Growing Hope

These are confusing times we are living in.  Things that are unprecedented going on all over while other things that are frighteningly precedented take place close to home and across the world.  Some days, I just want to sit with my book and dog and read and escape with the sounds of the littles playing in the background.

It’s hard to know what is right and wrong, you know?  Hard to know how to make things better…..how to wrong the rights…..how to help the hurting.  And it feels so overwhelming, wondering how the little things I do in my day to dailies could possibly make a difference.

Is it any wonder we are all so tired?

Yesterday for the second time in three months, I found myself sitting next to an elderly woman in her 80’s expressing her thoughts on the world, our country, the situations on her mind.  Different women, different circumstances, but both times I sat trying to find balance in the situation.  Would my firmly stating how much I disagree with her change the world for the better?  Should I speak loudly and strongly what I believe is right and wrong?  Would I make things better by trying to explain how she wasn’t seeing things in what I believed to be the right light, or would I only alienate her and make things worse?

I couldn’t be sure.

Both times, I said something like, “Well, it is hard.”

“People are hurting.”

“I am not sure that everyone sees it that way.”

“It’s hard to know what the right thing is, isn’t it?”

Because it is.  None of what I said was an untruth, but I didn’t come out and say, “I BELIEVE YOU ARE WRONG.”

I just couldn’t.  And both times, I left feeling bad–wondering if I’d let down those who are hurting.

The difference yesterday though was that my littles, Cooter who is now 10 1/2 and our Princess who is almost 13, were there and listening.

*sigh*

As we left and got in our vehicle, I answered questions that Cooter had about what had transpired.  He wanted to know all kinds of things, like what the woman had been referring to and why she believed what she did.  One part I could answer, the other I could only guess.  And I told him that.  Then we talked about how we all see things differently.

And then we moved on to other important subjects–like what was for lunch.  Cooter is very meal-focused these days.  Must be that whole growing boy thing.

Then this morning, Cooter brought his Grammar/Literature book to me.  Some days there are readings that he is asked to read aloud to me.  This morning he came with an urgent need to read it to me NOW.

“Mama,” he said.  “You have to hear this.  It made me think about that lady yesterday.”

And then he read from his text–

Japanese Culture: Part 2

by Jennifer D. Lerud

Family, honor, good manners, and outside appearances are very important to the Japanese people.  They have two forms of behavior: omote, which is the public, formal, and conventional behavior that governs how close they stand to each other and who shakes hands first, for example; and ura, which is their private, informal, “relaxing at home” form of behavior.  They believe it is proper to agree with anyone older than themselves–even if the person is wrong–in order to avoid humiliating or bringing dishonor on an elder person.  The Japanese people display people’s ages in newsletters at work, and school and work desks according to age, and even hand out cups of tea in order of age.  Social ranking and status are important things…..

(from The Good and the Beautiful, Level 4–Book 2 Course Book, p. 11)

“See, Mama? That’s what you did yesterday.”

Bless him.

I’m not writing this to debate about whether I should have stood up yesterday or three months ago and called these women out.  It didn’t happen, and I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow or next week or next year, should such a situation arise again, as it likely will.  I’m writing this because I’m trying to wrap my brain around a child who was paying attention, and a timely lesson that spoke to him, and the fact that he saw the connection and shared it with me.

Most days it’s all little things that are dots that I don’t connect into a big picture until much later–if ever.  It’s reminding Cooter umpteen times to rinse out his oatmeal bowl before it becomes glue in the bowl or listening to our Princess practicing “The Carol of the Bells” for her piano recital.  It’s making sure that swim suits and dance leotards are clean and dry, and that scripts and epi-pens are in hand as we head out the door.  It’s grocery shopping and meal planning and reminding little people to empty the dishwasher.  It’s talking on the phone with our law student and trying not to miss her too much, knowing she’s where she’s supposed to be.  Sometimes it’s even making time to read my new favorite book or watch the newest Hallmark movie.

And most of the time, these little things don’t connect…..

But today, they did.  Today I’m thankful for a perfectly timed (I’m looking at You) Literature passage that gave me grace…..for that same passage that spoke to a little fella and helped him understand the ways of the world a little more.

