August 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Last month, I wrote about the difficulties of saying goodbye, something faced over again by those living overseas. Today I’d like to discuss another word that can come up during times of transition: Sorry. It, too, is hard to say, at least in the right way.
R is for Reconciliation
When it comes to transitions between countries, it can be easy to feel as if we’re drowning in all the emotions, responsibilities, and stressors. That’s why David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, in their landmark book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, talk about building a “RAFT” to keep your head above water. The four parts of that raft are
- Farewells, and
- Think Destination
“Reconciliation,” say the authors, “includes both the need to forgive and to be forgiven.” And this forgiveness is especially important preceding a move across time zones and oceans.
When transitions approach, those leaving—and those staying—have a small window of opportunity for a face-to-face healing of wounded relationships, a window that gets smaller as the departure gets closer. That’s why apologies become more and more necessary, even at a time when they may seem more and more difficult.
But simply deciding to say “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, because not all apologies are created equal. In fact, we live in the age of the “non-apology apology.” When you say, “I’m sorry,” do you add on any qualifiers? Do extra words reveal your true feelings?
Or do your words of remorse stand on their own? Do you say Sorry, with no ifs, sos, or buts?
Go to A Life Overseas to finish reading. . . .
(David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, Boston: Nicholas Brealey, 2009)
[photo: “More Fun with Sorry,” by Erin Kohlenberg, used under a Creative Commons license]
August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
Not being able to leave well enough alone, after my last post, on the Modobag, I gave another look to the suitcase innovations on Indiegogo.
What I found is frightening, simply frightening.
Four years ago, you may recall, I mentioned hop! “the follow along suitcase.” At the time it was only in a prototype stage, and as you can see in the video below, it was a rather bare-bones, timid-looking prototype, at that.
Speaking about advancements in luggage design, I wrote the following:
Regardless, the evolution of the suitcase continues. When USA Today asked what’s “next on the horizon,” Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, said, “Luggage that packs itself? Now that would be a problem-solver.”
Oh, how our carry-ons have evolved since then. Can you say “robot luggage”?
How about “Cowarobot R1“? That’s the name of “the first and only robotic suitcase,” in the middle of its own Indiegogo campaign.
Yes, you read that correctly, robot luggage! All I can do is wonder how long it will be before these “fully autonomous” carry-ons become self-determining—and evil—and force us to pack our clothes against our will. How long before the “find me function” (which I think is pretty cool) becomes the “track me down function”? (not cool)
It’s difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume us on captive Earth or merely enslave us. One thing is for certain: There is no stopping them. The android carry-ons will soon be here. . . .
And I for one welcome our new robot-luggage overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted blogger, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground suitcase-packing sweatshops.[*]
Actually, I can see an alternative ending to this scenario, one in which a plucky teen, with sick video-game skills, uses the USB port on a robot carry-on to upload a virus into our would-be mechanized oppressors, thus shutting down the global computer and GPS infrastructure. And with worldwide computer automation halted, our luggage will be rendered powerless and benign. Yay humans!
(But just in case that doesn’t work, and in case they don’t respond well to my overtures, I have my getaway vehicle already picked out . . . .)
August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson said that (or at least something like that*) in the 1800s, a new-and-improved mousetrap was a suitable metaphor for innovation. I would submit to you that today’s mousetrap may very well be the carry-on bag, and the door is an Indiegogo campaign.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Modobag. (Sorry, I mean the Modobag!)
The Modobag, the creation of Kevin O’Donnell, with the help of Boyd Bruner, is a TSA- and FAA-compliant carry-on bag that you can ride around the airport. It has an electric motor, telescoping handlebar with thumb throttle and hand brake, and professional motorcycle-grade foot pegs—and it can carry your clothes, too.
Here are some of the specs from Modobag’s Indiegogo page:
- two speed settings—5 mph indoors, 8 mph outdoors
- ability to carry a person up to 260 lbs
- 8-mile range (for a 180-lb person)
- two USB charging ports
Pre-orders for the Modobag are available at Indiegogo for $1,000. The campaign was set up with a modest goal of $50,000, and with two weeks left, it has already blown past a quarter of a million dollars.
