Jun 08

Christian Support for Caitlyn Jenner

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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.


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Jun 03

Mom, According to the Kids

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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?

T – REALLY.  PUFFY.  HAIR.

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.  :)

 

 


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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?”

 


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May 25

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

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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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May 07

Behind the Waterfall: Meditation for Beginners

(This post is the second of two about meditation.  Want to know why I meditate?  And what it’s got to do with a waterfall? Start here.)

So you want to learn to meditate?  Awesome!  While a quick Google would yield you pages and pages of results instructing you how to get started, I tend to find much of what’s out there to either be too simplistic, too frilly… or just lacking the personal details that make it all come together.  So I decided to write my own little list.  Meditation 101, if you will, for the newest of beginners.

It’s not hard.  

It’s actually really simple, and just takes dedication and practice.  Pick a time (right after you read this post is a great time!) and give yourself five minutes… or even two if you don’t want to start with five.  I like to meditate first thing in the morning, because I feel like it sets me up in a good frame of mind to start the day, but really any time of day is fine.   Give yourself a few minutes, get a nice timer so you don’t have to watch the clock (I like an app called Insight Timer) and follow the steps below.

1.  Get comfortable.  You want to be able to sit up with your back relatively straight (that helps with breathing). Your legs can be crossed, out in front of you, whatever you’d like.  I’ve taken up sitting on the floor, with my back resting against the couch.  I’m not sure why exactly, except that I feel like I’m able to sit straighter on the floor, whereas if I’m actually on the couch, I tend to get all slouchy and snuggled in.  So I sit on the floor.  Wherever you decide to sit:  get comfortable, check your posture, and make sure you’ve gone to the bathroom.   Turn off the ringer on your phone.  Set your timer.

2.  Breathe.  You don’t need to breathe in any special fashion;  you just need to breathe, and draw your attention to your breath.  Being a yogini, I’m partial to something called ujjayi pranayama which is basically deep, slow, inhalations through the nose, down the back of the throat… and slow, audible exhalations out through the mouth. This breathing technique alone slows everything down, and hugely relaxes your body and your mind.   That is always my first preference, but it’s not mandatory!  Some people who are new to deep breathing breathe too deeply, and end up making themselves feel light-headed.  If that’s you, no problem… just breathe regularly until you get more accustomed to it.  No matter how you breathe, just pay attention to it.  Notice as your breath comes in, fills your diaphragm, and moves out again.  You might find it helpful for your focus to count each breath as you exhale.  When you get to 10, start over again.  Just keep focusing your attention on your breath and noting how it feels, and how it calms your body.

3.  Set an intention.     One thing that I ask my yoga students to do sometimes is to simply think of one word that they want to focus on.  Your word might be peace or calm or joy or forgiveness.   Having a word in mind can be helpful because it can give you something specific to return to when your mind starts to wander (and it will start to wander).  If not a word, you can focus on a mantra, or on a higher power if you believe in one. The idea is to decide what it is you want to get out of your meditation session, and it can be something different from day to day Keeping things simple and deciding that you’re going to just keep focusing on your breath is perfectly okay too.

4.  Be gentle with yourself when your mind wanders.  YOUR MIND WILL WANDER.  It will.  It’s okay!  And when you find yourself thinking about your to-do list, or the bills you need to pay, or any of the other 10,000 things that clutter up your brain all day, it does not mean you failed at meditating.  It just means you have another opportunity to practice bringing your attention back to your breath, or your word, or your mantra.  Meditation isn’t so much about an empty mind as it is about one that’s learned, through practice, to focus where you want it to focus…. rather than being distracted and overtaken by rattling, runaway thoughts and worries.   Remember that you’re not trying to stop the waterfall.  You’re trying to find peace in the stillness behind the waterfall.  So when you realize that you’re thinking about scheduling little Suzy’s dental cleaning, or wondering how you’re going to deal with that difficult situation with your co-worker, or mentally lambasting the mailman for always delivering your packages to the neighbor, acknowledge it, gently let it go, and return your focus to your breathing.  Is your foot cramping up, is there a car alarm going off outside, did a dog start licking your face?  Acknowledge.  Let go. Breathe.

5.   Repeat.  Keep returning your focus and attention back to your breath or your word of intention every time your mind wanders.  When your timer goes off, you’re done!  Do it again tomorrow.

And that’s it!  Meditation for beginners.

Questions, comments, testimonies?  I’d love to hear from you!


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May 02

Eleven Years

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To Everett, one of the most kind-hearted, giving, energetic, creative, beautiful souls I know. Your love of your family and your friends and your animals and of LIFE inspires me.  Thank you, for making me smile every day for the past eleven years.  Thank you for letting me be your mom.  Thank you, for being you.

I hope you have the happiest of happy birthdays today, and I can’t wait to go to the game with you tonight.


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Apr 30

I AM That Boy in Baltimore

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This post was written by a dear friend of mine who wished to remain anonymous.  I don’t think we can ask for a more powerful reminder not to make assumptions, and to have compassion for all.  This “You’re so judgmental” knee-jerk reaction has GOT TO STOP.  We need to stop. Listen. HEAR people.  Really see the person behind the words.  We *all* have a story. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

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You labeled me judgmental and accused me of not being in a place to know what it’s like to be a single black mom raising a child on her own. You accused me of being insensitive of her struggles and the fear and desperation she must be experiencing right now.

The irony is that you judged me. You took one look at the color of my skin and my “upper-middle-class” status and dismissed my comments as being from an entitled-ivory-tower-mother looking down on another mother.

Except… you’re the one that’s assuming. You’re the one who is judging what you don’t know.

I am that boy.

I know what it’s like being raised by a single mother. I know what it’s like living on assistance in Section 8 housing. I know what it’s like to not see your mother for days on end because she’s working nights. I know what it’s like when you finally see your mother and she’s utterly exhausted from working a job and going to school. I know what it’s like to have your mother use the minuscule amount of energy that she has left to violently deal with the behavior you’re exhibiting simply because your life is unstable.

I know what it’s like to be repeatedly struck across the face. I know what it’s like to be hit with a shoe. I know what it’s like to be hit with a hairbrush.

I know that it’s pointless to tell anyone at school because they have beaten me too. I know what it’s like to be told to bend over and grab the desk for “acting out” or “being disruptive” because I have so much to say and no one is listening.

I know what it’s like to beat up other children because they made me angry. Because I learned that “might makes right”. The best way to get someone to behave the way you want them to is to make them hurt until they comply.

I know what it’s like to destroy property. Yes, probably “for fun”, but also because I just want someone else to hurt the way I hurt.

I am that boy and I’m pleading with you to stop encouraging my mother to beat me. I’m begging you to equip her with the parenting tools to lift me up. I’m asking for you to see ME in all of this.”

 


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Apr 29

Violence for Violence: A Mom’s Turmoil in Baltimore

mombaltimoreI was not going to write about Baltimore, even in passing.  That’s the first thing you need to know.  I think that the post I wrote about Ferguson (and still stand by) captures my feelings about Baltimore as well.  Then yesterday, I gave my opinion about the mom – you’ve all read about this mom, and/or seen the video – who publicly struck her child, again and again, in an effort to get him off the street and away from his participation in the rioting.  My response wasn’t even about her really….. it was about the greater public opinion that was lauding her as a hero.

Finally, a mom doing parenting right, the world seemed to scream.

It made me profoundly sad, and quite honestly, confused.

The very same people who recognize that violence is not the answer in retaliation to the police somehow find violence an appropriate response when it’s coming from a parent?

It bothered me all day.  And when a page I follow asked the question, “So what do you think of this mom that’s being called the Mother of the Year?”  I answered,

“Violence in response to violence is still violence, and it isn’t the answer.”

I received a handful of comments, but the very first one read:

Spoken like a true person who has no idea what it’s like being a single black mother.

And she’s absolutely correct!  I don’t know what it’s like to be a single black mother.  I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a single black mother.  I don’t pretend to know what kind of fear, and anger, and horror was coursing through her body to prompt her to react that way.  I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to fear for my teenage son every time he leaves the house.  I think about it, and I can’t even imagine.

But I can’t really apologize for being born white.

And I can’t really apologize for not condoning violence (yes, I think that what I saw on that video was violent)

And it’s obviously not me trying to speak for a single, black mother… but just to speak as a human.  A human mother with four kids who thinks that the cycle of violence has to be learned – and therefore can be broken – and passed down from generation to generation.  A human who realizes that if a mom uses physical punishment as her biggest parenting tool (likely because her parents used physical punishment as their only tool) that unless she makes a conscious effort to seek alternatives, her children will also learn that an appropriate response to anger and frustration is physical violence.  A human who will always always stand on the side of the children, and their right – as any other citizen – to not be hurt at the hands of their parents.

Somewhere, somehow, the cycle needs to stop.  I don’t think violence is the answer.  I don’t think violence is ever the answer.

I will apologize for one thing though.  I apologize for not knowing the right thing to say;  for not knowing the right way to express my rather complex feelings about all of this.  For not being able to understand, ANY of it.  I think that compassion would go a long way, for all involved…. including this mom and her son! but starting with the young man who entered police custody alive, but somehow ended up dead.

Compassion for the 10s of thousands of people, that the media doesn’t want to show us, who are peacefully protesting.

Compassion for the police who are being physically harmed for doing their job.

Compassion for the innocent people who live in that city who are just trying to go about their lives amongst the unrest.

Compassion for the loved ones of all of the above, who wake up each morning with fear in their hearts.

And yes, compassion for the people who know no other way to voice their frustration and anger and deep-seated wounds than to act out in a physically violent way.  Somewhere along the way, we failed them.  Somewhere along the way, they learned that violence was the answer.

My fear is that if we keep offering praise and encouragement – instead of alternative tools and support – to parents who are physically violent towards their children, that the tide will never change.

It’s terrible what’s happening… not just in Baltimore, but all across the country.  And it starts with the kids.  It’s starts with how they’re treated;  it starts with what we’re teaching them. Change starts with us, as their parents. It’s a difficult and uncomfortable and painful conversation to be had for sure, but it’s one that needs to happen.   White, black, single, married, gay, straight.  I don’t care who you are or where you’re from or what your history is. Have the hard conversations, ask yourself the hard questions.  Recognize that nothing will ever get better if we’re fighting amongst ourselves, instead of getting real, thinking of the children, and realizing that we’re all in this together.

We’re all just doing our best to make sense of something that makes no sense.


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Apr 28

A Speck on the Earth

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I heard a sermon once – and I sadly completely forget the context – in which the pastor was trying to relay how very tiny and insignificant we really are.  The earth is but a tiny part of a vast, vast universe.  Your continent is but a tiny part of the earth.  Your country… your state… your province… your town… your street…. and on and on. We’re truly little more than microscopic specks of dust.

I think of the speck analogy a lot, especially how it compares to the “me-me-me” attitude of society in general. The amount of self-aggrandizing and arrogance that is out there is mind-boggling.  Quite the opposite of the speck theory is this pervasive attitude that the sun rises and sets based on our own whims, and that everything, EVERYTHING, is in fact about us, and our needs and our comfort and our feelings.  My husband (who is right more often than I like to publicly admit) is often saying that 99% of the world’s problems boil down to people and their selfishness, and I can’t say that I disagree.  People are selfish.  People are arrogant.

I get called arrogant often.  In fact it’s probably one of the things I get called most often, second only to judgmental.  It’s not even always in response to what I write now that I think of it. Sometimes it’s a reaction to my just having a blog in general and/or thinking that anyone would want to read it.    Which is fair enough I guess.  I think there’s probably a certain amount of arrogance in anyone who puts out a creative work in hopes that someone will read it/watch it/listen to it.  Ironically, I don’t much write for other people.  I (selfishly :)) write for myself, because it’s the way I’m wired.  It’s an outlet, so I don’t explode.

The thing is though, none of it matters. What I write, what I share, the things that prompt people to call me names…. it doesn’t matter.  It’s just noise.  I’m a speck.  What matters isn’t jentheblogger, but how I conduct myself when I don’t have a running commentary critiquing my every thought.  This past week I’ve been holed up with my family.  I temporarily unpublished my Facebook page, to protect myself – and by extension, my kids – from the backlash that always comes after a post is widely shared.   I spent 72 hours in bed with a feverish 7 year old.  I went to the doctor, twice.  I went to a baseball game and out to eat with some friends.  I took care of the house and the kids and spent a lot of hours dealing with the chaos that comes from taking in a stray dog.

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It felt good to retreat to my little bubble, even at its most hectic.  Except….. I don’t think that living in a bubble is really the answer either.  I think there has to be a balance somewhere, because while, yes, we are but specks, I refuse to believe that we aren’t also part of something bigger.  The past few days, in the wake of everything that is happening in Baltimore, I have to believe we’re part of something bigger.  It seems to me that it’s just a matter of deciding what it is we want to be a part of.

I read this morning that nearly 75,000 people have a signed a petition to bring Derek Shephard back to Grey’s Anatomy.  (In case you’re not a Grey’s fan, or you don’t have a Twitter account, the world is apparently in mourning because Shonda Rhimes killed off a beloved character in a rather sudden and devastating way last week)  75,000 people!  If that many people can so quickly band together over their outrage about a FICTIONAL TV CHARACTER’S death, surely only good things can come from people coming together to address a cause that’s real, and good, and noble.

I’m a speck, this much is true.  But I’m a speck who’s going to keep standing on the side of love and kindness, tolerance and respect…. for kids and adults alike, because it’s what’s right.  It’s not the easiest or most convenient or most comfortable side to stand on (isn’t it ironic how much prolific unkindness and hatred is aimed at a call for kindness??) but it’s where I’m led, again and again.  Sometimes kicking and screaming.  Sometimes painfully. Always humbly.   But I’m here, hoping that I’m indeed part of something bigger than myself.

 

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

P.S. If you want to join the conversation (or if you want to call me arrogant) you can once again like my page on Facebook.


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