Mostly I’m thankful for this process of “raising children”–that label is so limiting and not at all what we are doing together, y’all.  Together, all of us, we are growing hope.  As these little people watch and listen and read and begin to understand and teach us through their eyes and with their hearts–we are raising the ones who will carry our stories, our love, our light, and pass it along to the next generation.

And today, that is everything to me.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Be Careful Whom You Let Join Your World

Y’all.  One word.

Minecraft.

It just might be the bane of my existence.  Yes, I know I thought that was socks, but socks at least give me somewhat of a reprieve in the summer.

Minecraft is ALWAYS around.

And when it’s not being played, it’s being talked about, or books are being read that pertain to it, or we’re asking to watch videos about what others have built with it.

It’s as pervasive as kudzu in the south.  Maybe more so.  And that’s saying something.

For those of you who don’t know what it is…..can I come live with you?

Okay, just kidding, but no really.

Minecraft is a game you can play on any number of electronic devices where you build things.  You can build whole worlds of places and things and whatnot.  You can play creative or survival mode, but I’m warning you, have the tissues ready if your little person plays survival.  Cooter may or may not have cried on more than one occasion when he lost his life in survival mode and had to start. ALL. OVER. AGAIN.

Creative it is then.

You can also join up worlds with people close by when you are on wi-fi which lets you connect to the internet.  Cooter and his sister like to play a lot together, and they play with Shaker when they are with him.  There has been a lot of making up of the rules as we go along with this whole “joining” deal.  “Don’t tear down someone else’s house. That’s not kind.”  “Did you steal her diamond pickaxe? Give it back.”  “If someone took something from that chest over there, they’d better put it back or I’m shutting down the whole game.”

Fun stuff, y’all, I’m telling you.

They really enjoy playing it though, and for the most part, it offers them opportunities to be creative and to learn about working together.

Both of which I’m completely good with.

Recently though they were with some children who were acquaintances.  They’d had problems with interactions with them before (you know, just getting to know each other), but this time they all had devices and they were all playing Minecraft, and they joined worlds, yippee, awesome, until it so was NOT.

Yep.  Houses got destroyed.  Worlds were collapsing.

Because apparently some folks think that’s fun to do, and they don’t have the same “joining” rules that we do.

When Cooter and our Princess came to me later on, complaining about all that had been lost, I pretty much shrugged and gave them the ol’ “nothing I can do about it” stare.  Actually it might have been more the “I don’t want to hear it” stare, but they are so similar, it’s hard to tell.

The thing is, and what I asked them was, Why would you let someone in your world who has already shown themselves to be hurtful and destructive?

Ahem.  Yes.

And yes, I did point out to them that this was more of a universal lesson not solely belonging to the arena of Minecraft.  So we talked about that too.

I love my children.  I love it when they share with me.  They tell me about their silly, wild, wacky, scary, funny dreams.  They share about a book they are reading.  They talk about what they want to be when they grow up.  Or how long they think it will take them to build a robot.  How old they have to be before they can watch “Jurassic Park” or how many more days until the new Star Wars movie comes out.  I love every bit of it.

But #truestory, when they start talking about Minecraft, I zone out.

I realize that doesn’t exactly make me Mother of the Year, but it’s all about surviving a lot of days around here, so I get creative and multi-task and let my mind wander when they talk about that game.

It’s a game, y’all.

But just as in the game, we shouldn’t be letting folks who are not kind or respectful or compassionate into our world.  They can be destructive and when they take their device home and go back to their own world, we’re the ones left with a mess.  A world to rebuild and the sadness of all that is gone.

And that’s not okay.

Stand up for your world, y’all.  Don’t let those kind of folks “join” your world.

Wishing you a day of building up and all the diamond pickaxes* and iron ore your heart desires.

Love to all.

minecraft__140227211000

*just kidding, I don’t know if that’s really a thing.  Because, you know, I don’t really listen.

What’s Cute Now…..

My new friend, a fellow swim team mom, was excited to share with me that they got a puppy during our two-week break from practices.  A little yellow lab.  She talked about how much she is enjoying him, and how surprised she was to discover that the first few weeks it is similar to having a newborn in the house–the ups and downs at night, the worrying over what could be wrong, the “baby proofing” of the house…..but so much fun.  The smile on her face and the light in her eyes said it all.

Totally worth it.

Her uncle has trained some puppies and has given her advice.  She also talked with a local dog trainer.

“After all, he is going to be a big dog, so I want to start things off right.”  I nodded.  I totally understand that.

Then she told me about the wisdom the dog trainer gave her.  “Well, you know, I was asking is there anything I can do now, before we start formal training.  He told me, ‘Don’t let this ten pound puppy do anything you don’t want the 80 pound dog doing later.'”

Wow.  She was awestruck by that message as well.
I mean, it’s simple, really, isn’t it?

And yet–

I think that’s good advice for any of us raising any kind of critters–puppies, kittens, children.  Don’t let that puppy/toddler start off doing anything you don’t want that big dog/teenager doing later on.

It might be cute now, but…..

yeah.  That right there.

Our tomorrow selves will thank us later.  I promise.

Love to all.

"I got it!" Back when our own dog was a puppy.

“I got it!” Back when our own dog was a puppy.

The World Is Breaking Her Heart

Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

                                 Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

Today on this, Women’s Equality Day, the 95th anniversary of when women were given the right to vote in 1920, the following conversation happened.

I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, and the littles were riding their bikes up and down the street.  Our Princess came over on her bike and stopped where I stood with Miss Sophie, allowing her to do all the sniffs and whatnots.

“Mama, how come some people will say, when someone is screaming, ‘You scream like a girl!’ I mean, why is it an insult to do something like us?  I don’t get it.”

Oh my heart.  The tone in her voice.  She really doesn’t understand.  Just like she didn’t understand when she read about the Ku Klux Klan the other day.  It is breaking her heart, this broken world of ours.  At age almost 11, she is struggling with all that does not fit in her world of happiness, fairies, dolls, and really great books.  After all, I think she’s still sort of waiting on her letter from Hogwart’s.

And it hit me the irony that on this day, 95 years after women were given “equal” rights, I’m having to explain why doing something like a woman–running, hitting, throwing, screaming–is considered a BAD thing.

I told her the truth as I know it.  People don’t understand what is different.  They sometimes feel threatened so they use put-downs and insults and other hurtful things to keep those who are different away.

And I don’t know.  Basically, in the end, I told her we could guess and try to figure it out, but bottom line–I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.  She continued, talking about the line drawn between the boys and the girls on the street and how her brother likes to put her down because she’s a girl.

“Do you think you can talk to him?”

We talked about it, about how her Daddy sees women as his equals, and how her brother was probably just trying to show off in front of his buddies.

“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to get that folder that said ‘Girls Rule, Boys Drool’ today.”

Ummmm, no.  Just no.

Sigh.

I explained to her why THAT wasn’t cool either, really.  If we want to be equal, we need to respect the other gender the way we want to be respected.

We have come a long way in 95 years in many respects.  But the fact that a child 95 years later has heard the same put-downs and insults that have been heard for years–that we haven’t already put a stop to such as this–really hurts my heart.  That my daughter is struggling with this now and still, all these many years later, breaks it.

Tonight I’m hopeful that when we have the centennial celebration of women’s right to vote, we will be standing side by side–men and women, girls and boys–with respect and admiration for each other.  The only way for that to happen is to start now–teaching our boys and girls, daughters and sons, a language and regard filled with respect for the other person.  Comments like “You scream like a little girl” might seem funny at first glance, but really they are hurting the souls of our children–the future of our world.

May we all one day sleep the sleep that comes with peace and respect and harmony. I wish, as I tuck my two in, that it were tonight.

Love to all.

It’s Not Okay

IMG_7164

 

I was talking with some folks a *bit* younger than me about the blog, and one of them said, “You should write about how it’s not okay for guys to push females around or be forceful with them.”

Ummmm.  Okay?

I listened to the stories, and I know that she knows it is not okay.  I know she can take care of herself.  And for that I am thankful.

But I’m sad that this is something she thinks needs to be written about.  Very sad.

I’m no expert on the subject of dating violence.  However, I think we might be doing the whole world a disservice by calling it dating violence, because I highly suspect it doesn’t start off as violence.  I think it can start off as disrespect.

And that’s not okay either.

Let me say that again.

Disrespecting another person, whether you are dating or not, is not okay.

But disrespect is where it begins.  An unkind word, a put down, a demand on your time or resources that is just that–a demand.  Getting frustrated when you want to spend time with other people.  Getting frustrated when your world revolves around anything but them.

But no, the violence hasn’t started, so it’s hard to feel like it’s not right.  Because the demands and frustration and disrespect are usually followed by a reminder of why you started dating the person to begin with.

They’re funny, charming, kind, handsome, gorgeous, silly, goofy, smart, dark and brooding–whatever.  You second guess yourself.  You start thinking that maybe they’re right–you should want to spend more time with them.  You shouldn’t be so serious about your education or your career or YOUR dreams and goals.  After all, it’s sweet they want more of your time–that means they love you, right?

Wrong.

Anyone who loves you LOVES you.  Supports you.

Not only is disrespect not intended, it doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, because the violence often does not happen at the beginning of the relationship, it is easy for young people (and older ones too) to rationalize about the disrespect and continue with the relationship.

Because “at least he/she doesn’t hit me.”

NO.  Just no.

We have to raise our daughters and sons to know what disrespect looks like and that this is not acceptable or okay in any kind of healthy relationship, friendships included.  And we have to empower them to have healthy relationships.  We need to hear whatever story they bring to us, and let them know it’s okay–we love them no matter what.  And then we have to help them define disrespect and set boundaries.  And to let go of the bad stuff and the bad relationships, no matter how long they’ve been with someone or how long they’ve been friends, no matter how nice it was in the beginning, no matter how many promises the other person has made.

No means no.

Disrespect is the gateway to violence.

I really believe that.

I’m not sure what my young friend wanted me to say.  Sweet girl, I hope this does what you asked me to do.  I see you there, being so strong, and letting the guy know what is not okay.  And I am thankful you are able to do that.  But know this, any guy–any person–who isn’t in awe of you and all about celebrating all that is you–just keep on walking.  Because you are better than that.  You deserve someone you can respect to the end of your days and who will spend every breath supporting you and your dreams.

It’s a bumpy ride, and there will be disagreements.  Misunderstandings.  Hurt feelings.  Many times.

But there should never, ever be disrespect.

Be particular, as my Granny used to say.  And be cautious.  If they can’t respect you, they don’t get to be with you.  Dating, friendship, whatever.

And that’s pretty much it.

May you find the one you are meant to be with, but in the meantime, may you grow to be your own biggest advocate and dream big.  The one who will appreciate walking that path with you will come.

Love and respect to all.

We Are All One

So I saw this video today…..

Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins Ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina, shared it and his thoughts along with it.  You can read what he wrote here.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot today.

I get what this young man is trying to do.  I respect that he has a problem with how A&F feels and what they are doing.  Being outside their desired demographic (I have never been nor will I ever be one of the “cool kids,” and we won’t even talk about their sizing), I don’t like what they are trying to do either.  I really cannot fathom burning clothes.  Especially ones that don’t have rips or broken zippers.  Ahem.  (I mean, I have a Repurposing board on Pinterest, for goodness’ sake–we just don’t throw clothes away.)

I have only been in one of their stores once.  It was dark, and the music was way too loud, and we were stared down as we walked through.  We were there to exchange a gift that was the wrong size.  I left there with a headache and a general lack of being impressed at all.  I won’t ever go back in there.  I don’t need that kind of stress again.

Here’s the deal.  I don’t know why their clothes are “The Thing.”  I don’t get it.  Just like I don’t get why other brands of jeans without the comfort waistband or the ones that ride so low that when I bend over that I could get arrested are considered hip.  But whatever.  It’s his company, he can do as he pleases, as can I.  I vote with my dollar.  I can refuse to give him any of my money.  Which I do.  For many reasons, not the least of which is that his merchandise is way over-priced and they have had questionable labor practices.  (Do NOT get me started on fair trade issues tonight.)

So I guess I get that this young man is protesting.  He is asking us to vote with our actions.  I don’t think he meant any harm.  I just think he picked the wrong action.  Did you notice in the video that the people he is handing the clothes to are not sure of what is going on?  They seem hesitant?  I wonder if he got permission to share their faces all across the internet.  Because here’s the important thing to remember–

They are people.  Just like me.  And you.  There is no us and them.  We are all one.

If someone videoed me and showed it all over the place without checking with me first, I’d be really ticked off.  It feels like he is using them as props in his video and that really makes me sad.

In the past three years, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with folks, some of whom I call family, who have found themselves homeless at one point or another.  The reasons why vary as much as they themselves.  It is not a situation anyone chooses for him/herself.   And usually it’s not something that happens overnight.  But there it is.  And they have to live with it.  No, wait.  We all have to live with it.

I have learned a lot during these three years.  I have learned, among other things, that handing out “stuff” creates a have/have not relationship–and that’s not a healthy basis for any relationship.  I’m ashamed to say I know this from experience.

The director of the program we volunteer with has taught me a lot, and the stories I’ve heard would curl your hair.  There is one sweet lady who wanders around downtown with a shopping cart loaded down with full suitcases and other items.  One day when I was leaving the hospital from seeing Mama, the lady was trying to cross the street.  She started to push her cart ahead of her and then realized the light had changed.  She tried to stop it, but the cart was so heavy it pulled her into the street a few feet.  The last thing she needs is an A&F sweater to add to her load.   There was another lady who had a chance to stay in a shelter.  She was offered a ride there, but she insisted that she had to go back to the park and get her bags of stuff first.  She wouldn’t hear of anything else.  In doing so, she lost her spot at the shelter.  And the “stuff?”  Turns out much of it was baby or children’s clothing–and she has no children.  For quite a few of our friends in these circumstances, it is difficult for them to let go of things.

I guess some of what troubles me about the video is the nonchalance in his handing out the clothes…..there is no assessing need.  I mean, the man with the guitar on his back?  Did he really seem like he was going to hang on to it beyond the next corner?  It just hit me.  What hurts the most here is that there is NO RELATIONSHIP.  He is walking around handing out A&F clothes to people willy-nilly.  In trying to make a point to the A&F CEO, he’s making a point to the people he’s walking among.  If YOU wear this, it will really upset them.  Because you are not cool, you are not important, you are not good enough–not even good enough for me to do more than pull something out of my stack here and hand over whatever my hand touches to the next person I come across.

It’s based on his message, not the needs of those he’s “reaching out” to.

Ouch.

I heard the story about someone driving through the park tossing sandwiches out of their car at the folks sitting scattered through the park.  People, this breaks my heart.  We are called to feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, clothe those who are in need.  These are active verbs.  As in action.  As in, engaging the other person and assessing.  Are they hungry?  Thirsty?  In need?  THE ONLY WAY to know this is to know the person.  Talk to them.  Build a relationship.  If we just hand out STUFF, we are only meeting one person’s need–our own.

I don’t mean to suggest that donating food and clothes to missions is wrong.  Not at all.  Missions have game plans and procedures for assessing needs and distributing accordingly.  Most of them do this well.  What I am saying is that when we come across people who are different, people without homes, from different faiths, from different cultures, with different beliefs–we need to see that we are one.  All differences aside–One people.  If even one is suffering, we are all suffering.  If one is objectified, we all are.  If one is downtrodden…..well, you get my point.  It’s simply not an us-them.

pic of liberation quote

So if the information shared in the video and the policies of A&F trouble you, think about it.  Consider how your voice can be heard.   And then Act.  That’s important.  But consider, before you act, whom your actions are affecting.   For in the end, we are all one, and what we do to one of us, we are doing to all of us.  And if even one of us is hurt by it…..it’s just not worth it.

The One in Which I share that I’m Not Happy

pic of i'm not happy

Okay folks. I’m not happy. In fact, I’m pretty much mad. (Warning–It’s been another napless day.  I’m likely to offend someone.  You have been warned.)

In the past few weeks, I have had conversations with friends and family that have broken my heart. It seems that people who have all read the same book are using quotes from it to make the people I love feel vulnerable, uncertain, afraid, upset, judged, and hurt. ENOUGH.

It is especially ironic and very sad that this book is supposed to be the epitome of GOOD. In fact, it is often called The Good Book.

It seems that some people who are well-versed, and some who maybe aren’t, are using verses from the Good Book to let others know the path they are on is doomed. Or that the questions they are asking will lead to a fate worse than death. Or what they believe or think is WRONG WRONG WRONG.

What are we doing? Why are we using the words from this Book to hurt others? That’s not going to make them want to read it more. Or to follow the One who wrote it at all. It’s just my opinion, but it seems that some folks are quoting chapter and verse to prove whatever point they want to make and forgetting about two important ones.

First there’s the one that tells how to love others.  Pretty much He said to love others as He loved us.  And since His love is referred to as perfect love, I’m thinking we (myself included) are falling short.  (John 13:34)

Then there’s the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The Shepherd has 100 sheep, but when he counts to be sure, he comes up with 99. He doesn’t say, “Oh well, it’s okay, no one else will count them, so we’ll be short a little yarn this year, it’s all good.” No. He loads up and goes after that ONE. One is enough for Him to love and to go after. There is no story we cannot bring Home with us.  And when He finds the sheep, the Shepherd brings it home and parties. Abundant joy, people, that’s good stuff. (Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7)

Here’s the thing.  I’m not trying to evangelize here.  Probably just the opposite.  I love this quote from Saint Francis of Assissi:

pic saint francis quote

Or there’s the old saying I used to hear the old folks around saying: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

I’m not trying to make light of people and what they believe.   I respect your right to believe what you believe.  But I am begging you, please do NOT, no matter how well intended, share what you believe in such a manner that you are negating all others and what they might think.  Let’s face it, life and all that is in it, is pretty much a mystery.  I  joke about looking forward to an Everything You Always Wanted To Know 101 class when I leave this earth.  But for now, I just have to accept that some things are not going to make sense.  Not easy, but I can’t honestly say I have all the answers.  Or that I get everything I read.

I have a friend who was going through a really hard time.  He happened to be homeless at the time.  I met up with him one day, and it was obvious he was intoxicated.  I think he expected a lecture, but whatever, this isn’t my first rodeo with an alcoholic and I figured out a long time ago, a lecture was not going to make it better.  So we visited about other things.  After a quiet moment he asked, “So are you one of them…..Christians?”  I was actually speechless, because I could hear the defensiveness and anger in his voice.  He was ready to disregard how much I cared about him because if I were a Christian, I would HAVE to care about him and it wouldn’t be about his worth as a person.  Maybe he thought then it would be about trying to save him.  I sat for a minute and then I replied, “Well I really like Jesus…..and I try to do what He said…..”  All of the hot air went out of my friend, and we have built from that moment a precious relationship.  I don’t walk in his shoes, so I can’t judge his disease.  But I can love him through it.  That’s about all I can do, but he says it’s enough.

I am tired of hearing about people being hurt by people who are supposed to know better.  We don’t know what others are going through.  When someone talks about how wrong divorce is, and about the tragedy of broken families, he or she should consider that there might have been abuse, and maybe that child is really, truly, and finally WHOLE.  Using verses from the Good Book to condemn the way someone is living is risky business, and if the Parable of the Lost Sheep (told twice) is to be believed, and IF that person is in trouble, from what I’m reading, the Shepherd’s going after that one.  All is not lost. And ultimately I’m not the judge of their right or wrong anyway. When someone hears a friend talking about how fragile their faith is in that moment, he or she is not helping the friend by saying it’s wrong to question, and that the only thing you need to know is Jesus died for our sins.  We have no idea what life events brought that person to the point of asking questions.  I can share from personal experience that when life’s turmoils have taken over, and I’ve asked questions and gnashed teeth, I came out on the other side with a faith that is stronger–even though I still don’t have all the answers.

Tonight I am thankful for the folks who have walked alongside me on my spiritual journey, no matter if we believed the same or not.  I give thanks for my Mama and Daddy who loved people from all walks of life and empowered us to do the same.  For my daughter who is strong in her beliefs and challenges me to figure out where I stand, I give special thanks.  I’m thankful for phone calls from friends asking great questions and the sharing that follows.  And I’m especially grateful for a question from someone who was drunk, the question that made me think about who I am and why I do what I do.  Yeah, I’m still trying to figure all that out.