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.

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

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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.

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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…

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is her first birthday cake.

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

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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.”

 

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Good luck Mama Raccoon.

For Such A Time As This

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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.

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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.

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He looks thrilled, doesn’t he?

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

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The year before the wedding dress.

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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

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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.

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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!

It’s Just A Little Pee; A Perspective Piece

Today’s lesson on compassion and spotlight on my own internal ugly came to me courtesy a Pekingese-chihuahua wearing a cotton candy pink jacket.

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(Not the actual dog. For visual reference only)
I’m sitting in the dealership waiting room while my car is being serviced, when in comes an older woman with a bad dye job, a smoker’s cough, and a tiny dog on a long leash.

I’m  writing on my laptop, attempting to block out the Fox News blaring, and trying to pretend they hadn’t come in . I think that it’s not so much that I’m not a dog person, as that I’m not a dog person person. Dogs are dogs, and I take them for who they are. Their owners present a greater challenge for me.

The woman says, ” I’m gonna get her a boyfriend when she grows up,” to no one in particular.

The very pregnant woman a few seats to the right of me makes some sort of sound akin to an assent combined with a slight obligatory chuckle.

The dog is on an expandable leash, and begins roaming the waiting room. She makes her way to the pregnant woman, who bends down to give her a quick pet.

My animal telepathy signals are strong, and she goes back to her owner without coming my way.

The woman makes foo-foo conversation with the dog, and then says, “When is your baby due?”

I must be feeling self-conscious, because my hackles rise in indignation before I remember the woman next to me with the large, round belly. She’s not speaking to me, thank goodness.

“The beginning of March,” the pregnant woman responds.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“it’s a boy. Our first.”

“Oh , a boy. Boys are fun.”

“Do you have boys?”

“No. But I have this little girl to dress up,” she nods towards the dog.

I choke a bit on my own phlegm.

The dog starts heading my way and I do a quick mental debate on what my response will be. At first I continue typing, but then a tiny face peeks around my laptop. I look at her and she yips at me, eliciting a pleased coo from her owner. She puts her paws on my leg.

It’s an adorable little face, and I cannot resist giving her a gentle pat.

“She has to get to know everyone,” says the person on the other end of what, at the moment, is a 20 foot leash.

The dog (For this purpose I’m wishing I had asked her name) left me to greet the elderly man who was coming in.

“She has to check everyone out!” shrills Pinkie’s (not her real name) owner giddily.

The man looks around and heads back out into the lobby.

A conversation between Pinkie’s owner and the pregnant woman begins, and I concentrate on the book I’m writing. (Juvenile fiction- work in progress)

Pinkie comes around near me again and out of the corner of my eye, I see she has paused. I know that look. Sure enough, a tiny stream of urine starts making its way toward me.

“Oh!” I gasp. “Um!” And I look at Pinkie’s owner. She looks at me and I look down at the puddle on the floor.

“Oh my!” She jumps up and picks up the dog and runs around in a couple circles before heading out into the lobby. She comes back with a hand towel and drops it at my feet.

I’m sure my face belies my internal dialogue. I’m making every attempt to appear passive and disinterested, however I’m feeling a combination of annoyance, disgust and misguided responsibility for the mess on the carpet in front of me.

She taps her foot on top of the cloth and then leans down to pick it up. She rushes out in the hall and I hear a man tell her, “No, that’s okay. Let’s just throw it away.”

She comes back in, appearing flustered with Pinkie in her arms. Pinkie has seemed somewhat flustered since I first laid eyes on her, as most tiny dogs are prone to be a little jittery.

But just as irritation is settling in my soul and converting to a general disdain for this woman and her dog, another somewhat  older  woman comes in to the waiting room and sits on the couch next to them.

“She’s so adorable!” The new woman crows.

Pinkie’s owner beams. “Thank you!”

I glance up at her face and in an instant I recognize the human being to whom I was up until this point completely oblivious . In her face I see pride, and significance. I glimpse gratitude at being SEEN. I sense someone who has gained purpose through this tiny critter in a pink coat.

“It’s nice to have the company I’ll bet,” says the new woman.

“Yes,” smiles Pinkie’s mom. ” Especially being alone.”

And there it is. The knife in my heart. The crack in her voice as she says it leaves me feeling both gutted and grateful. Gutted in the knowledge that my judgmental heart had resented this clear source of joy for this woman, of whose story and life I have no knowledge beyond this one moment.

And grateful for Pinkie. Grateful that these two have found each other. They need each other. Pinkie provides companionship and unconditional love. Pinkie’s mom takes care of her, and has plans to get her a boyfriend. Maybe a couple babies.

One of my greatest personal challenges is looking beyond my own self to empathize with others and imagine a walk in their shoes. I love situations like these because they are uncomfortable and they challenge me to stop being so self-focused and connect with the people around me, even for a moment. I truly believe one of the greatest cures for my innate selfishness and hard-heartedness is taking the time to look a stranger in the eye and see past the external to the person inside.

So thanks, Pinkie. Thanks for being a tiny, unexpected, yippy,  piddling life lesson bundled in a tiny pink jacket.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not That Kind Of Girl

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Yes, that’s me last New Year’s Eve In Victoria, BC with Bigfoot. Yes, I am drinking champagne, thus my chumminess with the squatch. However that’s not what I want to attract your focus. Behold… the pink coat.

In the fall of 2014 I was invited to my neighborhood’s semi-annual CAbi party. In case you are unaware, CAbi stands for Carol Anderson by invitation, and it’s a home-based clothing business. It’s Tupperware for clothes, basically.

Each evening that I go to one of these parties (conveniently held next door every spring and fall) my husband cringes as I walk out the door.

“I’m just going for the wine!” I call out cheerfully.

Every time, though, I come home having placed an order.

This time, however, I was determined not to buy anything. I had recently purged many items in my closet and was going for a simpler life. And less laundry, theoretically.

Then I saw it. I got butterflies. It was beautiful.  And it was pink. Cotton candy pink.

I never wear pink. Ever. I’m not a fluffy, girly person, and because of my body type, wearing pink always makes me feel a bit like a drag queen.

But this coat looked like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn wrapped up into one stylish package.

I tried it on, and of course all the ladies at the party insisted this coat was ME, and I just HAD to buy it. I felt like a million bucks.

Alas, this coat was not cheap. True to my word, I went home without placing an order.

