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Even in manners. Just one more thing from The Rituals of Dinner

“In many cultures, two people do not feel they can talk in a friendly way with each other unless they have first eaten together … A corresponding attitude is that which makes it impossible for a desert Arab who has once eaten salt with a man ever to treat him thereafter as an enemy. It is as though reconciliation must never be needed,  because it has taken place already; enmity has been overcome in advance.”


I’ve been known to pick up an eclectic assortment of library books.

ritualsExhibit A:
The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners by Margaret Visser

What I’ve learned:
“The Latin word for a hearth or fireplace is focus. [Sorry for not learning that in 10th grade, Mrs. Sullivan.] … The French word for  a household is a foyer, literally, a ‘hearth.'”

“[In many cultures, both ancient and modern,] if a woman decides to stop cooking for her man, or if he refuses to be fed by her or insists on cooking for himself, the breakdown is an outward signal of a serious failure in their relationship … In Assam, south of Tibet, if a family member is furious enough to refrain from eating with the household for a whole twenty-four hours, the dissension is extremely grave. If he then decides to cook separately, he is taking an irreversible step; it must be followed by his building a new house and by a splitting up of lands and property. This is a terrible rite of rejection called ‘the throwing away of the cooking pots.'”

“In some African societies … [the husband’s] avoiding the food in any particular wife’s dish is a deep insult, ritually suggesting that he suspects her of trying to poison him.”

I thought I’d spend a few weeks on C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, but alas … I have devoured the first book, The Magician’s Nephew, in only twenty-four hours.magiciansnephew

Favorite bit so far:

“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge [the Horse].
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”

Passing through Barnes & Noble (the grown-up equivalent of the toy store) a couple of weeks ago yielded four purchases from the $1 table. What a steal! Came away with some good stuff:

  • Eating My Words by Mimi Sheraton. Sheraton was a food critic for the New York Times and writes about food, travel, and writing. Three things I love–how could it not be good?
  • God’s Politics by Jim Wallis. How this got on the $1 table is beyond me. Great book I’ve been meaning to buy for years.
  • Talking Back … to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels by journalist Andrea Mitchell. Who knew she was married to Alan Greenspan? Shocking.
  • An illustrated coffee-table version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Lovely addition to my Christmas decor.

Googling this phrase will bring up all sorts of interesting advice, but I love whaheartt the Deadly Viper guys posted today from Steve Harvey‘s new book.

When a man loves you, he will profess, provide, and protect.

He’ll do a lot of other things, too, but this is a terrific start.

Thanks for loving me, Mike Nelson.

  • Abigail Adams was one feisty girl. She once had a long exchange of letters with then President Thomas Jefferson in which she read (wrote?) him the riot act in defense of her husband, who had an on-again-off-again friendship with Jefferson.
  • The handle of one of my old saucepans now gets extremely hotmoon-jupiter-venus when in use.
  • When the moon is waxing in the US, it’s waning in the southern hemisphere. Thus, when Jupiter, Venus, and the moon aligned to make a frowny face in the US, it made a smiley face in Australia.
  • Gas may soon return to $1 per gallon. Heck yeah.
  • The reason our eyes get dry when we work on the computer or watch TV for a long time (especially if you wear contacts) is because we blink half as much in a minute when we’re doing those things as we do normally – about 7.5 times per minute as opposed to 15 times per minute.

Lately, I’ve been especially cognizant of the words I use, both in speaking and writing. We’ve had a few conversations around the Catalyst office about not using the same words all the time. One person used to say “crazy” a lot, and when it was brought to her attention, she began intentionally using other descriptors for hectic, exciting, confusing, and bizzare situations.

My unnatural affinity for grammar led me to this podcast, and a recent episode focused on overusing “so” and “very.” How often do you say that you’re “very happy” when there are words like delighted, thrilled, ecstatic, and elated at your disposal? How often do you describe things as “awesome”? Start trying to exhibit some variety in your descriptors – remarkable, tremendous, splendid, breathtaking, and magnificent are all terrific adjectives that will make your writing (and your speech) much more engaging.

Reading can strengthen your bank of word options. I find that my word choice is significantly more precise after I read a Bill Bryson book because his choice of phrasing is perfect every time. Also, don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus in your writing. As long as every word you write doesn’t have four syllables, no one will notice. This one is only $4.50.

This is from a post I made on the Catalyst blog, but I kind of liked it so I’m using it here, too. Sorry to the one guy who might read them both.

Leadership is about, well, leading. You read this blog and listen to these speakers and read these books because you’re a leader, and other people are following you so it’s important that you form yourself into a shining example for them.

One temptation of leadership is to be out in front, ahead of the curve, anticipating what’s coming next and preparing yourself and your people for it. In the upcoming GroupZine, Margaret Feinberg writes in defense of following. She describes a jogging experience with some college friends: “As soon as our sneakers touched the track, one of my friends went zipping off. A long-distance runner at heart, I took a much slower, steady approach. I was lapped within the first few minutes. Like an undesirable birthday spanking, the lapping didn’t seem to have an end.”

After struggling through the run, Margaret was reminded of the echo of Jesus’ words to Peter: You follow me.

Maybe you’re out in front. Maybe you’re fighting with all your energy not to be lapped by someone. Maybe you’re watching other ministries or organizations take off at ramming speed, thinking your pace might not be good enough to keep up with them.

But maybe God is calling out that same command to you. You follow me. Maybe what God really wants from you is a slower pace, one in which you watch and learn from Him, allowing Him to be your guide rather than the men and women around you. You follow me.

In keeping with Marriage Week here on the blog, this Friday List comes with both bullet-point-fun and grow-your-marriage-fun. A win-win-win!

The best book Mike and I read during our pre-marital counseling was His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr. It’s practical, honest, and was just what we needed to know before we started living together on a full-time, permanent, next-80-years kind of basis.

His needs:

  • Sex. It’s just true. He needs sex.
  • Recreational Companionship. Somebody to have fun with, go places with, live an adventure with.
  • An attractive spouse. Not necessarily a Greek goddess, but a wife who takes care of herself, fixes her hair, wears clothes that flatter her.
  • Domestic support. He’s not designed to keep the house running.
  • Admiration. Respect. Something his wife gives whether he has “earned” it or not.

Her needs:

  • Affection. Hold her hand, hug her, kiss her.
  • Conversation. Not all the time, not every night at 11:30 when he just wants to go to sleep, but regular, engaging, intentional conversation.
  • Honesty and Openness. She needs to trust him fully.
  • Financial Support. Just like he’s not designed to keep the house running, she’s not designed to bear the weight of keeping the family secure financially.
  • Family Commitment. She needs him to be a devoted husband and father.

“His” needs and “her” needs are not absolute – in fact, my top five included many of the traditional male needs, and both of us listed Honesty and Openness as our #1 need. Your #1 need may not be listed here. But what is it that, when he does that or when she does that, makes you feel loved more than anything in the world?

Mike and I love to spend an hour or so on Saturday or Sunday at our public library. Our local library isn’t part of the larger library system of Georgia, which has its pros and cons, but it’s a terrific library and well-stocked. Sometimes as we leave, Mike asks me if I’m writing a report. On everything. Well I might.

Here’s what I left with yesterday: