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Aug 18, 2016

Letting Go

Today I dropped off my third and first graders for their first day back to school. 

I asked if they wanted me to walk them to the front doors of the school, like nearly every other parent was doing, but they said no.  Which made me proud.  And a little sad.  But they have each other, feel safe together, and that's freaking awesome.  We try hard to foster and strengthen their relationship, and it's gratifying (and ok, a little heart wrenching) to see them leaning on each other instead of always on us.

So I watched as they excitedly skipped up to the front doors of the building together.  Then I drove down the road a bit, pulled over and cried.  Just a little, but it happened. Whatever. 
Letting go of them them a little bit at a time is so damn hard and rewarding...and hard.  

Jun 20, 2016

How the Cavs Confirm the Goodness of Mankind

I was going to write another post about how damaging fear is.

How, if we feed into it, it can permeate every single aspect of our lives and turn rational caring people into hate-filled fools.  How, if we give it credence, it will invariably control our thoughts and our actions and dance us around on its strings like a puppet master, bending us to its will.

I was going to write about how overcoming fear requires courage that we sometimes just can't muster. But that the freedom and openness and peace that come from defeating our fears is unparalleled.  Life affirming.  Merciful.  And worth the battle scars.

That's what I was going to write about.

Then the Cavs won last night and I'm all amped up about it!

And that turns my mind from pondering the inner recesses of man's propensity toward darkness and destruction to, instead, reflecting on the goodness of man.  

It's easy to fall in line with the naysayers who preach that people are innately bad and the world is a den of insanity and depravity.  (Depending on what day you ask me, I might agree with that assessment.)

But it's then, in the midst of the darkest of times, that the brightest light can shine.  As Fred Roger's mother told him as a child when watching scary things on the news,

"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

Visit this link to read about some of the helpers in the Orlando tragedy: 10 Stories that reaffirm faith in goodness. Doing this, looking for the good in scary situations, reaffirms a couple things to me.

First, I have no earthly idea why, when I am certain that a loving God exists, such unimaginably heinous things happen.  And if anyone tells you that they know the why, they are either fools or liars.  I have an idea that the why is a mixture of free will and fear, but who am I to say?  Sometimes the wisest thing we can say is that we don't have a freaking clue.

Secondly, I know in my soul that God is as present in those unimaginable heinous situations as he is in the joyous ones.

Look.  We're all his kids - from the most wicked to the most pious among us.  I for one find that comforting since I have a little of both in me.  His heart breaks when his kids are blinded by fear and commit hateful acts.  His heart swells when his kids come together and help each other, love each other.  He is an omnipresent parent who experiences every emotion that we experience with our own kids, including wanting to shake the shit out them sometimes.

This may be a simplistic take on a very complex and divine being, but he made us in his image, so I have to believe that he experiences emotions like we do.  I mean Bible stories run the gamut of very emotional processing and subsequent reactions on his part...that's all I'm saying. :)

So be well, my friends.  Rejoice in the Cavs' glory.  Dance and shout and celebrate!  Albeit on a smaller scale than, say, the end of slavery or the overthrow of the nazis, this is truly an example of the heights man can reach when we work together and help each other and believe in things the naysayers tell us not to.  

Apr 26, 2016

The Spirituality of Marriage

I saw a Facebook picture of my parents together at the Coshocton Community Choir anniversary celebration that got me thinking of all of the dinners and lunches and concerts and birthday parties and holidays and every days that that they have shared through their 47 years of marriage.

That's right.  47 years.  

47 years together as husband and wife.  47 years as friends and confidants.

Their marriage is an extraordinary thing.  An entity unto itself that they chose to create and have worked to make fit them as individuals and as a whole.  They have sculpted it and grown into it, given to and taken from it, depended on and shared it.  It has given them strength and joy, taught them to be others-centered, and brought them endless amounts of love and laughter.

The intimacy of spending your every day with another person, allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable with them, sharing with them your insecurities and humiliations as well as your accomplishments and successes, inspiring them to be their best self and striving for that in yourself, giving them your strength and support even when there seems nothing left to give and accepting theirs when your own can't hold you together any longer, looking past their facade to love them as they truly are...

Honestly, is there anything more freeing than pure intimacy like that?

I believe that marriage is as divine a relationship as exists here on earth - the raw honest reality of who we are fully exposed and hanging out there in the wind and the other person choosing us and loving us despite it all.  It's a strange and exquisite thing that author Thomas Moore nails:

"Marriage is a spiritual act because it requires constant transcending of selfishness, a conscious decision to live a good life, and a generous spilling over of those lessons in raising children and dealing with family and neighbors.  A real marriage has its own inherent spirituality."

