All posts by katie

40+ years of an average life has led Kate to search for the absurdity in everyday encounters with those around her. Born blocks from the beaches of Southern California but raised in a rural farm community north of Seattle, Kate appreciates the humor of simple moments and ordinary people. The granddaughter of a world renowned author of biological nonfiction, a lifetime love of reading and writing guided Kate into being an English major at the University of Washington. After nearly twenty years of raising her four children and supporting her husband’s career, Kate decided it was time to share her writing with others. On her 41st birthday she started her own blog, KBJackson.com.

All By Myself

 

Last weekend as we drove through the small Bavarian-themed  mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington, I was reminded of an incident that took place more than twenty years ago. I was in town for the weekend to celebrate my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding. All of the bridesmaids had rented a large room in a seedy motel, and we went out for dinner, drinks, and eventually, karaoke.

When six females in their early 20’s go out on the town in a tiny place like Leavenworth, it’s hard to miss. We got a ton of attention, mostly in the form of free alcohol. By the time we got to the karaoke bar, we were all a little (or a lot) tipsy. (Don’t worry, we were on foot, not in a car.)

I have limited recollection of the evening, but I do remember participating in a rousing rendition of “Summer Loving.” Then , unexpectedly, one of the girls wasn’t feeling well, and all of them followed her to the bathroom. I didn’t react quite as quickly, so I was sitting alone at the table when I was handed a microphone, and the song one of the girl’s had previously selected began playing.

The song was, “All By Myself,” by Eric Carmen (later Celine Dion).

And I sat there, by myself, forlornly singing about being all by myself.

It’s kind of how I have been feeling a lot lately.

I’m a Christian. And I’m a political moderate.  I used to be further to the right, but my deepening faith and understanding of Biblical principals have pushed me left to the center. On some issues I’m over the line on the left, on some, I’m over the line on the right.

It used to be that I felt like I had a lot of company in the middle; that when push came to shove, most people didn’t hold extreme positions. The parties they voted for would produce a platform, but only the hardcore dems and republicans actually subscribed to the entire checklist of ideologies.

It was easier, then, to have spirited, but civil debate about issues.

It’s not that way anymore. The extremists on both sides have managed to pull in a lot more people, all the while pushing others to the opposite side. Those who once considered themselves moderate liberals and conservatives, now feel the need to take a stand on one side or the other.

In the past few years I’ve watched people I had previously considered to be moderates move further and further towards the ends of the spectrum. They’ve stopped listening to the other side and listen only to viewpoints that feed their extremism. They have used the behaviors and words of the other side to justify the unjustifiable.

Just this week I have been sickened to see loving, caring people make excuses for horrific behavior in the name of politics, in the name of balance. There’s been a raging competition to prove whose party is guilty of the most abhorrent actions and words.

The actions of the opposition have been used to justify things that I simply cannot believe. Since when did we start operating tit-for-tat  on a societal level?  We seem to have thrown out the basic rules of public decorum.

Do not confuse moderation with not having strong passionate views on things. My views are just as deeply engrained in me as those who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

I passionately believe that humanity requires us to take care of each other. Even if it’s not a religious value for you, I’m certain that, presented with circumstances requiring action to save the life of another person, most would do what they could. However, your ideology doesn’t always represent that.

That’s the problem with ideology: it doesn’t take into account what real human beings do and feel in any given situation.  Most pro-choice people say they would never personally get an abortion, and definitely wouldn’t be comfortable performing one. Most people who angrily rejected Obamacare wouldn’t shrug their shoulders at a dying child who can’t afford medical care and were thrown off their insurance and say, “That sucks for you, but in this country we believe in self-sufficiency.”

And yet… the middle is becoming a very lonely place.

Last week, I got called a cynic by a conservative (who doesn’t personally know me) because I made a critical observation of the president. Me, a cynic. The person who always believes things will work out in the end, who wants the bad news first so I can move on to the good news, who has been called naïve on multiple occasions for taking people at their word and assuming the best about them.

It’s nearly impossible to make a values-based claim without it being criticized as a political statement. For example, I have great concerns about the health and well-being of our planet. Does that make me a liberal? Because the way I see it, God mandated Adam and Eve and their descendants to care for this earth. That isn’t a political agenda, it’s a moral imperative.

I think violence or threat of violence, or portrayal of violence against another human being, whether or not you disagree with them or are angry with their actions, is unacceptable. Period. For me, this is as black and white an area as you can get. It’s not okay for either side of an ideological disagreement to incite or perpetrate violence against the opposition. THIS SHOULD NOT EVEN BE UP FOR DEBATE OR DISCUSSION.

Every day the extremists get angrier and louder. Every day they demand that those who have approached these conversations with caution to “stop the fence sitting.” I am told “there is no room for compromise. Compromise means validation of their actions or views.” I am told that not going all in on one side makes me complicit with the other.

And I reject that. I reject that I don’t get to decide, issue by issue, person by person, how I feel about something and what I want to do about it.

I reject the idea that because much of the Christian church has been co-opted by the political agenda of Ayn Rand and her subscribers, I must be ashamed of my faith and stand silent as every believer is painted with the same broad brush.

I reject the idea that because I have great compassion for immigrants, refugees, and those who are persecuted for their race, ethnicity or religion, I am a snowflake who doesn’t love my country.

I reject the idea that finding common ground makes me a co-conspirator responsible for the bad actions of the party of those I have chosen not to condemn because of who they voted for.

I reject the idea that common decency, courtesy, concern for our fellow man and the planet on which we reside are political fodder, and that one side owns the rights to call themselves good while the other is evil.

I will name the evil when I see it, but I will strive for grace and mercy in my interactions because that’s what has been modeled to me by my God.

The evil I see today is hatred. I see name-calling. I see avocation of violence. I see condescension and disrespect.

You can stand up for your values without denigrating those who disagree. You can stand up for your values while continually dialoging with those from a counter-perspective. You can stand up for your values, name bad behavior, use your voice to create movement and change without sinking to the levels I have seen recently.

We are all hypocrites. We just are. We justify our own side’s bad behavior while condemning the other for the exact same offenses. And instead of owning that, we dig in our heels and double down. And then we wonder why we feel so icky all the time. Why we feel so agitated, easily offended, angry, sad. Misunderstood.

Come back to the middle. The water is fine (lukewarm, actually.) Help me be a better person by challenging me with questions that make me think, not insults that make me want to push you away (or over a cliff.) Help me see the heart behind your statements, and let me help you see the heart behind mine. I really believe it’s not too late.

(Would a cynic say that? No, so take that, Patrick!) Yeah, I know, I have a long way to go on the grace and mercy stuff.

 

What Have You Learned- 2017 Edition

I’m just gonna start off by saying that if you notice any typos in this post, it’s because I don’t have my glasses and every word is blurry. If that’s not an old lady thing to say, I don’t know what is… which is a great segue into today’s post. Today is my 45th birthday and the 4th anniversary of my blog. (cue the streamers and party horns.)

I haven’t been writing too often on here, but I promise there’s a very good reason for that. I am 3/4 finished writing my very first (complete) novel.  When I’m not doing that, I’m working on my ancestry research biz. { Shameless plug: http://familyresearch.strikingly.com }

But, since it’s my birthday, and the anniversary of the creation of this blog, I thought I would pop in and say what’s up. What’s up?!

Today I showed up to Bible study and discovered that my sweet friend Lisa had brought me a cake. Not just any cake, mind you, but a German chocolate cake.

See, when I was a little girl, my mom would make me one of two birthday desserts– Angel food cake with strawberries or a German Chocolate cake. Maybe it’s because I associate German chocolate with my birthday, maybe it’s just delicious. But for whatever reason, German chocolate cake remains my favorite kind of cake to this day.

Unfortunately, no one in my household likes cake except me, and most of them don’t like nuts. So, I never get German chocolate cake.

I mentioned this a few weeks? months? ago to Lisa, who made a note of that, and surprised me with my very own German chocolate birthday cake.

And I wanted to cry from sheer joy.

But not only because I get to eat my favorite cake. It’s because I have a friend like Lisa who remembered what I said, who knows me so well, who cared enough to think of me.

And today on Facebook, and via text, I was flooded with wishes and thoughts of love from friends and family that made me realize that I am truly blessed to have many people in my life who KNOW me, and care about me.

Back in 2005, BF (before Facebook), I turned 33. I was pregnant with Parker, and had been living in Southern Cal for only a few months. I had begun to develop a network of friends, but I was truly starting from scratch. The day of my birthday, a group of ladies invited me out to go shopping and to lunch. In the back of my mind I wondered how they knew it was my birthday, and surmised maybe my husband had told one of them.  I wondered if they DID know, and as the day went on, one thing became clear:

They didn’t.

That whole day was fun, a great way to spend my birthday with people I enjoyed,  and I’ll bet they would have made a fuss if they had known. It wasn’t that I was upset with them in any way. They just didn’t know. And I was too mortified to tell them.

Partly due to pregnancy hormones, but mostly due to the emotions of that day, I found myself really weepy all afternoon. I felt very lonely. I felt unknown.

I had the opportunity to be known, and I had chosen not to take it. I didn’t want to seem desperate for attention. I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad. And I was ashamed that I didn’t have any friends there who knew me well enough to know it was my birthday.

That evening, my husband made a nice dinner and afterwards I opened presents. My mom had sent me a gift, and when I opened it, I really began sobbing. My poor husband was baffled, and probably a little terrified by my response.

She had sent me the latest book in a series by a mystery author we both liked to read, and it was autographed.

It was the exact thing I needed in that moment… a reminder that I was known and cared for.

I can’t help but think one of the great tragedies of life is to go through our days feeling unknown. Many times, we are the ones responsible for that. As someone who struggles with intimacy and fears vulnerability, I can tell you, that’s a very lonely place to be.

I just don’t think we were created to go through this life alone. We were made with an innate desire to be seen, heard and KNOWN. Yet, often, fear, trust issues, life  circumstances, they hold us back. We convince ourselves that invisibility hurts less than rejection. That compartmentalizing our emotions is safer for our hearts than feeling pain. That being unknown is less scary than vulnerability.

I can testify to the reality, which is that pain is a part of the human experience, that, while unpleasant, is necessary to BE fully human, to fully experience joy and love and connection.

Some people may reject the real me, the bold me, the Katiest of Katies. I’ve let fear of the rejection of the real me hold me back too much in my relationships. I’ve let the fear of being “too much” prevent connection. Sometimes I’ve tested the waters and my fears have been confirmed. (Kind of like when I challenged my fear of heights and ended up sitting on a donut with a tailbone injury for 3 weeks). And that sucks to have your fears confirmed. But I’ve also had experiences, mostly in the past year, in which I have let the raw me, the vulnerable me, be laid bare before people who had already proven themselves trustworthy, and instead of rejection, I found love and acceptance. I found grace. I found encouragement. I found empathy. And I found connection.

These experiences have enabled me to take greater risks of vulnerability, and the rewards are even more than I could have imagined.

My birthday/ anniversary wish for each of you is that you would allow yourself to be known, to be vulnerable. That you would seek deeper connection with those you love and who love you.

I took another risk recently too– I cut my long hair off. Well, I didn’t cut my hair, my friend Marques cut my hair. He’s been cutting my hair for like 5 or 6 years now, and I trust him. I sat down in his chair and he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s gonna be okay.” And it was. It is.

So here’s to another year of learning, loving and taking risks. Thanks for being a part of this journey with me called life. I’m grateful for each and every one of you.

Before

After

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

img_0385

Once upon a time, I was fearful of feminism. I saw women marching for equal rights and believed they were a threat to the traditionalism to which  I subscribed. I saw anger. I saw bra-burning. I saw man-hating.  I saw white women looking out for themselves at the expense of women of color. And I saw pro-choice activism .

Meanwhile, internally I felt frustrated, unheard, condescended to, disregarded. I was trapped in between a place of what I perceived to be two separate sets of values: Conservative traditional life vs . Feminism.
I wanted to be bold, to speak out, to stand up for myself, but I didn’t want to be associated with “them” because I believed “they” rejected the life I chose: one of faith, marriage and motherhood.
I got called a feminist in high school and I bristled at the term.

11817151_10153505104139089_630512755222028861_n

This cartoon was written about me. It should give a pretty clear indication of how  I was perceived.  I was no wilting violet . I was outspoken and in my gut I knew something wasn’t right about the way the world worked. However, I believed and still believe that motherhood is a high and sacred calling. I just didn’t know how to reconcile these two parts of me .
I confess, I haven’t always been a great ally of women. I’ve preferred friendships with men (way less complicated), rejected candidates who supported “women’s rights” as being unsupportive of MY choices as a woman, all the while longing for validation of my brain, my capabilities, my offerings, my potential.

A couple months ago I had lunch with my lovely friend Holly  and we discussed this topic. She told me that when she had gone back to school a few years ago, she got recruited by the feminist club (group?) she had told them, “but I’m not a feminist.”

What she found was a group of women supporting other women from all facets of life, with varying belief systems, running the gamut from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Holly looked at me and said, “I didn’t like it either, but the truth is, you’re a feminist.”

I nearly choked on my drink.

It’s funny, God has been doing some pretty unexpected things in my life over the past few years. He’s brought some amazing women into my life. He’s healed old wounds from difficult friendships and interactions with other women. He’s brought an amazing therapist my way who celebrates and encourages both sides of me: the woman who advocates for herself and others and the woman of faith and tradition. She’s teaching me how those parts of me can thrive together, one doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.

This is freeing me up to be supportive of other women in a new way.  Each one of us has unique gifts, talents, abilities, values and dreams. That’s what brings color and vibrancy  to this world.

I’m proud to be a woman. It took me nearly 45 years to get to the point of being able to say that. I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my mother, my sisters, my daughters, my friends. I love and admire their strength, their softness, their wisdom, their nurture, their intelligence, their humor, and their advocacy for others.

I’m grateful to the women who have forged the path for me, whether or not  I agree with all of their ideologies or methods.

So here’s to strong women:

May we know them

May we be them

May we raise them

 

 

 

Tales From A Hipster Wedding

hipsterjesus

Last night Jeff and I attended the wedding of our friends Lisa and Doug’s son Alex, who is also a good friend of our eldest daughter Sydney. Alex and Mary, his new wife, are in their early 20’s. Their large circle of friends encompasses a specific demographic which was on stellar display at this event.

A little background info: We have a locally- owned coffee shop in our town that is a mecca for Sydney and her hipster church friends. Many of them either work there, socialize there, study their Bible there, and/or all of the above.

Lisa and I meet up there every couple months for coffee and their specialty oatmeal, named after Molly the manager. We have found that on an average day we have a 75% chance of spotting one of our children, and 100% chance of spotting at least 5 people from our church family (attendees of one or more of three local congregations affiliated by denomination.)

We have also discovered that we can conjure one of the assistant pastors simply by saying his name three times, like Beetlejuice.

This coffee shop has gelato, organic baked goods, and delicious coffee beverages, using beans roasted by their very own roaster. Sydney, during her training, learned the art of the milk pour to create designs in each beverage. It’s a required skill. There’s rarely a time or day when it’s not overflowing with clientele. I prefer the overstuffed leather chairs, but there are many instances we are simply lucky to find a spot.

They have a stage where sometimes there are live musical performances. At other times there are chairs on the stage, and I also like to sit there because it makes me feel like Lisa and I are on a talk show.

This place is like Central Perk from “Friends,” only instead of six vapid gen-x’ers, there are 2 dozen millennials plus Lisa and I.

hipster-coffee-meme-0

When we arrived at the wedding, a barn in the middle of an agricultural valley that has been beautifully repurposed as a wedding venue, I recognized many people from our church and from the coffee shop. We immediately began taking mental inventory of the high hipster ambience.

The beard count alone was off the charts. I lived through the late seventies and early eighties and I don’t think I cumulatively witnessed as many beards in that era as I did last night.

Beards also are a common topic of conversation. There is mutual beard admiration, discussion of beard-al qualities, jokes about the drawbacks of the beard (crumb catcher was at the top of that list), and general beard-related topics.

I would say this is the first wedding I have attended where people were wearing beanies with semi-formal attire. One might think a beanie at a wedding might stand out or seem inappropriate, but I must say– they have figured out how to pull it off. These are no poser hipsters. These are all-in hipsters and the beanie is just an appendage now.

Another trend we noticed was the jewel tone suits and sport coats. The stand-out in that category was a magenta suit, complete with magenta skinny tie and matching round magenta John Lennon glasses. The others were wearing horn-rimmed glasses, often tucked into the beanie and accompanied by various sized ear gauges.

Semi-formal in hipster terms apparently means cable knit sweaters WITH leather patches, as opposed to the more casual fisherman sweater without the leather patches.  Also, the man-buns are slightly tidier than normal.

One kid was doing what my husband referred to as “Full Bieber,” however I felt it was more of an homage to one of those One Direction guys. You tell me–floppy fluffy hair with skinny jeans and bright white tennis shoes ( I think the youngsters call them “kicks.” ). Bieber or Harry Styles?

At our reception table we were seated with a friend, Missy,  who was in town from Texas,  her adorable ginger-haired 5 year old son, along with two other younger couples. Both of the couples featured bearded men and wives who were natural and lovely. That’s I think one of my favorite hipster trends- women who embrace their natural beauty. They all look like they’ve just been outside taking a brisk hike.

I asked the couple next to me how they knew the bride and groom. The man said that he had worked with the bride at the aforementioned coffee shop. “Oh,” I responded. “Then do you know Sydney?”

They and the other couple responded that they did.

“She’s our daughter,” I said proudly, invoking my hipster-adjacent credentials.

They all commented about how that made sense, considering she looked like me. I blushed and sputtered my weak protests, but was flattered by the compliment.

Missy stopped in the middle of her conversation with the couple on the opposite side of the table to get my attention.

“I mentioned that Ross Perot was the developer for our neighborhood. They don’t know who Ross Perot is and I’m feeling really old,” She said.

I looked at them. “Ross Perot was the original crazy billionaire who got into politics. He ran for president as an independent against George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton. In 1992.” I paused. “Were you even alive in 1992?”

The wife looked at me as if she was hesitant to answer. “Oh, well, I was born in 1994, so…”

I sighed. “Right. Well, he was an economic conservative who siphoned votes from Bush, ultimately getting Bill Clinton elected.”

The husband nodded, with a serious expression. “Interesting. I’ll have to look that up.”

There’s nothing that makes you feel quite so old as realizing events you experienced as an adult are considered “history” to a married couple expecting their first child.

As for the wedding itself, the bride had chosen what Jeff kept referring to as “Garden of Eden-themed” floral décor. The bride and the bridesmaids wore garlands in their hair of leaves and vines with roses, creating a natural, romantic look. There wasn’t a ton of any decorations except for lighting and greenery, elegant simplicity creating a serene, understated scene.

It was such a sharp contrast to my own wedding, which was filled with taffeta, Battenberg lace, tulle and extravagant flower arrangements. My wedding hair was a traditional up-do, my bouquet similar to the hundreds I had cut out of bridal magazines and pasted into my wedding planner, my music traditional.

So much of my wedding was done in such a way that I thought weddings were supposed to be. We ticked off boxes and went through the motions of a traditional ceremony as if creating a performance for our guests instead of allowing for a moment that was personal and intimate.

I really think these hipsters are onto something. They don’t like a bunch of fuss, they don’t do things because someone said that’s how it’s supposed to be,  and they seem to have figured out how to prioritize what’s important to them, casting the superfluous aside.

They want their food clean from toxins, their flannel made with the softest organic cotton, their music to have meaning, and their Instagram to be filled with all manner of adventures.

I can’t resent them for that- I say more power to ’em. Really, who can blame them? I want those things as well. I hope they do turn this planet into the hipster utopia they envision. We would all be better for it.

tumblr_lgxwsvcgtw1qhryvro1_400

 

We Can’t Always Choose The Music Life Plays For Us, But We Can Choose How We Dance To It

advance-happy-new-year-pics-2017

Once Upon a time (365 days ago to be precise) we all stood together on the precipice of a new year. We sipped champagne and shared midnight kisses,  cheered and threw confetti, talked excitedly about future plans and resolutions.

I’m not sure 2016 turned out the way any of us anticipated, and it’s likely to go down as a year many would like to forget. 2016 is the Voldemort of years- the one of which we shall never speak again. When someone attempts to  begin a sentence, “Do you remember back in 2016 when-” we will all shush their mouths as quickly and gently as possible.

I’m turning 45 in 2017. I’ve seen some years. I have never seen a year like this one. Between democalypse 2016 (we miss you, Jon Stewart), increases in race-related conflict, police brutality and police under attack, increases in hate crimes, reduction of interpersonal civility, global unrest, terrorism, and humanitarian crises, this year was already a stinker. Add in a larger than normal amount of iconic celebrity deaths and it was a cesspool of ugly.

But it wasn’t just that stuff that made this year so hard. I lost 2 people significant to me and to people I care about to cancer this year. I attended the funeral of my friend Jason on a Saturday and 6 days later I was comforting my sister and her children over the unexpected passing of her long time significant other John, my nephew Luke’s father.

All year the people I love struggled through loss and grief of various types, fought to keep their heads above water, as one said to me, “I’m operating in 15 minute increments, putting one foot in front of the other.”

This year was just plain hard. Was it harder than other years? Can we statistically prove that? Who knows, but that doesn’t really matter. With a few exceptions, most of my friends and family are ready to be done with 2016.

However, it’s not in me to leave it there. The Pollyanna in me wants to know that there was beauty in the pain, lessons learned, strength gained.

So, in order to not let this shitastrophic year get the best of me, here, in no particular order, are the joyful moments that in some way managed to redeem the rest:

 

In January I went on a three week Facebook fast, which I will be repeating this year . I started a Bible study on gratitude and spent every day looking for beauty around me. I focused on my family, my writing, my spiritual development. I had lunch dates and coffee dates and was present in my life. I connected with those I love.

In March I was able to celebrate my sister Shannon’s 50th birthday with her by going to visit our sister Colleen In Southern Cal. We sat on the beach in Laguna and talked and laughed. We surprised my niece as she performed for the last time at her high school cheerleading expo. We went out to Palm Springs and sat by the pool and connected.

lindsay

In an effort to simplify, I let go of some of my “have-to’s” and focused instead on my “want-to’s.” Turned out I didn’t have to do most of my have-to’s, they were simply burdens I needlessly placed on myself. Holidays had less pressure, and I was able to just be with my people, and we connected.

We spent our spring break at beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. We rode four wheelers and got dirty and explored and we connected.

cda

Parker rode on a camel at the fair, Zoe played a dwarf in her school production of “Shrek,” and an unusually warm spring meant lots of days enjoying Lake Washington and the stunning place we live.

camel lake

Sydney and I sung together for the mother’s day tea, Parker bet on the ponies at Emerald Downs, We celebrated Papa Ted’s 90th birthday,  and my birthday surprise was a giant poster Parker unfurled at the school concert.

birthday

Jeff and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary in St Pete Beach, Florida and missed the hurricane by 12 hours.

img_0263

Nathan graduated from high school and became a freshman at Washington State University.

img_0652

Zoe, Parker and I went to Harrison Hot Springs, Canada to go in search of Bigfoot

canada bigfoot

(We didn’t find him)

We saw Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie in concert, Zoe got to go to Disneyland, Nathan took a graduation road trip with his friends and we spent much of the summer on the sidelines of a soccer field.

In the fall Jeff and I got to celebrate our friend and neighbor Brian’s 50th birthday in Las Vegas and then just a few days later I was making the rounds in Socal, seeing my sister and her family, old friends, newer friends and spending time with my extended family at our reunion.

rock-harbor tbd vegas mix thayer

In all of these moments the priority was connection.

Zoe added volleyball to her schedule which, as an indoor sport, is a nice change. Nathan leaving for college was hard, but watching him thrive on his own is amazing.

Birthday week was a 6 day extravaganza of celebrating Zoe’s 13th, Parker’s 11th and Sydney’s 22nd.

We spent Thanksgiving with Shannon and her family in Spokane, celebrated the holidays with friends and family at various events, culminating in Christmukkah at our house.

And now, as I sit here typing this, my kids are gathered ’round the table. It’s snowing outside. And we are connecting.

So as it turns out, the reason 2016 can’t beat us is because we are stronger together than anything it tried to send our way. In the midst of pain was blessing. In the midst of struggle was joy and growth.

I’m not sorry to see this year come to an end, there’s no doubt. However, the reason I’m most looking forward to 2017 is not because 2016 didn’t have its moments. It’s because this year Sydney will embark on a new career path. It’s because Parker will finish elementary school and enter middle school. It’s because Nathan is making plans for moving into an apartment with his friends for his sophomore year of college, one step closer to the rest of his life. It’s because Zoe will have my calendar filled with activities as she lives each moment to its fullest.

Jeff and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. This is our 24th New Year’s Eve together, and we have all sorts of plans for the future.

Even if none of those plans come to fruition, there’s one thing that will matter in 2017… how we connect. If I have a resolution, it’s to be better at connecting, to be in the moment, to find the beauty in simplicity of sitting face to face with someone in our shared humanity.

So here’s to fresh starts… and real connection. Like the quote above says, we can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it. May 2017 be a year of dancing.

Cheers!

(I picked this photo to end my last post of 2016 because somehow an Alan Alda quote with a typo superimposed over a dolphin seemed to fit exactly right. )

dolphin-new-year

 

 

Faith In Action: Democracy, Hypocrisy and the Pomegranate

hyproctisy_large

 

When I started this blog three and a half years ago, I intended it to be a light-hearted outlet for my writing. I believe my second post was about bananas. Some of my readers started following me because I was attempting a modicum of humor on a regular basis. I’ve probably lost a few followers recently because of a change in the tone and seriousness of my writing, but that’s okay with me. I’d rather lose readers than stifle my needed expression.

 

About two years ago, I entered into therapy. I highly recommend it, by the way. So much so, my 13 year old has gotten into trouble with her friends by suggesting they see a counselor. I had to explain to her that simply because I extol its benefits without shame or embarrassment, that doesn’t mean everyone appreciates that type of advice.

Counseling has changed me, and I’d like to think for the better. It’s allowed me to see myself more clearly, it’s freed me from bondage that has impeded both my personal growth and my spiritual growth, and it’s helped me clarify what really is important to me.

As a result, you’re much less likely to find silly blog posts here. (Also, since I’m in the process of writing a book, you’re much less likely to find ANY blog posts here. ) That doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sense of humor, it just means that I’m finding if I’m going to exert the energy to write something, I want it to be meaningful; Worthy of both my time and yours.

So, now that those disclaimers are out of the way, I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath (ha!) to hear what has roused me enough to break from writing my novel and post my first blog in months.

It’s fruit. Pomegranate, specifically.

 

whole-and-sliced-pomegranates

 

Did you know that pomegranates are filled with vitamins, antioxidents, and anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and pro-heart health properties?

If you’ve ever eaten a pomegranate, you know that the seeds can be difficult to reach. They’re a combination of both sweet and tart. They can get messy. Really messy, but so worth it.

Jewish tradition holds that there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, and it is often consumed on Rosh Hashana to symbolize the desire for fruitfulness in the upcoming new year.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he describes the Fruit of the Spirit. These are all the qualities that should be born out in a person’s life as a result of the Spirit living within us, and as a visible manifestation of our faith.

fruits-of-the-spirit-love

These are all great qualities. I like to think I possess them. However, the past several days (probably even the past several months) have challenged me on whether or not this is true.

On Tuesday our nation elected a new president. While the majority of people voted for the candidate who lost, our system is set up not for a majority rule, but with a less-direct version of democracy, the electoral college. Apparently our founding fathers feared a “tyranny of the majority.” As to why each state but two has a “winner take all” electoral allotment system, I don’t have an answer to that.

Regardless, the outcome has been decided, and truth be told, I’m having a really hard time understanding it. When you don’t understand something, it’s much harder to accept it.

I’ve struggled to understand how people could hear the hateful words that I heard, and still want that person to represent them, represent us. I have struggled to understand how people who are proclaimed followers of Jesus, the most inclusive, loving, generous, immaterialistic, peaceful man to walk to planet, heard the things I heard and chose to look the other way, or worse- excused it and picked that candidate. I’ve struggled to understand how the American church has become so co-opted by a singular political party and hateful rhetoric of the “opposing candidate” that as a whole, was completely unwilling to extend grace to one side, but was able to extend so much unmerited grace to the other. Or, barring either candidate being consistent with Biblical values, conscientiously abstained , voted third party, or as I did, picked a write-in candidate.

