Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blue flowers, opinions, and a toddler

Things have been kind of crazy around here, as you probably guessed from my infrequent posting.

First off, John got diverticulitis and was hospitalized. It wasn't terribly serious but he did need IV fluids for a couple of days. The hard part for me was trying to visit him in the hospital while the baby climbed all over the place and tried to pull out his IV line and pushed all the buttons on his bed. I never got to stay long, which was sad for me. And the baby was just heartbroken that Daddy wasn't around. The first night Daddy was gone, Marko had an epic meltdown at bedtime. Nothing could calm him; he howled so constantly as to hardly take a breath. This isn't usual for him at all! So I muscled him into the car and headed to the hospital with my screaming kid. At one point I said, "We're going to see Daddy!" And he instantly stopped screaming, instead just whispering, "Da da da da da," the whole way. It was adorable. And after a few minutes of snuggling with Daddy, he fell asleep before we were even out of the hospital. That's a kid who needs his dad around!

The one big blessing in all this is that my friend Meredith has been staying with us while she looks for a job. It was SO nice to have another pair of hands and someone to talk to so I didn't go nuts. Being a houseguest of a mom with a toddler should be on the list of corporal works of mercy.

Once John gone back, he had with him a prescription for some heavy-duty antibiotics. I'm not in favor of antibiotics, but we really had no choice -- he had already had them by IV in the hospital. Unfortunately this particular drug has a looooong list of side effects, including paranoia and panic attacks. (Who thought this would be a good idea?) And, of course, the one side effect all antibiotics have -- killing all the helpful bacteria that live in your body. Can't wait till he's off those. I'm going to go play doctor on him again (poor guy) and feed him all the probiotics I can find.

Having Meredith around has kept me busy. We've been walking to various places in town, visiting flea markets, and gardening. It sure keeps me from hanging fire when John gets home and asks me, "What did you do today?"

On Sunday we had a gigantic party for some dozen people. There was a "guys' day out" of canoeing on the Shenandoah, and a "girls' day in" which involved making pie and talking about the guys (of course). Meredith shared her piemaking wisdom (she sure knows how to make crust) and we filled up the shells with good things. We made one that was just sliced peaches and nothing else (it was amazing) and a lemon chess pie. Both were fabulous, but the peach pie was also beautiful.

Next time, though, the girls need to get a chance in the canoes. I really miss canoeing -- haven't done it in over a year.

Yesterday I was all set to blog and got myself in a cat fight instead. How do things like that happen? I was in the middle of a rather pleasant and respectful debate, I thought. The blogger had asked the question what people thought about husbands who forbid their wives from wearing chapel veils and dressing modestly. My take was that husbands can't make their wives dress immodestly, but if they have a problem with their wives always wearing ankle-length skirts or full-time kerchiefs, it's a pretty reasonable request. You know -- there's a balance to be struck. I tried to be very considerate of this woman, who does wear ankle-length skirts and kerchiefs most of the time, by saying that there's nothing wrong with dressing that way, but a husband might prefer not to draw attention or have people assume that he is the patriarch of a restrictive sect because of the way his wife dresses. It just doesn't seem fair to me that he has to deal with the flak from his wife dressing in an unusual way, but he gets no say at all in whether she dresses that way. Of course I don't think he should order her around, but it's a reasonable request for him to make and one I would have no trouble conceding to.

The blogger said that she believes it would be a sin to go into a church with her hair uncovered because she has been given a special calling by God to cover her head.

I said that I didn't think it could be at all sinful to enter a church in this situation, because the Church has removed the requirement for women to wear veils. It's a nice tradition, but you don't have to do it.

I think that was around when she transformed from a reasonable sounding-woman and went completely ballistic. First she said she didn't care what I thought. Then she wrote a post saying she'd lost her temper, but just LOOK at what her commenters (mostly me) were saying. (Followed by a misinterpretation of everything I'd said.) I realized I had offended her and wrote a very long comment on that post saying that I was really sorry I'd offended her, it was the last thing I had intended to do, that she is certainly free to wear what she wants, that I was sharing another viewpoint from someone who had seen the harm that too-strict dress codes could do, but I really didn't believe she was in any danger herself, that I was going to bow out of the discussion because I saw that I had given offense, etc.

Then I found she had written a whole post dedicated to me and how awful I was. Apparently I had been apologizing to a post that wasn't the latest one ... the latest one was a diatribe about how horrible I am, how unfairly I had treated her, and how she had been having a bad day and I just came along and made it worse. Again she misinterpreted everything I'd said (oops) and told me I was no longer welcome to subscribe to her blog and was blocked. She would appreciate it if I never spoke to her again.

Thirty people pounced on that post telling her, "The devil is attacking you because he knows you're doing the right thing," and telling me that I'm a troll, I just like to hurt other people, that I hate Amish people (huh?), etc. Her husband leaped on saying, "I know Sheila. She is that crazy woman from every guy's past. The woman who on a first date looks very promising and by the second date is flinging monkey pooh while howling like a banshee. The words 'stark raving mad' begin to come to mind."

He doesn't know me. He has seen my comments on his wife's blog. I don't think any of those comments sound banshee-like.

At that point I was out of the whole thing; I've been blocked and there's nothing left to say. Meredith tried to defend me and got her own post lambasting her. So, it's over and I'm trying not to obsess about it. But of course, you see that I am.

I do try. I took forever to write each comment, reading it and re-reading it and editing and explaining so that I wouldn't give the least offense. I tried to make sure this lady knew that I wasn't criticizing her clothing choices, but simply saying that a husband who requested his wife make different choices wouldn't be out of line. Because she asked what people thought. (John tells me I should NEVER listen to a blogger who asks for people's opinion, because they never really want it. Maybe he is right.)

And yet I somehow managed to give offense. Would I have written differently if I'd known she was having a bad day? I don't know. Maybe I would have just not said anything at all. I kinda think that's the only solution ... the only other commenter who shared my viewpoint was also asked to leave.

Maybe I'm just not as tactful as I think I am. I rarely get into these fights, but it has happened -- not as badly -- before. I enjoy a good, respectful debate. I guess my problem is expecting a good, respectful debate when I'm not likely to be in one. I mean, you don't go to someone sobbing over a personal tragedy and try to have a "respectful debate" with them. There are places and times for these things. I was clearly in the wrong place, but I guess I didn't see the signals. Maybe I should have -- this woman has posted rants against people before, but it always seemed like they were nutcases. I guess they were probably just people like me, trying to state unpopular opinions respectfully, but failing to communicate their ideas in a way that would not give offense.

I feel that action is required on my part to stay out of these fights. John says I could continue arguing with whoever I wanted if I had a thicker skin. But I just don't like the feeling that I have offended someone, ruined their day, made them unhappy. And yeah, I admit that I don't like being called a howling, poo-flinging monkey. Since it's a total stranger, it shouldn't sting, but it kind of does. I guess I am thin-skinned. Yet I'm not sure I want to be any different.

So far, the only action I've taken is to unsubscribe from a few blogs I disagree strongly with. I only read them because I am curious about the opinions of people I disagree with -- but I'm always tempted to jump in and argue. And it isn't really fair to follow a blog that you KNOW has a certain opinion, and then get involved and say they're wrong about everything. It's like wandering into a gay bar and shouting to the whole room, "Let's all support traditional marriage!" You're going to get tarred and feathered! So ... I'm going to avoid that.

As for what else I can do, I'm at a loss. I do try very hard to be kind and polite when I comment anywhere. But I don't really want to give up ever disagreeing with anyone. That's one of my favorite things about the internet -- trading ideas with people who don't think exactly the way you do. I don't come on here just to be patted on the head and told I'm wonderful, or to do the same to others. I'm happy when someone likes something I wrote, and when I agree with someone else, I often chime in to tell them so. But if someone disagrees, I like them to say so. Through discussion, we often both come to a deeper understanding of the truth. That's a wonderful thing.

My friend Heather disagrees with me on many religious and political issues. But that's part of what makes her such a valuable friend -- instead of parroting the same things all my political allies say, she gives a thoughtful criticism that helps me see the other side. It's thanks to people like that that I don't subscribe to any party, but rather try to see individual issues. Traditionally "liberal" issues like caring about the environment, it turns out, are important to me as well as traditionally "conservative" issues, like reducing the size of government. I wouldn't part with my friends who disagree with me for all the world. Without them, I'd have a much harder time realizing when I'm wrong.

I'm not really sure where that leaves me. I'm open to advice (promise I won't jump all over you!).

Here's a picture of a flower:

Anyone know what this is? It randomly sprung up in my yard. I thought it was a dandelion until the spiky part sprang up. Its lower leaves look like big dandelion leaves, but the top is quite different.

The baby, by the way, has been completely adorable lately. He's learned to turn around, walk backwards, throw a ball, and say lots of new words (bacon, up, ball, truck, milk, outside, inside). None of them really sound like the actual word, but he's trying. Sometimes I have to guess a little bit ("hot? hat? out?") but he's pretty good at letting me know when I've got the right one.

He LOVES to climb. On anything. All the time. He climbs on the chairs and tries to get onto the table. He dashes around the house to climb the (dangerous) back steps. He has finally figured out how to climb on the couch and get the kitty. Seriously, he can't be left unattended for one second. I have no idea how I'm going to do anything once Meredith leaves.

In the end, I am extremely happy with my life. I have great friends, a family that loves me, and a blog I enjoy (with readers who are always kind and insightful). So I guess it doesn't really matter if people call me names on a part of the internet where I never even go.


some guy on the street said...

"Bacon" is an excellent word indeed! Almost as good is "cornflower"; but I don't know how he'd like trisylabics yet...

Allison said...

I know what blog you're talking about, although I haven't read the debate, as I don't really care one way or another about headcovering at this point.

I do think though that if a woman feels called to do so, her husband should support her. I don't think that him getting flak for the way she dresses should be enough for him to request her to stop. I mean, you're bound to get criticism for most outwardly signs of being conservative or Christian.
If it really bothered him, I would hope the husband/wife would have a very serious conversation, but I would hope that he would support his wife if she really felt called to do something for God.

Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila said...

Well, yeah. But if it really bothers him, it doesn't mean he's a terrible person.

My own husband sometimes asks me not to do things because he doesn't want me to get into stuff that he sees as harmful. He never "orders" me to do things, but I tend to consider his requests as legitimate. I guess I just trust him more than I would my own feeling of being called to some particular thing. He can sometimes see dangers in particular things that I don't. Kind of like a nun would submit all her spiritual "callings" to her superior -- if it doesn't pass the obedience test, it's not worth keeping.

Paul Stilwell said...

That flower is definitely chicory.

Posts like this truly take after the title of your blog.

Sheila said...

You mean, random? Related to anything and everything? ;)

Reepicheep said...

Oh my gosh, Sheila! I really think I need to read this blog with the crazy people! I'm so sorry you had to go through that, but it gave me no end of entertainment to think of you as "that crazy woman from every guy's past." I know how much work you put into your posts and comments (At least I did in college, I assume things haven't changed.)and you are one of the most diplomatic people I know!

'Akaterina said...


I have experienced very similar problems when discussing various issues (circumcision or the whole question of Palestine/Israel seem to be the two that get heated). It is odd because it usually starts off with "What do you think" or "I would like advice/opinions," but then rapidly degrades into "You're judging me" or worse.

I think people have their opinions and at times want confirmation not true debate. I personally love hearing what other people have to say and if I get upset, I leave for a moment to calm down (usually has more to do with my choleric tendencies than with what the other has said).

Also, I agree about the issue of a husband's opinion. We are a team, one body, not independent of each other. There have been times where Andrew has said "wear this" or "don't wear that" for one reason or another. I usually comply because if it means that much that he feels he needs to comment on it, then I figure it is worth it. If something embarrasses the other spouse or causes concern, it would be selfish not to at least consider the other's view point.

RandomReader said...

Hi Sheila, I am glad that you commented on that other other blog, because that is how I found yours. Please, do not worry too much about how that conversation ended, things like that happen all the time and I think that any reasonable person can see that your intentions were good. An internet forum makes it often difficult to completely understand the tone behind the posts that other people make because we cannot see the other person's face, their body language or hear the tone of their voice. When a misunderstanding happens things often spiral down from there and further discussion just makes them worse because feelings already are - unintentionally - hurt.

Reading through the threads I was debating whether to leave a comment there or not, but I decided against it. While I think headcovering is a perfectly good devotion, I am having a really hard time agreeing with the concept that God would call somebody to specifically cover their head. I have already tried to express my opinions on this topic in a different forum in which she participated, but I just ended up offending her (although I did mot mean to) so had a feeling it will be pointless. I think she is a good person that loves God and tries to live her life the best way she can and it is best to leave it at that. At the same time, I am sorry I did not come to your defense there and I would like to thank you for putting your personal story into the comments - it must have taken a lot of courage and it must not have been easy.

heather said...

A beautiful post, a beautiful person (you) and a beautiful flower. =) ... Oh, so that's what chicory looks like! ... Aw, thanks! Sometimes I stop to imagine what my life would be like if such and such didn't happen, if I'd made a different choice of job or school at one point or another, if my supposed flaws hadn't existed and I'd gone down a different path. But then it always comes down to then not possibly meeting the people who have made my life so rich and interesting and fun and smile-worthy, people like yourself and John (and Marko!). And then my mind goes back to happy flowers and basil plants. So thank you to you, too, for being you and for being my friend!

heather said...

Oh, and beautiful pie, too!

Sheila said...

Akaterina, I totally agree with you. My husband doesn't order me around, but we do consider ourselves a team, and if something bothers one of us, the other usually concedes until we have a compromise both of us can live with. The wishes of your husband are a way of knowing the will of God, too!

RandomReader, it's okay that you didn't say anything. If she felt threatened by my lone voice disagreeing with her, a second person would probably have just made her angrier. This was a very messy way of saying, "I don't want opposing opinions, I was actually asking for support only," but regardless of how she asked, it IS what she wanted, and I'm fine with just leaving her alone to wear snoods in peace. :)

Heather, I'm glad you made the choices you did too! Because of them, I have the gift of your friendship. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm a cat fight girl and if you send me the link to the blog, I will draw as much blood for you as I can before I'm blocked!!!


(Or maybe not . . . I just found the blog and the words "stark raving mad" come to mind for another reason.)

Clothing choices were also a source of conflict in the marriage of one of my older relatives. Her husband thought her style was too sexy for a married woman, and she refused, telling him he was trying to make her take responsibility for his own insecurities and jealousies. Ah, marriage! =P

Oh, a few weeks ago, I started wearing pashminas instead of mantillas to church. I'm not too crazy about looking like a Muslim, but dang, do I rock those headcoverings!

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila, I was thinking about this post some more, specifically the laughable idea of you as a troll, and found myself feeling some sympathy for an anonymous commenter on my old blog whom I have no other name for than "troll."

It's a different case, admittedly. I mean, anyone can come to this blog or Enchiridion and see that you're a perfectly normal person. My "troll" created a new (fake) log-in whenever she left a comment and always signed her comments with a different name, so there was no way to tell what she was like in real life. (Except that she was obviously female. LOL!) Yet I'm starting to suspect that she must be another perfectly normal person, possibly one new to internet politics, who just went a little crazy over one discussion. (I think we "veterans" can all relate.) And I certainly didn't help matters with a post about my "troll" similar to Mrs. Snood's open letter to you--except, of course, that I could only link to a bunch of fake Live Journal accounts. Still, it was a very "high school" level response, which I regret, and I've since taken the post down.

One thing my "troll" told me, in the early days, was that if I had a problem with a certain blogger (who happened to be an author), that I should have written him privately instead of putting it out there on the internet. Honestly, though, I don't write private e-mails to any authors whose books I don't like, and it didn't occur to me that this one was somehow "special." And it wasn't as if he and I knew each other from our comboxes. But I do think Mrs. Snood, whom you "met" properly, owed you something much more civil than that nasty post about you.

'Akaterina said...

@ Enbrethiliel: I wear pashminas as well. I love them and (vanity of vanities) I can match them with my outfit I am wearing that day. It started because my husband didn't like mantillas. He has created a monster because now I have at least a half a dozen of them. :)

Sheila said...

Enbrethiel -- your post was marked as spam for some reason, and I didn't see it till now! Sorry.

As usual, you are a voice of reason and good advice. I think the safe thing to assume about ANYone we meet on the internet is that they're a well-meaning person who got a little out of hand on some topic they're passionate about. I think that's probably the case with Mrs. Snood. She and her friends assumed otherwise about me, and therefore flew off the handle. I think we'd all get in less fights online if we took your advice.

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