My parents have embodied those elements through the good, the bad and the ugly of their 47 years of every days together.  And the joy and strength they have put into and gotten from their marriage spills over onto those of us who know and love them.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Feb 25, 2016

Basic Principles of Humanity

Reading the article linked above, looking at the picture of this mother walking down the courthouse steps with her son, I'm thinking what a generally terrifying prospect it is to send our kids out into the world.  

Accidents, bad decisions, stupid mistakes, wrong place/wrong time situations...these worries plague every decent parent. But how those worries must compound exponentially for parents of kids who face racism or homophobia or xenophobia on top of every other curve ball that life can throw.

Cruelty and ignorance and hate in varying degrees have always been passed off as acceptable in our world.  Collateral damage. From bullies in the schoolyards to genocide. I don't understand one bit of it, but I know that it's true.  

There is a certain level of hate that we tolerate as simply the price of doing the business of living, I guess. And while I don't think we should teach our kids to be thin-skinned whiners who can't handle rejection or adversity or consequences, much the opposite in fact, I do believe that there is a monumental difference between toughing up our kids and teaching them that hate and ignorance are tolerable.

In the case of Donald Williams from the story above, I cannot believe that there was not one person in that entire dorm who stood up to these idiots. When they saw the nazi symbols and the confederate flag and the hate speech written on walls and heard the awful name calling and taunting and saw the freaking bike lock around this kid's neck...there was not one level headed, compassionate person brave enough to do the right thing, even at the risk of becoming a target themselves? Not one?

We are all ignorant as kids. Although I don't remember a specific instance, I'm sure I saw bullies on my playground and did nothing about it. I'm sure I called names and was awful to someone in elementary school. But as adults, even in our late teens and twenties, we can no longer claim ignorance. By then most of us have experienced bullies in some form and have felt the deep wounds they leave in their wake.  

By then we know better and should do better.  Yet many of us still look away.

When Donald and his family spoke up and took the men to court, the jury decided that misdemeanor slaps on the wrist were sufficient. In hate cases like this, my mind always wanders to Matthew Shepard. How many stood by and allowed that barbarity to happen? Or on a macro level, slavery, civil abuses, the Holocaust. Those things can't happen unless people look the other way.

Silence and inaction are just as bad as doing the damn thing yourself and, any way you look at it, that's cowardice.  

It comes down to this. Bullies are aplenty and we all, our kids included, will face them at different points in our lives. We thicken our kids' skins, build them up, teach them that our worth is not hinged on how others see us but on how we see ourselves through God's eyes. But when someone attacks a person's skin color or culture or sexuality, elemental aspects of who a person is, it wounds deeply. When that hate and fear manifest physically, when the bullies graduate from spewing words to using violence, those wounds turns into fissures.  

Those fissures erode the most basic principals of humanity - the moral fibers that connect us all.  

And that is intolerable.

We are drilling this into our kids even now so that, someday, when they are inevitably bullied, see someone else being bullied, or feel the urge to bully someone themselves, they will stop and think and feel their way around the situation to make the right decision.  

That's how the fissures are healed. That's how the fabric of humanity is sewn back together. Stitch by stitch, minute by minute, one man taking a stand, one kid making a good decision, compassionate souls living every day with their eyes wide open, doing the brave work of the right thing.

Feb 18, 2016

We Got the Funk

I woke up singing Uptown Funk this morning.  It must have been in this bizarre college dream I had last night, maybe during the party scene in my old church sanctuary with a couple of movie stars and some college friends I haven't seen for years?  

Regardless, with that song in embedded in my brain, I knew it would be a good day.  I mean, you can't help but dance along to this.  It's a physical and psychological impossibility.  Even though they play it to death on the radio.  Even though there have been 147 parodies.  It's just a damn fun tune. 

Before the sun came up, as I was doing my butt lifting Barre3 exercises...

This hit, that ice cold
Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold
This one for them hood girls
Them good girls straight masterpieces

Waking up the kids with armpit tickles and ruddy cheek kisses...

Stylin, whilen, livin it up in the city
Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent
Gotta kiss myself, I'm so pretty

Packing lunches, kissing Rich in the kitchen...

I'm too hot, (hot damn)
Call the police and a fireman
I'm too hot, (hot damn)
Say my name you know who I am

Doing Sam's hair (with Sam singing the whoos)...

Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)
Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)
Girls hit your hallelujah (whoo)

Dancing with Lena on her bed while she got dressed...

Cause uptown funk gonna give it to you
Cause uptown funk gonna give it to you
Cause uptown funk gonna give it to you
Saturday night and we in the spot
Don't believe me just watch 

We all left with smiles on our faces (me because of the song, my family surely because I had been dancing around singing like an idiot all morning), hopeful that our days would be...

Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy

Feb 15, 2016

This Family

This family Rich and I have made...

This weird, quirky, awesome family of odd, eccentric, beautiful little individuals with their own strange ideas and hearts too big to be contained...

This family of blue-eyed mischief makers and blond haired dreamers...

This family made from a love so deep that I never even thought to dream about it, with a man who lives his truth every day with quiet kindness and selflessness...

This family who hugs and kisses, fights and tantrums, watches and listens, learns and laughs, yells and forgives, loves and loves some more...

This emotional family who is making it up as we go along, side by side, hand in hand...

This family is the air in my lungs and the pulse in my veins.  I cannot believe that I get to be part of this cool little tribe and that these amazing kids call me Mom.

Me.  Mom.  That still flabbergasts me.

So on Valentine's Day (and every day that I'm paying attention), I feel wholly undeserving of the blessing each person in this family is to me.

This family Rich and I have made.  


Feb 3, 2016

Monsters and Light

People's lives are hard.

People have serious shit happen to them.  Moments, even a single moment can change every conceivable aspect of who we become.  Awful things that others might notice, but often in a glazed unfocused way, like staring at one of those 3-D hidden picture posters.  They don't want to see what's right in front of them, so they haze it over.  That way they don't have to step out of their comfort zones and do something about it.

To them ignorance is bliss.

But to the person who is trudging through the muck, through the darkness of those moments, this ignorance is just another blow of judgement and malice and shame.  When someone who is being hurt looks into the eyes of a friend, a family member, a teacher, a passerby, there is an unspoken, maybe even an unintentional plea there.  And if we, the friends or family members or passersby are present enough, still enough in our own minds, we can see it and ask questions and be human to this person who lives among the monsters.

Then ignorance can no longer be claimed.  

Then we know, or have a good idea.  And if there is a shred of virtue and compassion in our souls, we should do something about it.  Reach out.  Make waves if necessary.  Maybe those waves will shake loose the monsters that live in the depths.  And maybe the people stuck down there with them can ride those waves toward the light, toward healing and love.

The older I get the more stories I hear about the evil that is endured by so many every day (and largely overlooked).  Friends whose parents were dangerous or neglectful or who made painfully stupid decisions that spilled over onto their kids.  Kids suffering bullies.  People of all ages withstanding abuse and humiliation.  Pain.  Poverty.  Addiction.  Heartache.  Shame.  And that's to say nothing of my recent visit to Cleveland's Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage where I stood dumbfounded in front of a map that showed the concentration of hate groups still active in the US and where I read through tear-filled eyes the unimaginable horrors of Holocaust survivors.  Or the true story the movie Spotlight tells of rampant sexual abuse and cover ups within the Catholic church.  

Jesus.  It sometimes seems like people are drowning in a sea of monsters.  

I think of these things when we sing "This Little Light of Mine" at church.  I think about how those of us who have been shielded from the monsters or survived them, how those of us who hold the light of hope and grace and mercy and compassion have an obligation to shine it, to seek out darkness with our lights and blind those @**&%!# monsters with it.  

There are endless questions this sparks regarding faith.  Like why does suffering happen?  Where is God when this is happening to people all over the world?  

But then I think he's in me.  And he's in you.  

And he's trying desperately to work through us.  Will we listen?  I need to do more, be more proactive in this light-shining business.  Because somewhere out in the world there is someone who is waiting for me to do something.  To hear their plea.  To make some waves.  To reach out and help.  To shine a light.

A simple everyday way to make this into a habit is to give people a freaking break.  Don't be so judgy.  That rude clerk at the store or the distracted waitress or that coworker who drives you don't know what monsters they have fought or are still fighting.  Sure, maybe some of them are just jerks.  But maybe if you look into their eyes and push aside your judgement, you will see a story there.  Maybe a plea.  Which is why we should offer kindness always.  Offer a closed mouth and an open ear.  Offer help if necessary.

Offer your light.  

Because if you shine your light, and I shine mine, my kids shine theirs, their friends shine theirs...soon this whole place will be so bright that the monsters won't have anywhere to hide.