And I have asked questions. Lots of them. I’ve attempted to understand. I’ve seen lots of Facebook posts decrying the accusations lodged against them of being racist, unintelligent, hateful, and a whole number of things. It saddens me that they have been attacked. They have cited a myriad of reasons why they voted the way that they did, and most of them have to do with party platforms rather than the person they actually elected.

For me, though,  this wasn’t a choice of politics, it was a referendum on civility. I believe everyone lost on Tuesday, whether they realize it or not.

HOWEVER… and here’s where I start to get to the point of this whole convoluted thing.

In a conversation about the election with a friend of mine whose life is devoted to ministry, previously as a pastor, currently as a global missions director for a charity that does a whole lot of good in the name of Jesus, he accused me of assuming that I have taken THE moral high ground.

He’s absolutely correct. I have assumed that.

But his statement has stuck with me. It’s gnawed at me. It’s caused me to look at my own life and my own “belief” system.

If I say I believe something, but have no actions to back it up, it’s not a belief. It’s an opinion. And boy do I have LOTS of opinions. I’m a writer, it’s how I express my thoughts. If I were to compare the amount of words I have expended vs. the amount of effort proving those words with actions, there would be a giant discrepancy.

When I was younger, I was always a little nervous about the verse in James that says faith without action is dead. Because I was brought up with the doctrine of grace, “works” was almost a dirty word.

The reality is that it left me without a clear understanding of either.

Jesus told us that faith was a visible thing, not just things you think or feel. The only way your inner beliefs can be seen is through action. Loving people is a verb. Mercy isn’t feeling pity, it’s compassion. Compassion is a verb, exhibited through extending help and forgiveness .  Sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, reading the Bible or spouting off on Facebook about morality isn’t faith. We don’t ask, “What would Jesus think?” We don’t ask, “What would Jesus feel?” We ask “What would Jesus DO?”

I can have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the poor, maybe even write a post, or share an article about the tragedy and injustice of it, meanwhile my mother in law is quietly serving at the soup kitchen every week– who then is the one who truly BELIEVES helping the poor is the right thing to do?

This morning I studied this concept of living my beliefs through my actions, and it was a heartbreaking indictment.

The following, in no particular order, are the verses that convicted my heart today:

Matthew 12:36 “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgement day for every idle word you speak.”

Idle: without purpose or effect, pointless.

John 21:16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said. “You know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

Revelation 2:19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. ”

Philemon 1:6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

James 2:22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.

1 Peter 2:15 For this is God’s will, that you silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good.

Matthew 25:34- 45 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me a drink, I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ Then they will reply , ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “

And finally, back to the pomegranate.

Matthew 12:33 A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

Or non-existent.

Have you ever planted a tree or vine that didn’t bear much fruit, if at all? Last summer I planted a raspberry bush. Number of raspberries it bore year one? Zero. Year two? Three. So instead of providing me with the joy and sustenance of its berries, all I’ve got is an overgrown bush covered in thorns.

Sometimes in my way of living and interacting with others,  I’m that raspberry bush. I give a couple measly berries and an armful of scratches for your trouble.

I want to be a pomegranate tree, and not because those suckers could bean someone on the side with the force of a baseball to get their attention, although at times it’s tempting.

If my life is bearing pomegranates, that fruit is not only providing goodness, it’s also filled with a multitude of seeds that can turn into more trees.

It doesn’t matter who is in the White House, as long as I’m producing fruit, sharing it with others, seeding new trees.

I need to put my preaching into action, starting with the very people in whose choices I’m disappointed. Love, compassion, mercy, grace… if I am only willing to bestow these things to those who agree with me, I am a fruitless pomegranate tree. If I rail against injustice, poverty, bigotry, but it’s limited to a blog post and a Facebook rant, I am a fruitless pomegranate tree.

If I want to see pomegranate arils permeating this country, my friendships, my government, my family, I’ve gotta first fertilize my own tree.

 

Your Brother’s Blood Is Crying Out From The Ground

Image-1

The events of the past three days have been a vortex of emotion for me. Shock, sadness, anger, rage, hope, frustration, and brokenheartedness.

I want to start by saying: I love you my friends. You wouldn’t be my friends if I didn’t.

I have a lot of white friends. That’s probably obvious considering, well, I’m white. And so is the majority of this country, and specifically my local community.

I have non-white friends too. Black, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern. I haven’t counted them. I guess I could try, but since I only have ten fingers I’d probably get myself confused.

If I said I have a racially diverse group of friends by accident, I’d be disingenuous. It’s totally on purpose.

I crave racial and cultural diversity in my life. I thrive on meeting people and hearing their stories, their life experiences that are different from mine. I love learning from them because I know my lens is filtered and my view of the world myopic. That’s just a fact of life; you can only truly know the world through your eyes, until you make purposeful attempts to see it from the eyes of others.

Jesus mandated me to love others. I can’t love people well if i don’t know or attempt to understand them. If I don’t listen to them.

In listening, I have heard some things from my friends. Those things have broken my heart. Those things have enlarged my lens and given me the chance to see things I never would have otherwise.

When I see my white friends go silent in the face of another extrajudicial killing of a black man, it hurts my heart. When they remain silent as a second man bleeds on live streaming for the world to see, it angers me. When they post “All lives matter” it grieves me because in my heart I know that means that they have never sat down and talked with a black friend and tried to understand.

When the same friends that I love and respect who, remaining silent for 24 hours as i wailed in my bedroom over a 4 year old girl’s voice saying “I’m here for you mommy” following her witnessing a man who was sworn to serve and protect her shooting her mother’s boyfriend in front of her eyes, inches from her precious tiny body, immediately respond with support following the shooting of Dallas police officers, I start to wonder what kind of friends I have.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

I, too, am grieving the shooting of the Dallas police and transit officers last night. You can ask my children, who witnessed me cry out like a wounded animal from the pain in my soul when I got the news alert on my phone.

And then I cried because I knew that whatever empathy that began rising in the wake of the death of Philando Castile was immediately dashed with the deaths of those officers. And back in the justification crept.

Where were you when an innocent man, cooperating with the officer on a minor traffic stop was gunned down in cold blood? Where was your support for HIS life, if you say “all lives matter?” IF all lives matter to you, why weren’t you grieving with the black community over THAT man who didn’t go home to his family that night?

Every time you post the words “All lives matter” you marginalize their pain. You dismiss their agony. You render their struggle meaningless.

And it shouldn’t be “their” struggle. It should be OUR struggle. OUR struggle for justice. OUR struggle for racial parity in  police encounters. OUR struggle for what is RIGHT.

I don’t hate police officers. I don’t hate anyone. I want police department leadership to clean up the environment that has bred a disparity of treatment and attitude from the moment a person of color drives or walks past an officer.

The statistics are there. A person of color, typically black or Hispanic, is significantly more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be convicted, and sentenced to longer, more severe terms than their white counterparts. It’s not made up. It’s real and verifiable. I discussed this back when the Zimmerman verdict came down in my blog Devastated but not surprised .

And then you have the reality that officers are almost never held accountable.

My father-in-law was a police officer. My mother-in-law. Two of my husband’s uncles. One remains an officer. I love them. I respect them. I know their hearts. I have friends in law enforcement. I have friends whose spouses are in law enforcement. I can’t imagine how difficult it is every time they head out the door to work. Their job is important. And dangerous.

I also know that my father-in-law struggled with his own racial bias. I heard him say, “When the majority of the black people you see are committing crimes, it changes the way you see people.” THAT’S honesty. That’s the kind of thing that officers say in private but would never admit publicly. That’s a problem in need of being addressed.

When white officers who don’t live in a community made up primarily of minorities come in, men and women who aren’t connected to or in relationship with the people, the setup is adversarial. Guilt is assumed. Distrust by members of the community aggravates encounters. It feels less like civil servants there to protect and serve and more like prison guards keeping  prisoners in check.

And then you have less diverse communities being policed by even less diverse police departments, who see a black person come into town and they immediately go on high alert.

I learned about this the first time when my college boyfriend was pulled over in my hometown because his “tinted windows made it hard to see the temporary license plate.”

I was reminded again just last month as my friend and neighbor told me that she was followed by an officer for several minutes as she drove through our community, before finally being pulled over. The officer’s explanation? “You have Texas plates. We are a small community. I need to make sure everyone who is here belongs here.”

When incidents occur that are clearly wrong on the part of the officer, the fraternity closes ranks and you hear not a peep of criticism from them or their supporters. That would be disloyal, right?  It’s a family. Family doesn’t talk about its dirty laundry to outsiders (unless you’re a Kardashian) .

How can you address a problem that no one in the fraternity of police wants to admit?

How is the black community supposed to feel when their family members are bleeding in the streets over a broken taillight, but a white racist mass-murderer was taken to burger king on his way to jail?

I get why there is a brotherhood among officers. You have to implicitly trust your partner and your fellow officers as you go into dangerous situations. You need to know they will have your back.

However, that shouldn’t extend to remaining silent when it comes to racism, corruption, or killing people instead of arresting them.

“Not all cops are racist.” OF COURSE THEY AREN’T. But I have watched enough cop shows to know that knowledge of a crime without reporting it makes you an accessory. Silence makes you complicit.

Good cops need to stand up for the black community. White people need to stand up for the black community.

My friends are crying out in pain over the loss of life, but also fear for their sons, their husbands, their fathers.

When will their anguish register enough with you, my white friends, to stand up and take notice? When will their fears be assuaged by you with promises to do better, to be better, to love and protect their families?

Or will their cries continue to be dismissed by you with the tap of the hashtag key?

 

 

 

Is That A Raccoon In Your Crawl Space Or Are You Just Unhappy To See Me?

tmb_3505_480

We never quite know what we are capable of, until the moment arrives and we have to make a choice.

This was my dilemma last Thursday when the woman from the state Fisheries and Wildlife Dept. informed me that if I trapped the raccoon(s) living under my house, I would be mandated by law to euthanize it (them).

Wednesday evening as my husband and I were bringing the trash cans back up to the side of the house, we both looked at each other curiously.

“Do you hear that?”

“That screeching sound?”

“Yes.”

” Yes, I hear it. What is it?”

We followed the sound up the side of the house until we reached the area that juts out for our fireplace insert.

“What is that?” He asked.

“I think it’s raccoons. ”

“How can you tell?”

“Because it’s not cats. And I think possums just hiss. I think it might be babies.”

Also, in our house in California, I encountered possums in the garage pantry. I know what they sound like. This one had a particular affinity for Campbell’s soup.

1930520_34516129088_4347_n

 

 

Jeff grabbed a metal pole nearby and whacked it against the house. The growl that was emitted from the crawl space was ferocious.

We both turned and got out of the area as quickly as possible.

That night I texted my mother. “I think we have raccoons.”

My parents have dealt with raccoons at their house in years past.

She offered to send their trap over with my father the next morning.

I responded,” Yes please. Jeff says his online research determined that the person with the thickest wrists in the house has to deal with them.”

This statement needed no further clarification. Everyone knows I have the sturdiest bones in the family.

His research also indicated that it is almost unheard of for a raccoon to give birth under the house. They like to give birth up high, to protect their babies. Finding info on getting a mama and her babies out from under the house is nearly impossible, since it almost NEVER HAPPENS.

The next day my father brought the trap, and began setting it up. He told me he had an area where he could set them free once we had trapped them. He said they normally use cat food for bait, but we don’t have a cat, so I boiled some eggs.

This may seem like a strange form of bait for a raccoon, but I have personally witnessed their penchant for eggs, peanuts and animal cookies firsthand.

Back when Sydney was a baby, we were living with my in-laws while saving up to buy a house. Their house was nestled up to a wooded area, and so having a family of raccoons making their home adjacent wasn’t completely surprising.

This also happened to be 1995, the year that Pocahontas hit theaters. As I have previously mentioned ( in this blog ) I have always felt a connection to Native American culture, and I tried to pass this along to my children, to no avail. However, when they were small, they had little recourse.

Sydney and Pocahontas

Here is one year old Sydney with her Pocahontas doll and here…

image

is her first birthday cake.

As most of you know, in the movie, there is a mischievous raccoon named “Meeko.”

meeko

As a result, we called the raccoons at Jeff’s parents’ house “the Meekos.”

My mother -in-law often left out eggs, and the aforementioned peanuts and animal cookies for the Meekos. We didn’t exactly treat them as pets, but no one was kicking them out either.

So my father and I set up the trap with two boiled eggs in the back, and went to the side of the house to place it. The sound that came from underneath was otherworldly. Slightly demonic. My father’s eyes were enormous. I think I peed a little.

There’s nothing like a mama protecting her babies. That’s probably part of the reason I was feeling so much empathy for her.

Suddenly I was highly concerned that we would trap the mama and the babies would be stuck underneath without her, so that’s when I decided (on the advice of a friend) to call Fish and Wildlife.

“Unfortunately,” the woman said when I explained my predicament,” If you trap them, you are responsible for euthanizing them.”

“Why can’t we set them free?”

“Because state law says they must be euthanized.”

“I’m not bashing this mama and her babies over the head. I’m not doing it.”

“Well then I’d suggest removing your trap and calling one of the two local companies licensed to handle it. ”

She gave me the information and I hung up, distraught. I simply don’t understand this law. And there’s nothing inside me that is capable of harming creatures who did nothing wrong.

I called the first company on the list. “I’m not killing them,” I told the man.

“We prefer the term euthanize.”

“Please tell me there’s a way around this law.”

“The best thing you can hope for is that they will leave on their own. However, raccoons like to come back to wherever they’ve been, so if you are fortunate enough to get them all out, you need to close off the area so they can’t return.”

He told me the soonest he could come out was Tuesday. This whole thing was going to cost $500.  I told him I didn’t think we could wait that long, seeing as how raccoons are very likely to carry rabies and we couldn’t go on the side of our house without fear of attack.

I called the other company, which happened to be Terminix. They said they could get someone out first thing Friday morning to evaluate the situation.

When the Terminix guy showed up (30 min past the time window) he seemed a bit flustered. I soon discovered why.

“I haven’t really dealt with raccoons. I’ve only been with the company 5 months.”

This was not a reassuring statement.

“Raccoons don’t usually give birth under the house. They usually like the attic.”

“Yeah, I have heard that.”

He was a rotund man, a bit sweaty, and he had his top three buttons opened on his polo, revealing ample chest hair. I watched him awkwardly work his way into a squatting position and then pop up quicker than a weasel in a toy box.

“Yep! There are raccoons under there!”

“I know.”

” I’ve been called out on raccoons twice before, but never found any. But you definitely have raccoons! She was lookin’ at me!”

“Yes. I know.”

“Well, see, the problem is, my boss is the only one licensed to deal with raccoons and he’s on vacation.”

Blink. Blink.

“Let me call the home office and see what they say.”

I listen to his side of the phone call, and I know he’s got nothing good to tell me.

“yeah, so he’s real hesitant to say this, but, uh, you’re gonna have to call someone else.”

Funny, I had already made that decision on my own.

Actually, I called back to the first company and attempted to beg.

“Sorry, this has been a crazy month. Lots of ants. Early wasps. Now raccoons under a house. They never give birth under the house.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Look. Let’s get you scheduled for Tuesday. I’ll try to talk to Todd and see if he can squeeze you in tomorrow. In the meantime, try predator spray. It will make her think there’s a predator in the area. Maybe she’ll move the babies. Have you seen how many there are?”

“No. I haven’t seen them, only heard them.”

“She might not move them until their eyes are open.”

“Which is?”

Three weeks. The answer is three weeks.

I called my husband. “The guy suggested predator spray.”

“Predator spray?”

“Coyote urine.”

“Where am I supposed to find coyote urine?”

He looked online and called me back.

“This stuff isn’t easy to acquire. I could track a coyote and milk it in less time than it will take to get the strong stuff shipped here.”

He ended up getting a spray that had a reduced amount of coyote urine and hoped for the best. He sprayed it Friday afternoon to the sounds of growls and trills.

Friday night I took Zoe to her end of season soccer party. I explained my conundrum to a group of parents.

Someone said, “Raccoon feces is poisonous. I watched a bunch of guys in hazmat suits go to my neighbors 4 times to deal with their raccoon problem.”

“This is not the encouragement I’m looking for.”

I texted my friend about my raccoon problem.

She responded, “Do you have a plan or did you just bring them a housewarming gift?”

This is just one of  many reasons I keep her around.

“I tried to reason with her.”

“I’m sure you did.”

Saturday morning Jeff got out a spotlight. He had decided to try a new tack: Operation Nifty Package Part Deux.

For those who are too young to remember, Operation Nifty Package was the U.S. government’s attempt to flush out Panamanian dictator and persona non grata Manuel Noriega from his refuge/hiding place in a church. Navy SEALs shone spotlights and blared rock music in an attempt to make him surrender and leave the church. I heard they also played “the Howard Stern Show.” Pretty sure that was a violation of the Geneva Convention approved tactics of torture.

My thought was the complete Morrissey collection would be the most likely to create an urgent escape(It would certainly work on me) , but Jeff had decided to go with an ultrasonic pest repellent noise machine. He set up the floodlight and we headed out to the hardware store in search of the machine.

When we got back, I peeked under the house (from a decent distance) but I couldn’t see the raccoon. I moved closer, but it was clear under there as far as I could see.

I was concerned that she had left and abandoned her babies, although I couldn’t see them either. I banged on the house. No screeching. No trilling. Jeff set the noise machine up, and as he did so, he looked as closely as possible. It appeared they were all gone!

“I see three whiffle balls, but no babies.”

My sense of relief was enormous. We were not going to be responsible for the deaths of these animals!

Jeff got some wood and boarded up the gap. There’s no room in the inn, Rocco. Or, Mrs. Rocco.

For a moment I wondered and worried that she had just relocated to a neighbor’s house. My next door neighbor has been out of the country and that would not be a fun surprise to come home to discover. I’m hoping they went to the swamp and found a place that was safe and warm.

Even though there was danger from disease, there was no part of me that was comfortable hurting this animal family. Many I talked to over the course of this ordeal felt differently. Jeff made jokes about using a BB gun, but the truth is, I’m not sure he could have done it either. We did a lot of reading up to try and figure out how to avoid killing them . We learned cayenne pepper and curry powder are repellents to raccoons. We tried to make the situation as unpleasant as possible for her without bringing harm to her and her kits. There are ways to handle it without resorting to death.

That night as we drove to the movies Jeff said, “Do I smell like predator spray? I think it wafted on me.”

“I don’t smell it. But the good news is, you won’t be attacked by wild animals. Except maybe a coyote looking for its mate.”

“That would be something.”

 

image

Good luck Mama Raccoon.

For Such A Time As This

image

Yesterday, March 23, 2016 was the Jewish holiday of Purim. For those who are unaware, Purim is the commemoration of  the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. At the time, the Jewish people were exiled in Persia, and were not masters of their own fate. Esther was singled out by the King of Persia to become one of his wives, much to her dismay. But the king truly admired Esther, so when her uncle Mordechai discovered Haman’s plot, he urged her to speak up for her people, even though it put her welfare at risk.

Long story short, she did, the king put an end to Haman and his plot, and the people were saved.

Zoe and Parker attended a Jewish preschool, so we observed Purim every year we were there. I hadn’t heard of it prior, despite growing up in the Christian church, where I knew of the story of Queen Esther.

Purim in the Jewish community is akin to Halloween. Every year there was a carnival, where kids dressed up in costumes, played games and ate treats, such as hamantaschen ( a pastry). During the week leading up to the carnival, the kids also wore costumes and took treats to the neighboring Christian preschool.

One year, the year “Enchanted” came out, Zoe insisted on the wedding dress from the Disney Store.

image

It should be mentioned that at this same time, Zoe was in looooove with an older boy named Sammy from the preschool. She was 4, he was 5. She had decided she was going to marry him, whether he liked it or not.

image

He looks thrilled, doesn’t he?

While any costumes were acceptable, most of the girls preferred to dress up like Queen Esther.

18869_321156029088_4315268_n

The year before the wedding dress.

image

Zoe and all of the Esthers. (And one Alice in Wonderland)

That phrase “for such a time as this” has echoed through my mind often over the past several years. Recently the echo has become louder and more frequent.

This is a troubling call for a person like me. It’s a call to be brave. It’s a call to stand up for what’s right in spite of the inherent risk. It’s the prompting towards a life of purposeful resistance rather than silent acquiescence.

While I like to think of myself as one who rises to the challenge, many times in my life I have balked at the road less traveled. I have opted for comfort rather than controversy and harmony over conflict.

I can’t count the number of times I have stood on a precipice and wavered.

My m.o. is to keep expectations low, lest someone (typically myself) be disappointed when I fail to meet them.

I’m the person who has 3/4 of a college education for fear of what might be required of me if I ever finished.

When I went to summer camp back in elementary school I was required to take a swim test to participate in the majority of water activities. The swim test was simple- swim the length of the pool and back, and then tread water for 3 minutes.

I started at the shallow end, swam to the opposite side and back. I began treading water in what probably was no more than 3 feet. One minute prior to completing the test, I told the test monitor that I was quitting.

She said, “You can’t quit! You’re only a minute from being done! You can do this!”

“I can’t.” I said. I climbed up the ladder and out of the pool.

The truth is, I was terrified; Terrified of what might be expected of me and if I was up to the challenge. Terrified of making a fool of myself, I chose the safer option. I sat in a canoe with the other “non-swimmers” in our life vests, watching the majority of campers doing all sorts of fun activities. I was embarrassed and ashamed. But I was “safe.”

As some of you might have read in my blog Facebook post the other day, Zoe was walking behind one of her fellow 6th graders and his 8th grade friends when the 8th graders began bad-mouthing and making fun of another boy in her class. Her friend calmly replied, “Did you know he’s a foster kid? Do you know what he’s been through? Did you know that he lives with a girl at our school and if her family hadn’t let him stay with them he’d be homeless right now? That he has no family? He’s goofy, but he’s not special needs. He’s my friend and it’s not okay to talk about people like that.”

It takes a certainty of identity to live that kind of courage.

We all are provided multiple opportunities each day to be the person we were created to be, to live the life God intended for us, whether it be in our career choices, our hobbies, our passions, our family life, our friendships, our romantic life, our spiritual life.

My friend Yolanda said to me today, ” I do not want to waste one more day not living in the identity God has intended for me.”

I don’t believe in happenstance or coincidence. I believe we each have been put in position “for such a time as this.” For each of us, the “this” is something different.

Currently our country is in political upheaval, we are a divided people, in a world filled with fear and violence. If we allow it, there is much to fill us with great insecurity.

However-“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7)

The tools are right in front of us. The Power Source is waiting for us to put in our plug. The Source of all love wants to lavish it upon us so that we can then in turn lavish it on those around us. The Spirit longs to free us from all sorts of bondage by enabling us to exercise self-discipline.

Whenever we face a challenge, both internal struggles and external circumstances, our best hope is to remember that it’s no accident we are there, and we have the ability to effect change in “such a time as this.” Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. You never know whose life you might save. Maybe even your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tripping Over Family Tree Roots

FullSizeRender (3)

The other day on my way home from walking Parker to school, I got distracted by a passing baby in a stroller and tripped over this tree root. I knew the root was there, as I walk past it (around it if I’m paying attention) every day. Twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.

It’s not a normal root. This root has evil intentions. It’s somehow sticking out and up at an angle, causing it to be 6-8 inches into the sidewalk and 3-4 inches off the ground. This root has stopped serving any purpose to the tree and now simply lies in wait for victims.

This time the root got me pretty good. I stubbed my toe, flew forward a couple feet, but managed to keep my balance by making some wonky maneuver that left my back feeling pretty tweaked.

I thought to myself, “Someone should do something about that.”

I decided it should be the city, but when I called, no one answered the phone.  I was annoyed that duties were being shirked.

The next day as I walked past the root, I glanced over at it and felt a twinge in my lower back. It was a reminder that I needed to do something about it.

I didn’t.

A few days after that, my lower back was still in pain, and since I had been compensating for a sore back, my neck was beginning to hurt. My hips were beginning to hurt. I was an achy mess.

Every time I walked past the root, I was more irritated. I didn’t plant the tree. This sidewalk is walked by many every day, and no one had done anything about it. Someone could get hurt. Someone DID get hurt! (Me)

I called the city. The first woman I spoke with said I needed to talk to the lady who would decide whose responsibility the tree root was. Then she would determine who I needed to talk to about getting the root removed. She transferred me to the planning department, but alas that woman was out of the office for the president’s day weekend and wouldn’t be back in the office until Tuesday.

I sat and pondered my options. The reality was, I could sit and try to get someone to take accountability for the root, but there was a pretty good chance that since the city expects us to keep those trees alive by watering them, they would expect us to maintain them in other ways, such as malicious root growth.

After all, even though the tree grew on the street side of the sidewalk, it was parallel to my back yard.

If someone gets hurt because of something I know has the potential to cause injury, it doesn’t really matter who’s responsible for the root. I will have neglected to do what I could have done to prevent it. And as time goes on, as the tree grows larger and older, that root is going to become more of a liability.

Such is the case with our family trees and family legacies. In our family trees we have heroes and villains, and we have regular men and women who lived average lives and then became vaguely familiar faces in faded photographs to the generations to come.

But names and dates and black and white photos don’t tell the whole story.

When I first started genealogy research 13 years ago, I had two quests: find the famous connections and go back as far as I could go.

However in the past year and a half, my research has been dovetailing with my own personal growth path which includes spiritual studies, therapy and a complete overhaul of my thought patterns and behavioral habits that haven’t always put me where i want to be.

As a result, I find myself focusing in more closely on the stories of the people from whom I descend. As I have done that, details have emerged that explain generational family cycles that have been unwittingly passed down.

The stories I had been told as a child highlighted the best of my family history, but they don’t paint a complete picture.

Sometimes we are aware of the legacies of dysfunction, but feel like it’s in our DNA, it’s who we are because it’s who they were. We feel powerless to break the cycle.

Sometimes we are living our own frustrating cycles of behavior and have no idea why we do the things that we do. It leaves us feeling broken, and a little crazy.

But I have good news!

We are not powerless against those errant tree roots that mar our family trees and threaten to bring us down. It doesn’t matter whether we planted the tree; Once we have recognized the danger, it’s up to us to get out our metaphorical hack saws and cut that nasty root out of our lives, out of our families, preserving a healthier tree for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

“I’m a yeller.”

No, you’re not. You’re someone for whom yelling was a modeled behavior, and that behavior was modeled to them, and so on. All it takes is one person to break the cycle. That person can be you if you choose!

“I don’t know why I feel so insecure.”

Well, probably because your parent had insecurity and abandonment issues. Or their parent did. My grandfather was abandoned by his mother at 18 months old, by his father shortly after, and left to be raised by his Irish grandfather and haughty German step-grandmother. His way of handling that was to be an emotionally distant workaholic. That doesn’t breed security in your children or your marriage. It leaves scars on that family tree, and on the people who come along afterwards.

” I’m dumb with men.”

Maybe. There’s probably a reason for that too. I learned this past year that my great great grandmother was married multiple times and wanted her grandchildren to call her “Aunt Fanny” instead of grandmother. Her daughter got married at 16, was divorced a short time later, and had a baby with a man (by the appearances of the records) she never married. By the time she married my great grandfather, she was a woman with a past and baggage, probably a boatload of  shame,  who desperately wanted to be loved and cared for. That longing for love and attention caused her to be openly flirtatious in letters we found to her daughter’s fiance. She loved her husband dearly, but the vacancy inside her couldn’t only be filled by him. Honestly.  It couldn’t be filled by any man.

My own family tree is overflowing with great men and women. It’s also riddled with alcoholism, drug addiction, codependency, perfectionism, emotional disconnection, divorce, and abandonment.

So what do we do with the information that who we are isn’t only the choices we’ve made, but also the things we’ve learned to be as a result of generational brokenness?

First, we understand that knowledge is a gift, even when it’s of the ugly that lurks in our family. Knowledge and awareness creates opportunities for personal growth. We take accountability for our own choices. We recognize the role our family history has played in shaping us, and we chop off that damn root completely. For ourselves, and for our kids. And for their kids.

It only takes one person to change the dynamic of the whole family for generations to come.

We don’t have to chop the whole tree down, just the root that is giving us trouble. Then, come spring, that tree will be blossoming because it will no longer be sending its energy to that nasty root.

yoshino-5

 

PS: If you are interesting in “rooting out” your family tree, visit my website http://familyresearch.strikingly.com/ to learn about the genealogy research packages I am currently offering at 50% off!