Behind Closed Doors

It was overcast and rainy today.  So we stayed in like you do.  With even a couple of times venturing outside, things still got a little wacky today.  Folks were grumpy.  I might have overreacted to spilled water.  The dog barked way too much at the cat outside and anytime someone made a sudden move.  Folks couldn’t get along about what movie to watch or game to play and they couldn’t work together to get chores done.  Or respond to requests for action the first three times they were asked.  They We all got cranky.

Not our best day.

I blame it on being stir crazy.

That’s a thing, right?  When I worked in childcare, and we had days or weeks of inclement weather, we talked about the children (and others *ahem*) being stir crazy.  One summer when the temperature reached so high it was too hot for us to play outside, I remember Mama sending us outside in the dark after our baths to run around in our nightgowns just to burn some energy off.  Now I know that was as much for her as it was for us.

Last night I wrote about a man who was so thankful that because of his job he could afford to turn on the cable, so his children could stay indoors and be safe.  He lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe for them to be outside.  I cannot imagine what that life is like, y’all.

Today, in the middle of all of our crankiness, I sat with that for a bit.  If these children are staying inside as much as possible to protect them from violence and being susceptible to drugs and gang activity and worse, other bad things can happen.  Things that aren’t as immediately harmful, but the long-term effects could be devastating.

These children are more susceptible to obesity because they can’t get out and run around.  Sitting inside is necessary for survival, but their little feet need to run free as do their spirits.   When I think about the joy it brings me watching Cooter’s hair flying behind him as he rides his bike up and down the street, I grieve for these parents and children who cannot experience that.   For the ones in school, I cannot imagine that the limited amount of time spent in PE could completely satisfy their need to run around.  Limited physical activity combined with limited budget for purchasing healthy foods can contribute to even more health problems.  Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts as well, with few choices for shopping for foods other than snacks or highly processed foods.

My front porch is a “laboratory.”  Many of the children on our street come and pick leaves and grass and flower blossoms and concoct all sorts of things.  Later they might be running around with pool noodles, using them for goodness only knows, and running around between yards, laughing and chasing and teasing and hiding, and doing all the wonderful things their imaginations come up with.  (They also have disagreements, which they have to resolve among themselves for the most part, and that is really good for them too.)

This little neighborhood is where my children are learning about community.  About sharing each other’s ups and downs and sitting with each other when they are hurting…..physically and emotionally.  I am not saying that these children who are inside all day aren’t learning about community, but I worry about what they are learning about it.  I hope there is a community center or somewhere they can get out and learn that people really do care and that there is joy to be found in caring about others and sharing the journey.

Because, if today is any indication, what happens behind closed doors can escalate fast.  I cannot imagine what it is like for these parents who are working multiple jobs, fighting to pay bills and stay afloat, worrying over keeping their littles–and their teens–safe and in school.  I can only imagine the pressure they must feel.  Perhaps they are fighting monsters of their own.  And then they are stuck in this place with few choices, where their community is not safe.

Without community to support them or options to explore, things can turn for the worse.  People who feel that they have no options or anyone to turn to–I get how frustrating and devastating that can be.  All of that has to go somewhere.  All too often it goes to substance abuse or abuse to others.

I’m not saying these families are doomed.  What I am saying is that I am starting to realize how far-reaching the impact of growing up in unsafe neighborhoods can be.  It can affect everything from nutrition and health to social skills to self-esteem, focus, and the ability to dream about the future.  Imaginations can suffer, as can relationships.  Parents who are struggling and have no support can succumb to the darkness.  The youth without anywhere to go might look for any way out–even the one they know is not the wisest choice.  Many might find themselves in situations outside the law–our Youth Detention Centers and prisons are filled with people who made poor choices in desperate situations.  My own friend grew up in a home without many choices, which contributed to his addiction problems as he tried to numb the pain.  He has been in and out of jails and rehab facilities.  All because at one point as a young person, he felt he was out of choices.

