Tag Archive: the beautiful val


My lovely wife Val was of course the hostess for Friday's dinner and deep dive into Race, Boundary and Location conversation that i wrote about over here, and she shares some of her thoughts from the evening:

booklaunchvovotelohotwoman
The idea is simple: gather good people around good food and good discussion and see what happens. So we did. We turned off technology and tuned in to people. It was messy and it was chaotic, it was painful and it was personal and it was powerful. It was raw and it was redemptive. Some of us ate spaghetti with a spoon cos we ran out of cutlery. We sat on the floor and on stools and really close to each other – three people thigh to thigh on a chair made for two. We talked and told stories, argued and challenged, wrestled and sat in silence – the good kind and the uncomfortable kind. We left with heads and hearts aching, but full.

Here’s some of what I learnt:

1. White privilege is less about access to “stuff” and more about access to choices or, in Sen’s theorizing, capabilities – the real opportunities of being and doing available to attain well-being. Here’s an example: consider a priest who is fasting and a man in a famine-stricken country who is starving. The key element in determining a person’s well-being here is not whether both are experiencing hunger, but whether the person has access to food and is choosing not to eat. The functioning is starving but the capability to obtain an adequate amount of food is the key element in evaluating well-being between these two individuals. Having a lifestyle is not the same as choosing it; well-being depends on how that lifestyle came to be.

Here’s another example. Consider a bike as a commodity which enables the functioning of mobility. Personal, social and environmental conversion factors impact an individual’s ability to convert the commodity (the bike) into functioning (getting from A to B).  If a person is physically disabled, never learnt to ride a bike, if women are not allowed to ride bikes, or if there are no roads, then a person’s capacity to convert the potential of the bike into movement is limited. It’s not enough to give someone a bike if they don’t have the ability, the capacity, the enabling conditions to ride it in a way that moves them forward (or if they don’t have access to a pump, if they cannot take the bike out without being physically threatened by a mugging, etc)

2. In a post-industrial/post-agricultural world, we believe that we too are living in the Information Age, where the primary means of production is Knowledge and the accumulation of knowledge (i.e. education) is the means by which individuals access livelihood, opportunity, resource, jobs etc. I simply don’t believe this is true in South Africa. I wonder if perhaps we are actually in the Age of Connection. Knowledge might be power, but it’s less about what you know and more about who you know. The primary means of production might be Social Capital – the contacts and connections which enable us to network, navigate and negotiate the economic landscape. Perhaps education is the capability, but the functioning is all about social capital – it’s the people we know, the professional contacts, the personal networks that enable us to actualize opportunity. White privilege is at its core all about social capital.

3. While I can sympathize with the pain and anger of black friends, I don’t think I can actually empathize. I can show compassion for, seek to understand, commiserate with, experience anger on behalf of but I can never really experience “from within another’s frame of reference”. As one of our guests so rightly pointed out “We do not and cannot experience EQUAL frustration. You had a choice.”

4. I need to shut up more. Perhaps one of our greatest failings as white people in South Africa is our inability to sit in silence. When we listen to the voices of our black brothers/sisters expressing pain, anger, frustration, or simply sharing their experience, we want to immediately question, clarify, push-back, argue, dissect, debate, wrestle, show the other side, point out the discrepancies or inconsistencies, locate within the “larger picture”, propose solutions, and find “action steps”. We don’t know how to sit – just SIT – with a rage that fills a room, sucks all the air from it, and leaves our friends shaking. We have ears but do not hear, and eyes but do not see.

5. Reconciliation is not the path towards Justice but rather Justice is the path towards Reconciliation. Until and unless Justice has been enacted we can not experience right relationship. (Thanks, Nkosi!)

[To read more reflections from the other guests, click here]

[For more from tbV, like this piece explaining her tattoo, click here]
Advertisements

Every now and then i will post a status on Facebook or the Twitterer that starts with the words ‘Sometimes love looks like…’

Which will then go on to mention something [large or small] that my wife, tbV [the beautiful Val, yes folks the ‘b’ does not stand for ‘lovely’!] has done for me as a way of celebrating her more publicly.