According to CNN, O’Donnell doesn’t want to limit his invention to the airport. He wants people to ride it to the train and use it to navigate conference venues. And he takes it for spins himself in the bike lanes of Chicago.
It all sounds like a great idea to me, but I do have a few concerns . . . where the rubber meets the airport walkway, so to speak. But I think each one is fixable with the simple addition of an accessory.
First, there are the images in the video above of riders leaning into tight Modobag turns. I can imagine middle-aged travelers (like myself) wiping out on the way to Gate 26. Solution? The addition of fold-down wheeled outriggers—a fancy way of saying they need training wheels.
I’m also wondering about trying to pull two, or more, pieces of checked bags on your way to an international flight. A guy only has two hands, and one is already busy with steering, throttling, and braking. Solution? Some kind of proprietary linkage system to form a giant super luggage trolley.
And finally, I’m worried that airport authorities will step in to shut down Modobag riders in the name of safety (for example, see “wiping out” above), much the way that the anti-progress lobby has unfairly hampered the would be life-changing Segway revolution around the globe. Solution? A simple beeping mechanism and pop-up flashing light. Hey, it works for those airport carts.
The bottom line for me, though, is I’m not much of an early adopter. I’m more of a late follower. So just as with wearable luggage, carry-on child carriers and follow-along bags, and even pillow head coverings, to all you risk takers, you trend setters, you beta testers, I say, Lead the way! And as long as you don’t look too silly, I’ll be right there jumping on board. (I promise.)
(“Modobag: World’s First Motorized, Rideable Luggage,” Indiegogo; Matt McFarland, “You Can Now Ride Your Luggage around the Airport,” CNN, July 22, 2016)
*[and now, for quote geeks like me . . .] According to Garson O’Toole of Quote Investigator, the earliest form in print of
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door
is from “Current Comment,” in The Atlanta Constitution. The passage, titled “The Value of Good Work,” is ascribed to Emerson and was published on May 11, 1882, a few weeks after his death:
If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
Giving credence to Emerson’s authorship of the sentence, or at least the thoughts behind it, is a journal entry that Emerson wrote in 1855, under the heading “Common Fame”:
I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house,though it be in the woods.
Sarah S. B. Yule and Mary S. Keene include the “If a man . . .” quotation above, crediting it to Emerson, in their book “Borrowings,” compiled in 1989 and published in 1893. The article “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” from 1912, quotes Yule telling how she heard it from the lips of Emerson:
To the best of my memory and belief, I copied it in my handbook from an address delivered long years ago, it being my custom to write everything there that I thought particularly good, if expressed in concise form; and when we were compiling “Borrowings” I drew from this old handbook freely. It will seem strange to you, as it does to me, that Emerson never incorporated this in any of his essays. He did use the thought and similar wording, but never exactly the wording, of the quotation I used in “Borrowings.”
(Garson O’Toole, “If You Build a Better Mousetrap the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door,” Quote Investigator, March 24, 2015; “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” West Publishing Co’s Docket, Volume 1, West Publishing Company, 1912)
July 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
As the daughter of the director of Billy Graham’s North American crusades, Jess Archer had moved 12 times by the time she was 14—going from city to city and country to country. This, she wrote this week in Christianity Today, turned her into “the poster child for generalized anxiety disorder.”
In her article, she groups relocating during childhood with experiencing divorce and being in foster care as “major traumas” that weaken or destroy the concept of home and can lead to “serious anxiety disorders in kids.”
When it comes to describing the trauma of moving, some Third Culture Kids and some TCK parents would agree whole-heartedly; others would say they don’t understand what all the fuss is about. But can we all agree that moving produces anxiety, even if it’s not of the serious-disorder kind?
Archer goes on to give advice on how to ease our children through transitions, including preparing them, taking time to say goodbye, protecting their routines, and praying over them.
I especially like her prayer, offered for an anxious child at bedtime. I like it so much that I don’t mind that she uses the word season (just a pet peeve of mine). I like it so much that I’m praying it for my children. I like it so much I’m praying it for my wife and for myself, and for my friends in transition, too:
God of peace, this child needs rest. Her body is tense and her mind is wired. Nothing in this space feels like home. Good shepherd, loosen the knots of anxiety. Infuse her with hope of a grand design for good in her life. Show her that a new season is coming, and that you make all things new.
You can find Archer’s post, “Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids,” at Her.meneutics (Christianity Today, July 25, 2016). And if you’d like to read more of her thoughts on finding stability as a child in a life filled with change, go get a copy of her memoir, Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham: A Memoir of Growing Up Inside the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (Westbow, 2015).
At her blog, Archer includes the following excerpt from her book:
What people wanted to ask me growing up the way I did was: Can you tell me what it means to have a home? They wanted to ask me, but they didn’t have the language for it, and I was only a child. They thought, How would she know? She’s just a young girl.
Instead, people asked me a standard set of questions: How many places have you lived? Which was your favorite place? Which was the worst place to live? But what they really wanted were answers for their own lives. When I said I didn’t really have a home, they shivered for themselves . . . displacement at the core of every heart. The haunting need to know a place is yours forever, but the deep fear that it isn’t. Because I didn’t have a permanent home, I wrestled better and harder than most adults with the need for one, and by the time I was a teenager I had burned through to an expanded definition.
And amen again.
July 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
From my post this month at A Life Overseas –
goodbye /gə(d)-ˈbī/ excl. / salutation spoken at a departure, extremely unpopular for certain English-speaking tribes, such as cross-cultural workers, TCKs, their loved ones, and the like.
Many of us know from experience that saying goodbye can be hard, really hard. And practice doesn’t make perfect. In fact, it often makes it worse.
But what makes goodbye so tough to voice? It’s not because it’s hard to pronounce. That’s simple enough. Rather, it’s the meaning behind the word that’s difficult. Is that because we don’t actually know the definition of goodbye? To quote that great linguist/philosopher Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Goodbye actually comes from God be with you, which, in it’s older form, was God be with ye. From there, it morphed into such shortened versions as God be wy you, God b’w’y, Godbwye, God buy’ ye, and good-b’wy. The replacement of God with good was influenced by the similar phrases good day and good night, which takes it even further from the original. Seen in this way, goodbye is related to the French adieu and the Spanish adios, which mean “to God,” as in “I commit you to God.”
So what’s so hard about saying, “God be with you”? What’s so difficult about giving someone a blessing? Why do we so often hear, “I don’t want to say goodbye”?
Maybe it’s because we do actually know what it means—at least for those who move far away. . . .
July 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
The verdict is in. Yesterday, an international tribunal in the Hague sided with the Philippines, ruling that China cannot lay claim to most of the South China Sea. As expected, Chinese President Xi Jinping is dismissing the decision out of hand, stating that China has no intentions of complying.
How can the most populous nation on earth ignore the Permanent Court of Arbitration? That’s easy. It’s because China is taking its case to another court . . . the court of public opinion. And what better way to sway the jury than through viral videos (or at least videos that they’d like to go viral)?
Exhibit A: In June, China released the video below to win hearts and minds around the globe. It’s title is the rhetorical question “Who Is Stirring Up Trouble in the South China Sea?” My favorite lines are
Do you want to buy the most fashionable clothes or electronic devices with the state-of-the-art technology? You’d better pray for the peace and safety of the ocean.
And then there are these words from the mouth of Uncle Sam:
From the next two videos, we can see that the apparent target demographic is young, hip, cool, and English speaking . . . kind of like you and me. And the spokespeople are international students in Beijing and a cartoon band that looks like a modern version of the gang from Scooby Doo singing on top of the Mystery Machine.
I can laugh, but then again, they got me to watch a video about China’s five-year economic plan!
[photo: “Courtroom One Gavel,” by Joe Gratz, public domain]
July 7, 2016 § Leave a comment
A few months ago, I came across the trailer for the documentary Many Beautiful Things and was introduced to the life of Lilias Trotter. My first thought was “What rock have I been living under to have never heard about her before?” I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad since I’m not the only one who’s been in the dark when it comes to Miss Trotter. Though she’s gained much admiration for her artistic ability and missionary endeavors, hers has certainly not become a household name in either field.
One person who is in the know concerning Trotter is Miriam Rockness, author of the biography A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter and A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter. But she says herself concerning Trotter’s artistry, “If she’s as good as I think she is, why has nobody else heard of her?”
What is there to hear about? Well, Trotter’s is quite a story. Born in London in 1853, she grew up simultaneously developing her devotion to God and practicing her skills in watercolor painting. When her mother sent some of her paintings to John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the time, he recognized her talent and took her under his wing. He was so impressed with her abilities, that he said that with his help (as Trotter wrote to a friend), “she would be the greatest living painter and do things that would be Immortal.”
But in order to reach this greatness, this immortality, said Ruskin, she would need to devote herself fully to her art, as he believed that her work at the YWCA was detracting from her devotion to painting. Unwilling to give up her ministry endeavors, Trotter made her choice—serving the downtrodden women in London.
At the age of 33, she was introduced to the idea of missions in North Africa and felt God’s call to go to Algeria. Then, after being turned down by the North African Mission, she, along with two other single women, traveled to Algeria on their own. In time, she founded and led the Algiers Mission Band. Trotter’s mission work ended a full 40 years later, with her death in Algiers.
It’s quite a story, but one that without the efforts of Rockness would rarely be told. (Most of the information above comes from Rockness’s blog, where she continues to write about Trotter.)
Rockness first heard about Trotter from “two elderly sisters” who were spending the winter in Lake Wales, Florida, where Rockness lived. The sisters told the story of Trotter’s life and shared that they had a collection of devotional books that she had written. Wanting to find a good home for the books, the two ladies sent their library to Rockness over the course of several years, one volume at a time. Much traveling and investigating later, Rockness had become a Trotter expert.
Now, the story is on video with the release of Many Beautiful Things late last year—available on DVD at the movie website. The film features the voice talents of Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) as Trotter and Ruskin, respectively.
In an interview with Christianity Today, the film’s director, Laura Waters Hinson, tells how she was also one of those who had never heard of Trotter . . . until she got an email from Rockness. After learning more about the artist/missionary for the project, Waters Hinson understands why she has stayed so obscure:
Partly because she lived in Algeria for 40 years, until she died. A lot of her work did get smuggled back bit by bit to England by missionaries, so some of it’s preserved. But some of it was lost. The Algiers Mission Band of hers disbanded when things got politically tense in Algeria, and they pushed all the missionaries out. Even though she was a contemporary or an influence like Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael, she just didn’t gain the prominence of these other famous female missionaries. She had written books, but they didn’t catch on; she also came earlier.
While many Christians don’t know her name, many know a hymn inspired by Trotter’s writings: “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.” As referenced by Rockness, the prolific hymn writer Helen Howarth Lemmel—who was born in England but moved to the US at the age of 12—penned the song after reading the following passage from “Focussed,” a devotional pamphlet authored by Trotter:
Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him, and the Divine “attract” by which God’s saints are made, even in this 20th century, will lay hold of you. For “He is worthy” to have all there is to be had in the heart that He has died to win.
There are plenty of reasons for why Trotter should be famous, and there are reasons for why she has become relatively forgotten, as well. But Waters Hinson states what is probably most responsible for her lack of fame: It’s that “she was really content with full-blown obscurity.”
(The video below is of Pentatonic beatboxer, Kevin “K.O.” Olusola, playing “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” on the cello. Olusola was born in Kentucky to a father from Nigeria and a mother from Grenada. He starts out on this hymn playing a fairly straightforward melody, which is impressive in its own right, but at the 1:40 mark, he really starts to get it going.)
(Miriam Rockness, “About Lilias,” and “About Miriam” Lilias Trotter; Katelyn Beaty, “When God Calls You to Leave the Art World,” Christianity Today, March 9, 2016; Miriam Rockness, “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus,” Lilias Trotter, October 26, 2012)