Monday, December 9, 2013

A Place To Complain

Recently Anne Lamott started something on Facebook. She talked about a friend of hers who struggles with an awful rash and how, when Anne tried to identify with her friend, she couldn't actually possess her own suffering. What I mean is she remarked that she had friends who had cancer and friends who'd lost their home...the "those worse off than me" concept.

Anne opened up her Facebook page to the whiners and complainers...she gave us all free reign to own those things which have been bugging us, weighing us down, tearing us apart. The response was amazing. There was no belittling our own hurts and struggles...there were posts about health issues, loss of jobs, visiting mother in laws, and annoying pets. One lady called her son an "asshat" which made I adored. Another lady of 60+ years had lost her job and threatened the next person who promised her "when God closes a door, He opens a window" that she would respond with "F--- Off." It was beautiful. No one told anyone their problems weren't that bad. No one one-upped anyone else. No one threatened the lady's salvation because she had used the "F Word".

For once we could wail "It's not fair" without the trite responses the world often gives us. Or being made to feel guilty because there are those worse off than us.

Don't get me wrong...I know for a fact that there are people worse off than me. And I'm aware that keeping that in mind is important in keeping my perspective. The danger is that I can be so aware of it that I ignore or refuse to acknowledge my own suffering.

When I was a little girl living with my Grandma, she had a strategy. Every time I started feeling sorry for myself, she gave me my scrap book and the collection of Macon Telegraph newspapers waiting to be delivered to recycling. My job was to find stories of children that were worse off than me and put them in my scrap book. There were stories of children fleeing their homes from war torn countries, children whose homes had been lost in fires, stories of children who'd been abused far worse than me. There was actually a story from an article about play therapy...I figured any girl who put the doll family in the oven must be worse off than me.

I needed that perspective. I was admittedly a brat who needed to know how good I had it. But I also needed permission to say that I'd been hurt, that life wasn't fair, and that bad things had happened. I learned to not talk about feeling bad so that I wouldn't have to break out the scrap book and that habit continued until as a young adult I began struggling with depression so bad I couldn't get out of bed and attempted suicide twice.

Why we need permission to own our pain and struggles I don't know...but we do. Especially as Christians. We are told we have to be joyful and God makes all things beautiful...and all things work together for the good of those who love Him...and that is all true. But no where does it say, so stop your whining. In fact, David was well known for going to God and being honest with his struggles. It makes up the entire book of Psalms. And yes, we will always be able to find those who have it worse. But a therapist gave me this example: If your child comes in and they've scraped their knee and it's all torn up and bleeding and the child is crying, you go to that child and you kiss and comfort and get the antibiotic cream and the band aid. In the midst of that, your other child comes in and has broken their leg...well, obviously the broken leg needs immediate attention and therefore becomes the priority. But that doesn't mean we look at the child with the gashed leg and tell them their leg no longer hurts because the other child is hurt worse.

And when someone owns their pain, be okay with not having the answers. Be okay with just listening. Say "I'm sorry for your pain" but don't try to be logical with it. Sometimes there is no "why"! Job's friends sit with him for two weeks without speaking and offering comfort. As soon as they open their mouth, they mess it up. They try to explain why these bad things must be happening and all they do is cause hurt. God finally shows up and never gives the "why" but the comfort that He is God, He has not lost control, and He knows that Job is suffering. And Job is content with that. One thing I noticed in the Facebook thread is how much dangerous pat answers, cliches, and attempts to answer the why had hurt others.

When my Grandma died from cancer, I was destroyed. My grief went beyond tears. And I was God...because I couldn't figure out who else to be angry at for the loss of someone who loved me so much. And someone, a well meaning someone, came up to me and told me God needed good biscuits in heaven and so He had to take my Grandma. I decided then and there God must be a selfish, mean God and I wanted no part of Him. And I kept that promise for years. Until I was 16 years old, I wanted nothing to do with God because He seemed random and cruel. And as illogical as it was, part of my theory included the fact He had taken my Grandma from me because He couldn't make biscuits.

Here's the thing, I think it is time we allow ourselves the right to go to God and trusted friends with our hurts, fears, and pain. I think we have the kind of relationship with God where we can trust that He is good and faithful while at the same time telling him this and that suck and we cannot for the life of us figure out why it has to be this way. I think we find friends who can say "you are right, that does suck and there isn't anything I can do about it but love you through it" I think it is time that we are those friends. I think in doing so, we learn more about loving others and about empathy. I think we become stronger and that we build stronger relationships. I'm not advocating one continuous pity party. At the end of the day, despite the fact it sucks, you still have to make the best of it. But there's a difference in stuffing or ignoring problems and persevering through them. And I think perseverance means recognizing the issues not turning a blind eye.

So, I'm no Anne Lamott, but I'm fire away!

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Journeys and Dreams

I once learned that the Hebrews had no actual word for repentance. Instead, they call it "Teshuvah" which can quite literally be translated "a new journey" or "return" This is because the concept of teshuvah doesn't just mean saying "I'm sorry" but also a true repentance and a new behavior. I'd encourage you to research the full's quite beautiful.

I've always loved the concept. But I have to tell you the other day I was thinking I'd had too many "new journeys" in my life. It had hit me that I'm on a new journey right now...and that I have no idea where we are going or what I will be doing or what it will look like once we get there. I sort of went "another one...really Lord?"

And suddenly, I realized I had the title for my book. That book I've always wanted to write but haven't. That goal I set for myself back when I was nine years old writing really cheesey fiction stories and poetry that was just...well, bad.

I am resolving to write it. I am not resolving to get it published. We'll see what it looks like at the end of it. I'm giving myself a year. My computer died and even the most gifted hands could not resurrect it so I'm writing everything in notebooks and then putting it on the blog. I have a special notebook for the book since I'm not planning on putting it on here (at least, not yet planning to) and it feels more like a journal.

Working on this has made me curious...what is that one thing that you want to do but haven't? Why haven't you? What's holding you back?

Feel free to share!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dear Teenage Girl...

Dear Teenage Girl,
The one who is staring at my teenage son. He's adorable isn't he? Tall, nice hair, strong chin. Great smile. You are thinking of ways to start a conversation, wondering what he likes or doesn't like, wondering if he likes you. You want to get his attention.

Here is where it gets messy.

Media, culture, the music you listen to, possibly your friends have taught you that the way to get his attention is by getting him to notice your body. You might wear your shirts too low, your pants too tight, or your dress too...everything. Without even thinking about it, you have listened to society and not only given my son permission to objectify you, but actually objectified yourself.

There are mothers who will look down on you. Call you names. See your pictures on Facebook and demand their son "unfriend you" because they don't want their son looking at those pictures or relating to those girls or...whatever. I'm not that Mom. I'm more aware than that of the pressures and messages you and my son get every day, all around you. I am not going to be just one more person who judges or objectifies you. I am aware that no matter where my son is, there are images he will have to see and he has to learn to look beyond them to the man and person he wants to be.

I will tell you that as awesome as my son is...and he is awesome...he is not worth you doing that to yourself. I will tell you that the time you spent wondering if you are as pretty as the other girls, if you are pretty enough for this guy or that guy to like you, and if your clothes make you look fat isn't worth it. I will tell you that the worry and fear of measuring up that causes you to despair...even to the point of not eating, throwing up, and hurting yourself is not worth it.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to the girls around you. Give each other permission to dress in a t-shirt and jogging pants if you feel like it. Celebrate who you are. The brain and talent you have is what defines you...not the cleavage. There are those that will tell you that dressing in revealing clothing and showing that much of yourself is "freeing" and flying in the face of convention...that it is what it takes to be a strong, independent young woman. That's a lie. And a trap.

My son has grown up with certain values. Some of those I have taught them. Some of them were influenced by other men in his life. A good many of them he developed himself...sometimes as a result of having a sister that he loves very much. He has discovered that he can look at each girl as someone's sister and he will treat each girl like he wants his sister to be treated. He made a choice long ago to abstain from sex until after he is married and he has stuck to that. He actually had a girl break up with him because of it! My son will respect you. Listen to you (well...most of the time). And treat you well. It'll help if you watch The Walking Dead...then you will have something to talk about. I will welcome you into our home and along with our adventures. Feel free to be yourself. But value yourself. If my son lets himself and me down and disrespects you, fails to live up to his principles, or isn't acting like the man he hopes to be...walk away. It's the same for any boy or man you date. They do not define your worth. You do. And when you value yourself, you inadvertently demand to be treated with value. Not in a loud, obnoxious way...but by every action, word, and attitude. Be confident in who you are. My son is definitely more likely to want to date you. But more importantly, you are more likely to be happy with yourself and your life.

A Mom

PS My son and his sister are very close. If you treat him wrong, he isn't likely to tell me about it. But he will definitely tell her. And she will most likely tell you how she feels about it. Just something to keep in mind...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Letting My Freak Flag Fly

Thanks to a friend of mine, I scored a temp job doing data entry at Giant Impact. Among other things, this is the company that organizes Catalyst. When she texted me asking if I was interested in the job I didn't ask where it was located, what we were doing, etc...

All I knew is I hadn't gotten out of my pajamas until four o'clock the day before and the pink fuzzy pants really needed a rest! I'd actually prayed the night before, "Dear God, something"

So, I drove up to the Giant Impact office. Filled out my paperwork. Took my seat in front of a computer. And started entering the data from thousands of contact cards.

Sometime around lunch I sent my friend the following text: "OMG! I waited until later to take my lunch break because I was trying to avoid people and small talk and stuff! But there is constant traffic in the breakroom and since I am the only person in here and everyone is so nice...they are ALL talking to me!"

And my wonderful, understanding, fellow quirky friend texted back "Eat outside on the patio. It's what I do"

A little later, I sent another text to my friend (who has worked with me, knows me well, and would understand) "YES! I haven't burst into song ALL day!!!" And she texted me back and simply asked "Why?" To which I replied "Because it's SO quiet in a library! And everyone would hear me...and that would be bad."

It's horrible isn't it? Walking into a room, wanting to fit in, wanting people to like you, wanting to avoid the looks that say "you are strange"...So I acted normal as long as I could.

Three days. It took three days.

It was inevitable I suppose. Made more inevitable by the fact that when I bragged to my kids on the night of the second day that I'd managed to be normal for two days my daughter immediately lectured me on the fact that I was amazing, that all my quirks made me that way, and that she was taking away my "freak flag" because I was unworthy of it. (I wasn't aware of the fact that I had a freak flag. Or that it existed. I now want a pride flag, a freak flag, and a pole standing in my front yard so both of them can fly proudly)

At first it was only a crack...I didn't actually sing out loud but I did mouth the words and dance a little. I freaked out a little more than I should when I thought I'd messed something up so people heard that weird tone in my voice I get when stressed and then my obsessive need to know everything. Because of that I made a couple of theatre references that no one got. And then, when we finished a major assignment I asked our leader if we could celebrate with a song and dance number. My first clue that this group of people could handle my quirks was when, without missing a beat, he looked at his watch and replied "maybe at lunch".

The next day, our supervisor had bought us lunch and it was our first chance to really get to know each other. I was aware that I hadn't completely thrown the door open wide revealing how truly weird and socially awkward I was so I thought maybe I could it cool. Then one girl noticed the other girl's burger and said "Oh my word, what happened to your bun?" And the other girl said "Oh...I have this weird thing with bread. Along with all my other weird things..." And I gleefully confessed how hard I'd been trying to appear normal and how truly odd and socially awkward I was. No one seemed that surprised. But that led to everyone sort of flying their own freak flag and the sharing of stories and after that we all felt much more comfortable just being ourselves. Well...I still haven't sang out loud. It really is quiet like a library.

Be yourself, guys. Chances are...everyone is just waiting for the chance to be themselves too.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mom Scale

I started forming this blog yesterday. This morning I woke to find this post on Momastery: Friendly Fire. Great minds think alike! Be sure to check it out. Today's message seems to be "Be kind. To yourself and others."

Yesterday one of the neighborhood kids was hanging out at my house. She was lamenting the fact her Mom couldn't afford to buy her a costume for Halloween. Before I knew it, my daughter had taken charge and with some brain storming, makeup, and things we had around the house the little girl was transformed into a kitty cat! She came up to me excitedly showing off her costume. I made some comment about how awesome and creative Embree is and Embree immediately replied that she got it from me. I started to argue when Trey reminded me of the time that I made costumes for some friends of theirs whose parents couldn't afford costumes. I had totally forgotten about it. I don't remember what we did for the girl, but I took a bunch of brown curtains out of a bag of household items someone had given me and along with a hiking stick, made what the boy swore was the coolest Gandalf costume ever. (He was also seriously impressed by the fact I knew who Gandalf was.)

Since becoming a Mom almost nineteen years ago, I step on the Mom Scale at least once (usually more) per day. I'm not sure if I do it to myself or the culture does it to me...or a combination of both. But what I do know is, when I look down at the scale, I rarely if ever see what I want to see. I never quite "measure up". But here is what I realize, when I look down at the scale, I see one thing...when my children peek over my shoulder at the scale, they see another.

The reason is that while I spend so much time focusing on where I fell short, what I got wrong, my mistakes and kids spend the majority of time focusing on what I did right.

They don't talk about all the nights I was too tired to read to them. But they will tell you about how we read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series and I did all the voices. (Bree will tell you to this day that the voice of Reepicheep in the movie is not right...because it isn't the voice I gave him.)

They might tell you about the years where Christmas was slim because I was so broke...but they are more likely to tell you about our tree cutting adventures, hot cocoa deluxe, and the years they got exactly what they wanted (and the fact that I often had help is seen more as the fact they are so loved by so many than the fact I didn't do what I needed to).

Ask them about my temper and the first story that comes to their mind is the time I lost it and let a bully coach have it while they sat in the car exclaiming "She put her hand on her hip!" and "OH, she's got BOTH hands on her hip!"

They may acknowledge that they knew about things like trafficking and poverty way before they actually wanted to but they will also tell you how they learned to really see a person because of me. To not just see a "prostitute" but the woman, life, and possibilities beneath the clothes, heels and makeup.

They will tell you about how they have come to me with questions and problems and we've dealt with them together. They will tell you I didn't chastise them when they struggled with their faith but stayed up to the wee hours of the morning talking through it. They will tell you about hugs, playing "hookie" and going to the park, growing up doing theatre together, games where I yelled louder than any other parent (okay...he might not actually enjoy that one! ha!).

If those are the  memories and the stories my kids hold on to, why do I hold onto the stories where my daughter fell asleep in class because I was working two jobs and couldn't get them home from the sitter until after one in the morning, or how I lost my temper at Trey so many times, how I struggled to get my mind right after their dad left, or the times of financial difficulty?

Why am I so insistent on being unkind to myself?

I don't know. I don't know if it's my fault or society's fault or the television's fault. I don't know if it's the PTA Mom's fault when she looked at my packets of instant cocoa at the 3rd grade class party and remarked "Oh, I thought you were making home made cocoa" without caring how I'd used my lunch break and broken every speed limit to even be at the party. But here is what I do know, if I continue to step on the Mom Scale and see myself as a failure, it's my own choice. No one is forcing me to do so. As a matter of fact, if I choose to step on the scale and see myself as a failure, I am making my children, my friends, and members of my family out to be liars. I am telling them that all the kind things they say to me and about me are untrue. That the only thing that matters is what I see on the scale. And who in the world am I to say that? Who am I to look at my two amazing, beautiful, and loving children and not believe I didn't get it right-at list a good percentage of the time? What am I teaching them if I continue to judge myself so harshly?

So today, tomorrow, next week...and beyond, I am going to be kind to myself. I accept that I will fail, falter, and mess up. But I will also succeed, get it right and try again. It's going to be a challenge. But I will take it. And I challenge you too. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle when you step on whatever scale you find yourself stepping on...give yourself permission to love you, to be good enough.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

This Is The Church

Today I walked into church and took my seat.
Third row back.
Middle section.
Aisle seat to the left.

It's my spot.

A creature of habit, I sit there unless someone else is sitting there and if someone else is sitting there, I sit as close to there as possible. However, before you decide I am some hyper spiritual, goody two shoes, super Christian, you should know something.

I don't sit in the front row because I'd get whip lash looking up at the pastor. I don't sit in the second row because there are these two big speakers that my knees would knock up against. So the third row is perfect.

The reality is that when I sit in church, I sit as close to the front as possible and take notes because...I'm easily distracted. I don't mean to be and as much as I'd like to blame ADD or ADHD, the reality is that if I'm not careful I will find myself noticing the guy on his phone and the cute baby in front of me and the woman's necklace...and then I'm wondering what we are going to have for dinner...

And it is a shame because Ed and Jason are two of the best pastors I've ever heard. And that is no exaggeration. So I have adopted survival techniques. Close to the front. I'm not allowed to use the Bible on my Kindle. Take notes. Oh...and for my children's sake, try not to verbally express my agreement with a "hmmm" when the sermon is especially good. Apparently I sound like I'm eating ice cream and it's louder than I realize. And embarrassing.

Anyway, I took my seat and gave a mental "Okay, I'm here" to God. I felt pretty impressed with myself. Thanks to Twitter the night before and the Christians fighting over MacArthur's "Strange Fire" conference and the "Act Like Men" conference and all the other things Christians tend to publicly sling mud over, I was feeling pretty disgusted with the church as a whole and may or may not have attempted to use that as an excuse to sleep in rather than get up and go to church.

The worship music was really good and I sang along so glad I had gotten my carcass out of bed and here. We sat down for announcements...and they arrived. I assume they sat where they did because it was the emptiest aisle. Maybe they get distracted too. Maybe a quick scan of the sanctuary revealed those were the only three seats together and easily accessible...I don't know. But they sat in front of me. Two girls and a guy. Younger. And they talked during the video. And they didn't stand and sing during the last worship song before communion. And they were whispering during prayer.

And my theatre snob persona took over...for just a minute. "Oh Lord, I hope they don't talk all through service" I inwardly moaned. It wasn't a prayer as much as a thought out eye roll. I actually thought through a quick list of indirect ways I could let them know they were disturbing me.

And God gave me sort of a "you better check yourself" nudge. was more like a shove.

The guy was holding one of the Bibles that we give out at the welcome center. It was brand new, never opened. When communion was served, the guy asked questions and the lady serving patiently answered. I watched as the whispers and the giggles that were obvious signs of discomfort gave way to settling in seats, taking notes, nodding heads, and (I am more than happy to say) a couple of verbal "hmmm"s. The sermon was the latest in CCC's "Really?" series and explored the idea that we could believe in science and the gospel. It was intelligent, well thought out and well presented and all three of them were totally into it. So was I once I'd started taking my own notes. At one point, one of the girls dropped the lid to her water bottle and it rolled behind her seat next to my foot. It took me three times to pick it up because I'm a klutz. I whispered as I handed it back to her something about "trying to be helpful" and she gave me a smile and whispered apology to which I replied "No problem"

After service, I introduced myself. Turns out the one girl had just moved to the area and hadn't been to church since she was ten. She was thinking of maybe going when her neighbor who attends our NA meetings on Tuesday showed her our church bulletin. To give you a clue, the cover to our bulletin looks something like this:

She took one look at the bulletin and thought that this might be a church she could fit into. So she convinced her two friends who had never been to church to come along. And they had sat in front of me. And everyone had been so nice and welcoming...(insert quick, appreciative prayer for attitude readjustments here!)...they were definitely coming back!

I took a look around the lobby of our church. At all the different types of people. Our Sunday crowd definitely gives an apt depiction of our desire to be the "church". They call it "church for the rest of us" because CCC wants to give people who wouldn't normally feel comfortable in church a place to where they feel welcomed. But I think that our lobby full of bikers, parents holding toddlers, those struggling with addictions, those who've never even smoked a cigarette, teenagers with mohawks, older folks with white hair...this is what the church is supposed to look like. And we as individuals make choices to make sure the church is what it is supposed to be. We can get frustrated with the stance of the "church" or the public image of the "church" but we are the ones who have to act to change it. And it happens in little ways. And we as Christians have a responsibility to make those choices. I'm so thankful for those three. They are grateful because I'm "so nice" and I'm grateful because they reminded me what the church is...

One beggar telling another beggar where to find food. (D.T. Niles)

PS To hear/watch the sermon series "Really?" Check out CCC's website

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Meaning Of Matthew

Fifteen years ago today, a young man took his bicycle for a ride just outside of Laramie, Wyoming. This was not an unusual occurrence. But today would be different. On his ride, he discovered what he at first thought was a "scarecrow" or a "Halloween trick" but was actually the body of college student Matthew Shepard. Matthew had been beaten and left for dead.

Because he was gay.

Two young men took him to an isolated spot, tied him to a fence, and beat him.

Because he was gay.

Matthew was taken to the hospital where he never regained consciousness and died several days later. His mother, father, and brother by his side. The two young men who plead guilty to his murder received plea bargains with the consent of Matthew's family and will spend the rest of their life in prison. They have since broken portions of that bargain and spoke out in the media, actually changing their story several times. However, their original confessions, attempted use of the "gay panic defense" and original stories of witnesses, etc all claimed that Matthew died for one reason. McKinney and Henderson didn't like gay people.

I'll confess, that October that Matthew died, I didn't pay a ton of attention to the story on the news. I saw pictures of memorials, news reports, speeches, etc. But I was in Georgia. Mother of a two year old and a three year old. I vaguely remember shaking my head at the hate in the world but then went about cooking dinner, taking care of my family, and getting ready for work the next day.

It wasn't until 13 years later, while at Newnan Theatre Company, hanging out with the cast of the Laramie Project, a play that details the murder of Matthew and it's impact on those involved as well as the community of Laramie, Wyoming that the story of Matthew really began to impact me.

I began to research. I read Judy Shepard's book "The Meaning Of Matthew" and cried as she talked about losing her son. I became more familiar with the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the work they do to "Erase Hate". I talked to the kids in the cast and heard their stories of how their families reacted to their coming out or bringing gay friends over, their thoughts on Christians who constantly clobbered the LGBTQ community.

Matthew's life...and death...began to have meaning for them and for me.

And even fifteen years later, with the hate crime bill old news, states approving marriage equality, etc. Matthew's life and death continues to have meaning. Hate crimes are increasing in New York. Last week approximately 20 football players from Ole Miss attended a performance of The Laramie Project and interrupted the play with taunts and homophobic slurs. And people in my neighborhood still unthinkingly use the word "fag" in incredibly derogatory tones.

It is time that we take the Meaning of Matthew and apply it to our world and the world around us. I don't care if the group of people you hate are homosexuals or the Republican Party...hate is never the answer. It is time to understand that all people deserve dignity and respect. It is time for Christians to stand up for the LGTBQ community because regardless of whether you approve or not, you are commanded by the one you call Savior to love them.

This week, as Matthew's family and friends face a tough anniversary. As they mourn the loss of someone they held dear. As the town of Laramie remembers...

Let's do our part to "Erase Hate". To make the meaning of Matthew's life more about the love he knew than the prejudice and anger that took his life.

Here's some ideas:
1) Check out the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Give a donation in Matthew's memory.
2) Make a NALT video.
3) Get involved in an organization that supports LGBTQ youth. For Atlanta people, there's Lost N Found (homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in Georgia). There's also Forty To None and the Trevor Project.
4) Research: go see a production of The Laramie Project or read the script. Also, read Judy Shepard's book the Meaning Of Matthew.
5) Do a small kindness to someone. Someone you probably wouldn't normally reach out to. Take time to write an email or note and let Judy Shepard know you were thinking of her and Matthew when you did it (send them to the Matthew Shepard Foundation).
6) Examine yourself. If you know you are prejudice against a group of people, start taking steps to change it. You'd be amazed what building relationships would do to your mindset.
7) In the play, The Laramie Project (and therefore in real life), the hospital director reads a statement from Judy Shepard where she tells everyone "Go home and hug your children" So, go home...and hug your children.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Ode to Librarians

I've talked about how much I live this close to Downtown Newnan's "Square" favorite coffee shop, the atmosphere, the local merchants, the events...but I don't think I've ever mentioned the library. 

The Carnegie Library on the Square has to be one of my favorite libraries of all time. It has an atmosphere of welcome...not like "welcome, come find a book and we'll see you next time" but "welcome, come hang out for as long as you like." It's really reminiscent of the library in my hometown so that's probably one of the reasons I love it so much. The selection isn't huge because the majority of the books are donated but they are on an "honor system." There is no library card or checking books out. You pick out your books, tell the librarian how many you are taking and bring them back when you can (No overdue fees! Hallelujah!) 

The other day I was in there working on a computer because the internet at home was having issues. Obviously, since I'm there, I'm going to grab a few books. On a time limit, I grabbed three and walked up to the desk. "Three" I told the librarian. "Only three?" She chuckled. We shared a little more small talk and I walked out into the beautiful almost Fall weather with a grin on my face.

Part of my glee was the fact I have now been into the Carnegie enough times the librarians are starting to recognize me. I really like the staff there and being able to interact with them enriches the experience. Like most humans, I like being known.

And the truth is, I have known and been known by some of the best librarians on the planet. I was thinking of them as I walked back to my car and I just can't resist sharing about some of them with you. If for no other reason than I enjoy sharing the riches life has given...and maybe so you can show some love to the librarians in your life. Unfortunately, most of their names have escaped my heart and mind but not their impact.

There was the librarian at Menlo Elementary. The one who introduced me to the Mary Poppins series (there is so much more to the story than the Disney movie!), who put Louisa May Alcott into my hand, who shared my excitement when my Grandfather gave me the entire Little House On The Prarie series for Christmas, and who told stories about her giant son "George." George was so giant they had to buy tents and tarps to make his clothes and build a special door so he could get in the house. And being so giant, he got into many a fix. She loved books. Even more she loved children.

Living in Gray, the librarian at the public library introduced me to Betsy Byars. And, once I'd read pretty much every book in the Young Adult section (it was pretty small), she bent the rules and let me move on to the adult section (yes, they had rules about that). I still remember the day someone else was at the counter when I placed Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Mists of Avalon" on the desk. This person didn't know I was special, with special privileges and wasn't going to let me check it out until my librarian came up and intervened. I remember she told me I might have bit off more than I could chew but I was insistent. She was actually right. It took me the entire two weeks and I didn't get parts of it (I would re-read it later in life) but I persisted.

In Middle School, the school librarian who told my sixth grade self that she couldn't wait until I was in 8th grade and could read Jane Eyre. She gave it to me in 7th grade. And thus my love for the Brontes was born. She also introduced me to William Shakespeare after I described the incredibly sad movie I'd watched over the weekend (It was Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet). In 8th Grade, she watched me pore over the books learning everything I could about "cancer"...every now and then she would come by and rub my back or put her hand on my shoulder as I tried to understand this disease that was eating away at my Grandma. She also laughed as I showed up the aides who came from the high school when they quizzed me about the books I returned because they suspected I wasn't actually reading them but trying to get out of class.

In high school and back in Menlo, I'd ride my bike to the small library close to the center of town. The librarian was fierce and put up with no silly behaviors. She never said but I'm pretty sure she suspected that I was there as much for my love of books as I was to "get away" and so she tolerated me. Then one day she told me if I was going to be there all the time, I might as well make myself "useful." And she let me put books away (you have no idea the amount of trust that took for her!), decorate the bulletin boards (I'd put that skill to use again as a Headstart Teacher), clean and get things ready for summer book clubs. We didn't talk much but enjoyed each other's company.

I wonder...which came first...the love of books or the love of the librarian? I'm so grateful to these women who showed me love, introduced me to their favorite books, and shared their fascination of the written word with me. If you are a librarian, I hope you know the impact you have. I hope you know that 22, 28 and even 35 years later, your influence will resonate in someone's life. Thank you for all you do!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Power of "I'm Sorry" (and other ideas for peaceful conflict resolution)

I sat there.

My Dad to the left of me, holding my hand. My husband to the right. He'd been holding my hand but had let it go the more irate he got. The psychiatrist sat across from us.

I was 48 hours into a mandatory 72 hour inpatient hospital stay.

I was 20 years old.

Three days before, I'd given up. I was certain enough that nothing was ever going to get better. That I was never going to feel better. I was tired. I just wanted to be done. So, while my husband was at work, I went into the bathroom and took all of my medication. Even the Saint John's Wort (the warning on the label said you could overdose on it...).

And now, I was in a mental hospital. With my husband and my father arguing about who had hurt me more. Who had done the most damage. Who was most at fault for the fact I sat here, in this place, alive but not okay. But my state of being didn't seem to be the issue at this point. It was more about blame.

I hadn't gotten a word in edgewise. Hadn't tried. Just sat there looking down into my lap. I finally looked up at the psychiatrist, looked her in the eye and thought "Do you get it now?" She flashed me a sardonic grin. And finally asked "What do you think Cindy?"

I said "I think the person responsible for how I feel is me. It's not about what's been done to me, it's about how I feel about it. I'm responsible."

Suddenly my husband and father, who minutes before had been yelling at each other, were allies and taking turns explaining to the psychiatrist that this was indeed my fault.

They still didn't get it. At that point, it didn't matter whose fault it was. It didn't matter what had happened to get me this way. What mattered was that I was this way and the focus needed to be how to help me get better.

The truth was that they'd both hurt me but that didn't make them solely responsible for what I'd done. However, the guilt they felt was so uncomfortable that they were too busy trying to dismiss point fingers at make themselves feel better...they couldn't focus on me and what the real problems were. And how to solve them. They felt like an "I'm sorry" made them solely responsible and condemned them as bad people. And it didn' just meant they were human. Imperfect...and willing to say so.

I don't bring this up to point fingers at my Dad (who I still miss on an almost daily basis) or my ex-husband. In fact, it's been years since I thought about that incident until today. I don't even know the girl sitting there (For real, have I been that quiet since then?). But it brings up several points about conflict, the issues that we are struggling with on a personal, national, even worldwide level.

1) The first step of conflict resolution is not to establish blame. The Democrats and Republicans in our country prove that. More than likely (in most cases), all parties bear some sort of responsibility. There might need to be a time of "Hey, sorry I did so and so" but it does not need to be followed up with "but you did so and so and that makes you worse than me" Before someone misunderstands, let me explain. I know, for a fact, that I am not responsible for what happened to destroy my marriage. I am, however, to blame for some of the problems in our marriage. I'm not asking anyone to take on false guilt or apologize for something that isn't their fault. I'm just saying we can begin to resolve the conflict if all parties are willing to admit they are imperfect.

2) The first step in conflict resolution is to honestly access what the problem actually is. That might be different things to different people, especially at first glance. For instance, my husband thought my Dad's alcoholism was the problem. My Dad thought the fact I'd married a jerk was the problem. And I was too concerned with the effects active charcoal had on the body to really care what the actual problem was. Getting to the root of an issue will take some digging and you cannot be distracted by symptoms or causes (both might or will have to be dealt with later but the priority is to identify the root cause). My Dad was alcoholic for most of my life. When he quit drinking, he became addicted to sweets. (Seriously, he kept cases of Little Debbie cupcakes in his trunk.) When he became overweight because of the snack cakes, he became addicted to coffee. He had two pots in the was always ready, the other brewing. Then it was Diet Dr Pepper. And then, after he hurt his back, it was pain medication. There was never a point in my Dad's life from the time he was 17 years old that he wasn't an addict...because no one ever actually identified the problem, what the root cause of his addiction was.

3) Conflict resolution can be messy, takes compromise...and time. Be willing to say that resolving a problem is more important than getting your way in all things. Be willing to let things go. I know that to remedy situations, restore relationships and for the sake of my own mental health I have had to let some things have most of the over-comers I know. Again, that is not to say lay down and be a victim...but you may never know why something happened or someone said that, you may never get the perfect apology and the remedy for a problem might take some compromise so that you get some things you want and they get some things they want. Be willing to work things out as you go along. Some things you thought might work, might not. Sometimes resolution actually means there needs to be distance between you and someone or something else. And it takes a lot of time. More time than you want it have to put the same principles in practice repeatedly.

4) Forgiveness is worth it. Several years ago I was at a prayer event in Birmingham, AL. The event occurred on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's death and the focus was on reconciliation. There were people of every color and we'd worshiped together, learned together, prayed together. Beautiful is an understatement. At one point we were taking communion together. I was compelled to look at the lady next to me and say "I'm sorry." I told her that I was sorry for the prejudice in my family, the way I'd looked the other way, the jokes they'd told. That I was sorry for the systematic dehumanizing that she had endured for years as a black woman in the South. I was a little nervous as I said it. For all I know she could be from Maine or Saint Thomas...she might never have experienced prejudice in her life (though unlikely). All I knew is, I was supposed to say it. And she looked at me and said "I forgive you" And tears started to fall and before I knew it she was hugging me and sobbing. Somehow, in saying it to me...she was able to begin the process of forgiving those who had actually harmed her. And she had been harmed. Her family had been harmed.  None of the people who'd actually harmed her were there to make amends. And her forgiveness certainly didn't make what they had done okay. But it meant that she was able to let go, to heal, to begin to release the distrust and bitterness against all white people she'd felt for years. It was necessary for her resolution and it's necessary for yours.

It's basic. It's simple. But I also think that if we could apply some of this to our relationships, to our politics, to our attitudes that we could see real change. If we could stop pointing fingers and really understand the problems our nation faces...and not the smoke bombs but the real problems...homelessness, poverty, prejudice, a broken system that no longer represents all the people but the richest and special interest groups who can afford the lobbyist...then we could begin to affect change. If we are willing to let go of the "I'm Right and you're Wrong" and see the positives in each other even as we admit our own humanity and mistakes. Then we could do something about the terminal negativity that is dividing us and creating this vitriolic atmosphere.

And for those of you who are hurting. Who are done. Who think it's time to let go. I do not make promises but I will make this one. It does get better. Your existence matters. You bring good to the planet and people around you. Getting help can be scary, it will be hard, but it will help...and it's definitely the right thing to do.

Trevor Lifeline (24/7) 866-488-7386
NCPL 1-800-273-8255

Monday, September 2, 2013

For You Not Against You

Church...and by that I don't mean a building, or a denomination or a para-church organization. I mean THE church. The one that believes there is a God, that believes that God longs for relationship with us, that He sent His Son Jesus to earth, that Jesus modeled the disciple life and then became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins so that we didn't have to be separated from God forever. That church.

The church that reads "Love your neighbor as yourself"
The church that reads "Go into all the world..."
The church that reads "For God so loved the world..."

The church that is so busy in your political posturing and finger pointing and condemnation and making sure the world knows what you are against that you forgot to tell them what you are for, what God is for...and what He told you to be about.

The church that is so busy circling the wagons and protecting itself that it is losing a battle for your children.

The church that needs to know when you are so incredibly loud in your condemnation of Miley Cyrus that you forget to tell the teenagers in your church that God loves her, you are alienating them. Because they feel that judgement on themselves. They are struggling with their sexuality and what the media is telling them and wanting to be accepted and instead of opening a dialogue with them you are picking up your bullhorn.

And  you are losing them.

When you are so busy denouncing same sex marriage as the downfall of all marriages and you are dehumanizing the LGBT community as the "enemy" and the teenagers in your church have friends who are LGBT or are wondering about themselves and you forget to tell them about grace.

You are losing them.

You are pointing your finger at so many but when Fred Phelps and his hate mongers protest the funerals of innocent victims or Pat Robertson makes the most ridiculous accusations about "special rings" and the deliberate spreading of HIV, you remain silent because you are afraid that to denounce them would negatively impact the church's freedom of speech or freedom of religion. So the world looks at them and thinks "this is what Christianity looks like" and you aren't saying any different. And the kids in your church don't want the world to think that that is what they are like so they no longer publicly affiliate themselves with the church or even as Christians.

You are losing them.

The church that believes you walk into a building on a Sunday morning wearing your church mask because the church is no longer a place to be hurting and broken but a place to act like we have it all together. So your kids no longer believe they can go into their youth group and confess they cheated on a test, that they struggle with self injury, that they don't know what to do with their life. They believe that they have to carry this fake "image" and it either breaks them or they refuse to wear it so they refuse to go to church. And they are hurting, depressed and falling...and the church is no longer the place to catch them.

We are losing them.

It is time. It's time to lay down our agenda and live what God told us to live. Love. We are supposed to be known for our love. Not our political party. How is it that if I'm a Christian, I'm automatically supposed to be conservative Republican? (I'm not) That I'm automatically against same sex marriage. Against gun control. Pro-Life (but that doesn't mean I'm against the death penalty or approved as a foster parent).

Don't get me wrong...part of this is the media's fault and I'm not even getting started on them (I've done it further down in my blog posts).

But a big part of it is the church.

It's time to preach the message that we were meant to preach. And that does not mean that we are okay with culture (I will fight the "pimp" word until my last breath). And it doesn't mean that we are conforming. And it doesn't mean we are okay with sin. It means that we are busier preaching what we are for than what we are against.

It means looking at our kids and saying
"We are for you."
"God is for you"
"God is longing for a relationships with you. Literally longing for it." And don't follow that up with but only if you don't do this, if you take out your gages, or get a haircut...

Let the church be a place for the broken again. Let the husband admit his battle with porn, the Mom confess her temper problem and the teenager cry out because her body doesn't look like what magazines tell her beauty is so she stopped eating.

You look at your youth group and you think "Not our kids."
But, yes. Your kids. Your kids are hurting. Confused by the messages they get from the TV and music. And they need to know the church is the place to come to confront all of love. That the church bands together not to fight against the world but to fight for it. That we were called out by God to go, preach the message of love to the world and make disciples. 

If we need to have a political message let it be one of justice. Fight for the oppressed, the impoverished, the widow, the orphan. Fight for our kids.

Make no mistake. The enemy is after them. And if we aren't paying attention...and as a church, we are failing to pay attention...then little by little...

We will lose them.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


I'm no expert on parenting.
I think I would be. I've been doing it a while.
But I'm not.

And, to be honest, I distrust most of those who would call themselves "expert". Especially if they call themselves experts at single parenting having never been one or a part of a single parent household (And it doesn't count if your wife grew up in a single parent household. That makes her the expert.)

Here's why I find the idea of parenting expert suspect...
Parenting is new every day. And it differs with each child. And there are always going to be situations where you find your self going "Oh my God, what do I do now?" or "HOW did we get here?" or "What am I supposed to say to make this better???" or "Who the heck is this person that looks like my child but just talked like that to me?" (Can I get an "Amen"?) And you are going to think through all the parenting books you've read through the years...and come up empty. You rely on your heart, your mind, what you know about your child, and your relationship.

Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you get it wrong. Sometimes the thing that worked the day before doesn't work today.

The last couple of weeks, I've actually gotten a few things right so I'm feeling pretty confident in my abilities. I figured, before I screw it up and am back to blogging in parenting S.O.S mode, I'd share.

Unconditional Love
Recently a friend of mine with a newborn told me of her desire to get it "perfect" and I had to laugh. I remember the days I read all the "What To Expect When You are Expecting" type books and had visions of my perfectly clean, cutely dressed children playing with their building blocks while I prepared the most wonderful dinners and bake from scratched cookies. In my dreams I never spanked my children, never yelled at them and certainly never curled up in a ball on my bed fervently praying that their therapy bills as adults weren't too astronomical. I know those parents. I'm not one of them. But I have learned the value of looking at my kids and telling them "I screwed up. And I'm sorry."

It might be the second most important thing I do. (First being teach them relationship with Jesus) And here is why. In looking at my children and telling them I am fallible, that I screw up, and that I need to apologize I teach them two things. First of all, that you don't have to be perfect. That you mess up and people love you anyway. In knowing that I mess up and they love me anyway, they are learning it is okay to mess up...and that I will love them regardless. This idea of unconditional love, of grace, should be a message kids who grow up in the church are getting loud and clear...but it isn't. In fact, I believe that the church in general is so busy teaching out kids what we are against, we are forgetting or aren't bothering to teach them what we are for, what God is for and what we are called to (More on that later) Teaching our kids that our love for them isn't based on their behavior or grades or accomplishments means they are more confident in their identity and less at risk of abusive behaviors (at their own hands or someone else's) and more likely to succeed at whatever they do.

Also, teaching them that it is okay to make mistakes...but we own up to them. We say I'm sorry. We are accountable for our actions and the consequences. This is not only about teaching them about responsibility (which they need) but also how to build healthy relationships.

I have to confess that at 17 and 18, I'd sort of assumed my kids were growing out of their need and desire to spend a lot of time with me. And, to be honest, figured that my summer of unemployment had probably given them more time than they'd ever wanted to be around me. I abandoned the notion of taking my kids on individual "dates" some time ago because we spend so much time together. (We do spend a lot of time together...especially at theatre.) Last week, I found out exactly how wrong I was and had two of the best days with my kids that I'd had in a long time. For Trey, it meant he took me "Walker Stalking." This is a thing. For real. It's a group of people who are huge fans of the Walking Dead and hang out at filming locations in order to meet cast members. This particular group has strict rules and other words, no one or nothing is allowed to "spoil" the season so you don't take pictures of walkers, cast in costumes, etc. We didn't get to meet anyone but we did see Carl, Michonne (if I didn't spell that right, Trey is going to kill me) and several walkers (makeup is crazy good on those zombies). And Trey took me to all the sites I needed to see in "Woodbury" (aka Senoia). For Embree, it was hanging out in Little Five Points (specifically Junkman's Daughter because she fell in love with the place....I knew she would!) and seeing a show at Horizon. Something clicked with my kids again and that something that I thought was missing because they were growing up was really missing because they needed me, my time, my attention, my enjoyment of things important to them.

It is universally acknowledged that crisis of faith, identity or crisis in general never occur at "normal" times of the day. And if it isn't universally acknowledged, it should be. Teenagers have them. I'm incredibly lucky/blessed that when mine have them, they usually come to me. They know they can talk to me about anything and that if I'm not okay with everything, I'll try to be so that we can talk through it. That doesn't mean I'm permissive. It means I create a safe atmosphere. And sometimes, creating a safe atmosphere means telling your kids things or admitting things to your kids that you never thought you would...just so they know they are not alone, as weird as they thought they were, or a freak of nature. Use discretion...and they probably don't need details. But be willing to tell your kids some of the things you'd rather they didn't know. Be honest about what you learned from it. But be willing to be imperfect so that they can use that to not only connect with you but use that knowledge in the process of figuring themselves out. You will end up talking about things you are uncomfortable, questions of faith, drugs...

But I'm telling you that if you aren't talking to your kids about these things in an honest, open way. If you aren't being real with your kids...someone else is...and that someone else might not be telling them things you'd want them to learn. And that someone might be a friend, the internet, or some random guy at the bus stop. You aren't protecting your children when you don't talk to them. You are leaving them vulnerable. And there is a huge difference between lecturing them and talking to them. So, if you are wondering why your kids aren't talking to you...make sure you are talking to them.

Parenting is messy. It's sticky. And sometimes downright perilous. Give yourself some grace. Be willing to talk to your kids, tell them you know you don't always get it right, but that you always love them. It's a pretty safe bet they love you back.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The "P" Word

Throughout history there have been words created to demean, demoralize, and hurt groups of people. In my own lifetime, I have heard the "N" word (sorry, my Grandma raised me right and I can't even type it let alone say it out loud!) meant to degrade persons of color, "retard" used to mean stupid and other degrading things, "faggot" or "gay" no longer a bundle of sticks or a happy state of being but despised and further deteriorating when a rap artist used a lame excuse to avoid being labeled homophobic and "gay" suddenly began to mean "uncool" or "stupid"

Thankfully, culture has slowly changed. Public announcements are created. We come to understand that our words matter, that they have an impact. That what we say creates a culture. And that culture can create good...or bad.


I've been told today that I need to grow up, that I am fighting a losing battle and that my crusade against the word is ineffective in the fight against sex trafficking. I don't believe you.

Our words matter and our words create a culture. The acceptance of the word "pimp" in our culture and society means that we water down and accept what a "pimp" really is. The use of the word "pimp" to mean "cool" or "bling" means that we create an atmosphere where it is cool to be a pimp. There are books and songs that glorify the "pimpin' lifestyle" while the word "hoe" is meant to degrade and demean.

That means we have more sympathy for the trafficker than we do the trafficked! You may protest but that is exactly what message is being spread through our media, music and marketing tools.

That is why when a merchandise store creates a sale and a marketing technique that focuses on high school and middle school students and they use the word "pimp" (as in "Pimp Your Packs"), I am so outraged I could scream and cry at the same time.

I'm told this won't fix anything...and maybe it won't, today. But our kids, the stores they shop from, and them pimps themselves need to hear this message. And slowly, it will change. If we stop ignoring the issue and take action. It will change. It will take time, but that's okay.

I have faith. I have history to hold on to as proof of success that came before. I hope I can convince you of the same.

Hot Topic sent out the email and focused their back to school sale on a number of items meant to decorate back packs. They call it "Pimp Your Pack"

I created a petition to tell them it's not okay.

You can also call them at 1-800-892-8674

PS I've been "trolled" enough already today. Feel free to disagree with me but get nasty and I will delete your comments. Thanks for understanding.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I love theatre. I mean...I love theatre.
I've tried to describe how and why I love theatre but it seems sort of impossible. Part of it is because of the emotions and how theatre reflects life. I've always loved books, the stories my grandparents shared, tales of courage and does something that movies can't...the glass barrier is removed and you are fully able to connect with the characters and their stories. And good theatre, when it is over, leaves you feeling something like Dorothy back in Kansas or Alice returned from Oz. Happy to be home, but wistful...wishing to be back, just for a little while.

I realize this makes no sense to some of you.

That's okay. I get it. I don't understand golf, NASCAR, or decaf coffee.

For those of you who don't get it, just trust me. For those of you who do, can I get an "amen"? There are shows that stay with you for days afterward. Sometimes it's because you can't get the songs out of your head (I don't recommend singing any song from Caberet at work...especially if you happen to work in a Christian missions organization), . Sometimes the character. Sometimes...just...everything.

Yesterday, Embree and I went to see "Every Tongue Confess" at Horizon Theatre. You think after several weeks of working as House Managment Intern and seeing the audiences come out, overhearing the music, etc I would have had a better idea of what I was about to see. But I didn't. I knew some of the songs by heart, the premise of the stories, the actors (I'm absolutely in love with Minka Wiltz) and I'd heard the audience's reaction...and still underestimated the show.

People! Every emotion...and I mean every emotion is wrecked during this show-you laugh, cry, feel horrified, hopeless, brave, stunned, convicted...! The music is interwoven so well it's not like most musicals where you think "oh now we have a dance number" but it continues the dialogue. The play itself is hard to describe but the setting is a town in Alabama in 1990's and someone is burning churches, well, black churches. The characters stories are told and intertwined into a somewhat surprising ending. The writer, Marcus Gardley, uses mystical realism which is not always my thing since it can come across as cheesy but here is artistic and beautiful.

At one point, Mother Sister is preaching and myself and the two ladies sitting to my right were so caught up in the story, we thought we were in church as we murmured "humhmm" and "amen" and "that'll preach" Bree and I had to hold hands several times throughout and once or twice I caught myself not breathing.

But the thing I love even more than the power of the story it told, was the power of the truths it told. The fact that "sometimes miracles can be staring us right in the face", that gossip is as dangerous as a blade, and that "the root of prejudice is fear"

The root of prejudice is fear.
One of the most powerful moments in the show, as Elder tells his tale of the white mother and her son who come into the black church asking for a handout. The mother has been revealed an adulteress. They are in need. And the church, afraid, won't help them.

"We were afraid. And the root of prejudice is fear. So we offered them salvation instead. Said it was the Christian thing to do." And then they sent them on their way.

I think I owe Marcus Gardley an apology. When I read he was from California, I scoffed at the idea he could possibly understand or write about Southern life/issues with a deep understanding. I was wrong.

I'm also really excited about the next show coming up in September at Horizon Theatre...a play written especially for Horizon Theatre and inspired by the refugee community in Clarkston, GA. Check out the details on their website: This will be especially interesting to all my advocate friends...and for the record, I've already told the Co-Artistic Director, Jeff, that we'd all be coming! Bring money for the cookies!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Practicing What I Preach

I have deliberately not published anything on my blog about the Trayvon Martin case because emotions were so high and I don't know if I could have said anything anyone wasn't saying better or more clearly. But the events of the other night have me thinking about it and are central to some of the things I want to say. So here goes...

The only black hoodie my son owns has the Shakespeare Tavern logo on the back of it. That being said, had it been my son walking down the street in a black hoodie that night, I can't 100% say he would still be alive today. But I know, for a fact, that he had a better chance than Trayvon Martin did.

I also believe, had that been my son, that more care would have been taken in the investigation. A harder look taken at George Zimmerman's attitude, disobeying a 911 operator, failing to identify himself, having previous assault arrest record, etc. I believe the witnesses would have been questioned more carefully. I believe my son's hoodie would have been handled with more care. Placed in a paper bag instead of a plastic one. That is the part that bothers me the most...they put the hoodie in a plastic bag knowing it would contaminate the DNA evidence. Was it carelessness...or an attitude that this case was done and no further investigation was required?

The thing that frustrates me the most is the media's polarizing representation of both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. If either the conservative or liberal media (FYI people, they both have an agenda.) had taken this opportunity to report facts and open up dialogue, perhaps change could occur. But instead they go to their corners, scream, point fingers and twist details to suit their version. And we the people, follow after them blindly.

Here are three things I think we need to discuss in light of the Trayvon Martin case:
1) is so much more than just a black/white thing. I realize George Zimmerman identified himself as white but he has a Hispanic background as well and we desperately need to take a more thorough look at racism, where it comes from and how to change it.

2) Culture...Trayvon Martin thought guns and drugs were cool. Where did he get that idea? A culture that tells him so. Music that glorifies drugs, violence, gangs, mistreatment of women. To the upper middle class mom driving a minivan and wondering why "those people" listen to "that kind of music" I'd bet money your kids are listening to it as well. To the parent who is relieved their kid listens to country music...have you listened to the lyrics? How many songs refer to women's body parts as "money makers" or talk with glee about smoking pot and drinking?

3) Our own prejudices...don't try to sugar coat it, justify it, or ignore it. For many of us, it is a culture or environment. For others, a family tradition. And for others...well, just plain ignorance. For all of us, it needs to be faced and dealt with so that we are free to live in community.

The other night I was driving home from the theatre and just a couple of miles from my house there was a man walking down the road. I noticed that he wasn't wearing a shirt, that he was a black male, and he was walking funny. I've had years of experience in watching a drunk man walking but this guy wasn't drunk. He walked like he was hurting. He was also walking on the road as opposed to the side walk. I couldn't tell his age since he was walking in the same direction I was driving so I couldn't see his face.

I wanted to stop. I wanted to help. But I was afraid. And I made myself ask the question, would I have been less afraid if the guy had been white? For a second, I was afraid of what I was going to find out about myself but I can honestly say, no. I was scared either way. But I knew that I was supposed to offer the guy a ride. By then, I'd already passed him so I had to turn around. He was actually an older gentleman. I pulled up and asked if he needed a ride. He seemed alarmed...and then puzzled. He told me he was okay, that he was almost home. I said okay and started to roll up the window. He wanted to know "why did you ask if I needed a ride?" I explained that I'd passed by, knew he was hot, and had observed he was walking like he was in pain. He admitted his legs were tired and hurting...he'd been working and then had to walk home. I again offered to give him a ride the rest of the way. It took more time than I thought for him to get that I just wanted to do something nice. He asked if I wanted him to clean my car. I said no but thank you and explained I have teenagers who do things like that. He asked if I wanted my grass cut. I think in this conversation he was trying to figure out what the white woman wanted and I started thinking he was in need of money. I explained again that me and my kids did that kind of stuff, that I didn't have the money to pay anyone to do it and if he was sure he didn't need a ride, I was going to finish my way home.

When I got home, I told the kids about it and we talked about how hard it was for the man to understand I just wanted to be nice. Then Trey remembered something. Getting on Facebook he showed me a meme that said "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman stopped and asked Trayvon Martin if he needed a ride home." Looking at me, Trey said "You are part of creating that world Mom"

Sunday, August 18, 2013


There once was a man who desperately needed money.
And every day, he got on his knees and prayed:
"Lord, please, please, please, please let me win the lottery"
Every day...for months...the same prayer.
Until one day the Lord said:
"Son, please, please, please, a ticket!"

I have spent a lot of time praying lately. For direction, for a financial miracle (something like bills with Benjamin Franklins falling from the sky like manna? Ha!), for my kids. But I've also been aware and praying for friends as well.

For the ones who desperately want to get pregnant.
And the ones who are beginning the adoption process.
For the ones suffering from physical pain and illness.
And the ones suffering from mental and emotional pain.
To the ones who just found out their parents are ill.
And those that have lost their parents and miss them terribly.
For the special, amazing friends looking for the "what's next" and "where to go"
And those that have embarked on new adventures.

A lot of time, my prayers are what a friend used to call "popcorn prayers" (brief prayers as I go along my day), some of the time it is time set aside during the day to focus on prayer, I want to be all about prayer. And for many, I want you to know I am praying for you. For others, if you need prayer, feel free to let me know. It would be privilege and honor to pray for you as well.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

There is a Sara Lee chocolate pie in my fridge ya'll!!!
And no one at home to see me sneak a bite. Well, the dogs...but they won't tell!

I. Miss. Sugar. And several other things. But sugar especially.

I've also noticed I don't eat as much if food doesn't taste good. I need flavor! (This should probably prompt me to think about how much I eat versus how much I need to eat. I mean...I'm this size for a reason!)

Why are we doing this again???

As I stared at the pie, it occurred to me that one of the reasons we grow closer to God when we fast is that we are so much more aware of Him than when we aren't. I mean, if it wasn't for 7, I would be thinking how awesome the pie tastes and feeling guilty about the calories. As I looked at it and thought "No one would know!" I thought about how I would know, how I'd betray the girls in my "tribe" but the biggest stopping point was that I'd made this commitment to God. That He would know.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that God would look down on me licking the fork clean of the last of the Sara Lee chocolate goodness and go all "OH, we are through! That is the last straw. You are on your own girlfriend" But there is a bond, a relationship. And in shutting the freezer, I said with my words and actions that that relationship is more important than temporary joys. I'm aware of His presence and His awareness of my actions. And I have chosen the better thing.

I took to Facebook to see how my other 7 tribe members were doing and one of them had posted that she had given herself too much freedom and was restricting her list more.

It made me think that, both with 7 and with all that is going on in real life, when I put it in perspective...I still have it really good. I mean, even with the unemployment and fear of paying bills, etc, when you look at a worldview perspective, I am one of the richest people in the world. That even when going without, there is more I could go without and be okay.

I've added A Day In The Life Of A Minimalist by Joshua Fields Millburn to my reading list while we continue on our 7 experiment. It turns out most of the essays found in the book can be found on their website The book is also available on Amazon. I downloaded it for free forever ago but it was $7 when I checked for this blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Black Coffee And Other Grossness

Black coffee is gross.

Apparently, when I say “I like coffee” what I really mean is “I like coffee sweetened and with cream” because I can tell you for a fact I don’t like coffee without those two options.

So here we are. I read “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker a little over a year ago. It wrecked me. I mean, we kind of live the minimalist lifestyle as a matter of necessity rather than choice just because of the whole single mom working for a nonprofit thing. But the introspection, the idea of our attitudes, the beauty of fasting, our responsibility to others/our kids/our environments/ourselves. It was amazing.

I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t read it at this point, but if you haven’t…do it. Seriously. Oh, read Interrupted first…it’s a good book and helpful to know the backstory.

Anyway, ever since reading the book, I’ve been wanting my own “council” so I too could go through the experiment. I knew I didn’t want to go through it alone since it wouldn’t be as fun…and, to be honest, I would cheat without the community, encouragement and accountability of fellow sojourners.

When my friend (and soul sister) Emily read the book, she felt the same way; so we used Facebook to gather members and scheduled our first meeting. I was so looking forward to it! This was finally happening!

I had to sleep through three alarms to miss our first meeting. But I managed it. Luckily Emily caught me up to date and we have our “secret” Facebook group to make observations, etc  so I’m not entirely out of the loop.

The first month is food. There are a couple of options presented in her book and our council came up with a couple of others so my choices were: only eat seven foods for one month, eat like seven of the poorest countries of the world for three days each, commit to the SNAP challenge for one month (where you live off a grocery budget that reflects average amount of food stamps a family your size receives), or come up with something of your own. Thanks to missing the meeting, working Friday night/two shows on Saturday/and closing show on Sunday, I hadn’t really wrapped my brain around what I wanted to do for the month. In fact, members of the council were already craving foods before I even posted my plan. Better late than never I suppose.

Since we live the SNAP challenge, it didn’t seem like a fair option but because of that eating only seven foods wasn’t really economical either. I couldn’t purchase my foods and separate foods for the kids. So what I decided to do was give up seven foods. That way, I can fix the same meals and just make modifications for myself. In addition to giving up seven foods, I committed to a total fast for one day a week for four weeks to pray and focus on four major issues: extreme poverty, slavery, empowerment of women, and education for children.

I went about making my list with purpose: salt, sugar, meat…

That’s only three and in giving up salt and sugar, I’ve kind of went broad in eliminating other foods so I can’t count them…what else? Emily suggested cheese. I put hummus on the list even though I knew Jason had made a fresh batch. What else? 

Oh please, no please…not coffee!

For the last year I’ve sworn that no matter what, while going through the experiment, I would not give up coffee. When Bree heard I was considering coffee she exclaimed “I’m not okay with this!” and, while I can’t prove it, I’m fairly certain she started looking for a temporary home.

Coffee was fifth on the list. What next?

NOOOOOO…not peanut butter AND coffee! I racked my brain for over an hour until, finally, peanut butter rounded out my list of seven foods that I would give up for four weeks. I knew as I wrote it what had happened. I had given up every single one of my comfort foods. Me, the stress eater, in a month that included unemployment, possible eviction, my Dad’s birthday and who knew what else…had given up ice cream, coffee, cookies, potato chips, hummus, AND peanut butter.

I was not very gracious about it. I grumbled “Guess it’s just you and me God”
To which God grinned and replied “Sounds good to me”

I posted my plan on our page with the stipulation that I wean myself off coffee: One cup a day for one week, half a cup per day next week, and two weeks with none whatsoever.  Lots of herbal tea and honey in my future.

So this morning, I fixed a half pot of coffee, knowing I had one cup to savor. It’s hard to “savor” a cup of java with no sugar. I had no milk and the only creamer I had is flavored and includes…sugar. I tried to rationalize the one packet of Stevia (HOW is that even on my shelf?) by saying it wasn’t sugar so technically within letter of law, but it made it worse instead of better. Basically, I waited for it to cool down and chugged it. Reminding myself as the bitter concoction made it’s way into my system that it’s better than the detox headache that would render me useless, that it is for a good cause, and will make for a good story.

I then had eggs, with no cheese and no jelly. As I tried to read and chew without being aware of what I was tasting, I reminded God that as I was doing a good thing, I deserved a pleasant morning…no bill collectors calling or other unpleasantness. Several minutes later, the cat threw up on the floor.

As I was cleaning up, I mumbled “It’s not fair” while simultaneously being aware that I was being melodramatic. But it reminded me of another time when I was literally screaming at God (no, not in my head voice…literally screaming…out loud…out on my lawn…at two in the morning) that it wasn’t fair, that He owed me, that He had to fix this right now! It was a terrible time. As in, took at least two years to get my mind back right terrible time. But God did amazing things through those times and as a result of them.  It was a good reminder when I look at what we are going through now. It renewed my hope. Which is better than coffee. Right?

PS Totally forgot about the whole meat thing until I was ¾ through with my chicken sandwich this evening. Oops.

Repair The World (Or How Cindy Got Her Groove Back)

"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits" -Martin Luther King Jr

I just finished Rachel Held Evans' book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. It's a great book. The nerd in me was really looking forward to the insight and historical details of women's lives in Biblical times, etc. She didn't go quite as in depth with some of that as I expected but what you get instead is even better. Her personal insight and growth as she looks at both being a woman and being a Christian is what makes this fascinating. She seems to have grown a lot in her faith and in confidence through the year long experiment. 

It's not surprising that my favorite chapter in the book is the one on justice. Rachel Held Evans writes

"Judaism has no word for 'charity.' Instead the Jews speak of tzedakah, which means 'justice' or 'righteousness.' While the word charity connotes a single act of giving, justice speaks to right living, of aligning oneself with the world in a way that sustains rather than exploits the rest of creation. Justice is not a gift: it's a lifestyle, a commitment to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam-repairing the world."

I actually met a guy who worked for a Jewish nonprofit called Repair The World (with a tag line "What Do You Repair?" and a very cool t-shirt...of which I still own). The name makes so much more sense now...and means something even more cool.

The idea of "living justice" struck me. Almost like a new idea. Though I've been committed to justice within a number of issues over the last decade, the idea that I lived it seemed like something that hadn't occurred to me before. I wrote earlier that I'd been struggling because I felt like I'd lost my sense of purpose but the reality is, I haven't. I lost my job. Not my purpose, my passion or my identity. My job.

And throughout this summer, God has been doing something similar to what He did the summer before I went to Wellspring. He has been guiding and directing my energies in new ways. Don't get me wrong, I haven't lost my passion for trafficking. But the issues are much broader than just what I was doing.

Here is what I mean...I not only want to confront the issue of trafficking but the culture, environment and situations that lead to it. I want to raise awareness of the influence of poverty on what is happening to women and children in the US and the world. I want people to see that it impacts not just girls and women but boys as well...and a good many of them LGBT youth. It is time to take a look at the fact that while a number of organizations have grown out of the desire to raise awareness, very few have opened up recovery or restorative care facilities...and even fewer are working on preventing it before it starts. 

There are less than 200 beds across the US for survivors of CSEC. On average, there are over 300 girls a month exploited in the state of Georgia alone.

But what I've been moved by, what I've learned, what I've confronted is even more than that. Everywhere I look there is a desperate need for awareness and action when it comes to homelessness, poverty, LGBT issues, immigration...the list goes on. And I'm sure your list includes things mine doesn't.

Obviously, I can't do everything. And I have no idea how it all translates into a job. It might be that I am actually destined for Starbucks. If they'll hire me! And that's not to say there is anything wrong with working at Starbucks, or Kroger, or an assembly line. It's just not where I thought my career was headed. But there's a lot of people saying that these days. But even if I can't do everything, I can do something. I can care. And I can write about it. And maybe, just maybe, someone who reads it will be inspired. Maybe something I write will start a conversation. And maybe...just maybe...create action.

I don't know. All I know is that the phrase "live justice" rekindled the fire. It brought me back to "life" again. It reminded me who I am. It reminded me of what I want my life to be about.

Live justice. Love like Jesus commanded.

Martin Luther King Junior won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In his acceptance speech, he said "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits." I absolutely love this idea. Not only because he didn't say he believes that they should have it, because he said they can. Because they should be able to eat and be people of dignity. Because not only should they have physical food but mind food-education and culture-as well. And they can, they can have it. If we "live justice", they can have all of these things. If we live a lifestyle that reminds us that we are a community whose goal should be to "repair the world", they can  have it.

Martin Luther King Jr had the audacity to believe that. And I do too.

I've got my groove back. Let's do this.