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.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Face of Welfare

To all my Facebook friends who post the statues, memes, etc.
To all the Republicans (and some Democrats...but, lets be real, mostly Republicans)
To the general public.
To anyone who views poverty as some sort of divine punishment or something to be ashamed of...that looks on those who receive public assistance with disdain. Who declare "welfare was not meant to be a career opportunity" or-even worse-adamantly insist that people on welfare are at the heart of all that is wrong with this country.


I'm at the heart of all that is wrong with this country. The ruination of the American economy. The nightmare of the American Dream.


You are right. I look pretty dangerous.

Before you vehemently deny it, before you say I'm different, before you protest...let me explain that a large number of welfare recipients look just like me. Not like me as in facial features (weird) but as in demographics. Family size. Situation. Hopes, dreams, desires. Dirty dishes, dirty laundry.

So let me be completely and maybe a little too transparent. Because I really, really want you to understand. Because some of you seem to believe that welfare is quite generous and definitely the way to go if you don't want to work. Apparently some of us are making a good living this way.

So here is what living on welfare looks like for me.
$300 a week unemployment. $267 after taxes.
$271 a month food stamps.

Your right...I'm really rolling in the dough!

More complete transparency. For one month I had absolutely no income and got $490 in food stamps.

I'm curious what you spend on groceries every month.

Let me break this down for you:
Rent $650 month
Lights/Water average $250 month
Cell phone $50 month
One tank gas $50

Now, I haven't stalked people at the grocery store to see if they pay with food stamps so I can question them about their budget. But studies and my understanding say that this is a common story.

Also, know that as soon as I start making $2069 (gross) a month, we don't qualify for anything.That's $24, 828 a year...a little over $5000 over the poverty line for a family of three. In case you are interested, according to 2013 statistics, $19,530 (gross) is poverty line for a family of three. $23,550 for a family of four.

I don't know what you had in your head about how much people are living on or are allowed to make, but here is what it looks like. This is what poverty looks like. And because we live under that invisible line, we are a target for every politician who wants to wag his finger or individual who has never stepped foot inside the DFACS office. People who don't really do research, get to know welfare recipients or want to...because it is much easier to believe that those living on welfare, struggling to survive, stretching every dime into a dollar are actually scam artists living the good life on taxpayer money. Because if they are anything else, you might have to face the reality of poverty in America. Because if they are anything else, it might be up to you to do something. Or just because the idea makes you uncomfortable..

Am I saying that no one is scamming the system? Of course not. What I am saying is that the public wants to believe those are the majority of recipients and studies show they are not just a minority but a very small percentage of those living on assistance. Additionally, I am not saying that there aren't people stuck in the welfare system and poverty cycle. But what I think needs to happen, instead of you judging them, is that we need to look at why they are there and how to get them out instead of judging them so harshly. I am saying that even those living on welfare deserve dignity.

And I am asking, that the next time you point your finger, you realize you are pointing it

The Miracle of a Margarita (Good Friends, And Conversation)

I have this friend.Named Jason.
Jason is awesome. He's smart. Funny. And bluntly honest. He's the type of guy who even if the experience isn't great, can still enjoy the experience. He's also one of the most caring guys I know.

The other day Jason realized I was in a funk. He was concerned. So he took me to dinner. Mexican food. Margaritas. Lots of laughing, talking about music/theatre/books/movies, and telling stories.

At the end of it, Jason is telling me a story about a friend of ours. He reminds me,
"The best stories come from the worst times"

It was basically awesome.

The next morning, I woke up...poked my sore spots...and realized, I felt better. Lots better.
Who knew adult conversation (and margaritas) could do so much good?!

It's amazing what our friends can do for us, isn't it?

A couple of weeks ago, Embree and Trey met someone I know. They come home talking about how amazing she thinks I am. She'd told them "If it wasn't for your Mom, I wouldn't be here." I'm sort of shocked. I mean, I know what I did...but none of it feels that heroic. Basically, I picked her up a couple of times, got her out of a couple of sticky situations, and believed in her. But it meant a lot to her.

The people in our life impact us in so many ways. And we impact others. That's why healthy relationships are so important. I once heard a pastor say that we should always have three different type of people in our lives:

A Paul: Someone to mentor us, give us wisdom, hold us accountable. (Being me, I require more than my fair share of these type of people in my life and I am extremely grateful for each and every one of them)

A Timothy: Someone we can mentor, encourage, share wisdom, and hold accountable. The idea is as others are holding us up, we are doing the same for someone. In my house, we have a rule, all of Bree and Trey's friends know it. If you call me "Cindy", "Miss Cindy" or "Ms Battles" you are more than welcome to hang out here, eat my food and jump in the car if you need a ride. If you call me "Mom", you've just given me permission to get in your business. You'd be surprised how many of them willingly and eagerly take me up on that.

A Jonathan: Jonathan was David's dear friend. A peer. They shared clothes (well...armor) and probably stories, food and alcoholic beverages as well. These are the people you love to hang out with. The people you share laughs with, watch movies with, go to Harry Potter World together...the friends who enrich life just by being your friends. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have a diverse group of friends. They don't have to share your same beliefs on religion, politics or makes the world a more interesting place.

Today, think through the people who have impacted your life in a positive way. And let them know. Think of someone whose life you'd like to impact in a positive way and give them a call.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When Bree...and Jesus...Take The Wheel

I'm teaching my daughter to drive.


I heard all the gasps, moans, groans and sighs of relief. Those of you who know your time is coming...those of you who survived it.

Here's the thing, both Bree and I knew it was a really bad idea for me to be the one to teach her. But, like so often happens in a single parent family (I was also the one who gave Trey "the talk), there is no one else.

It's my body language you see. I don't have a facade. I can't put on a calm face. I can't play poker. Every emotion I feel, you see loud and clear. If my eyes are the windows to my soul, my face is the billboard of my feelings.

So every time we get in the car, I'm perfectly aware of the fact I am putting my life into her hands and her ability to maneuver our Buick. I do my best to keep my voice calm as we go along and then spend about an hour after we are done convincing her the grimace was in no way an indicator of how well she did.

She's actually doing pretty well. I'm just gripping the give my hands something to do.

I am not good at not being in control. I don't like it. It scares me.
And I realize that it scares pretty much every body but I know for a fact that it scares some people more than others. I think I fall at the extreme end of control freak in the "others" category.

Lately, every time I wake up, the feeling is similar to when I get into the passenger seat as Bree adjusts the steering wheel and turns the ignition. Actually, there is more panic involved. It looks something like...
 Thanks for the illustration Facebook.

The kid in the front? No, not the blond wearing braces...the one hanging on for dear life! Yea.

Let's face it, life is always out of control...but generally speaking we have enough norms in place to feel like we have at least a semblance of control. But...not at the moment. I'm not only jobless...I'm purposeless. I have no idea what's next or what to do. I'm just...lost. And when the "Now Hiring" sign at McDonald's is relevant to my life...I start to panic.

The other day I was listening to worship music in the hopes of dispelling the funk I've found myself of my favorites came on and I sang along "I give my life to follow, everything I believe in, now I surrender..."

The words suddenly caught in my throat. Before when I sang those words I threw my hands up in the air, lifting my voice like it was an anthem, my heart swelling with everything I was willing to surrender to follow Jesus and the purpose He had given me. But this time, this time it was hands wanted to scramble to take back all the things I've lost over the summer. I started wondering what I was supposed to be following, how much more did I have to surrender???

And Jesus quietly asked, "Do you trust me?"
And I said "yes"
And He said "Follow me"
And I asked "Where?"
And He didn't answer.

So, here we are. I am in the passenger seat. And, forgive the cheesy analogy, but Jesus has taken the wheel. Right now I don't know that "follow me" means we are going anywhere. I think today it means that when I want to panic over rent, "service engine soon" lights, emails that thank me for my resume and praise my skills but ultimately say "no", and what comes next that I choose to accept the peace He is offering instead. Tomorrow, it might mean I do something else or tomorrow maybe He actually gives me a sense of direction.

I'm not going to lie. I'm scared. I'm starting to panic. I have seriously struggled with depression the last few weeks. The other night, a sleepless one, I lay in bed and thought "I don't want to be here" The thought surprised me. I poked it to see if I meant I didn't want to be in Newnan (a vacation to Savannah would be nice) but I actually meant Here. I didn't want to die, I just didn't want to be. I didn't have the energy or strength to pick up the pieces and try again. It seemed like, even if I did, in ten years it would all fall to pieces anyway (I seem to be on a schedule). I stayed in that place for two days and today woke up with a renewed sense of strength, an awareness of His presence, and the willingness to try again. I thought it was the job opportunity I've heard about but even the "no" I got hasn't affected the mood. So whatever the stronghold, He has broken through it. Actually, my first thought when I realized I felt better today was something like "So, the pity party is over is it?" I'm pretty sure He smiled.

When I get in the car with Bree, I have to trust that she has control. It isn't easy. She's young. Inexperienced. And, let's be real, there are some dumb drivers in the world! But when it comes to trusting Jesus. To knowing He has control. It's different. And possibly harder. But it's what I've got and I don't know any other way to get through this.

Top Ten Ways You Know You Are In Theatre (Stage Crew Edition)

Just for fun and inspired by getting to work crew at Essential Theatre's Summer Festival!

1) You know you are in theatre when you've used Google Image to compare the color of scotch with the concoction you've come up with in the hopes they are close.

2) You know you are in theatre when you and your coworkers have a heated discussion about how much marijuana a recent college graduate from an affluent family could afford (in regards to a prop, of course).

3) You know you are in theatre (and on stage crew), when you walk into the Board of Education in your work clothes and the staff nervously reach for their phones. (For those with no clue, ALL pulled back).

4) You know you are in theatre when the word "reset" gives you shudders. (Gotta love repertory theatre!)

5) You know you are in theatre when you have to discern between "normal" left and right...and stage right and stage left. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets confused!)

6) You know you are in theatre when "paging" the curtain has nothing to do with calling it's name. (It means "hold the curtain" Why don't we just ask someone to hold the curtain? I have no idea...)

7) You know you are in theatre when fixing a creaky door using Pledge furniture polish is a major accomplishment in your week.

8) You know you are in theatre when you have three days off and you go see a show on every one of them-wearing anything but black! You may also Facebook and/or Twitter about the fact you saw a show, and didn't wear black.

9) You know you are in theatre when it doesn't shock you that the green room isn't green at all.

10) You know you are in theatre when it would even occur to you to write a blog about ways you know you are involved in theatre.

BONUS:  You know you are in theatre when you threaten to open up a restaurant in Santa Fe and everyone around you finishes the lyrics.

Okay...your turn, comment in the section below! (Actors too...!!!)