I am broken because tonight, as I wrote this, I was waiting to hear about the appeals that were in the U.S. Supreme Court to save the life of Joshua Bishop by giving him a stay of execution.  He was abused and neglected as a child, and when he was barely a legal adult, he and an older man murdered a friend with whom they’d been drinking and doing drugs.  The older man was sentenced to life in prison.  This young man was given the death sentence.  He is reformed and has been a good role model for others while in prison.  The families of the victims have asked that his sentence be commuted.  Seven out of the twelve jurors who sentenced him to death have asked for the sentence to be changed to life in prison.  Yet the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has said no, as did the Georgia Supreme Court.  And then, so did SCOTUS.  And so, tonight at 9:27 p.m. he was executed.

It’s all so broken.  I want to scream and yell–WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I am left to wonder, as I ask for Grace and Mercy, what part his community or lack thereof played in all of this?

Tonight I’m holding all of this in my heart, and I ask what we–because it will take all of us as a COMMUNITY–can do to change things for these families, for these neighborhoods?  What are we missing out on because one of these children–and there are so many of them–didn’t reach his or her full potential because of the broken community they were raised in?   Because their community was unable to circle close around and provide guidance and safety and encouragement and rules and advice and resources and options…..

all the things I was raised with but took for granted every single day.

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Y’all we need to grab these children and families up and wrap them in a big hug and then ask them how we can help them change their world as best as we are able in whatever way looks best for them. Because here’s the deal–their world is our world and our world is theirs.  There’s no us and them–it’s all we and us.  In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer:  “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

I’ll meet y’all outside.  Let’s make it safe for all, so no one has to be afraid behind a locked door.  And miss out when the good things come knocking at that door.

Love to all.

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You can read more about Joshua Bishop’s case here.

This video is a powerful one, a message from a local Superior Court judge to young people.  YES.  I am thankful for her words and the fact that she cares.

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/macon/watch-bibb-county-judge-lays-in-on-wayward-teens/112000603

 

 

 

 

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When Cable is a Necessity

I happened upon a Steve Harvey video on YouTube that was more serious than most I’d seen of his.  (Yes, watching those have become a sanity-feeding thing.  I don’t question it if it works.) I watched it, and the title said it all–“You Can’t Watch This Without Getting Emotional.”

Absolutely right.  I got emotional.

And I stood corrected.

Over the years I’ve worked with people from many different socioeconomic statuses.  I’ve heard all kinds of opinions expressed and judgments made.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve made some myself over the years, and while I try to keep them to myself, I’m still guilty.  And I’m sorry for that.

Over the years I’ve heard folks who have enough judge folks who maybe don’t for the choices they make in how they spend their money.  Interesting that having enough keeps folks from doing that about you, but when you don’t, suddenly it’s everyone’s business how you spend the little you have.

In this video, the Dad, who had recently finished his prison term and was trying to turn his life around, talked about having a job, and how now he could afford to turn the cable on.  Now he and his children could sit together and watch TV so they’d stay inside, instead of wanting to play outside.  Outside, where their lives could be at risk.

See, this man and his family live in a rough neighborhood, and they can’t afford to get out.

So they watch TV together.  As a family.  And they stay inside, trying to be safe.

Y’all.

All these years, I’ve told my children that watching TV is a privilege, and I dole it out sparingly.  I’ll send them outside in a heartbeat.  “Y’all put that down and go outside.  Now!”  I’ve said that more times than I care to count.

After watching this video, I’m humbled.  I’m humbled about all the times I’ve wondered about people’s choices and what their priorities are.  I HAVE NO IDEA what life is like for folks who live in fear of their children being outside.  None at all.

All these years, I thought satellite TV or cable was a huge privilege, since we grew up without it (or a color TV, but that’s another story).  Turns out, that for far too many families in our very own country, in our very own communities, the thing I grew up taking for granted, the thing my children get to do almost any time they want, is a HUGE privilege.  Something almost unattainable.

So cable becomes a necessity of sorts.

Oh my stars, how have we let our world get to this point?

Tonight my heart is heavy and filled with awe and thanks.  There but for the Grace…..go I.

And with that heaviness comes the realization that I can’t sit back and let this be okay.

Our children shouldn’t have to sit inside and be captives in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods.

And make no mistake, these are OUR children.  They will grow up to be in community with the ones we are raising in our own homes, and they will need to work together to fix so many messes.  Isn’t it up to us to give them a leg up by starting to do what we can now?

I have no answers.  But if you do, please share.

Thanks for thinking on this with me.  In the meantime, please join me in holding these families and neighborhoods where violence is the norm in your heart and in the Light.

Love to all.

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This is the video I watched on YouTube.

The To and Fro, Then and Now

Some time around the middle of the day, I was exhausted for any number of reasons I could choose from, so I stretched out for a few minutes with Miss Sophie supervising.  She’s really good at that.  The Fella was home, and the littles were working on their lessons, so I had a few minutes to close my eyes.

It was one of those weird, not quite deep, slumbers where I’m aware but also resting.  Hard to explain.  I was dreaming of sorts, I think, when I felt myself being pulled back up to the surface.

In that moment, this thought crossed my mind as the image of our backyard swing came into focus in my head.

It hardly makes sense, does it, as to why change is so hard for one who loved the back and forth and up and down of sitting in a swing?  How is it that so much is terrifying and worrisome when going higher than ever before used to bring such thrills?  Why is a leap into the unknown so frightful at times, when leaping from a moving swing filled all around with laughter and cries for “Again! Again!”?

Turns out my life is so much like being on a swing.  So what is the difference from then when I loved it so much to now?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that on that swing I was controlling the “how high” and most of the time I could stop the swing when I wanted to and come back to stillness–to the balance found exactly in the middle of front and back, to and fro, forwards and backwards.

Balance.

If y’all need me, I’ll be in the backyard.  Looking for some of that.

Love to all.

Tire_swing
By Luke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mama Said

there’d be days like this.  There’d be days like this, my Mama said.  (Thank you, Shirelles and others.)

Days where there are way more questions than answers.

And those questions lead to more questions.

But wait!  That’s not all…..

sit and think about this particular something, and then there are all the questions cropping up from a totally different situation in addition to what is already churning through your mind.

And it just goes downhill from there.

Today hasn’t been an awful one, not by any means.  Days that bring beautiful people across my path and ones that have me savoring the leftover memories from past days…..those can be actually quite lovely.

But the unexpected things that can crop up…..and expected, dreaded ones as well.  Those are what can turn one’s sanity all topsy turvy and toss it around like a tennis ball in the dryer.

All over the place.

It in the midst of those that I feel the most lost.  I’m the one some folks are looking to for guidance now, bless ’em.  Like my 11 year old who came in with so much anxiety, I suspect it could have been a panic attack.

It is enough to fling me straight into one right along with her.

I don’t know exactly when the shift happened.  Maybe it was when my parents were no longer here or years before when I became a parent for the first time myself.  All I know is, it can get really awkward when folks are looking to me, and I turn around looking for the one who really knows what is going on.

I don’t have the answers to all the questions.  I don’t even have any good advice to offer on the days when all the questions keep roaring through, refusing to allow for rest or peace or comfort.  All I know is, some days it’s okay to simply survive.  It’s okay to make do, to do what it takes to get by, and to take the grace offered in sleep and waking up to a new day.

I guess that’s why I’ve clicked like on every single one of the memes that proclaim that resurrection can be an everyday experience.  Yes.  That.  I need to believe in that.  That each and every day, hour if need be, we can rise from the death and doubt and find new life.

Every single time.

Some days are just like that.  And those are the ones when resurrection matters the most.

The courage, the love, the faith, the determination, and the good people around us–and we rise up and try again.  One more time.

Love to all.