A couple weeks went by, and the CAbi rep emailed me to say that she was selling off her samples, and I could buy the coat for 50% off! Of course, 50% off of beau coup is still mucho dinero. (Yes, I am aware those are two different languages. Becoming more globally-minded is one of my New Year’s resolutions.)

My husband was out of town. Could I slip a Pepto Bismol pink coat into my clothing repertoire without him noticing? Not likely. But still… I had to have it.

I waited a month before the grand reveal. If I recall, his exact words were, “Whoa! That’s pink!”

There are only so many events for which a pink (with a capital P) wool coat seems an appropriate choice, so over the past year I have only worn it a handful of times. Every time gets a similar reaction to the first; Whoa. That’s pink.

Yesterday was a frosty  morning and I was headed out to my hair appointment. Knowing I would feel fabulous following my sprucing up at the salon, I decided it was a good day for the pink coat.

My hair is the longest it’s been in a while, and my colorist is slowly evolving me into an auburn color. Right now it’s sort of a mahogany shade, and since I can take zero credit, I will admit it looks amazing. I get lots of compliments, and so every time I get a refresh, I walk with a bit more of a spring in my step.

As I walked to pick Parker up after school, I felt fancy. Classy, even. So many times I show up in yoga pants and a pony tail, so it’s nice to step it up once in a while. He took one look at me and said, “You’re wearing pink.”

“Yes. I’m wearing pink.”

“You never wear pink.”

“I know. ”

“I don’t think I’ve seen you wear pink in like 15 months.”

I have no idea where this random number has come from, and I know it to be inaccurate, but his point is made- I never wear pink. He’s not sure what to do with this sudden shift of color palate.

As we crossed the street, another mom that I don’t know said, “I really like your coat!”

“Thank you!” I beamed.

“You remind me of The Gilmore Girls. I don’t know if you watched that show or know what I’m talking about.”

“I know the show, but I didn’t ever watch it.”

“Oh. Well you remind me of that!”

I gave a little laugh as she crossed the other street, not really knowing to what she might be referring, but hoping it was a good thing.

That evening when my husband got home from work I said, “I got a compliment on my coat today.”

“Oh yeah?”

“A mom at the school came up to me and told me she liked my coat and I reminded her of Gilmore Girls.”

He laughed and said, “Which one?”

“Well the mom, I assume.”

He stared at me for a moment, and then chuckled again.

As we waited in line to order our dinner at the local pizza place, he looked at my coat and said, “You’re taking this awfully well.”

“What?”

“Being told you look like a Gilmore Girl. I would think you were more like the one who dated all the men more than the mom.”

Blink. Blink.

“Um. Are you referring to the GOLDEN GIRLS?!”

He began laughing really hard.

“She said GILMORE girls NOT GOLDEN girls!”

“I kept thinking, wow, she seems okay with this. I would think she’d be really offended.”

I pulled out my phone and googled the following photos:

“THIS is the Gilmore girls:”

gilmore-girls-main

He was really laughing at this point.

“I was so confused. You were like ‘I guess I’m like the mom’ and I was like, ‘really?!’ but you seemed to be rolling with it.”

For reference,

golden girls

Blanche (the one who dated a lot of men) did wear a lot of pink, as did Sophia, the mother.

“I wonder what pink coat in the Gilmore Girls she was talking about.” So I googled that as well, and sure enough, there were tons of photos like this:

pinkcoat

Having never watched the show, I was unsure whether this was a running gag, or whether the pink coat was considered a staple piece. Further research revealed that the pink coat was the envy of many viewers, which took the sting out of the fact that my husband thought I looked like a geriatric character.

Here’s the thing;

We all have things we love but feel we “can’t get away with.” (Forgive the dangling preposition) Two piece bathing suits. Skinny jeans. Girly clothes. Statement jewelry. Long hair after a certain age. (I remember telling my friend Marques who cuts my hair that I wanted to grow it out until I was too old to wear it long. He replied, “You’re never to old to wear your hair whichever way you want.”)

I say, wear what we love. Buy into the fantasy for that moment. Do I look more like an Easter peep than Audrey Hepburn in my pink coat? Probably.

I like to imagine myself as “that kind of girl” sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. And so I shall continue to wear the pink coat on days when I want to be “that kind of girl.”

 

 

 

 

Keep your Friends Close, And Tell Your Enemy To Go Away

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I’ve long ascribed to the phrase, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” In my mind, it’s been important to keep an eye on those I do not trust, in order to protect myself. Recently I have started to realize that those I might perceive as such aren’t really my enemy, they are only broken people like me, hurting people who use their personal pain as a weapon against others.

In truth, I only have one enemy. And I have allowed him to remain close to me.

Here’s what happens to you when you allow proximity to your enemy: He whispers in your ear. He tells you things that warp your perception of yourself and others. His lies are so precise that they feel true. He takes your true identity, your God-given gifts and your designated purpose in this life and warps them just enough to render you ineffective, full of self-doubt, sometimes even self-destructive.

Priscilla Shirer said, “Your mind is the spiritual expression of your brain. What the brain is to the body, the mind is to the soul.”

The lies that we believe when we allow the enemy to whisper in our ear change everything about how we interact with the people and the world around us. The way we think becomes how we behave. How we behave reinforces what we already believe about ourselves. This is true of both positive and negative thinking.

I’m not sure who said it first, but my friend Lisa says her father’s favorite phrase is, “You can’t keep the birds from flying overhead, but you certainly can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

The same is true with our thoughts and feelings (or more accurately our thoughts about our feelings and our circumstances.) When we actually believe and know that the enemy is the father of lies, we won’t let those lies “nest in our hair.” When we give him access to our thoughts, when we doubt the truth about ourselves and believe the lies, that’s all the invitation he needs to set up home.

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In Ephesians, Paul talks about the helmet of salvation. While the helmet is supposed to evoke an image like this:

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For me, I think of it more like this:

tin_foil_hat

Someone is trying to take control of my mind. He wants to control me, he wants to inhibit me from the life God has intended, he wants to intimidate me, and he wants to keep me in bondage to the thoughts that rob me of peace and joy.

Without my protective tin-foil hat, without the protection that comes from the barrier of truth that God has given me,  my mind is wide-open to attack.

The enemy whispers, “You are unworthy.”

God says, “You are MY child, and your worth comes from Me.”

The enemy whispers, “You are weak to your desires.”

God says, “I’m strong, and I have equipped you with my armor.”

The enemy whispers, “You cannot overcome.”

God says, “I have ALREADY overcome.”

In the ancient world, armor was an essential part of fighting the battle. However, can you imagine the leader of the army inviting the enemy into their camp to give the soldiers all the reasons why they were likely to fail? Can you imagine the impact such access would have on morale?

You know who the enemy is, don’t let him into your camp. Don’t allow him to undermine your mission by giving him influence or a platform.

Keep your friends close because they will speak truth over you. Keep your friends close because they want to see you have victory. Keep your friends close because they will fortify you.

Keep your enemy as far from you as possible.

 

 

A Legacy Of Significance

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It’s an innate human desire to leave a legacy. We all want to know that at the end of our time here on this planet, our lives have meant something, had a purpose, and that when we are gone, we will have left a mark of some sort.

It’s a rare occurrence when someone leaves a legacy  like that of Mr. Charles “Tuck” Gionet; For he obtained his own legacy of significance through imbuing a sense of significance in those who had the privilege to know him. Every kid who set foot in his classroom, every athlete that stepped on his track came away a better person from knowing him, and came away believing in their own potential.

As I stood near this tree yesterday, awash in tears, I found that I wasn’t just grieving the loss of this amazing man, but was also overwhelmed with the joy of the beautiful stories I was reading of lives changed forever because he gave so much of his heart, his time, his wisdom.

The second greatest loss, after knowing you will never be able to see someone again, is the realization that you missed your opportunity to tell the person what they meant to you. When I first found out Mr. Gionet (after all this time “Tuck” seems so informal) was fighting cancer, this homage began to write itself. And then I remembered the man, and that he would HATE that. As he said to my mother last year, “What, a guy’s gotta get sick for people to tell him how great he looks?”

Truth is, I never believed it would come to this, or that he wasn’t going to overcome this challenge.

I first sat in Mr. Gionet’s classroom in September 1986. While others had trepidation, as his reputation for toughness was well known throughout the halls of Snohomish Junior High School, I had none. For you see, I already knew a secret many of my classmates didn’t: behind that no-nonsense man was a heart of gold. My older sister Colleen had him as a teacher and track coach in 1983-84, and her admiration for him told me everything I needed to know.

Looking back, it’s unfathomable that he was really only a kid when I first had him as a teacher. He already had a commanding presence in the classroom, and a wisdom that belied his age of 26.

On the very first day of World Cultures he did a name exercise. It started with the first person in the front row, they would say their name, followed by the second person who would say the first person’s name, and then their own. The third person named the first two, then said their own name. It went on like that through the whole classroom, until it came to Mr. Gionet, who would then rattle off every single person’s name; Names he never forgot. Ever.

That year he asked me and another student, my friend Eric, to attend a local government meeting. I can’t remember if it was a county council meeting, or if it was a chamber of commerce meeting, but I do remember that he chose us because he said he saw leadership qualities in us. We each gave speeches about “kids today” and what issues mattered to us, and then we opened it up to questions from the officials at the meeting. I will never forget that feeling of knowing that he saw my potential, and gave me a venue to explore it.

There’s something that happens inside you when someone you admire looks at you and says, “I believe in you.” You are forever changed.

By the time I was a junior in high school, Mr. Gionet had transferred up there, and I got him again as a teacher for U.S. history. While others may have dreaded what they knew would be required of them in his class, I was thrilled.

Our very first assignment that year was to write a persuasive essay, which would be strange in a normal history class, but he was no normal history teacher. He cared less about what our opinions were, much more about our critical thinking skills and how well we could defend those opinions.

This was my essay:

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I don’t know if he really preferred banana Popsicles (see, I’ve learned to spell Popsicles since 1988) or if he was simply playing devil’s advocate. That was pretty much a foretelling of the nature of most of our interactions. He would say something, I would contest it. I would say something, he would challenge me.

For all I know, he actually agreed with me most of the time, but he would never admit it, lest I become complacent.

Last Friday night I was sorting through my high school mementos in anticipation of the next night’s 25th reunion, and I came across this cartoon:

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This satirical comic was printed that year in my high school newspaper, created  by one of my fellow U. S. history classmates. While I believe our banter was was much more congenial and light-hearted than this, it illustrates the point well enough.

Notice the teacher is wearing slacks, a button down shirt and a tie. This was something that mattered a lot to him. Manners mattered a lot to him. Civility mattered a lot to him. Involvement and investment mattered a lot to him. (Also, proper spelling of the words “a lot” mattered to him, as my friend Andy reminded me yesterday.)

That first semester I got a B. I wasn’t happy about that. However, in Mr. Gionet’s class, I knew the grades given were always and only the grades we earned.

Our final major assignment of the school year was an oral report on some major event in U.S. history. I knew if I was going to get an A, I was going to have to go all out.

I chose to do my report on the Vietnam war. I didn’t want to stand up and read dry facts off of note cards. I decided I would create a vignette in which I was a teenager during the war, and I would act out a scene of reading and writing letters with a friend who had been drafted and was serving. I compiled actual letters between my mother and her high school friend from his time in Vietnam. I recorded videos off of TV like “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane to be playing in the background as I read the letters out loud. I infused my mother’s responses with facts about the climate in America and what he could expect when he returned home. And I did all of this dressed head to toe in full hippie gear.

Somewhere in my mother’s house is the VHS recording Mr. Gionet insisted on making of my report, and I can tell you that my transcript showed an A for that semester.

When it came time to get letters of recommendation for my college applications, it was a no-brainer that I was going to ask him. There wasn’t a teacher in that school whose opinion mattered more to me, and who I felt knew my potential the best.

I wasn’t disappointed. He wrote me a letter of recommendation that I have kept and looked at occasionally over the years, if only to remind myself that someone great once believed in me.

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The first time I ran into Mr. Gionet after graduation was at the wedding reception of a close friend. I had dropped out of college after three years and was 7 months pregnant with my first child. I didn’t want to talk to him, because all I could think about was that he would be disappointed in me that I hadn’t reached my potential. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Being a mom is the most important job in the world.” And I believed he meant it because he NEVER said anything he didn’t mean.

As news of his passing began to circulate on Saturday morning, something amazing began unfolding before my eyes. He wasn’t just MY favorite teacher who believed in me and made me believe in myself, he was that to nearly every student he ever had. How can it be that over the course of 30 plus years he could make each and every kid feel significant? But he did. The popular kids. The lost kids. The smart kids. The kids who struggled. The athletes. The loners. The whole damn Breakfast Club stood a little taller because this man told them they were more than, and they BELIEVED HIM BECAUSE HE BELIEVED IT ABOUT THEM. He was able to see what made each kid special. He was able to see where their confidence was lacking. He was able to get all of us to catch his vision of who we could be.

He did this without coddling. “Suck it up!” ” Don’t do anything stupid! ” “Fer cryin’ out loud!” (This was his signature phrase, and I can verify it goes back at least as far as 1987, as my yearbook attests. )

IMG_4561(My friend Robyn wrote that)

He did it by fostering confidence through achievement, creating standards, expectations of personal responsibility. He did it by seeing the innate value in each person, making it a priority to know their name.

The last time I laid eyes on him was last summer at the farmer’s market. He was nearly a year into treatment and still had his Clooney good looks, his ascerbic wit and kick-ass attitude. He was anticipating his son’s upcoming wedding, and scoffed at the invitation he had received to attend the class of ’89’s reunion that weekend.

“No one wants an old teacher hanging out at their reunion.”

As I drove to my own reunion Saturday night, my heart heavy with his loss, the words of old friends as they posted story after story of what he meant to each of them running through my mind, I thought to myself, “I hope he knew.”

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Don’t Be Goofy… The Breakdown of flight 848

I know, I know. It’s been months. I actually wrote a few blogs longhand but never got around to typing them up. I’ve been a woman in transition emotionally, working through some identity issues, and, not surprisingly, it is difficult to write when you’re not sure who you are exactly, much less what you want to say.

I’d love to tell you that my first endeavor at writing a blog since Spring is something substantial or meaningful, but alas, it’s just a story that was too long to put as a Facebook status, so it’s going here.  Also, I had to get this incident off of my chest.

Have you ever met someone who, within mere moments of your first encounter, invades both your personal and emotional space ?

Let me tell you about my seat mate on yesterday’s flight. She reminded me a lot of these old “Goofy How-To” videos…

You know, how Goofy is completely and totally self-absorbed and inconsiderate? That.
Yesterday my husband and I flew home from Hawaii. We were in the “extra legroom” seats, which in retrospect wasn’t worth the upgrade. We hadn’t purchased the seats for the legroom, we upgraded because the flight was full and we didn’t have assigned seats together. Both Jeff and I have short enough legs, so while the extra legroom was nice, it didn’t solve the real issue, which  is how narrow the seats and the aisles are.

Our plane had 3 seats on each side where it should have had two, and an aisle so narrow a stick figure would have to go down sideways. No wonder the airlines all got in trouble for only hiring thin flight attendants. No one with even half a curve can fit. It was merely practicality on their part.

Jeff was on the aisle and I was in the middle. Shortly after we sat down, a woman came up and gestured that she was in the window seat.

She seemed pleasant enough, although slightly flustered. She set her water bottle on the floor and then immediately knocked it over on to me with her foot.

We were in the early boarding group, and the boarding process on Alaska seems much slower than, say, Southwest, where there’s a cattle stampede, they tell everybody to sit down and shut up, and the next thing you know, the plane is taking off.

The woman, we’ll call her, uh, “Goofy” for the purpose of this story, got on her cell phone and called what sounded like either a shuttle service or a car rental office. She spoke with them for a bit and then turned to me.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Do you know what time in Seattle our plane is supposed to arrive?”

“I think about 9pm.”

“Okay, thank you,” she said, and then I realized, she was still on the phone because she was relaying that information to the person on the other end.

A few minutes later, she got my attention again.

“Can I ask you another question?”

“Sure.”

“Do you happen to know what our flight number is?”

“848.”

“Okay, thank you.”

“No problem.”

Then she began speaking again to the person on the phone.

As we started to back away from the gate, I put my headphones on for my takeoff ritual. I’m okay with flying, (unless there’s turbulence) once we hit the 10,000 foot level and the pilot dings the bell. Until then, I’m a bit of a wreck, with my fingernails puncturing the palm of my husband’s hand. Other than imbibing a double of something at the airport bar, I also jam a Sees butterscotch lollipop in my mouth and put on soothing music. I knew my ipod was low on battery, but unfortunately it was lower than i had realized, and cut out right in the middle of Donny Hathaway crooning and right in the middle of the tarmac.

I quickly switched to my phone, which only has a few random songs on it, most of which is Christmas music for some inexplicable  reason. I did manage to find a song I could live with until we were fully airborne.

Since I already had my phone in my hand, I started playing Candy Crush.

I felt a tap on my arm.

“Are we allowed to use phones on airplanes now?”

“You can use your phone as long as it’s on airplane mode. I use it to play games.”

The flight attendants came by three times. The first was to  rent movie players. Goofy waited until they had already passed us to nudge me to get the attendant’s attention so she could rent one.

They next came by for drink orders. She had her headphones in and didn’t hear the request, so I had to get her attention. She ordered red wine.

When they came by for trash, Jeff and I handed all of our trash over. Once they had passed by, Goofy THEN started pulling out her trash and handed it to me to give to the FA. Jeff had to once again get their attention.

A  little while later the flight attendants (FA) announced they were going to be serving food  for payment. They said the only hot meal  was the hula chicken bowl, or something like that.

Goofy pulled out her menu. she then tapped me on the arm.

“I need to use the bathroom. If they come by, tell them I want this,” and pointed to the  picture of the miso chicken.

Besides the fact that you cannot order hot food without paying for it, leaving me in the awkward position of either telling the FA what she wanted, and that they would have to collect from her later, or paying for it myself.

“Um, that’s actually on the flights TO Hawaii. FROM Hawaii the only hot meal is THIS,” i explained, pointing to the hula chicken bowl.

“Oh,” She frowned.

“They have the Beecher’s cheese platter, and then any of these snack packs.”

She looked for a minute and then said, “If they come before I’m back I want THIS,” pointing to the Mediterranean snack pack.

I didn’t bring up the “how am I supposed to deal with payment” part of the issue. Jeff got up into the aisle and let her pass.  When he sat down he said, “One more question and you should be getting paid for your services.”

Thankfully she got back before the cart reached us.

She did offer her snack olives to me which I thought was nice. Jeff and I continued to watch our movie.

As the cart came back around for trash,  once again, she waited until AFTER the FA had passed by to start digging around, and handed me her trash. I held it for a moment, bewildered, as I had no place to put it. She took it back from me, and then called out to the attendant who was passing by to see to another passenger.

When the next drink service came around, she ordered another wine, and then said, ” I don’t suppose I could have another piece of chocolate.”

The FA looked at her questioningly and said, “Pardon?”

Goofy said, ” Well I had a chocolate in my snack pack. I want another piece, but i don’t want to buy another snack pack.”

The attendant pulled out a drawer. “White chocolate or milk chocolate?”

“I just want chocolate. Regular chocolate.”

The FA said, “All we have is white. ” And tossed it on her tray.

A while later she got up to use the bathroom again. Jeff said, “The drink cart is coming. How much you want to bet she will come right after they pass by and then be annoyed that she doesn’t have a drink?”

She did manage to make it back, though, just in time.

When the third drink service reached us, she said, “Do you have any pineapple juice?”

The FA said, “No I’m sorry. We only have POG. Passion orange guava.”

“Do you have any herbal tea?”

“We have orange tea and black tea.”

“You don’t have any peppermint?”

“No, ma’am. Orange and black tea.”

Sigh.

“I guess I’ll have orange.”

She got her tea, pulled out the in-flight magazine and began reading. At this point, our movie had finished, and I was reading my Kindle. We were 4 hours in to a 5 hour and 15 minute flight.

I heard a sniffle.

“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “She must have a cold, that’s why she’s drinking tea.”

Sniff sniff.

I tried to ignore it, but the sniffles kept coming.

And then I heard what sounded like a cat’s mewl.

I glanced over.

She was curled up facing the wall and she was crying. Not a silent cry. Not a tear or two gently wiped away sort of cry. A body-shaking simpering whimpering cry.

I looked at Jeff who was listening to music with headphones. His eyes were closed. I nudged him. He looked at me questioningly.

“She’s crying,” I mouthed.

“What?”

“She’s crying,” I mouthed again, this time with more enunciation.

He pulled his earbud out and leaned in.

“She’s crying,” i whispered through gritted teeth.

He glanced over my head. “Why?”

I whispered in his ear. “I have no idea. One minute she was drinking her tea reading the magazine, the next she was shaking and crying.”

He shrugged his shoulders and put his ear bud back in.

That left me, who was pretending to read, but was really trying to determine what my responsibility was to this woman, to deal with it. Should I pretend I don’t notice to give her privacy? Should I ask her what’s wrong, knowing that question may drag me into spending the next hour of the flight trying to emotionally stabilize a complete stranger?

Before I had to make a decision, she blew her nose, faced forward, pulled up the sweatshirt that had been draped across her lap, folded it, placed it on the arm rest between us, and spread her entire self out like she was in a lazyboy. My eyes grew big as I felt her elbow not only breach my side of the armrest,but breach the side of my body, digging in hard.

I contorted away from it, pushing into Jeff, who was already nursing wounds from every person who had tried to maneuver down the aisle, not to mention the multiple times the cart had passed by. He pushed back a little.

I made eye contact with him and he removed his ear bud. “Her elbow is digging in to my side. ”

“Say something.”

“I can’t. She just stopped crying.”

“Push back.”

I grimaced at him and adjusted my position so that I was facing straight ahead. She leaned towards me, her elbow further in. I leaned forward, bent over, trying to pretend that it wasn’t the most unnatural position. I looked down at her feet, which were splayed  wide and also encroached far into my personal space.

My already smallish amount of empathy for whatever had led her to have an emotional breakdown began to dissipate rapidly.

The attendants announced that we would soon begin our initial descent and that it was time to prepare for landing, including tray tables, trash collection, seat backs, and tablet collection.

Goofy of course missed both the trash collection and the tablet collection, causing me to have to flag the FA down.

We heard the bell ding and felt the plane start to nose downward. At that exact moment, Goofy chose to lay her seat all the way back.

I gasped. The rule follower in me just about lost it.

After our plane landed, I had determined to pretend Goofy didn’t exist. I didn’t want to engage her in any way.

We exited the aircraft, and I sensed her behind me. We got to the inter-concourse train station and suddenly I realized she was standing right next to me.

When the train arrived, I followed Jeff in and faced him. I knew she had gotten on and was behind me.

We got to baggage claim, where there was some confusion about which carousel, and as I saw her coming towards me, I braced myself for her to ask for my assistance.

I may very well be a cold, heartless person, insensitive to the needs of an obviously troubled woman. This time, for some reason, I think I can live with that.

You see, I’m the kind of person who tends to take on responsibility for the problems of other people. I’m a fixer. My therapist has a more technical term for it, but that’s a whole other story. My point is that while my attitude and responses may put out a “whatever ” vibe, inside I’m a wreck, trying to solve the problem of someone I don’t even know. Those 5 plus hours with her actually took an emotional toll on me, and it’s kind of unfair to do that to a stranger. Perhaps she didn’t realize the effect she was having on me, but I got the sense from this one interaction with her, that there are probably many people in her life who feel exactly as I felt whenever she’s around.

We have a choice every day to be either a blessing or a curse to someone. I’ll admit, I was no blessing to her. She sure as heck was no blessing to me either, so we’re even, right?

My therapist is gonna have a field day with this.

 

 

 

 

Grace, Love And The Politics Of The American Church

I have yet to decide if I’m actually going to post this blog. If you’re reading it, that means I have decided to go ahead and do it, knowing that the result may be alienation of my readers and even some of my friends. Please know that I have not made this decision lightly, but thoroughly and prayerfully.

You should also know off the bat that my intended audience for this particular post are my readers who have a proclaimed affiliation with Christianity. While my atheist and agnostic readers are more than welcome to read what I have to say, please don’t use this as  fodder or a platform for the bashing of my faith.

What this also isn’t, since I’m already in the process of clarification, is an exegesis of current religious and political hot topics. I don’t have the scholastic credentials  to tackle theological apologetics on any issues beyond the basic tenets of the Bible.

Neither, I suspect, do many of you.

Which is sort of my point in writing this in the first place.

My heart has been deeply burdened of late with grief over the politicization of the American church, the statements and actions made by some church leaders (I’m not just looking at you, Franklin Graham and Creflo Dollar, but you’re at the top of my list right now), and the conversations, both in person and on Facebook that I have witnessed among my acquaintances, my friends and family who are self-described followers of Jesus.

My “Arugula!” warning signals are already going off in my head. I know that what I am about to say isn’t going to win me any popularity contests. While there was a time in my life when I actually thrived on debate, my desire to live in peace has tempered that part of me.

What God has been revealing to me over the past few years is how hurtful my approach has been, how my desire to prove my point came at the cost of relationships. He challenged many of my long-held beliefs, and even more so, challenged my attitude towards people who view the world differently than I do.

I have had some moments when I felt like everything I thought I knew was being tossed on its head, and I had to re-examine each thing to determine what was truth and what was an opinion based on my own personal experiences or beliefs.

I’m not claiming to have discovered irrefutable truth; Quite the opposite, actually.

I have come to believe that the smartest thing Albert Einstein ever said was, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

I have said often I am by nature a very black and white thinker. http://kbjackson.com/zero-shades-of-grey-confessions-of-a-black-and-white-thinker/

I can see by many things I have heard and seen posted recently that I am not alone in that.

Everything must go in a bucket:

Good/Bad

Right/Wrong

For those of us who subscribe to what is by definition the pretty narrow lens of the Christian faith, this auto-labeling carries with it a significant implication for most issues and those who fall on either side of the spectrum of opinions.

And it often leaves very little room for grace.

People who have an agenda to control and manipulate the thoughts, feelings and actions of large quantities of people really like black and white thinkers. They need people who adhere steadfastly to absolutes because they know that with the right approach, once they get a black and white thinker to place an issue in their desired bucket, it will remain there, tenaciously defended regardless of any argument that may be used by someone of an opposing viewpoint. Black and white thinkers rarely change their mind.

Adhering to the ideology of Christianity appears to be one of those black/white right/wrong sort of scenarios.

Only, guess what? It’s not. Not really.

The Bible is filled with rules. It’s true. Some rules are given more weight by people than others, just as we like to weigh some sins heavier.

However as many “rules” as there are in the Bible,  there are many more declarations of  the unfathomable love of God for ALL mankind and  the unwavering command and admonition for His children to love others.

Why did God create rules? Is it so he could gleefully pour out his wrath on those who cannot/ do not abide by them? To give ammunition for believers to bash “sinners” over the head?

No. He created rules for two purposes:

1)To protect us from the natural consequences of our sinful choices

2)To make it crystal clear to us how incapable we are of following these rules on our own and how much in need of His grace and salvation we truly are.

He wrote the rules knowing we would break them. ALL OF THEM.

And He loves us anyways.

Out of that understanding of our depravity and His undeservedly lavish love we are to go out into the world to tell of the good news. The GOOD NEWS. Not the bad news. THE GOOD NEWS.

Instead, we fill our Facebook feeds with a version of “Christianity” that in no way sounds like anything resembling good news, or, honestly, that sounds like the words or example of Jesus Christ.

 

Did you know…

That God loves both Republicans AND Democrats?

That the message of the cross was as much for the Muslim as it was for the Jew, the Atheist and the American Christian?

That the good news of the gospel is as valid for both homosexual and heterosexual? (Also that sexual sin=sexual sin=sexual sin , and accordingly, sin=sin=sin)

That Jesus’ sacrifice was as much for those who would willingly accept him as those who would continually reject him?

That salvation is a gift of God, and the ONLY people it is intended for are sinners? (Know anyone who doesn’t fit into that category?)

That the grace that saves is enough to break the bonds of ALL religion, ALL sin, ALL human failings?

The beauty and the message of the cross is for everyone- even for those who have deemed all of the above unworthy to receive it.

I believe in democracy and I value and assert my right to vote.

However you will never find me affiliating with a political party again. I will examine each candidate and issue with prayerful consideration on their own individual merit, making my decision based on the values espoused by the only man to walk this earth blamelessly.

I refuse to accept that either political party represents these values.

How republicans and democrats can have opposing viewpoints and still both be inconsistent with Biblical values is why many like me find ourselves in political limbo. Abortion, gay marriage, government programs for the poor, government programs for the rich; you can be on the technically “right” side of an issue Biblically, but a lack of compassion can still make you wrong. And Christians, we’ve been getting these issues wrong.

The democrat party has made inclusiveness its religion, to the point of having little-to-no moral compass. The leadership uses the fears of the poor to manipulate and control. They exploit gender issues for political gain. Obama may or may not be everything those on the right say he is. (Of course it depends on the day. Sometimes he’s a total incompetent, other times he’s an evil mastermind.)

 

However, I am truly appalled that the American church has allowed many of its pulpits to be co-opted by the political agenda of a party that spews hateful rhetoric on a daily basis.

Nothing that is coming out of the RNC or its leadership, or frankly the people I know who have conservative political leanings are consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Whether or not it was your intention, here, in no particular order,  are the values expressed through the posts and re-posts I have witnessed over the past few years by my politically active Christian friends:

>Racism/lack of understanding of systemic racial problems in America

God says-

Mark 12:31

“The second is this:’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

>Demonization of the poor

God says-

Psalm 12:5

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD.” I will protect them from those who malign them.”

>Hatred for those of other faiths, particularly Muslims

(Fox news recently ran a story which attempted to paint Vlad the Impaler as simply a patriot hero fending off Muslim attackers. You’ve got to hate a group pretty bad to justify the actions of a man who roasted children and fed them to their mothers)

God says-

Luke 6:35

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

>Disdain for those with differing political views

God says-

Proverbs 10:12

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

>Support for unbridled greed

God says-

1 Timothy 6:10

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

>Hateful speech, passing judgement on external sin,  particularly  homosexuality  while ignoring sins of the heart

God says-

Mark 7:20-23

“And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

>Disregard for anything that might be considered “environmental”

God says-

Genesis 2:15

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden  to work it and take care of it.”

>Lack of compassion, grace and mercy for anyone who isn’t white, conservative, affluent, Christian, American

God says-

1 Peter 4:8

“Above all love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.”

Whether you disagree with his political viewpoint, the vitriol spouted against our current president is sin. It just is.

Justifying personal and corporate greed as “capitalism at its finest” but shaming the single mom who chose not to have an abortion and needs financial help to care for her child is sin.

Focusing on one type of sin and making those who struggle with it feel unwelcome in the body of Christ is sin.

Pride in your “lack of sinfulness” is sin.

Hateful speech of any kind is sin.

Racism is sin.

Lack of compassion and mercy is sin.

Gluttony is sin. (I’m still not over the “gorge yourself on chick-fil-a to support the anti-gay marriage stance of the owner” protests. To me that whole incident said “we hate gay people so much we will shove fried fast food in our faces to prove it.” How many hungry people did they pass on their way to and from their “protest? )

Creating fancy churches to house our obese rear-ends and buying our “leaders” fancy jets so they don’t have to fly coach is sin.

We continuously focus on the speck in the eyes of others while ignoring the redwood forest growing in our own.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to cling to the Word of God, the only real truth in this world, and leave behind the political agendas that seek only to divide us and distract us from our true purpose on this planet- to love our God and to honor Him by loving those He has made. It is possible to be unwavering in your beliefs and still be loving and compassionate towards those who don’t share them. It is impossible to follow the values of the world and do the will of God.

I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and vote republican. But I do object to the idea that somehow those two things are congruent. Because they aren’t. They aren’t any more congruent than any other political party.

Please view everything you read and hear through the lens of the gospel and the Word of God, not through the lens of those who feed hate, fear and lies. Be conscientious and diligent in testing everything against the example set for us by Jesus.

Jesus came into a political and religious climate not unlike the one we live in now. The people felt oppressed and overtaxed by the government. (Legitimately I will admit). The religiosity of the people overshadowed every aspect of their daily lives… except their hearts.

Jesus said, “The government isn’t going anywhere. Deal with them the way you have to, but that really is no concern of mine. My issue is your hearts, and boy oh boy, you guys are really missing the point.”

(That was a paraphrase, in case you couldn’t tell.)

If we were busy serving the poor, the widows, the orphans, the hungry, the elderly, the sick…. would we have a moment of time or an ounce of desire to gripe about politics? Would we spend our time freaking out about whether someone else is gay? If we were telling people the good news, would we be taking the time in the middle to complain about health care legislation?

There’s a good chance that this whole thing has come off self-righteous and judgy. If it does, I’m sorry, it is not my intention. I am guilty of all of this and more. I include myself in every category of where I see us failing as God’s ambassadors to the world. We must be very cautious with whom we choose to affiliate ourselves.

We only have a short time on this planet in the scheme of things. Do we want to spend that time disseminating political propaganda or loving on people?

That’s all I’m trying to say. Pick the path that leads people to the cross.

 

eastersunrisecross

Getting Lost In The Moment

thecalifornians

https://screen.yahoo.com/californians-drama-off-405-000000032.html

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Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit “The Californians”? (see video link above) For those unfamiliar with Southern Cal, it may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but having lived there for a quarter of my life, and just returning from a weekend there, I can assure you it’s more accurate than you might suspect.

Friday night I was making my way back from LA to my hotel in Orange County on the 405 South when I came upon signs that indicated the freeway ahead was closed and all lanes consolidated before being forced to exit at the 605 North.

Although I lived only 15 minutes south just 6 years ago, this was an area with which I was not too familiar. When I lived there, I made every effort possible to avoid the labyrinth of the SoCal freeway system. Even those with limited sense of direction can probably understand that when you’re headed south and then suddenly find yourself on a northbound freeway, you’re going the wrong way.

Earlier in the day I had already had the experience of getting on the 405 north when I had intended to go south leaving the airport, so while I wasn’t thrilled, it was not an unfamiliar feeling. Some people I know would find this situation completely unnerving. For me, though, I’ve always had this deep sense that no matter how many wrong turns I take I will ultimately find my way.

Eventually I did find my way to my hotel. I’d be lying if I said that after passing through several unfamiliar intersections and not recognizing any of the roads, and a gut feeling that I was indeed still headed the wrong direction, I pulled out my phone and entered my hotel into Google maps.

The first word out of male Siri’s ( I replaced the female because I thought she was a bit condescending) “mouth”were:

“Make a u-turn if possible.”

I’m pretty sure that 99% of the directions he has given me include that phrase.

Saturday morning I checked out of my hotel and headed to my sister Colleen’s house in Irvine to pick her up for our weekend in Palm Springs.

I entered the destination for the resort into my GPS. My sister, who has lived in the area for several years said, “I don’t understand why it’s taking us this way. Somehow this doesn’t seem right.”

However, I continued to follow the directions given to me by the man in my phone (Let’s call him Fritz). Sometimes he didn’t give me very much warning before telling me where to turn, and I would miss it. When that occurred he would do one of two things: readjust the course or utter the frequent and all-too-familiar, “Make a u-turn if possible.”

Soon we discovered that the route he had chosen required getting on to a toll road. Since I was driving a rental car with no transponder, the resulting fine would have been exorbitant.

We got off at the next available exit and made our way onto I-5 north, then onto the 55 , then the 91 east, to the I-215 to the 60 to the 10.

See? I told you “The Californians” wasn’t an exaggeration.

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Somewhere after we got onto the 91, we ran into a large traffic jam. Saturday traffic jams in SoCal are not unusual, but are typically inexplicable. The back-up was likely the reason my GPS had tried to divert us onto a toll road. Either that, or because the toll roads are actually the most direct routes. Direct routes are only for the wealthy, apparently.

We sat in traffic, but neither of us minded because we had great conversation. I’m not even sure how long it took us to reach our actual destination, but that was the beauty of this trip; we had  planned to have no plans. Our only goal was to connect, spend time together and take each moment as it came.

Taking each moment as it comes and not trying to control my vacations is a new experience for me and not something at which I typically excel. I’m a work in progress.

After checking in  at the resort, we spent the afternoon poolside. The forecast predicted a rainy sunday, so we decided to take advantage of the sun while we had it.

Dinner was an easy choice; We both love Mexican food. I yelped Mexican restaurants in the vicinity and found one not too far away named Huerta’s on Jackson St that had a 4 1/2 star rating.

Once again I turned to “Fritz” for guidance. The area of Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Indio is a lot more sparse and spread out than one might think, and a lot of the roads are not well-lit at night.

I followed the directions given me by Fritz, and having visited the area a few years prior, I had a general understanding of where I was. Turn right on Hwy 111. Turn left onto Jackson. We passed a sign that welcomed us to Indian Wells.

Fritz said something about turning left that I couldn’t quite hear. Then he named a different road on which to turn left , as if he’d  changed his mind. I turned left at the next light and Fritz gave another street name on which to turn left, but I couldn’t see the street he named, and it certainly didn’t look like an area where a restaurant might be.

Colleen picked up my phone and said, “It says we just passed the turn.”

We were once again directed to take a left at the next light. After turning I said, “Why do I have the feeling we are going in one giant circle?”

My sister responded, “I believe we may be.”

Sure enough, we got to the next intersection and I noticed on my left was the giant sign for Indian Wells that we had passed earlier. We were back at Jackson Street. Fritz had indeed taken us in one giant circle.

Colleen looked at my phone again and said, “It looks like we are headed right for it. It’s on this street. Oh wait. It says we just passed it again.”

I looked to my left  and saw nothing but a dark residential neighborhood. There weren’t even street lights.

“I’m starting to think Huerta’s is really just someone’s house where they make a good chile relleno and someone thought it would be funny to put them on yelp just to make tourists go insane trying to find it.”

I drove in the darkness for a bit and finally made my way to a gas station so I could pull in and find another restaurant.

My sister said, “Why don’t we ask someone where we can find good Mexican food?”

I looked over at the monster truck that had pulled into the parking space next to me,  and at the man who leered at me as he got out.

“Uh. You’re welcome to. I think I’ll take my chances with Yelp.”

We looked over the other restaurants and realized a couple of the higher rated ones were listed as being on the road we had been approaching before pulling in to the station.

I said, “What about this El Mexicali Café?”

She said, “I was just looking at that. It says there are two of them, so they must be good.”

“It also says people prefer the one by the railroad tracks.”

(Possibly the only time I have uttered those words.)

We pulled back onto the road and kept our eyes peeled for a building showing some signs of life.

And then it appeared, like a literal oasis in the desert. An oasis near the railroad tracks that serves margaritas.

There were people outside but I couldn’t tell if they were waiting or just hanging around. Inside it was pretty small, and as we walked in we witnessed a scene that could only be described as festive. There were two mariachis (mariachi?) playing guitar and singing under a flatscreen  TV that was showing a basketball game. There was a small bar with stools where two older couples were laughing and eating. Every table and booth was filled with lively conversation except one small table for two that sat empty. Two men and three women were waiting in the entrance, and three waitresses were moving quickly between the kitchen, the bar, and the various tables and booths.

One of them, an older woman, came rushing up to us and asked in a heavily accented voice, “How many?”

We told her there were two of us, and she began scanning the restaurant. She went over to one of the waiting men and said, “You wait, yes? I give the ladies this table.”

The men seemed to grudgingly agree, but after waving us over to the not-yet wiped down table, another of the waitresses started yelling at her in Spanish from across the noisy room. My one year of high school Spanish told me that the plan had been to push the table with a table for 4 to seat the party waiting.

Our waitress hurried over to the other one, and there was much debate, complete with gestures and waving hands. Our waitress came back and said, “Sorry. Sorry. You wait a bit more.”

We got up and moved back to the entry and she said, “You want margarita. What kind? Strawberry? Mango?”

We ordered Cadillac margaritas, which she brought over to us while we waited. We people-watched and listened to the music. Neither of us was annoyed by the wait, because the room was electric and interesting. Occasionally the whole place would rumble as the train passed by. When we were finally seated we ended up at our original table, as the larger party had been put in the back once another group had left.

Our waitress returned and shouted at me, “You want peppers!” and pointed on the menu at a picture of what appeared to be some sort of stuffed peppers. My recent obsession with jalapeno poppers led me to agree. She rushed off before I realized the peppers were stuffed with shrimp, which I don’t eat, but I was able to flag her down and cancel the order.

It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in this restaurant. The employees somehow managed to make every customer feel like a part of one big extended family. When the mariachis (mariachi) began playing “la Bamba” the whole place broke out into song. One of the waitresses would randomly grab a diner from their seat into the only open space and begin salsa dancing with them. Those who were waiting danced in place and clapped along. When certain songs came on, the entire staff would start trilling.

Besides the food being seriously delicious, that may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

During dinner we mused about getting lost and yet somehow finding our way to this amazing, unexpected place and experience. We ended up exactly where we were supposed to be, even though we hadn’t meant to go there.

And here, finally, is my point in telling you all of this:

Life can be that way a lot of the time. We have agendas and expectations, and yet still we sometimes get lost.

Sometimes we get detoured.

Sometimes those we trust or allow to guide us take us in the wrong direction.

Being lost can be terrifying, unnerving. It can make you question everything you think you know.

But sometimes we discover that in the midst of being lost, we find something remarkable;

We find extra time to connect that we wouldn’t have had if we’d gone the direct route.

We find treasures or experiences we would have missed out on had we ended up where we intended.

We learn more about ourselves while lost and searching than we ever do when we stay on the path.

I’ve felt a little lost lately. As I said earlier, typically when I find myself lost while driving I feel certain that I’ll eventually arrive at my destination.

However when I feel spiritually or emotionally lost, I don’t always have that same confidence.

It’s so important in those moments to cling to what we are sure of, and to take inventory of who and what we truly value. Many times it’s not the destination that matters, but who we take along for the journey, and being fully present with them in those moments.

Someone recently told me that whenever I feel anxious, unsure, disconnected, or simply trying to control a moment instead of experiencing it, often it takes only to stop and get my bearings through the use of the 5 senses.

What do I smell?

What do I hear?

What do I feel?

What do I taste?

And what do I see right in front of me?

This past weekend I got lost more times than I could count. Our drive back from the desert included a 15 mile jaunt in the wrong direction of the 215 freeway (10 to the 60 to the 215, to the 91 to the 55 to the 5 to the 405). Fritz’s tone sounded a bit  offended when I finally gave in and pulled him up on my phone. I had thought I could figure it out on my own. He directed me off the southbound and back onto the northbound 215. I guess there are times when you’re lost that you have to be willing to take advice and guidance.

In all of my “lost-ness” though, I had a fantastic weekend of being in the moment with my sister; maybe not in spite of being lost, but because of it.

get-lost