The latest one looked a little something like this:

Sometimes love is walking into your bedroom two hours before you go watch the new Avengers movie with your wife and friend and finding a Hulk and Black Widow suit layed out on the bed ready to go…

Because largely of this:

HulkAndBlackWidow

Black Widow and the Hulk

The best part of it for me was that she thought it up spontaneously on the day at work and then went to find a place she could hire marvel suits from. And when i walked into our bedroom two hours before the film, both costumes were laid out on the bed without a word being said.

We don’t typically dress up as Marvel superheroes and go out in public. But this ended up being a hugely fun night with our buddy Regan and we made a whole lot of peoples’ days at Blue Route Mall [and in the car on the way there] including the two [grown-up] people who asked to have their photo taken with me [possibly not so much the Kauai lady who refused to come out of the back initially].

A couple of points from this:

# We need stories – fun, crazy, inspirational, risky, weird, touching – every now and then just step out of the ordinary and create a story that you can hold on to for the rest of your lives – one that you do with someone you really love or even a group of people as it becomes your story…

# Take time to celebrate the people in your life. No-one wants to hear gushy ‘my wife is the best wife in the world’ statements all over your social media every day, but just every now and then highlight a person you care about – your person, a good friend, family member – with a public one liner every now and then you can really make someone’s day. Or moment. Or hour.

# People are always watching [especially if your face is pastelled green and you are wearing a Hulk suit] – that argument you are having on someone else’s wall on Facebook, that blog comment you are pouring your heart into, that piece of paper you are casually tossing out of your car window, the way you look at and speak to the beggar lying in the street… there is almost always an audience and you will often not know who they are – which is why we are called to live well because we are constantly mentoring or discipling people by our attitudes, our words, and our actions, even though we didn’t particularly choose to.

Often i will be engaging with someone on Facebook or in the comments section of my blog and it seems obvious to everyone that this person’s mind is not going to change and people are urging me to stop engaging because it’s a waste of time. And largely i agree. But my response is always that my engagement is not primarily about them – there are always more people watching and not commenting who will hopefully [on a good day] see my attitude and way of dealing with the person or else be taking in the words of the argument and be chewing on those – it is seldom about the actual person in a situation where you can see they are not likely to change – so i still give them the opportunity to change, but more often than not it’s because i know people are watching. This might be something helpful to them.

# And lastly there is that well-known saying – ‘Always be yourself, unless you can be the Hulk, and then be the Hulk.’ 

What story are you going to be a part of this week? And who are you going to celebrate out loud?

if you stopped reading after the ‘b’ this becomes a completely different post… so don’t.

the beautiful Val, in case you didn’t know, and yes only i get to call her that and really mean it in the way i do. [you can of course refer to her as ‘tbV’ th0ugh, and i love it when other people do, but it has also been fun to me through the years how so many of you have mistakenly changed it to ‘the lovely Val’ – which is also true]

we are on the way to having being married for 5 years and in that time we have transitioned three times [if you leave out the time Val left family, friends, home, church to some degree to move out to Stellenbosch when we got married – a huge ask!] from Stellenbosch to Philadelphia to Oakland [if you exclude lengthy stays at Che Houston in Kenilworth] which may not seem a lot [especially when you compare it to how many times her parentals moved in their first 20 plus years of marriage] it has been a whole lot for us. ‘

New place to stay, new country, new friends, new church, new food, no mayonnaise [to speak of] and so on.

So it has not all been easy and has definitely put strain on us as a couple of intense, seize-life-by-the-throat-of-its-balls, passionate people. But it has been an adventure and there is much more of that to come. Especially as we know that another transition looms ahead [with Americaland specifically asking us to be out by early August] and are not too sure of the specifics thereof. Or therein. Or therein of? Something.

And there have been so many, and i don’t have pictures of them all [which to some extent i am completely stoked about – some adventures we capture, some we just live] but i just wanted to take a moment to celebrate my beautiful lady. i love being married to you Val and these pictures are just a glimpse of some of the memories we have put together…um together… and looking ahead to many more.

i love and celebrate you, tbV:

 

As i have said before and will no doubt say again, being married to the right person is one of the greatest things in the world [and discovering more and more that you become the right people as you continue in your commitment of marriage to each other] and because i have such a heart for those in marriage doing it well, i have created a lot of space on my blog to focus on doing just that and so lots of amazing marriage resources, compiled by a whole big bunch of amazing people, are waiting for you over here.

responsibilityOne of the evolutions I would like to see happen in my life in 2014 is a move towards taking greater responsibility for my actions (or at times, lack thereof).

Charles Finney once said, ‘It seems to be a law of human nature that when a person is accused of wrong, either by the conscience of any other agent, he must either confess or justify.’

We have become masters of justification, right? One of the biggest conflict causers in the first year of my marriage to the beautiful Val (tbV) was games. We love playing games, but we are both fairly competitive, and so often the end of a game would translate to one of us, or both perhaps, being in a bit of a mood (like a tsunami is ‘a bit of a wave’, you know). I would generally be in a great mood if I won, because I like winning games. But often Val would be in a bad mood if she won. And it was always my fault. Because I used to be a very bad loser.

And it was not usually overtly bad violent angry throwing-my-toys losing. No, it was much more subtle than that, and really not intended maliciously from me. From my perspective, i like to understand why I lost – if it was a strategy thing, I want to be able to figure out why it went wrong, so I play differently the next time. So it generally came from the place of me trying to analyze my game and figure things out. But to Valerie, the message was very clearly ‘Well, you couldn’t have won because you played better, it must have been luck or a bad move on my part of something I don’t understand yet.’ And so my response to losing – to justify instead of confess – took everything away from her winning. In essence I was robbing my wife of everything I liked to experience when I win a game. Not cool, Mister Fish! (and 10000 apologies, lovely wife!)

That is such a great illustration for how so many people do life, don’t you think?

Politicians… Sports stars… Movie producers after a box office bomb… Young children… me?

But not you, right? Of is some of this starting to ring some alarm bells?

When something goes wrong, the tendency is to explain it away, to cover over the seriousness of it, to justify and make excuses as to why it was not our fault.

i imagine that often it might be a combination of factors, and so perhaps a great question to start with might be, ‘What responsibility do I have in this situation?’ of perhaps, ‘How much of this do I need to own or own up to?’ Starting at that place instead perhaps ending up there after working through all the possible excuses, may be a great place to start in terms of growing character and even seeing more success happen. Because those questions, if asked honestly, can really result in much growth.

Well, for me, as I think about 2014 just being a few days away, this is something I want to be working on. And sticking it on here is the biggest form of accountability I could think of… take a month of two and all me how it’s going (and let’s hope I don’t justify!)

Starting in my game playing seems to be a more easy-to-track area… but then in my marriage, and in my friendships, and in the workplace and youth ministry, I need to learn towards confessing being my go-to place. Asking the hard questions honestly, keeping an eye on procrastination and distraction tendencies and having people check in on me.

That feels like a great and healthy evolution to see taking place in my life in 2014.

What is one thing you are going to be working on?

excuses[To head back to the start of this series, click here]

 

changeA little bit of a catchup on how tbV [the beautiful Val] and my work is going at Common Change

Things are going pretty well – we have moved from a space of setting things up and getting them ready to having them ready and seeing people start to slowly come on board and so it is an exciting time but also feels a bit like a time of pregnancy [no, we’re not!] in terms of something has happened but the main event still feels a little bit in the future.

I have moved from doing a lot of bug fixes and testing on the new site to a space of marketing and sharing the vision of Common Change and seeing people take steps to sign up. We had a really successful online webinar a few weeks ago and most of the people who were part of that have started or continued a journey with us at Common Change. That is a great way to get started and have some of your questions answered and we will be doing two more on Tuesday the 6th of August so if you are interested then check out the event and sign up.

Val does a bunch of stuff involving policy and procedure but is also largely involved with moving people from being interested parties to joining Common Change and becoming part of functioning groups [when a group is fully active and functioning it gets passed on to me to keep an eye on and walk alongside] and there are a bunch of groups at the moment that are close to full on launching stage and so that can be really exciting although hugely-patience-enducing too as we just want to see them jump and get going. She does a really excellent job at managing that side of things and staying in touch with people. She has also recently jumped into the finances side of things as well so learning and contributing much there.

So the online phone call is one way to get involved. But we have recently added another which is a great way for people who are excited about it but maybe have not got a group of people around them who are interested or at the point of jumping-in’ness yet and are really wanting to get moving. We have started a group called CONNECT [with a monthly contribution of $25 asked for] and one called MOVE [monthly contribution of $50 required] as a 6 month commitment for anyone who is wanting to try this Common Change thing out and see how it works and get started with it. The hope is that as you take part you will have some stories to share your friends or colleagues and that after the 6 month participation you may have found the people in your life to be able to start your own group with. So a great way to get ones feet wet with a fairly low input.

Another part of Common Change that we are excited about is the Two Cents blog we have going which looks at aggregating [collecting] and also creating articles and other media looking at the intersection of where FAITH and FINANCES [or economy] meet up [with a healthy side order of JUSTICE] and so we have three to five articles added there every week and are inviting people to get involved in the conversations and discussions that emerge as people engage with what is going on around the world. We would LOVE for you to stop by there and add your two cents. Bookmark it and visit it regularly or simply subscribe to the blog to stay in touch with what life-transforming conversations are being had.

At the moment Common Change is set up [from the money perspective largely] specifically for American groups but we have had a lot of interest from countries as varied as Costa Rica, South Africa and Holland and so people are wanting to get going with this and we are definitely investigating ways in which people from other countries can more easily become involved.

So ja, exciting but looking forward to to when the groups that are processing take the final leap and start presenting and meeting needs and we will have more stories to celebrate together.

For those of you who may not be familiar with how Common Change works, in a nutshell it is about connecting resources to people in need through already established relationships. The idea is for a group of people to commit to contributing a certain amount of their finances each month into a common pool. At any point anyone in the group can then share a need of someone that they know [a person they are in one degree of separation of relationship with] and the group will share wisdom and ideas on how best to meet the need long-term and then vote to approve the need. The question we generally hold on to is not whether or not we will meet the need but how will we meet it. This is based on the early church in Acts method of everyone sharing their resources and no-one being in need and feels like a really healthy way of helping us to be intentional in stewarding that which we have well.

For more information check out the website at commonchange.net, jump aboard one of the phone conversations on Tuesday 6 August or check out our blog at twocents.co.

‘It takes a big man to cry. It takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.’ [Jack Handey]

Wo. In the light of all the focus I have had on racism and this whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case the last few days, it was really unfair of my beautiful wife Valerie to send me this clip while I was sitting in Starbucks on my day off. It had me crying on the inside from about half way through and then the last line from the older girl just took me down completely…

[To see the other thoughts I’ve been having and sharing on recent events, here is the encouraging/challenging story of a South African white family]

[A summing up of some of my feelings and links to some of the best articles/thoughts linked to the trial the last few days]

[Some thoughts I had been having before this all blew up and some questions on how best to respond]

 

is an oxymoron!

And for those of you struggling with the English language I am neither calling my wife an ‘ox’ nor a ‘moron’ and in fact the ‘oxymoron’ part should be informing you that i am not calling her ‘lazy’ either.

What she is, is [the less offensive word for ‘bloody’] amazing.

All this happened today. Firstly she sanded and painted and put together this amazing bench that she got for FREE off Craigslist [we like to think of Craig as this uber generous person we know with a list of things he is just waiting to give us] and then she rose to the challenge of our ‘one new dish per month’ meals and created this masterpiece, starting with a recipe as a ‘rough guide’ and then tbV’ing it up a notch til it reached quite close to perfection. Best meal we’ve had in a LONG time.

So uber proud of my lovely lady and excited to see what she does next…

%d bloggers like this: