Archives: Amy Ziettlow

Andrew Root on FamilyScholars Conversations

Amy Ziettlow 04.23.2013 4:22 PM

I had the pleasure of conversing with Andrew Root, Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, author of The Children of Divorce among many other books, and contributor to the Does the Shape of Faith Shape Families? project.  Click here to access the podcast through our FamilyScholars Conversations podcast channel on ITunes or click here to access our feed directly.  You can subscribe in either place and as always, click 5 stars!

Andy and I discuss the Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith? project, his theological work in general, Bonhoeffer’s laundry letters and even Back to the Future.  It’s a an adventure in philosophy, faith and pop culture.  Enjoy!

Consider Best Practice Instead of Stigma…

Amy Ziettlow 04.20.2013 10:22 AM

I watched and live-tweeted our recent Conversation with Professor Lawrence Mead, and like many of you, I really enjoyed it.  I have been mentally chewing on much that was shared including loosely following the discussion concerning society’s use of stigma here.  I too was interested to hear what Mead had to say on revitalizing the use of stigma to decrease the rate of unwed pregnancy since he first mentioned this strategy in our Family Scholars Valentine’s Day Symposium.

I tend to shy away from using the word “stigma” for many of the reasons that have arisen in the conversation here—I find that stigma slips into extreme shunning and shaming too easily.  My thoughts on the use of discipline to maximize the attainment of a perfect state began many years ago as I critiqued the ballet profession from which I came in its use of shunning and shaming for the sake of aesthetic perfection.  Public weekly weigh-ins, receiving production notes of critique publicly, and a profession where your body is both your asset and your liability that is hired and invested in, can lead both to thick-skinned individuals with a strong work ethic and to eating disorders, depression, and acid being thrown in your face as we saw earlier this year with the Bolshoi Ballet drama.  I asked and continue to ask, “Is there a better way?”  For art forms or sports that demand a relinquishing of self to the demands of a coach, does shunning and shaming always play a role?

My Mennonite colleagues helped me greatly in asking these questions (we’ve talked about the book Amish Grace and forgiveness here previously) from the perspective of a faith community.  And they helped me see that stigma historically, and I see shaming and shunning as one method we use to enforce stigma, has been important for groups who must maintain group identity when surrounded by groups with conflicting values that could infiltrate, contaminate, or jeopardize the “chosen” community.  So, for ballet, an art form that is passed down orally and visually through masters to students, maintaining the integrity of the exacting vocabulary of the art form becomes necessary.  Is shaming and shunning worth it?  Where do we draw the line?  I continue to ask these questions.  Because “being married” is not a “chosen community” whose character, lifestyle, religious beliefs, etc. need to be preserved, I wrestle with the use of stigma.

Instead of stigma, I think about the term “best practice” as a better concept to consider than stigma as a motivator for human behavior. (I first played with using this term in the conversation with me and Peter Steinfels) I learned of this term in hospice management and it’s of course a commonly used term in business practice as a way of talking about those companies or organizations that maximize return on investment (ROI) with close cost analysis of their assets and liabilities including market environment, people capital, and organization mission and values.  Now, our CFO would often roll his eyes at me when I would wax philosophical about these terms, but we can!  When we talk about the goods of marriage or the goods of well-paying jobs, etc., we are wrestling with ways of saying that individuals, family systems, and society as a whole is trying to define best practice for all—to find ways to maximize our personal and communal investment in people (financial, educational, medicinal, etc.) in ways that takes into consideration their current level of assets (character, mental ability, emotional maturity, drive, etc.) and liabilities (character, mental ability, emotional maturity, drive, etc.), their market environment (location matters!), their life personnel (family, spouse, ex-spouse, boy/girlfriends, friends…), and their general life mission and values.

Now, I realize that I am being my liberal self in thinking that we need to redefine terms, but I do wonder how the concept of best practice relates to how Mead is thinking of stigma’s role in motivating the attainment of a societal good.

The Conversation with David Blankenhorn TONIGHT

Amy Ziettlow 04.18.2013 12:56 PM

Join us tonight (live in Manhattan at the Center for Public Conversation or on-line!) when David Blankenhorn converses with Professor Lawrence M. Mead about “Is Marriage Gap Driving American Inequality?” By clicking here you can sign up to receive a reminder e-mail right before the event begins.  Also, tonight we will be live-tweeting the event–you can live-tweet your comments and questions too, using #IAVMead.  As usual we will include questions from the on-line audience at the end of the conversation!  Follow us on Twitter and stay up to date on the conversation!

You can read more from Professor Lawrence Mead from our recent Valentine’s Day Symposium!

Surnames in the Digital Age

Amy Ziettlow 04.15.2013 11:31 AM

So, many of you know that I am a bit of a nut when it comes to following current practices in changing or not changing surnames in marriage.  I stumbled upon this collection of commenter anecdotes from The Dish.  One reader notes that our choices in terms of surnames is actually changing and will most likely challenge the art of geneology for future generations.  Coupling this name practice with my working thoughts on life and death in the digital age (catch up on your Google Death Manager reading here and here...), I continue to be struck with the ways that we find to unmoor ourselves from history and tactile existence.  Liberation may often be called for (spoken as a feminist who chose not to change her surname in marriage) but the existential philosopher in me wonders, what is real?  The digital age conflates form and content in ever new and challenging ways.  Our e-mail, social media, digital pictures not only communicate and share our thoughts and memories but they also hold them, or do they?  What does inheriting the stew of thousands of mundane, secret, time-sensitve, and time-limited e-mails of a loved one really mean?  Can you box them up and stick them in the attic for future generations to pour through?  Or does our digital existence and singular names actually speak to the intrinsic illusory nature of mortals?  The concept of legacy shifts beneath us in this modern age.  Literally, how will you be remembered?

Should Tax Rates Penalize Marriage?

Amy Ziettlow 04.14.2013 8:55 PM

Interesting discussion at today’s “Room for Debate” concerning marriage and the tax code:

“Even with marriage in the news this spring, it’s easy to forget that it comes at a price: the “marriage penalty” hits many couples on tax day. Federal tax rates generally discourage dual-income couples from getting married, and encourage single-earner couples to marry.

Does this mixed message make sense? Is there a better approach?” Read More…

Hope for Caregivers

Amy Ziettlow 04.10.2013 2:32 PM

Okay, as a hopeful follow-up to yesterday’s more dire future-of-caregiving post, here are some good things happening in the world of caregiving and how you and those you love can access resources.

This first link chronicles three women who are re-defining caregiving.  I especially like number two, Jenn Chan, who started “The Senior Shower” project after she attended a baby shower.  What a great idea to raise awareness of those caregiving in our midst and to do something both helpful and fun.  I am going to pitch this idea to our church!

The second link will shepherd you through how to access the new AARP caregiving app on your phone.  From what I can tell, it looks easy to navigate.

Some hope!


The Natural Death Movement

Amy Ziettlow 04.10.2013 1:10 PM

Brandy L. Schillace offers a review of the 5th edition of The Natural Death Handbook.  I love how the book offers both practical, hands-on help but also thoughtful reading and reflection.  She notes that there is now an addition that addresses how to pursue a “natural burial,” a topic I’ve become increasingly interested in over the years.  My favorite line, though, is where she describes life as merely, “Death’s summer coat.”

“Cultural death practices-from Dia de los Muertos to sky burial to the veneration of remains and reliquary-evince a long-standing fascination with (and attempts to understand) the end of life. In our modern age, however, wherein death and disease are hidden away or sanitized by palliative care, discussions of mortality and mourning have become strangely taboo. In many ways, the natural death movement attempts to recapture this sense of death’s place in our lives and culture. The Natural Death Centre, the charity behind The Natural Death Handbook, exists to help re-open the dialogue about life’s end, offering a combination of practical advice, how-tos, go-tos, and reflections that inspire, comfort and challenge. At the heart of the movement is a commitment to death as a natural part of life. No longer conceived of as a terror, death is refigured as the winding down of life’s frantic clock — and dying as a means of coming to terms with our identities, our loved ones, ourselves. The second major contribution of this movement is the reconsideration of our death practices, particularly the harmful effects of certain preservation techniques on the earth itself, that patient womb to which we are returned.” Read more…

The “Ennead Awards.” How can you not LOVE the use of the word ennead?

Amy Ziettlow 04.10.2013 1:01 PM

John Culhane has offered some simultaneously insightful and witty analysis of SCOTUS at HuffPost.

“Well, folks, as we settle into the long lull between the arguments to the Supreme Court on Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act and the expected decision in late June, allow me to present the First-Ever Ennead Awards. There are — conveniently — nine categories, to wit:…” Read more…

Are Family Caregivers Invisible?

Amy Ziettlow 04.09.2013 12:23 PM

Sheri Snelling writes an insightful piece on the current face of elder caregiving in the work place:

“Here is what we know today: 7 out of 10 caregivers work full or part-time and represent more than 15 percent of our entire U.S. labor force. We also know over the coming years our society faces a longevity silver tsunami where we are all living longer and more baby boomers are holding onto their jobs, putting off retirement while simultaneously caring for aging parents and spouses. And it isn’t just a boomer issue — Pew Researchrecently reported 42 percent of the younger Gen Xers are Sandwich Generation caregivers than their baby boomer counterparts (33%). All this has created an evolution at work — one where workers are more concerned about elder care than child care.

A challenging aspect for working caregivers and their employers is that caring for an older parent or ill spouse is not a joyful event; you don’t come to work with smiles and stories like you would if you were pregnant or just became a grandparent for the first time. In addition, in an era where the economy remains on life support, many employees are concerned about identifying themselves as caregivers, fearful for their job security. A report by the National Alliance for caregiving found 50 percent of working caregivers are reluctant to tell their supervisor about their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, the Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s found 46 percent of female employees asked for time off for caregiving and could not get it forcing them to make a choice between elder care and employment.

There are two problems with this situation: 1) Caregiving employees are forced into the closet — mirroring the gay rights issues over the last few decades where lifestyle remained a secret out of fear of reprisal; 2) Employers who don’t hear or understand the personal lifestyle challenges facing their employees cannot be called upon to institute programs and work environments where these employees can get support to stay on the job, be productive and remain healthy, thus continuing to positively impact the company’s bottom line.” Read more…

She goes on to point out that the average elder caregiver is 50 years old, a population that will soon comprise one in four people in the workplace in the next seven years.  She also fails to mention that the sandwich generation, soon to be defined by 50-year-old Gen Xers will also be caring for an unprecedented number of divorced and/or remarried elders–thus TWO plus households to manage, TWO plus financial outlooks to tend, TWO plus people to shepherd through doctor’s visits etc.  Snelling points out that there are good awareness-raising initiatives happening but the prescriptive arm to that awareness is lagging.  It will be interesting to see who becomes the employers of choice in the age of long-term elder care.

“On Being” Episode with Blankenhorn and Rauch

Amy Ziettlow 04.05.2013 3:04 PM

Over the next week, NPR will be replaying the On Being conversation with David Blankhorn and Jonathan Rauch from last fall.  Krista Tippett hosts the show and explores their friendship and thoughts on marriage.  I had a chance to read through some of the reflections (AKA comments) at the site from last fall and there are many thoughtful and moving entries.

Thoughts on the Fullness of Humanity

Amy Ziettlow 04.02.2013 3:26 PM

Access to marriage=Access to human dignity

The above equation is one thought I hope to explore during tomorrow night’s conversation with David Blankenhorn and Peter Steinfels.  How might we build on this belief that access to marriage is synonymous with access to full humanity.  Or, the converse, if we explicitly or implicitly believe that someone should not have access to marriage are we also saying that they do not have access to the fullness of human dignity?  As someone who has supported the access of gays and lesbians to marriage for some time, I hope that we can be inspired by the relatively rapid shift in public opinion towards this civil rights issue and begin to think about other populations whom we explicitly or implicitly deny full access to marriage.  For example, the elderly.  I do not think that our current policies and practices of providing long term care nor our societal support and honor for family care-giving in general begins in a place that honors the marriages of older Americans, in part because many of our current policies treat the vulnerable old as a burden, as less than fully human.

Another population that comes to mind is the incarcerate and/or previously incarcerated.  John Maki, of the John Howard Association, Illinois’ only prison watchdog agency, writes an insightful piece today at HuffPost on the current debates in Illinois on the current and future state of prison healthcare in a time when the prison population is and will be defined by long term chronic care conditions of inmates considered elderly at 50 plus years of age.  He is looking at Illinois, but New Jersey and California have also been struggling with prison over-crowding and attempts at consolidation as well as trying to meet the specialized needs of an often mentally ill, aging, and generally infirm prison population.

“Apart from overseeing the care of its general population, IDOC also struggles to treat the growing number of inmates with special needs. For instance, over the past decade, Illinois’ elderly prison population grew by more than 300 percent, far outstripping increases in other age groups. While exact estimates vary and there is no Illinois-specific data, it is widely accepted that U.S. prisons and jails house more mentally ill people than psychiatric hospitals. Additionally, a 2010 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 65 percent of the U.S. prison population meets the DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, though only 11 percent receive treatment.

These special populations and the costs associated with their care stem from decades of choices made by elected officials with the support of the public. Decisions to lengthen sentences, mandate harsher punishments for drug-based offenses, and close public mental health institutions have filled IDOC with inmates who are drug addicted, mentally ill, and growing older. As a consequence, state prisons have become de facto hospitals, asylums, drug treatments facilities, and retirement homes…

IDOC’s health care system is not just an issue for the state’s prisons. Every year, about 30,000 inmates leave IDOC to return to their communities. If the prison system is not able to meet its health care obligations, cities, counties, and the general public will inevitably pay a higher price when inmates are released, with increased transmissions of infectious diseases, emergency room visits, and higher recidivism rates…” Read more…

Now, granted, unlike with gays and lesbians we do not have outright laws against the elderly or the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated accessing marriage.  However, I am inspired by the current movement towards marriage equality for gays and lesbians to think not only of how we explicitly discriminate against others but also how we implicitly and structurally create second-class citizens of our neighbors.

What Does Income Disparity Mean in 2013?

Amy Ziettlow 04.01.2013 5:44 PM

Professors Cahn and Carbone (contributors to What is Parenthood? Symposium and to the State of our Unions 2012 Symposium) offer an insightful mini-blog as part of today’s NYTimes Room for Debate on income disparity.

“…greater income inequality has also affected the family, and this, in turn, has implications for workforce participation. Marriage rates have been falling for almost everyone. The notable exception: highest income women. For women in the top five percent of income distribution, the percentage between the ages of 30 and 50 who are married has increased by over 10 percent. These “top” women — those who in the report show up as attending the most selective colleges — have a greater chance of high-earning men seeking to marry them. So they have both sufficient wealth and sufficient confidence in the stability of their relationships to cut back on labor market participation.

But where high-income women drop out, high-income men dive in, creating a participatory gap that ultimately affects the pay gap. The bigger picture in all of this is that economic inequality is creating more poverty in general, and working women will pay the price.” Read more

Getting Married is Important, but Staying Married is too!

Amy Ziettlow 03.27.2013 4:24 PM

Wedding Rings 2 by firemedic58

I have a new piece up at HuffPost today reflecting on how for clergy who have long supported same-sex marriage, there remains few resources or structural support for figuring out how to navigate your often conflicting ecclesial and state functions, let alone how best to serve the unique needs of lesbian and gay couples and families during this cultural sea change.  I draw on much of the helpful advice offered by John Culhane in our recent conversation at FamilyScholars Conversations, and hopefully get lots of folks to purchase The Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies!

“John shared how in his law classes he speaks of how marriage is a “covenant, a status, a contract, and so much more…” The name “marriage” is important and conveys the multi-faceted relationship that weaves together a private and public relationship in ways that no other word really does. I was reminded of how in the wedding ceremonies I’ve performed, after the couple makes vows to each other the community gathered makes promises to the couple to care for and support them in their marriage. A public sign that we are held in relationship by the collective promises we make that can only truly be made and kept with the help and support of God.

I was reminded of the wedding I conducted for Mike, a hospice patient, who was held in love by the promises of support offered to him and to his wife by his neighbors, family and hospice team members surrounding his hospital bed. Before leaving the home ceremony, those promises became practical plans of support involving bringing meals and creating a respite schedule for this wife and husband, who would live only a few more weeks.

Moving beyond the wedding ceremony, pastors routinely support couples and families during times of economic hardship, make visits to hospitals or homes in times of illness, and shepherd a family after a death. Understanding the difficulties faced by married gays and lesbians when completing such mundane tasks as filing a joint state tax return with DOMA in place definitely opened my eyes. In terms of pastoral care, clergy need to be sensitive to the unique advanced care planning needs involved for when one or both spouses in a same-sex couple becomes incapacitated or terminally ill. Learning about the complications entailed in estate planning for same-sex couples who cannot be married helped me, as a heterosexual pastor, better understand the resources I need at my fingertips in order to best counsel and support families of gays and lesbians, especially in highly anxious and emotional times like death.” Read more…

A Review of the What is Parenthood? Symposium

Amy Ziettlow 03.27.2013 10:46 AM

Dr. Gregory Popcak at Patheos offers a review of the What is Parenthood? Symposium using Professor Laura Rosenbury’s piece as a springboard to thinking about how to keep children the focus of our conversation about family. I link to his piece because my hunch is that he is far more reflective of the integrative model of parenthood than anyone who we featured in the symposium.  I’m not sure if Professor Rosenbury would agree with his interpretation of her piece, but it’s thought-provoking nonetheless.

“My own reaction to Prof. Rosenbury’s piece is…

YES! ABSOLUTELY!   The biggest issue I have with the “new” conversation on marriage is that I do not see anyone in the new conversation speaking for the children. In the rush to help adults get along with each other and see that adults “rights” (i.e., desires) are protected, no one is asking these essential questions that Rosenbury has presented. The fact that there isn’t a ready answer to Diane M’s (one of the commenter’s) question, “What does this mean, practically?” is just evidence of my point. How dare we make changes in the only institution intended to protect the rights of children (and this applies to divorce law as well as homosexual unions) without really giving children’s voices a major seat at the table.”  Read more…


New Podcast Interviews up at FamilyScholars Conversations

Amy Ziettlow 03.25.2013 1:17 PM

My recent interview with Melinda Lundquist Denton of Clemson University is now available at the FamilyScholars Podcast channel.  I will gladly admit that I am a bit of a youth ministry junkie and Professor Denton is one of my idols ( I find that I introduce her the same way I imagine our seven-year-old daughter introducing Harry or Nigel of One Direction (yes, I know all their names)–she is one of the core group of researchers conducting and now completing the National Study of Youth and Religion.  She contributed a paper to the Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith? report and is the co-author of Soul Searching (with Christian Smith) and A Faith of their Own (with Lisa Pearce).  In this interview she talks about the typology she developed with Pearce that helps better name levels of religious practice and religious salience.  (to read the typology go to page 54 of the Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith report)  I’ve used this typology with teenagers as they analyze their own levels of religious practice and belief as well as the practices and beliefs of their parents.  Fascinating stuff.  We also discuss her current research interests involving faith and family structure where she is following her idea, and the recent work of Andrew Cherlin, that transitions within family structure may be far more impactful than the family structure itself (for example, having two parents in the home who have changed players multiple times may be more stressful to a child than one consistent single parent…).

Thanks for listening!  Subscribe and write a review if you like it!

What is Parenthood FamilyScholars Symposium Begins Thursday March 21st

Amy Ziettlow 03.15.2013 10:36 AM

Next Thursday and Friday, we will be hosting our next FamilyScholars Symposium focused on the newly released book, What is Parenthood?   I’ve been editing submissions all week and if you think we’ve had fun with amicus curiae briefs so far, just wait!  We’ve only just begun!  I wanted to put an announcement up today so that if you’d like to read the book prior to weighing in you could add it your weekend “to-do” list.  I downloaded the e-book version fairly inexpensively, but you could also check your local library.

Looking forward to a great conversation!

Prodigal Stories, Forgiveness Stories

Amy Ziettlow 03.14.2013 4:51 PM

There once was a man with two sons….and they ALL lose…”

My sermon this last Sunday based on the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15 began on this note.  A story that shows what life looks like when we allow ourselves to defined by what we have lost.  It’s truly the story of all stories.  Where does a preacher even begin?  I consulted my friend, who is sharing preaching duties with me at this congregation, and I explained my temptation to preach one minute of each of the dozen sermons swimming in my brain.  She tactfully hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, they’ll be lost! And being lost is a theme but…”

To recap, the Prodigal (Lost) Son is a story of a father with two sons, the younger of whom requests his share of the inheritance long before its due, leaves home and loses all his money in dissolute living.  The older brother remains at home, earning his inheritance through daily work in the fields and by caring for his father as he ages, as is expected.  The father loses the story he might have told about his younger son, and even presumes he is dead.  The younger son eventually must lose the story he has told himself concerning what is of value in this world, including his pride.  And by the end, even the older brother is left contemplating what he must lose in order to remain in relationship with his family: will he lose the story of self-righteousness and fairness he has been telling?  Loss permeates every phrase.

I was tempted to share the insights from Marquardt’s Between Two Worlds data where adult children of divorce were asked to reflect on this story of loss.  They expanded our perspective of parental loss by sharing that they tend to relate to the father in the story and not the sons.  When children of divorce lose the story of living in one home and begin telling a story defined by moving between two worlds/two homes, they tell a story not of prodigal sons but of prodigal parents.  Like the father, they have spent much of their lives waiting, searching the horizon for the other parent who is lost at that moment.

My thoughts on loss continued as I listened to Krista Tippett’s recent On Being interview with Minnesota storyteller and poet, Kevin Kling.  He was born without the use of his left arm, withered, and in his forties he was in a motorcycle accident that left him without the use of his right arm.  He speaks most powerfully about the role that loss plays in life. He says:

“When you are born with loss you grow from it, and when you experience loss later in life, you must grow towards it.  After a loss, you are now a person you haven’t become yet and we use story to become the person we are.”

We may not all be born with distinguishable losses such as a withered arm, but our common mortal path, by definition, will include loss.  So, how do humans respond to loss?  He talks at length about the power of story to help us reframe and make sense of the losses we experience in life.  He shares that for him, storytelling is empowering:

“by telling a story, things don’t control me anymore, it’s in my vernacular, it’s how I see the world and I think that’s why our stories ask our questions, our big questions, like, where do we come from, before life and after life, what’s funny or what’s sacred, and even more importantly by the asking in front of people and with people, even if we don’t find the answers, by the asking, we know we’re not alone, and I have often found that that is even more important than the answering.”

He reflects on how loss can leave us defined by the word: disabled.  He wrestles with this word and reclaims it by defining disability not as un-ability, but as ability learned through shadow and reflection.  Through loss, all in the Prodigal Son become dis-abled and are faced with what they learn through shadow and reflection.  Some come to their senses, some learn to celebrate, and some remain faced with the eternal choice of finding a home in the world that lies before us.

These thoughts on loss reminded me of past conversations had here concerning forgiveness.  I recently read Dr. Fred Luskin’s Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness.  He is the Co-director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project (part two of the book addresses the different studies conducted and their outcomes) and right away in the Introduction he lays out how forgiveness always begins with a grievance.  He explains that a grievance arises when an undesirable occurrence happens to us and then we think and talk about it in a certain way.  He defines a grievance as:

1)      the exaggerated taking of personal offense

2)      the blaming of the offender for how you feel

3)      the creation of a grievance story

As I’m sure you can imagine, he then defines the steps in forgiveness to be the reverse: learn to take reasonable offense at what has happened, take responsibility for your feelings, and create a forgiveness story.  The rest of the book talks about the interventions he uses to help train people in forgiveness (guided meditation and breathing play a large part), but I was especially drawn to the storytelling aspect.  He shows how the story we tell can have powerful implications not only for how we feel emotionally, but for long term cardiac health and overall well-being.  In other words, if we always tell a story of loss, eventually we will be lost.

I closed my sermon with this beautiful story from Kevin Kling’s collection, The Dog Says How:

“When Pots and Pans Could Talk”

There once was a man with two pots.  In order to have water, he had to walk down the hill, fill the two pots, and walk them home.  One day, it was discovered that one of the pots developed a crack.  As time wore on, the crack widened.  Finally, the pot turned to the man, “Every day you take me down to the river, and by the time you get home half the water has leaked out.  Please replace me with a better pot.”

The man said, “You don’t understand, as you spill, you water the wildflowers by the side of the path.”  Sure enough, by the side of the path where the cracked pot was carried beautiful flowers grew while the other side was barren.

“I think I’ll keep you,” said the man.

In life, we are all losers, but through story new life can grow from loss.

Do you like me? Do I like you?

Amy Ziettlow 03.13.2013 12:12 PM

As I’ve pondered the new marriage conversation I tend to get stuck at these two questions.  I read Haidt’s The Righteous Mind and learned one reason that may be so.  The story I share about a neighbor borrowing an axe in this HuffPost piece reflecting on the Haidt interview with David Blankenhorn is one we often used in orientation with our hospice team.  We tried to emphasize that when you, as a team member, first visit a family, your likeability radar needs to be set on high because:

1) Not everyone will like you. (we have to practice not taking this truth personally!)

2) If you sense that a patient or family doesn’t like you, then the onus is on US to figure out if and how the situation can be remedied, which may entail a different team member being assigned.

The team members who survive learn quickly that likeability has little to do with personality and everything to do with presence.  The interventions for when you feel someone doesn’t like you are pretty simply, but also must be practiced.

1) Stop what you are doing.

2) Make eye contact and track the person in front of you with your eyes.

3) Take a deep breath and ask the person a personal question related to the direct environment. (such as, what lovely pictures you have on the wall, now, who are all these people?  Is this quilt homemade?  How did you meet you wife?)

Anyhow, I agree with Haidt.  I have changed my opinion and my behavior due to the influence of someone I like, but with whom I differ, more often than not.  Which is also why I blog–I am pleasantly surprised by the different people I meet who oddly enough I start to like and thus start to hear.



Why an American Girl Doll Made My Daughter So Sad

Amy Ziettlow 03.11.2013 11:17 AM

In case you missed my piece on divorce and American Girl dolls that was up at the Atlantic online in January, it has been reprinted at HuffPost Divorce.  I continue to be amused by how the titles are changed and especially at HuffPost I feel like stage directions are needed for reading the titles.  So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d highly recommend reading the title as such:

(head in hand, gaze down in the distance) Why an American Girl Doll Made My Daughter (snap to face camera, eyes wide) SO SAD! (end scene)

Interview with John Culhane now LIVE!

Amy Ziettlow 03.09.2013 4:44 PM

Last week, Professor John Culhane graciously agreed to entertain my questions and converse at length about DOMA, civil unions, tax law, and marriage as “contract, covenant, status and so much more!”  As the co-author of the Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies, as well as someone who has written extensively about DOMA, civil unions, and marriage equality in general, he was a Godsend!  We did get to several questions that were submitted concerning tax law and DOMA, and we even discuss the NFL.

I have a hunch that you will hear as I did that John is not only incredibly good at making complicated and often intimidating topics understandable but also is someone who lives his life such that you really want to hang around him and talk for hours.  We did and we still have more to discuss.  Don’t miss that the interview has a Part One and Part Two!

Listen, subscribe to the FamilyScholars Conversations podcast channel, and write a review–preferably kind!  And keep your questions coming since I think I may be able twist his arm for a follow-up!