say that if I have suffered then someone else should have to suffer too.  If anything it should have been those who created and ran the games who should have to experience the horrors they created firsthand, not the innocent children.  But even this isn’t merciful and doesn’t really solve anything.  I guess I saw this more in Papua New Guinean culture then in American culture but it exists here as well.  Our justice system struggles with this during punishments for criminals.  Sometimes the victims family wants ‘justice’ but that’s just a code-word for revenge.  The family feels very justified and vindicated but sometimes the family calls for mercy and leniency.  What reasons cause these differences?  Can people take advantage of mercy?  How can mercy change the story?  I guess for this one I am just left with more questions then answers.

So I end here with the same mixed feelings as before.  These books are no doubt entertaining but the questions and conversations they leave me with still make my skin crawl.  The conversation is still ongoing and definitely worth having.

Tending to Eden- A Book Review

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.  “Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything in them.” Acts 4:24b  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” John 3:16  As Christians we serve a God who not only created the world but who also loves the world.  Therefore, acting responsibly and taking care of God’s creation should be an easy decision.  But unfortunately that is not always the case.

Scott Sabin tackles some hard environmental issues in his book Tending to Eden.   He works for an organization called Plant with Purpose which considers and confronts humanitarian issues with environmental solutions.  We are all a part of creation and we live in a world that needs balance.  When deforestation happens there are consequences not just to the land but to the surrounding water, people and animals.  Planting trees may sound simple but the effect this has on the land and water supply can change communities for the better.  Sabin is honest in saying that the organization has not always had the perfect answers and as with any organization there is going to be a lot of trial and error.  But in learning through their mistakes, Sabin and the organization have come together to create programs that not only help people but also empower people.  Sabin speaking for Plant with Purpose realizes that foreign aid isn’t going to be a final solution.  Their mindset and conclusions are encouragingly similar to that of Lois who worked for about 40 years in Africa doing community development work.  It is not about giving hand outs but instead equipping people to think for themselves and come up with solutions that can evolve overtime as their needs change.

Although Sabin talks a lot about the work that is being done overseas, he ultimately bring it back to us.  This is not just some remote work that is nice to hear about but doesn’t really change us.  No, this is a wake up call that we also have a responsibility where we live and the choices that we make also effect the planet that we all live on.

In Isaiah 41 the connection between helping the poverty through forest restoration is very clear.  This is such a beautiful picture of how God created the world to be in relationship together, creatures and creation.

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water,  and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Isaiah 41:17-20


To Shoe or Not to Shoe

US customs, trends and other cultural observations from a westerners third world perspective.

So I don’t normally research my posts.  But in this case I decided to google “Barefoot Running” and “Barefoot” because I just wanted to see what else was out there.  I searched for fans and foes and read through at least 16 different websites and this was only just scratching the surface.  Was I surprised?  Yes.  Should I have been? No.  Do I still think I have a unique viewpoint?  Yes.  So read on.

The Trend: Running barefoot and even living barefoot in a society that still says “No Shoe, No Shirt, No Service.”  Or if barefoot isn’t working for you, there are now many different varieties of almost barefoot footwear.

The Good: Running and other outdoor activities are great for healthy living.  These websites claim that running barefoot or even just switching to more minimal footwear helps return the body to its natural state.  This natural state can be seen in runners gaits and the impact their feet and joints receive and some websites even claim that certain cases of flat feet can be dealt with by just going barefoot.  They even claim that runners receive less injuries when running barefoot.  When the feet are engaged with the ground instead of shrouded in shoes, all the senses engage and this makes the running experience even better.  Our ancestors did it, why can’t we?

The Bad: Not everyone agrees with these claims.  Some claim that injuries increase without shoes and that barefoot runners are twisting the facts for their own agendas. Being barefoot is obviously not healthy for people with diabetes or with other foot problems that are more painful without supportive shoes.  It also depends on where you walk and run.  True barefooters claim that walking over rocks or hot cement isn’t a big deal but it might bother some people.  It is one thing to be barefoot on clay, grass or other surfaces that give.  From my own experience different surfaces really do make an impact on your joints.

The Reality: In my mind the jury is still out on being barefoot.  It seems, like with most things, that it is great for some people and it doesn’t work for other people.  That’s life.  Shoes are here to stay but they will continue adapting.  Running shoes no longer means only heavily padded, heavy shoes.  Now you can buy everything from thick socks, strappy sandals, vibram toe shoes to lightweight but still traditional running shoes, all the way to the very traditional heavily padded shoes that companies are not going to stop making anytime soon.  The more minimal shoes are great for many reasons.  I have a friend who uses them because they are lightweight and easy to just throw in her purse when she walks to and from work.  Minimalist shoes do change the way you run and depending on your body, this may help your gait and make your running experience more enjoyable.  But in the end it is an individual decision.

A PNG Perspective: PNG was traditionally barefoot and still is very barefoot.  Maybe it isn’t related to the barefootedness but the majority of people in PNG are flatfooted.  Being flatfooted in the US causes problems and trips to a podiatrist.  But in PNG, it is just the way it is. In cities or other larger towns most people wore flipflops, many wore a certain type of shoe (sorry I can’t remember the name right now) and some even wore work boots or rubber boots.  However, it wasn’t uncommon to see people with bare feet in stores, restaurants and around town.  In the villages the majority of people were barefoot or wore flipflops.  Footwear choices were based on lots of factors but mostly cost, availability and need.  Being barefoot wasn’t normally a problem but shoes were cherished and worn until they literally fell apart.  In Madang (on the coast) people preferred to wear shoes when walking on the roads because their feet were cut up less.  And in the Southern Highlands (in the mountains) I saw many barefoot people with thorns in their feet and other injuries.  This includes kids living with splinters in their soles.  They have super thick soles but that doesn’t completely protect the feet.  Papua New Guineans generally have no trouble running over rocky ground but that doesn’t mean they are impervious to injury.  A thorn can still go through the thickest sole and then (from experience) the thick sole makes it much harder to remove and it also takes longer for it to grow out on its own.  In general Papua New Guineans live with a barefooted reality but are thankful when they did have shoes to wear.

This Westerner’s Words:  When I finally settled into life in the village I was barefoot most of the time.  Every once in awhile I thought that I would do better with shoes for hiking but the mud always proved more powerful.  Shoes just stood as another slippery layer between my feet that the log bridges and clay hills.  However, when I developed a foot fungus brought on by the constant dampness and when the weather was constantly cold and wet, I found myself wishing I had shoes that would keep my feet warm and dry.  In Ukarumpa I wore shoes most of the time because the rocky roads weren’t foot friendly for me.  But lots of other expats and of course Papua New Guineans walked on the roads just fine.   However, in a heavy rain when things were wet and slippery or on wet grass bare feet still were best.  Now that I am back in California I am enjoying wearing the shoes that sat unused for three years.  My feet really aren’t soft but they aren’t tough and leathery either because although I did spend many months in bare feet I chose to walk on grass and clay and other softer surfaces.  I still enjoy being footwear free but shoes are a part of life in California and I am going to enjoy them while I can.

Some Websites with Various Perspectives:

Shoes http://www.zemgear.com/

More Shoes http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/15/health/la-he-gear-running-shoes-20110815

And More Shoes http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/09/health/la-he-barefoot-shoes-20110509

In Favor of Barefoot Living http://www.barefooters.org/

Against Barefoot Running http://www.runningbarefootisbad.com/

In Favor of Barefoot Running http://www.barefootted.com/index.php?q=/

Want more information?  Just google it.