12801574_10153859762690342_8727484881024476929_n
via LoveWinsMinistries.org  Go check them out.  They are doing amazing things and showing the beauty that can come from practicing resurrection.  

 

 

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday
another page torn off the calendar and tucked away
to use for scratch paper
when I need to jot something down

not much has changed since yesterday
except now I can wear the white shoes
that I haven’t owned for about five or six years

(and what is that about–I used to
welcome spring by buying a new pair of
white sneakers every year while
the old ones were relegated to lawn
mowing duty)

and yet, today was a resurrection day
one of culling the old and worn
and the way things used to be
and allowing for new things to happen

one of laughter and
conversations about the best way to
cook a hot dog–turns out everyone
has their own opinion
and some folks *ahem* are quite
serious
about this

the sound of laughter all through the house
like a bell on the cat’s collar,
letting us know where the children are
at any given moment,
apparently mattress surfing is
pretty awesome
and time with your friends makes this
the “best Easter ever”

on days of resurrection and finding
joy in the most unlikely of places
things like chairs and socks can be sources of great
entertainment
and stories of goats
and why no one wants to take cake home
can have folks literally laughing out loud
and nearly rolling on the floor while doing it

and so as another season has come to pass,
and we can breathe a little easier
(figuratively only, because pollen)
with the focus and intensity of Lent behind us,
I write this all down so I can remember

this is what it felt like in the beginning
and a year from now
when we look back and see how far we’ve come
I hope it won’t be too far from this picture
we painted today

colorful and vibrant
unique and brilliant
like newly dyed Easter eggs

as we carry the soul of where it first began
with us
alongside the folks who have the oil to light our lamps
when we are running low

as together we travel
on unbroken ground

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Turns Out She Knows Best

Where has the time gone?

Not even joking, y’all.  My oldest called me the other day, and she’s about to register for classes for next year.

Her SENIOR year.  Of college.

WHAT ON EARTH?  How did this happen?

I mean, I know, time passes, but I very clearly recall every single emotion I felt the day we moved her into her first dorm room on campus almost three years ago.  It has been a roller coaster ride for sure, but like those rides, it will be over before we’ve even caught our breath good.

Aub is planning on going to law school after graduation.  She has a plan, and she’s making it happen.  Make no mistake, she is the one taking care of all of the things she needs to do and doing them.  She got her internship which turned into a great job.  She read and decided what it will take to be accepted into law school.  She studied for and did well on the LSAT.  She has a notification set on her phone to remind her when to turn in her application to the school of her choice.  She’s even looked at places to live while in law school.

I blinked, y’all.  This is what I get for doing THAT.

When she called me the other day, she discussed that she is going to drop her second major and make it a minor.  The classes she needs aren’t all being offered when she can take them, and she would have to double up and take a lot of hours to make it happen.

As I’ve mentioned before a time or ten, change is not my friend.  So this change made me a little nervous, and I talked with her about all the ways that maybe she could still keep the double major.

I mean, I had to, right?  It’s my job as her parent to tell her what I think is best.

And later that night, after everyone else was asleep, it hit me like a hammer upside the head, that NO.  That is not my job.

It is not my job to tell Aub what the right thing to do is.  It is my job to teach her how to decide the right thing for her.  And then let her do it.

And I recalled her words, “If I drop the second one to a minor, I can continue working, and the work experience will be more valuable in the end than a double major, I think.”

She thinks.

She reads.  She studies.  She researches all the options.

And she thinks some more.

Wow.

All on her own.

And the one thing I’ve watched and been amazed to see is that when she sets her mind or heart on something, I can sit back and watch it happen.  Because it will.  When she believes in something, she will do what it takes to make it happen.

She’s a doer and a go-getter, and she is driven when it matters to her.

Like this.

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege to be a part of her journey and to see all the amazing things she is already doing in this world.  I am thankful for her strength and drive and passion and heart.  When her heart is set, look out world.  Most of all, I give thanks for this amazing person who is teaching me how to do my job.  By letting her do her life.

May we all be so fortunate as to know what we want and go after it.

Love and best wishes to all.

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My girl, her first month of college. In a few short months, she’ll be a senior. She’s got this. And it’s my job to let her. 

 

 

Grocery Carts, Granola Bars, and Gratitude

Yesterday as the littles and I were pushing our overloaded buggy out of the grocery store with two of us carrying additional bags that wouldn’t fit, I saw him.

The young guy.  With two bottles of water and a snazzy brand of high protein granola bars or some such.  He was in the self checkout lane.

For just a second I zoned out.

(partially because it took great effort on ALL of our parts to get our cart moving with purpose in the right direction and we had made the mistake of stopping to readjust our load)

I wondered if he’d ever find himself one day apologizing to the cashier every. single. time. he approached the checkout conveyor belt with his full cart.  I wondered if he’d feel guilty putting someone through ringing up ALL THE THINGS he had taken so long to painstakingly find, only to get up there, remember three things he’s forgotten, and decide it’s just not worth going back for.  I wondered if he’d watch closely to make sure his littles weren’t reading the trashy headlines on all those magazines on display.  (There’s just some questions you don’t want to answer quite yet. If ever.)

I wondered if exhaustion would ever overtake him to the point that he’d drive straight up to the drive thru window at the place on the other side of the grocery store parking lot, with a van full of FOOD, to order supper because the trip through the store with the littles was more than enough work for one day.  And it all still had to be unloaded at home.  And put away.

I wondered if he’d ever map out how to place all those bags of food in his vehicle, so the freezer stuff could be put away quickly but the other things not so much, as in maybe a couple of bags stay on the floor in the kitchen for a day or two, just because.

I watched him ringing up his few items, and I wondered if he’d ever use a self checkout again, later in his life, except for maybe when he is picking up items for his wife who asked him to pick up some personal things on the way home.  Or when his children beg him to let them “do it,” causing the supervising cashier to have to come over and clear things out or fix the system a total of four times during the transaction.

I thought about where he might be headed, and I wondered how long those bars would last him.  I knew the average on my cart–this not even being a full-fledged stock up trip–and I’d be back before him I was pretty sure.

For just a moment, I wanted to walk out the door with what he had and let him push this stubborn cart across those bumpy things right outside the door taking care not to fling anything off the top or bottom of the buggy.  I wanted to leave without my arms full of food, keys, wallet, receipt, and just go.

Granola bars and all.

And then I realized that if my hands were empty, my heart would be too.  As my littles helped me unload the buggy, first clearing the floor of the vehicle of all their STUFF THAT THEY ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE ANYTIME WE LEAVE THE HOUSE to make room, and then stacking bread here, chips there, frozen stuff at the front so it could be unloaded first…..I looked at them and all the food and assorted things it takes to take good care of them, and I was humbled and near about knocked to my knees with gratitude.  I am sure that young fella has a good life.  I hope he was headed somewhere to do something good that would bring him joy.  But my life?  I’m lucky.  I have children who put up with my wackiness as much as I put up with theirs.  We’re able to afford providing food and shelter for them, and we enjoy little extras too.  We tend to get along well with each other, except when someone touches someone or goes in their room WITHOUT permission.  (Also spying on each other when playing with friends is frowned upon.)  But other than that, we’re a pretty decent bunch, and I’m quite fond of all, individually and collectively.

Some of my favorite sounds are when my oldest walks through the door, home from college, and Miss Sophie’s tail starts wagging and our Princess’ and Cooter’s tales start wagging and all the laughter and games and music and impromptu dancing ensue.

I wouldn’t miss that for all the quick self-checkouts and snazzy granola bars in the world.

This is my season for full buggies that are hard to push, hour long grocery store trips, and bags of groceries on the kitchen floor.

And for now, that’s a beautiful thing.

Love to all.

Healthy_snacks_in_cart
By Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons