Jun 28

To My Fellow Christians, After the Supreme Court Ruling


To my brothers and sisters in Christ,

I write this with a humble, heavy, and somewhat broken heart.

As you know, the Supreme Court ruling that was announced this Friday made same-sex marriage a right nationwide. Now, this letter really isn’t about legalities, or whether or not the government has any business being involved in marriages in the first place.  That’s clearly another conversation altogether.

But I can’t keep silent about some of what I’m seeing come out of the Christian community right now, at a time when individuals are simply trying to celebrate that they are finally able to legally marry the people that they love.

Thankfully, I’m not personally seeing any Westboro Baptist-style hatred (I seem to have done a pretty efficient job of culling my Facebook friends list since the Duggar  scandal broke).  What I’m seeing is just as upsetting though, if not even more so, because it’s really the same message of judgment and intolerance;  It’s just couched in “Christian-speak.”

First, I need you to understand that this is not about disagreement.  Disagreements are a normal and healthy part of life, of society, and of relationships.  I disagree very strongly about some pretty big issues with some of my dearest loved ones.  This is not about disagreement.  I keep seeing that syrupy little Rick Warren quote passed around that says,  ”Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”  It frustrates me every time.  I’ve never heard anyone, ever,  insinuate that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.  So to say it’s a “huge lie” that’s been accepted is pretty much just ridiculous.  And as for the first part: Absolutely, yes. Simply disagreeing with someone does not mean you fear or hate them.  That’s correct.  But can your resulting words and actions, even if you intend them to be “loving”, still convey fear or hatred?  YES! Can they still contribute to feelings of persecution, of personal affront, of judgement?  YES!  Can they still push a person (or many persons) further AWAY from God, and Christians, and the church (which I think is probably the complete opposite of your intent)?  YES!

I don’t believe that homosexuality in and of itself is a sin.  I do believe that consenting adults, of any gender or sexual orientation, should be able to marry their loved one, no matter what that may look like.  I absolutely respect your right to disagree with me – I truly do – just as I’d hope you’d respect mine.  But when you make sweeping comments such as, “I believe the Bible, so homosexuality is wrong,”  or, “Well I’m a Christian first, so homosexuality is wrong,” then we have a problem.   Please do not mistake your beliefs as being synonymous with “Christianity” as a whole or with “The Bible” as a whole.  Please do not speak for me.  Please do not speak for the thousands of other Christians who have different interpretations, and different philosophies than your own. Please do not perpetuate the idea that because a person happens to have a relationship with God, that he or she needs to live out that relationship in the same way in order to be “right.”

There are LOTS of different ways to live out a Christian faith, and from where I’m standing, the only one we need to consistently meet on is this:  ”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. —Matthew 22:35-40.

Which brings me to the point of this letter.  And believe me, I ask this with complete sincerity and genuine sadness and confusion:

Do you honestly think it is loving to continually browbeat this one segment of society by telling them over and over and over how sinful you think they are?  Yes, even if you preface it with, “I still love you!  I still pray for you!  I don’t judge you!”  Do you really think that that love and those prayers are going to come across when you’re reminding them, AGAIN, that you think that by virtue of who they happen to love, that they are sinning?

Because guess what.  They already know you think they’re sinning.  We already know you think they’re sinning. So until or unless you are giving continual updates on ALL the things you think are sinful, it’s just not fair.  And I’m sorry, but it isn’t loving either.  It’s not.  Why them?  Why this one issue?

A real-life, actual threat to marriage in this country is infidelity and divorce.  But no one ever talks about that, unless it’s to cover it with words of, “Oh, well, you know, we all make mistakes… we shouldn’t judge another person… everyone sins.”

You shouldn’t judge another person because they sin differently than you;  this much is true. Well you know what?  You shouldn’t judge a person because they love differently than you either.

I’m so tired.  I’m so tired of saying the same thing over and over again.  I’m so tired of this one segment of society getting so much negative attention from Christians, at the exclusion of anything else.  I’m so tired of the back-handed, “I love you and pray for you and don’t judge you, but I need to keep reminding you that I disagree with your “lifestyle”" rhetoric of disgust.

Please stop.

Please, please stop.  They know you disagree already.  They really do.  They will always know. It has been well-established.  

Isn’t it about time that we reached out to the LGBT community, a community by the way whose teens are three times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, and just offer love?  Real, actual love, with no disclaimers?

Let’s bring a little more “loving thy neighbor” back to Christianity.  Thy straight neighbor, thy gay neighbor, thy transgender neighbor, thy black neighbor, thy white neighbor, thy Democrat neighbor, thy Republican neighbor, thy Atheist neighbor, thy Jewish neighbor, thy Muslim neighbor….

and yes, thy Christian neighbor like you, and me, who deep down inside really do want to love, and are still learning how to get it right.


Jun 25

Twelve Ways to Raise Children That Are Generous and Kind


I read an article this morning that outlined the many ways the author felt that parents were creating “entitled and rude” children.  This isn’t about one specific article though (such articles are a dime a dozen.  If you Googled, “entitled children” you’d have no shortage of results).  It’s not even about dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of articles.  It’s about this pernicious and widespread belief that children need to be FORCED into being grateful, and generous, and kind…. as if such a thing were even possible.

Is there a problem with entitlement in our society today?  Sure, although I’d argue that it’s more prevalent among adults than children.  But the answer to the problem isn’t more rules;  it’s more connection.

Less coercion;  more compassion.

Less demanding;  more listening.

Less requiring; more modeling.

If mainstream media is to be believed, the key to raising “good” kids lies in things like strict bedtimes, prompted “please” and “thank you’s”, forced household chores, and making darn sure you don’t buy them everything they want.   Many of these articles would be more appropriate advice for an employer/employee  relationship than that of parent and child.

What I believe is a little bit a lot different.  And while I can’t speak for any other kids out there, I can speak for my own, who are pretty much the opposite of entitled and rude.

Here then are twelve parental strategies that I do stand behind, every one of which I believe contributes to raising children who are gracious, generous and kind.

1.  DO be generous with them.  There is much ado made about not buying your children the latest and greatest gadgets, toys, and electronics, lest they become too spoiled.  And yes, absolutely, buying “things” in place of your time and attention is problematic.  But if we want our children to grow up to be giving and generous to those around them, wouldn’t it only make sense that we are first giving and generous towards them?   It’s human nature to want to give to those we love.  As parents, we’re in the unique position of being able to give through our time, our presence, our love, and, when circumstances permit it, through the various material things that make life more fun, interesting, and enriching.  I love being able to give to my children, whether it’s picking up their favorite kind of juice at the grocery store, or surprising them with a wished-for video game snuck into their Christmas stocking.  I couldn’t imagine actually withholding something from my children – or from anyone for that matter – just to teach them some kind of lesson.

2.  DO let them see you being generous to others.  A popular blogger recently posted a video of herself leaving food for a homeless person.  While I definitely don’t think that those sorts of things are meant to be made public, I do think that it’s wonderful – and important – to involve your children in the giving you do to others.  Let them see how it’s a part of your day-to-day life.  Take them with you when you volunteer. Talk to them about what it means to truly share with the people around you.  Show them ways you can bless other people.  I am a huge, huge fan of Christmas, and exchanging gifts with loved ones.  But for the past several years, my favorite part of the holidays has been deciding who to gift outside of our own little circle, and it is a family decision every time.  Kids don’t need to be told, or coerced, or forced into giving to others.  They just need to see it.

3.  DO treat them how you want to be treated.  Sometimes I fear I will sound like a broken record, because it’s something I repeat so often.  But mindful and gentle parenting can be summed up in this one little point. If you want your kids to be kind, show them kindness.  If you want your kids to be respectful, show them respect.  If you want your kids to be polite, show them what it means to be polite.   If you want your kids to be generous, show them generosity. So often parents want to demand respect from their kids, without stopping and asking themselves if they’ve even showed them what true respect looks like.  As parents, we are the first and biggest influence on how our children treat others.   Be nice to your kids, especially if you’re going to expect them to be nice to others.

4.  DO be their soft place to fall.   Life is sometimes full of foibles and disappointments… from the small (the movie you desperately wanted to see is sold out;  you failed your math test), to the major (your long-term relationship ends;  you get laid off at work), to the vast chasm in between (you get cut from the basketball team; you drop and break your $600 phone).  Over and over I see parents cautioned against trying to “fix” their child’s problems or disappointments. We should let them fail, we’re told, because it builds character. Because they’ll be better for it in the long run.  Because they need to learn life isn’t always fair.  Well, life isn’t always fair;  this much is true.   And we can’t always fix everything for our kids.  What we can do?  We can be there for them, every time.   We can be that soft place to land.  We can be that shoulder to cry on.  We can be the one to give them the time and space they need to process.  We can be the one, when the situation lends itself, to help them figure out what to do next.  And they, in turn, will become the ones who will be that person for someone else.

5.  DO be their friend.   Oh what a bad rap that word gets when it comes to parenting!  But a friend is simply someone who is there for you.  Someone you can trust.  Someone who listens. Someone who encourages you, cheers you on, and holds your hand.  Someone who gives honest advice.  Someone who has seen you at your best, and your worst. Someone who lets you be you, and loves you unconditionally.   I will always, always be that person for my kids, with no disclaimers and no apologies.

6.  DO let them have a voice.  I think that one of the most important things we can do for our kids is to empower them to form their own opinions, forge their own paths, and make as many of their own decisions as possible, so that – among so many other reasons – they know they are valued, they can gain confidence in themselves, and they will have the ability to stand up for what is right.  To that end, my kids are always free to say anything to me.   They have a voice in this house, and everyone’s voice matters.  We don’t operate our home as a dictatorship, but as a TEAM.   If my kids are sad or scared or frustrated or angry, I want to know about it!  I want to honor it, and I want them to know that we will always provide that safe place for them to express themselves…. no matter what it is they may be in need of expressing.

7.  DO listen to them.   Let them know that what’s important to them is important to you, whether they’re talking about Barbies or a TV show or a special rock they found outside.  Kids generally desperately want to invite you into their world.  Accept their invitation!  It’s not just important for your relationship right now, it’s also an investment into the relationship that you want to continue to grow stronger and closer into the future as your children mature.  “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”  ~ Catherine M Wallace

8.  DO spend time with them.   At the time of this writing, my children are 18, nearly 15, 11, and 7.  I’ve lately been going through the profoundly bittersweet realization that my role in their lives is changing.  We still spend time together (one of my very favorite things to do is to go watch arena football games, and it recently occurred to me that one of the big reasons why is that it is something all six of us still do together as a family)  We still enjoy spending time together.  But it is in a wholly different way than during the toddler years, when I was largely their main companion.  It’s a cliche, but those years really do go by so fast.  So, so fast!   If I could give just one piece of advice to new parents, it would often be:  Have the tea parties.  Play dress-up.  Jump on the trampoline. Get on the floor with the legos and the ponies and the Matchbox cars.  Spend hours coloring in the sheet fort in the living room.   Play with your kids.   Show up, and really be there.  One day you’ll blink and they’ll be teenagers, opting to stay home to hold down the fort and take care of the pets while you take the two little ones camping. They’ll start spreading their wings – and it’ll be good!  But oh, so bittersweet.

9.  DO let them know that extrinsic rewards such as grades, fancy degrees, and big paychecks are not how they should define their worth.   We have homeschooled since day one.   My children have never been to school, and I have never bought into the system that says that you can measure progress or intelligence or knowledge by a letter grade on a test.  My kids – and yours! – are so much more than that.  They’re more than a GPA.  They’re more than an ivy league school. They’re more than a BMW parked in the driveway.  I don’t ever want my children to use any of the above as a yardstick to measure other people, so I’m not going to start by using it as yardstick to measure them.  I want them to see the people beneath the fluff. I want them to see the things that you can’t put down on paper.  The things that aren’t listed on report cards. The things that matter.  I want them to see hearts.  Kindness.  Generosity. Determination. Strength. Resiliency.   Joy.  I don’t want them to aspire to be what the world defines as “successful”, but to what they define as successful.  They have their own paths, and the best thing I can do as their mother is honor it. Encourage it.  Support it.  NOT stifle it by trying to manipulate or force them into a box of my own choosing.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.


10.  DON’T punish them for being kids.   Better yet, don’t punish them at all.  A writer friend of mine has likened young children to aliens.  The first time I saw that comparison, I’ll admit it caused a bonafide head tilt.  But the analogy is actually pretty spot-on.  Children are brand-new to this planet.  They’re learning how to navigate the world.  They’re learning how to get what they want. They’re learning how polite society works.  They’re learning how to communicate. They’re learning how to handle frustration.  They’re learning how to treat others.   Our job as parents is to patiently and lovingly stand beside them and guide them and be their partner in learning. Punishing a child who’s still learning (and we’re all still learning) is unkind at best, and incredibly damaging at worst.  Instead, work with your child, not against him.  Help him problem-solve.  A child who is having a tantrum, for example, is trying to tell you something. Lean into the moment and truly listen.

By the always wonderful L.R. Knost:

Discipline is helping a child solve a Problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solution not retribution.

11.  DON’T try to force them to be kind or have good manners.  I always cringe a little bit when I hear a well-meaning parent chirping at their child with, “What do you say??”  when they think a “thank you” is warranted.  It feels awkward and embarrassing and – ironically – not particularly polite.  If you want your child to use “please” and “thank you”… use “please” and “thank you” with your child.  If you want your child to interact respectfully with family members and strangers and waiters and bus drivers and mailmen and doctors, interact respectfully yourself.  If you want your children to be generous and kind and patient… if you want them to listen to others, to respect each other’s differences, to be caring and thoughtful in their interactions… show them what that looks like. There is no greater influence in a child’s life (or at least there shouldn’t be!) than the one he experiences in his own home.  That’s where it all starts.  Let him live it.  Let him experience it.  The only way a child can pass on loving kindness to someone else is if he first knows what it feels like to receive it.

12.  DON’T treat them like second-class citizens.  I saved this one for last because it’s at once the most important concept to understand, and for many people the most difficult.   Our society has been so ingrained to think that it is normal and okay that most people never even question it.  Most people never even see it.  Our children are not ours to micromanage, control, or manipulate.   They’re not house pets that need to be trained, nor robots that need to be programmed.  I always find it so ironic that articles proclaiming to show you how to raise respectful kids often prescribe such blatantly disrespectful behavior on the parents’ part.   Children are human beings that we have invited into our lives.   They didn’t ask to be here.  They are our invited guests.  Our job as parents isn’t to shape them or mold them but to love them.  Honor them.  Respect them.  Listen to them. SHOW them what it means to walk in kindness and love.  SHOW them what it means to navigate the world with respect for self, and respect for others.  SHOW them what it means to be a person of value (hint: they’re a person of value right now.  So am I.  So are you.)

Parenting well is about love.  It’s always been about love.   Somewhere along the way the love got lost amongst the rules.  The requirements.  The rigidity.  The idea that our kids are somehow our property, instead of what they actually are:  living, breathing, heart beats and souls walking around the earth, deserving of as much respect as anyone else.  Except, more respect actually, because they are our children.

Want to raise kids that are loving and kind?  Immerse them in love and kindness.


Jun 23

Racism in America: Less Talking, More Listening

Photo Credit: Cal Sr

Photo Credit: Cal Sr

Last Wednesday, a young white supremacist by the name of Dylann Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  He sat with (and was welcomed by) its members for a Bible study, after which he committed a horrific act of hatred and racism by shooting 10 of its members.  Nine of those members were killed.

And as the country mourns and the national conversation once again turns to larger issue of systemic racism, I struggle to find the words.

I don’t understand.

I want to, but I don’t.  I can’t.

I’ve learned something in trying to talk about this since Ferguson and Baltimore.  I’ve learned that while the conversation is indeed a vital one to be had, that if I’m going to understand – even begin to understand – that I need to do less talking, and more listening… particularly as a white woman.

So much more listening.

I’ve learned that saying things like, “I just don’t see people as black and white”, while well intentioned, doesn’t help,  because it disregards the very people who have experienced, and are experiencing, the very real effects of racism in our country based on the color of their skin.  It disregards people, and it disregards history.

I’ve learned that having good intentions doesn’t abdicate my responsibility to learn more, and to do better.

I am disgusted and saddened, not just by the violence in Charleston, but by the overall state of racial injustice in our country, injustice that some people still fail to recognize.  It’s real, and it’s hurting people.  In my frustration, I know I haven’t always gotten the words right.  For that, I am deeply sorry.

I’m trying.  I’m learning.

My heart and prayers go out to everyone who lost loved ones in Charleston, and to the community, and the country, that is rallying behind them.


Jun 15

Sleepless Nights and Murderous Cats

A little irony for your Monday morning.

I’ve had insomnia off and on (mostly on) for my entire adult life.  The ironic part is that even on the nights that all the stars are aligned and I can actually stay asleep, some outside random force prevents me from doing so… a sickness, a car alarm, a snoring spouse, a thunderstorm, a meteor.  There’s always something.

Last night, it was my cat.


She looks innocent, doesn’t she?

I actually started out the evening really worried about her.  I tried not to let on just how I worried I was, so I didn’t pass it along to the kids…. in particular Tegan (who was already asking, “Is she going to die?”)  and Everett, who has a stronger bond with her than I think I’ve ever seen between a boy and a cat in my lifetime.

She was just acting really weird, even for a cat.  She kept running and hiding, first under our covers, and then squeezed under our bed, which isn’t normal for her.   She wasn’t playing, wasn’t eating, wasn’t purring, and was just acting…. well, weird.  When Everett tried to bring her to the other side of the house for bed, and shut the dividing door – their usual nighttime routine – she FREAKED OUT, hurtling herself against the door and meowing a demon inspired yell.

At some point, it finally occurred to us to wonder if she was having a reaction to the flea treatment we’d given her the day before.  It was the only thing that had changed in her environment, and it seemed a likely culprit, particularly when Everett said she’d been frantically trying to scratch at the back of her head (it was a liquid that was applied at the back of the neck).  So we found the box, read the warnings, and were basically advised that if our cat seemed to have a problem with it, or was sensitive to it, to simply wash it off.

With water.

So, 11:30 at night found Mike, myself, and the two youngest kids circled around the kitchen sink. Everett was there out of concern and moral support;  Tegan was there largely for the entertainment value.  The cat was hugged firmly in my arms (they have the scratches to prove it) while Mike tried to rinse off her neck with the sprayer as quickly and efficiently as he could while she struggled.  We rubbed her dry the best we could with a towel, and then brought her back to bed with us.  She crawled partially under the covers right next to me, gave herself an exhaustive bath to try to erase the indignity of her shower, and went to sleep.  I didn’t take my eyes off her;  afraid to stop watching.  I kept one hand near her side to make sure she was still breathing.  (I do the same thing when my kids are sick.  I don’t know if it’s weird) I felt like I had to stay awake with her, at least until I got some sort of sign that she was okay.  I know it’s something that non-pet people can’t understand, but in the base level of my heart, there’s little distinction between the care and concern I have for my human children, and for my fur children. They’re treasured members of the family too.

So I stayed awake and just watched her.  She mostly slept, she never stopped breathing, and every now and then she’d wake up just enough to clean her feet and legs again.

And then at some point I must have finally dozed off despite my best intentions, because I was awoken by a very loud purr that instantly told me two important things:   1)  She was feeling much better, and 2) I needed to protect my sensitive areas.

I think most cats purr when they’re happy…. but mine purrs 10% for happy, and 90% for “I want to murder you in your sleep.”  One minute she was sleeping innocently by my side, and the next there was a claw-shaped hole in my armpit.  Then my ankle, then my hand.  Clearly making up for lost time, she proceeded to lodge an all-out assault on any body part that dared move under the covers (or look like it was going to move.  Or exist)  She stepped on my face.  She sat down.  She pounced on my feet.  She pounced on my stomach.  She attacked the little bit of string that was hanging from the corner of my pillow case.  She purred louder and roughly rubbed her face against my forehead.

And… repeat, for the next few hours.







She’s not usually allowed in our bed at night.  This is one of the reasons why.

It was after 3:30 when I finally let my guard down a little bit.  She wasn’t sleeping, but she was lazing peacefully (and deceptively innocently) all sprawled out by my side.  She was still purring, the picture of sweetness.  I closed my eyes, silly enough to think I could actually get some sleep, but they flew open in pain about 8.2 seconds later when a set of tiny razors punctured my neck. I’d accidentally left my little cross necklace exposed…. and necklaces are, of course, harbingers of evil that must be immediately chewed off any unsuspectlng soul who dares wear one. After that, I declared her observation period over, scooped her up, and carried her across the house to Everett.

By the time I got back to bed, I realized I had a stomach ache – whether from worrying that my cat was going to die or the sausage I had for dinner or the fact that it was almost 4 AM I didn’t know.  I was afraid it was going to prevent me from sleeping even the few remaining potential hours, but just before 5:00, I finally relaxed and started to drift off to sleep.

And then I had to pee.

The end.

PS The cat is 100% her normal self this morning, currently happily looking out her favorite window.  Stinker.


Jun 13

Kids, Profanity, and The Real Bad Words


I have two childhood memories related to swearing.  To set it up, I have to say first that I was a GOOD kid.  And when I say, “good kid”, I don’t particularly mean that in a positive way.  I was a perfectionist.  I was a people pleaser, often to a fault.  I cared too much what others thought of me.  I didn’t want to cause any problems, didn’t want anyone to be mad at me.  Swearing in any capacity was so far outside of my realm of consciousness that it was almost inconceivable.  Nice girls didn’t do that.

And then one day I got really mad at a tree.  I have zero recollection about why I was mad at a tree (knowing me I’d probably just accidentally walked face first into its trunk) but I was mad. Like, really really mad.    So I swore – or at least, what I considered a swear at the time – for what I believe was the first time in my life.   What I said didn’t even make sense, as inexperienced as I was with the practice.  I knew I wanted something stronger than, “Stupid tree!” , and probably meant to say, “Damn tree.”  But, no…. what I said, with great gusto I might add, was “This hell tree!”  Thirty something years later, the writer in me cringes.  Anyway, my sister, who was clearly in a “let’s make each other’s lives miserable” instead of a “let’s be best friends” phase, immediately reacted with shock, followed rapidly with an “I’m telling Mom!!!”   Feeling instant remorse, and wanting to beat my sister to the punch, I immediately ran to my mother, almost in tears.   “Mom……”  Sad face.  Ugly cry.  Self flagellation.   “I said a bad word… ”  She responded with something along the lines of, “Well, as long you’re sorry, and you know not to do it again…..”   and then it was over.  The lesson learned?  Profanity – even the most awkwardly and incorrectly used mild profanity – was indeed highly shameful, and was not to be repeated.

A few years later, I read a book by Judy Blume called Forever.  I don’t know if anyone remembers that book, but it was a big. deal. when I was a tween.  It was a coming of age story, an account of a girl’s first sexual experience, and the kind of book that we whispered and giggled about in the hallways.  I hid my copy in my book bag. There’s a scene in the book where the main girl’s younger sister says the word, “fuck”, and her sister responds like a big sister and scolds her, and the younger girl basically says, “That’s not a bad word. Hate and war are bad words, but fuck isn’t.”   It seems silly now, but that simple quote pretty much blew my naive little 12 year old mind, and forever colored the way I viewed profanity.  Hate and war are bad words. Fuck isn’t.  What if it really wasn’t a bad word?  IS there such a thing as bad words? (I’ll get back to that question later.)   I basically decided then and there that I agreed with this fictional character:  They’re just words.   But because I was still such a people pleaser, it would be many more years before I would experiment with using any of them myself.

These days, though my blog generally stays by-and-large profanity free (for no other reason than I just don’t usually feel like I need to use them)  I do use stronger language in “real life”;  at least when I’m around trusted friends, and/or in the safety of my kitchen.  I’m not so much a fan of the F word as I am of variations of the word, “ass.”  Ass waffle is a current favorite.  I realize that it sounds juvenile, but perhaps it’s in homage to the poor girl who couldn’t bring herself to say the word “hell” without bursting into tears.

My kids, who I swore would not be brought up to be ashamed of everything like I was, all generally choose not to swear. Sure, they’ve experimented here and there, and they’re always free to ask questions, but we’ve just never made it a big deal…. so it never became a big deal.

They’re just words.

Sometimes I use them.  Sometimes their dad uses them.  We’ve had an open and honest dialogue about language their entire lives, just like we have about everything else.  Here are a few things I want my kids to know about swearing (besides the number one rule:  If you’re going to use one, at least use it correctly.)

In no particular order:

1. It’s always kind and respectful to think about the people around you.

(AKA Don’t swear around grandma) The language you choose should be a way to express yourself, not a way to hurt or horrify other people.  Being aware of your surroundings matters. Time and place matters.  How you treat people matters.  Don’t use your words to hurt others, and don’t be so inflexible with your language that you fail to be polite when the situation calls for it.  Having said that…… :

2.  The person who’s ultimately in charge of what you say and how you say it is YOU.

I spent a lot of years letting other people make my decisions.  As an adult, I won’t do it anymore. The thing you need to understand is that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between being kind and mindful of the people around you, and living your life for someone else.  The first is always a good idea.  The second is never a good idea. The words you choose to use… whether you’re angry and frustrated or happy and excited… are yours. You get to choose how you want to express yourself, and how you want to represent yourself in any given moment.

3.  Not swearing doesn’t automatically make you virtuous.  Swearing doesn’t automatically make you cool.  

Being yourself makes you cool, wherever you may fall on the continuum.  I know kids and adults alike who like to use certain language just for shock value, just as a part of a put-upon persona. And yes, everyone’s choices are their own, but in my humble opinion, swearing when it’s not authentic to you doesn’t make you sound cooler or tougher or more badass.  It just sounds silly and disingenuous.   Likewise, saying something benign like “oh darn” when you really want to yell, “shit!”?  You’re not fooling anyone.  Be yourself, and be REAL…. in word, thought, and action.  To do otherwise is like using big words just to sound smarter.  It doesn’t work that way.

4.  You can’t judge a person’s worth/intelligence/moral standing based on whether or not they swear.

I have heard people say that profanity makes a person sound less intelligent, and/or like a “bad” person in some way.  Both are nonsense.  Making that kind of snap decision about someone you don’t know is a reflection on you, not them.  Some of the kindest, biggest hearted, most intelligent people I know have mouths like sailors, and if I’d written them off based on their language choices I would have been missing out!   I want my kids to judge people on their HEARTS, not on how proficient they are with the F word.  I want my kids to know that a good and loving message peppered with profanity is still a good and loving message.  I want my kids to realize that most words are actually neutral, and that it’s how you use them that may make them good or bad.

Which brings me to:

5.  If you must categorize words as good and bad, place the blame where the blame is due.

The real bad words are words that are unkind and hurtful.  Words that make fun of someone else.  Words that aim to cut someone else down.  Words that disparage a person’s intelligence, appearance, worth.  Words that are racist.  Sexist.  Misogynistic.  Homophobic.  Words that are hateful.  Those are the bad words.

I think of this a lot when I think of the people who’ve been unkind to me because of something I’ve written on my blog.  I’ve been sworn at.  I’ve been called disgusting things.  People have used all different levels of profanity to express their displeasure at my existence.  But the one that stands out the most, the person who expressed the most hatred towards me…. was someone who would NEVER use profanity of any kind.  She actually liked to use bible verses, and lots of emoticons, and flowery, “good” language.  And yet she was more hurtful towards me than I think anyone’s ever been, right up through her parting shot of, “I feel sorry for your husband and kids for having to live with someone as awful as you” before I finally decided I’d had enough and blocked her.   Her words dripped with hatred.

You don’t have to use “bad words” to use bad words.

And absolutely, the two things are not mutually exclusive by any means.  I have some lovely, dear friends who would never speak unkindly to someone, AND who’d never use profanity. Friends who likely cringed through some of the words in this post.  (Sorry.)  I respect and so admire you for being true to yourself…. and also for your ability to be able to tell a whole complete story without having to punctuate it with a four letter word.  I love you, and I love who you are.


if I had to choose between spending time with a person who was unkind and used “clean” words,  and a person who was loving and happened to use salty language?

I’d choose the latter.  Every.  Damn.  Time.


Jun 08

Christian Support for Caitlyn Jenner


Ever since the Vanity Fair cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner was released, my newsfeed has been awash with talk of little else. People are posting their opinions, and sharing their praise, their confusion, or their disgust. Articles are getting shared from the perspective of support and celebration, to the debate over the words “brave” and “hero”, to outright disparagement.

Not surprisingly, the Christian community is not being particularly silent on the issue.

Some of what I’ve seen has been horrific, while others have been a bit “softer”… thinly veiled transphobia behind a veneer of, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I think the articles that bother me the most are the ones that purport to offer prayers and compassion to Jenner, while at the same time patting themselves on the back for making different (ie: more correct) decisions in their own lives. At least people like Matt Walsh are transparent about their bigotry.

Thankfully, there are other voices out there as well… Voices of loving, compassionate reason. These voices have been the balm to my weary and disenchanted soul. These voices have lifted me up over the past week, restored my faith in my fellow believer, and reminded me that I’m not alone in my plight or in my frustration. There are lots of Christians out there who are standing up for Jenner, and standing against unkindness.

I started this post as a way to gather some of these positive articles into one place (and will add to it as I find more)… as much for myself as for others.

Read these, and be encouraged.

Dear Bruce Jenner:  Jesus Loves You and Cares for You, by Jarrid Wilson

Four Reasons Jesus Would Invite Caitlyn Jenner Over for Dinner, by Jarrid Wilson

I Went to Church With Bruce Jenner and Here’s What Caitlyn Taught Me About Jesus, by Josh Cobia

Christians, Be Careful What You Say on Facebook, by Zack Locklear

Done., by Motherhood Unscripted

Neither Male Nor Female:  A Christian Response to Caitlyn Jenner, by The Imperfect Pastor

If You Love The Duggars But Not Caitlyn Jenner, What Credit Is That To You?, by Zack Hunt

Thank you.  Thank you for walking the walk, thank you for putting love and humanity back into Christianity, and thank you for being brave enough to stand up for what is right.


Jun 03

Mom, According to the Kids


Us, last weekend

This cracked me up.  I did a similar one once before, a few years ago, and when I recently saw this come through my Facebook feed I thought it’d be fun to do it again.  This is a series of questions I asked the kids, and their uncensored answers…. along with some commentary along the way. I asked them in the order their names appear.

Sometimes – particularly now that the kids are getting older and everything’s extra bittersweet – I find myself wanting to freeze time.  Interestingly, it’s not usually the most exciting or flashiest moments, but the most simple. Times like this:  hanging out, being real, and making each other laugh.  I kinda like these humans.


1. What is something mom always says to you?

Tegan (7 yrs) –  I love you

Paxton (14 yrs) –   I hate people.

Everett (11 yrs)  - H-h-h-hiiiiii (It’s this weird, drawn-out “hi” thing we do every time we cross paths.  I don’t know where it came from;  probably a TV show)

Spencer (18 yrs)  - Change your clothes  (E: “Spencer, this is going on Mom’s blog you know. Too late! Can’t change your answer”)


2. What makes mom happy? 

T –  Me

P  - Not people

E – Animals

S  - Caramels


3. What makes mom sad?

T –  When I’m not there

P –  People

E – Things that make you sad

S  - When you see a pet that needs to be adopted


4. How does your mom make you laugh? 

T – I don’t know.

P – Sarcasm

E – I want to steal Paxton’s answer (P – “Hey, this isn’t a game show where you can just steal people’s answers”)

S  - Jokes


5. What was your mom like as a child?


P – Rebellious

E – Young

S  - You’ve said it before.  You got hurt a lot.


6. How old is your mom? 

T – 41

P – 41?

E – 41

S – 41

7. How tall is your mom? 

T – Oh my gosh.  I don’t know.

P  - 5 8 ½?  Something like that?

E – I don’t know… 5 10?

S – I’m about two inches taller than you.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
T – Play with me

P – Hold me hostage

E – Be with us

S  - Blog and read and write


9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? 

T – Do stuff on the computer and drink coffee

P – I’m not around.  How would I know?

E – Things

S  - Yoga

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? 

T – Actress

P – Writing

E – Blogging

S – Blogging

11. What is your mom really good at? 

T – Making me feel good.

P – Writing

E  - Holding people hostage (T:  ”STOP COPYING!!”)

S  - Being a mom

12. What is your mom not very good at?

T – Not drinking coffee

P – Mind puzzles

E – Things she’s not good at (P:  ”Oh come on.  I at least TRIED to come up with answers”)

S – Nothing

13. What does your mom do for a job?

T – You don’t have a job!

P – Blog slash parent

E  - Stay at home mom

S – Stay at home mom

14.What is your mom’s favorite food? 

T – What is it called?  The thing with the cheese and the tomato and the lettuce…

P – Well, I don’t want to take Tegan’s answer, but I’m going to have to go with caprese.  Final answer.

E – How am I supposed to know?

S – Milk Duds.  Oh, that’s candy. Ummm… (P: “Candy’s still a food.  Acceptable answer”)

15.What makes you proud of your mom? 

T – When you don’t drink coffee

P – Your ability to raise four children.

E  - A lot of things

S  - When you help with my schooling (he’s taking an online course for small engine repair. I help him study for his tests.)


16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?

T  - Carly, from iCarly.

P – Coffee drinker #2

E – (T:  ”Don’t you dare copy”)  You would be Monica.  (P:  “Could you BE any more like Monica?”  E:  “Actually, you *are* kind of like Monica”.  Me:  “Neurotic?”  E & P – “Yes!!”)

S  - Rachel from Friends.

17. What do you and your mom do together? 

T – Have fun

P  - Bond over trips to guitar lessons

E – Talk.  We talk.

S – School work


18. How are you and your mom the same? 

T – We both love animals

P  - Sarcastic sense of humor

E – We both love animals.  (T:  ”That’s what I said!  You copier!”)

S - …..

Me: “You look really pained by these questions.”   P:  “We were ALL pained by these questions.”

S  Okay fine, we both have TMJ


19. How are you and your mom different?

T – Mom likes coffee and I hate it

P – I’m not a mother

E – I don’t blog

S – Can’t think of anything

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

T – She says it to me nine billion jillion times.

P – It’s something you just know

E – Because she says it a lot

S – (thinking) (E:  “Ten seconds on the clock!”  S:  “There’s no timer”.  E: “Yes there is, and you have to answer in ten seconds”. T:  “No he doesn’t!”  E:  “Time’s up!”)

S – When you go to the store, you know what kind of candy I like, and you bring some home.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?

T – He farts a lot

P – This is too hard.

E – I don’t know

S  - He’s funny

22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?

T – To meet Taylor Kinney

P – Rattlers games

E – These are hard questions!  Your favorite place to go?  Well you don’t go anywhere very often.

S –  I was going to say the Elephant Bar, but they closed.


23. How old was your Mom when you were born? 

T – 30?  No.  No no no.  Not 30.  37.

P – 26

E – 30

S – Around 20


Me, to Everett:  Was that so horrible?

Everett:  Yes, yes it was horrible.  (To Spencer)  Mom wants to ask you tons of questions and interrogate you!

Paxton:   She’s going to hold you hostage, don’t do it!


Thanks guys, as always, for keeping it real.  :)




Jun 01

Unschooling Q & A

I’m back with another video today, answering the question, “What has been the most unexpected joy of unschooling? The most unexpected challenge?”



May 25

I Won’t Throw Stones… Unless You’re LGBT


Two fast points right off the top:

  1.  This is going to be long.
  2.  This post was originally going to be about something else.

The whole thing started with Bruce Jenner.  He had just done his interview with Diane Sawyer in which he discussed his transition from male to female.  I didn’t watch the interview, for no other reason than I wasn’t particularly interested, but from what I understand, Bruce is happy now, after denying who he was for a long time.   I’m a big champion of people following their own path, and being their own authentic selves, whoever that may be.  So I say… Go Bruce.

Shortly after the interview aired, Matt Walsh posted an article in which he was being, well… Matt Walsh… calling Jenner “a sick and delusional man.”

Partially in response to Walsh, Jarrid Wilson then wrote a really lovely and grace-filled blog post, reminding us that as Christians, our job was really nothing more than to extend love and compassion to Bruce Jenner, like we would to anyone else.  It always amazes me when people want to refute a call to love, but refute it they did, complete with admonitions that we have the responsibility to call people like Bruce Jenner out on their sin, and that we need to “speak the truth in love” (which, by the way, is one of the most awful things I think Christians say… right up there with “love the sinner, hate the sin.”)

So – at least in conservative Christian circles – Walsh was praised and Wilson was condemned.

Bruce Jenner IS WRONG!  It’s disgusting!  It’s A SIN!  We need to tell him!  We need to tell EVERYONE!  Let’s shout it from the rooftops!  The world is going to hell!

And sure, they’ll recite their “love the sinner, hate the sin” rhetoric, but make no mistake… nothing about the anti-LGBT crusade is loving.  Its whole entire reason for being is to hurt and condemn:  the adult equivalent of the old grade-school tactic of putting someone else down to raise yourself up.

Of course, it’s not like this is anything new.  This has been going on forever.  I’ve been writing about this forever.  But there’s just been SO MUCH of it lately.  Just a couple of days ago, I received a several-paragraphs-long email outlining in great detail how unkind and unloving I am to advocate for being more loving towards LGBT folks. (??) I’m damning them to a life in hell, she tells me, because by not calling them out on their sin, I’m taking away their opportunity for a chance of redemption, which is the most hateful thing I could possibly do.

It’s not the first time I’ve received a message of that sort – apparently writing about issues of faith seems to invite people to try to judge me/save me/throw Bible-verses-as-weapons at me – but given the current societal climate it irked me.

I’m frustrated.  I’m exhausted.  I’m angry.  I am so indescribably tired of this unfair and hateful treatment, thinly veiled in “biblical values”, towards this one specific segment of society.

So that’s what I was going to write about.  How it needed to stop.  How people needed to take a step back, gain some perspective, and focus on their own sin.  Think it’s a sin to be in a homosexual relationship?  Don’t be in one.  Think it’s a sin to have gender reassignment surgery?  Don’t get it.  But this constant persecution is damaging and hurtful and pretty much the opposite of anything that Jesus ever espoused.

Then something happened.  And now I’m more disgusted with the culture of mainstream Christianity than I think I’ve ever, ever been.

The details are still surfacing, but it’s come to light that Josh Duggar  (of the infamous 19 Kids and Counting Duggars) molested 5 young girls, four of them his siblings, over the course of 3 years when he was a teenager.  His parents, though aware of the abuse, did nothing about it for over a year.    When they did finally deal with it, they did so by keeping it “in house.”  He was disciplined by his father.  He got a “talking-to” by a police officer friend who never pressed charges (an officer who is currently serving jail time for child pornography).   He met with his pastor who helped arrange some sort of supposed rehabilitation in the form of living with yet another family friend for a few months and helping him perform physical labor.

This seems as good a time as any to point out that sexual assault is a serious crime, and should be treated as such … not merely “dealt with” at home.

There are so very many things wrong with this scenario, and how it was handled, that I don’t even know where to start.

But oh how Christians are defending the Duggars!!!

Josh Duggar shouldn’t be vilified.  He was just a kid.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

He made a mistake, and he said he was sorry.  Who hasn’t made mistakes as a teen?

He was just young and curious.

They dealt with it in their family, and it’s not our place to judge them.

People are being way too harsh and judgmental.

Judge not lest you be judged.

People in glass houses….

They were an inspiration before, and they’re still an inspiration now.

I’m ……. Seriously?  Are you kidding me?

So, same-sex attraction is such a vile thing, such a pertinent issue to address, that people feel compelled to write to me (some random heterosexual internet stranger who just happens to believe that people have the right to love who they want to love), to warn me of its dangers….. but molestation of young children, a teenaged boy fondling the genitals of his baby sisters, is shrugged off as a teenaged “mistake”… it’s not our place to judge… how dare we cast stones at this upstanding Christian family!….. And after all he did say he was sorry……

My level of disgust is matched only by my confusion.  How do you defend a child molester?  How do you justify freely throwing your proverbial stones at someone because of their sexual orientation, yet demure because of a sudden sense of self-righteousness when it comes to a beloved Christian family that happens to includes a son who sexually violated children?

And don’t misunderstand.  I’m not advocating for the stoning of anyone.   My point is not to publicly flog the Duggars.   Actually what I think should happen now that this has been made public is that the whole family should be investigated, and that someone should ensure that the children are currently safe, and that they have received, and are currently receiving, the needed support.  Based on the teachings of some of the people the Duggars follow, I don’t think it’s unlikely that there is lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.  Such deviant behavior generally doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and if Josh Duggar was indeed a victim as well, he too should be receiving appropriate counseling that will address it.

What we SHOULD NOT DO is continue to sweep his crimes under the rug and excuse them as mere childhood curiosity.  We should not defend this “good, Christian family” as if they’re somehow people we should emulate.  We should not stand sweetly behind a philosophy of “Oh it’s not my place to judge” when it comes to something as vile and heinous as child molestation and incest.

HE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED CHILDREN.  His parents knew it was happening.  I’m going to judge.

Is he genuinely sorry?  I don’t know.  Has he been forgiven by his victims?  I don’t know.  Has he been forgiven by God?  That’s between him and God.  But I’m not going to sit here – as a Christian, as a human, as a parent of both boys and a little girl – and excuse what he did.

And the fact that the very same people who are doing the excusing are the people who have no problem standing on a soapbox in judgement of the man who works hard all day and just wants to come home and kick back with a beer and a TV show with Adam instead of Eve…. is a hypocrisy of the most disgusting kind.

You’re essentially saying:

Homosexuality = bad

Child Molestation = eh, everyone makes mistakes.

I have never been as disillusioned and disappointed with the current state of the institution of Christianity as I am right now.  I love God.  I Love God.  I am an all-in, whole-hearted, unabashed follower of Christ (even if I never share those stupid Facebook posts that start by attempting to shame you with “99% of you won’t pass this on”……) I will always be a follower of Christ.  But this?  Defending the actions of a child molester, while railing out the other side of your mouth about “sick and delusional men” just because you can’t personally relate to their path?  That’s something I’ll never be a part of.  If I had any remaining sliver of hope that there was a place for me in the whole of American Christianity, that hope is gone.

God, save me from your followers.


May 07

Behind the Waterfall: How Meditation Keeps Me Sane

I’ve had a stressful week. To be honest, any week that finds me doing a lot of running around and/or socializing is at least a little bit stressful… but a week that finds me doing a lot of running around and/or socializing and dealing with unpleasantness? Those are the weeks that do me in.

Monday morning I was at the emergency room. I almost wrote a blog post about it, but it wasn’t even remotely interesting. The most exciting thing that happened during my stay was that it took the eager new paramedic trainee and his cohort four tries to get the IV in place, which was a first for me.

unnamed (29)

On Tuesday, I went to my thyroid doctor for a follow-up (also boring)

Yesterday, I was supposed to go to yet another doctor – my orthopedic surgeon – for my six-month follow-up.  I arrived promptly at 1:00, only to be told that I’d had the time wrong, that my appointment had actually been for 10:00 AM, not 1:00 PM, and would I like to reschedule for next week?  Kicking myself for the error,  but knowing I needed to shake it off, I went to home to try to enjoy a couple of hours with the kids before I had to turn around and get Tegan to her dance class.  She was dressed, I got her hair in a ponytail…. and she informed me that instead of going to dance she really wanted me to take her to the doctor.  She was congested, and felt like she was having trouble taking a deep breath, and was on the verge of a panic attack.

So off to urgent care we went, where she was given a clean bill of health.

Today I take Paxton to his guitar lesson (a double lesson, to make up for the class we missed two weeks ago when the teacher and I got our signals crossed), and then tomorrow I go to one more doctor, my regular PCP, to follow-up on Monday’s ER adventure and lingering symptoms.

So… there have been stresses.

At this point, my stress-busting/self-care list is lengthy, but my most favorite tool (both for its simpleness and effectiveness) is meditation.  Anyone can do it, any time, anywhere.  It’s free, it requires no special equipment, and the benefits just get better and better the more you practice.

To say that meditation has changed my life sounds so cliche and dramatic except…. meditation has sort of changed my life.

These are my top five reasons:

1.  It quiets the chatter in my mind.  Now, keep in mind that it doesn’t actually STOP it (it would take an act of God to do that) but it does slow it.  It softens it.  It makes it tolerable.  One of the misconceptions about meditation – and I think the area where a lot of people get hung up even before they start – is the idea that you need to empty your mind in order to do it effectively. Well, I’ll tell you what.  My mind is never empty.  But what meditation has taught me is that it can be a safe and quiet place, even (or especially!) when my thoughts want to go crazy on me. In his book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story (which is a book you should definitely read, especially if you’re interested in learning about why someone would want to choose meditation) Dan Harris likens it to a waterfall, which is the best analogy that I ever heard, and the thing that made me finally “get” meditation.  The waterfall represents everything going on around you.  It represents both the outside noises and irritants and distractions, and the inside “noise”:  your tumbling thoughts, your stresses, your worries.  With meditation, you put yourself in the safe and quiet and still space behind the waterfall.  The water is rushing and moving on, but none of it sticks.

2.  It calms both body and soul.  I think that meditation would be worth it for the emotional benefits alone… it relaxes you, it releases tension, it boosts your mood… but some of the beauty of meditation is that not only does it help in psychological and emotional ways, it helps physiologically as well.  It likely won’t come as a shock to anyone who regularly reads my blog, but my body does not deal with stress very well.  In fact, it generally deals very poorly with stress.    So the physical benefits are a very welcome bonus.  Any time you deliberately focus on your breath, you send more oxygen to your body and you slow your respiration and your heart rate.  It releases toxins, helps to relieve pain, and can have benefits for digestion, your nervous system, and cellular regeneration. To name just a few!

3.  It has taught me an immediate tool to use during a stressful situation.  So here’s the thing.  Taking a hot bath, drinking a glass of wine, doing yoga, or engaging in a favorite hobby are all well and good when it comes to stress reduction, but they can’t exactly be employed when you’re late for an appointment and stuck in a traffic jam.  Or when a receptionist is being rude to you.  Or when you’re getting yelled at for an automobile accident that was completely the other driver’s fault.  But the techniques of meditation and focusing on your breath are something you can use and practice right there in the moment.   Any time, anywhere, no matter what’s going on around you.

4.  It makes me kinder and less reactionary.  I’m a highly emotional person.  I’m not generally an angry person, but I’m an emotional person.  For better or worse, I feel things deeply.  I take things personally.  My instinct is to react quickly.  What meditation has done for me is to give me a little bit of space in between feeling and reacting. I can recognize my own feelings, but not be clouded by them to the point that I fail to see the other person standing in front of me.  It’s enabled me to look at the situation, and the people around me, with more clarity, and less knee-jerk reactions.  It’s enabled me to have more compassion.

5.  It honors ALL feelings.  I’ll be honest.  I’m not a fan of most self-help woo woo stuff, because it’s just so damn positive all the time.   All rainbows and no thunderstorms.  All roses and no thorns.  I live in the real world, and sometimes I’m grumpy.  Sometimes I’m irritated. Sometimes I’m sad.  Sometimes I’m discouraged. Sometimes I’m frustrated.  Sometimes I’m just really freaking pissed off and how-dare-you-look-at-me-that-way-and-ruin-my-zen?? Sometimes I feel all of the above in the span of a five minute meditation session.  But what I’m learning is that I can feel something, and recognize something, and not let it take over.  There’s nothing wrong with having a feeling …. it’s human. The problem comes when we hang on to the feeling, instead of giving ourselves the gift of simply acknowledging (again and again if need be), and then letting it go…. just another drop down the waterfall.


I am no expert when it comes to meditation.  By all means, I am still new to the practice, particularly outside of doing it in conjunction with yoga.  But if it helps me this much now, and only gets better with practice…. I can’t wait to see what happens as I get further along.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity and you want to get started but don’t know where to begin:  Read part two for a few simple pointers.


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