Category Archives: Political and Social

7 Simple ways to Make a Difference: It’s never too late!

Kindness3
We live in a dadgum ugly world. Global unrest is present in politics, economics, religion, and social relations. In the middle east, militant muslim groups continue to wreak havoc in their homelands, among their own people, as well as in America and other democratic countries. We have seen this repeatedly, most recently, with the senseless and tragic murder of four marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They (militant muslims) thrive and survive on the rush they inhale from the absolute hate that courses through their veins. For the promise of what? Who knows? There is no possible positive outcome to be seen or imagined resulting from their violence and their perpetual fighting and hostility. Then there is the violence and hate on our own soil-perpetrated by our own citizens. This is evident in the massacre of nine innocent people in Charleston, South Caroline by a guy who is absolutely so racist, he can’t function in a civil society. This is also evident in the road rage incident in Houston, Texas recently that left an innocent man dead, shot by another man who by all appearances, seems like a “normal next door kind of dad and husband,” who got ticked off for some relatively insignificant traffic issue, so he simply took his personally owned weapon and killed his offender. He’s free now while a Grand Jury decides if he has committed a crime for an act that had a police officer done, well…I doubt it would take long to indict the police officer. And then there’s the idiotic, senseless issues that garner tons of money and precious energy and serve to distract, distort and detract from what truly needs our attention. I got so sick of hearing about the Confederate flag I was nearly physically ill. First of all, I’m pretty sure that the flag of these United States of America for which 100s of thousands have bled and died in EVERY war fought BOTH on our soil and abroad, is “Old Glory.” flag
I would think if there was only ONE thing, ONE LOUSY thing that unites us in this country, one thing that could stand in the chasm and close the gap between left and right, black and white, red and yellow, it would surely be the American Flag. But apparently, we can’t even agree on that. I mean really slamming the “Dukes of Hazard” for their display of the confederate flag on top of “The General Lee,” revoking syndication of this rated G show, is simply over the top stupid. I call that OVERcorrection. On the other hand, flying the Confederate flag from a government building alongside the American flag to me disrespect and is offensive not so much to people (as much as I know that ticks you off if you find it offensive,) but it really and truly disrespects and subverts the American Flag, Red. White. and Blue. I mean really, what’s the point of having one flag, you know as the pledge goes “ONE nation under God, etc.” The pledge doesn’t say ‘Two or Three nations under God….’ One nation. One Flag. I’m all for state flags showing their pride for their state. Each state is so unique in its history and contributions to our nation as a whole, and I think state flags embody that very element. I see no problem with that. But that’s not the case with the Confederate flag. It does not represent one individual state. It represents a defeated nation.
Okay we could go on and on. I am concerned because in view all of the discourse ripping our nation apart, the forming up of “sides,” and pointing fingers, many of us are guilty of caving into the attitude of “gloom and doom,” “the sky is falling,” and “it doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t make a difference.” To that, I say “Hogwash!” Don’t buy into the lie that you alone as one person canNOT make a Single. Bit. Of. Difference. Here are 7 opportunities and every single one of them has your name on it. Now quit whining and get busy.
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1. Quit watching the news. Okay maybe not entirely cold turkey. But there are those of you who go to work, come home watch the news, eat dinner (or supper depending on your geographical location), watch more news and go to bed. What goes in, must come out. Turn off the news. Really? Is it any wonder that you are so angry and depressed all of the time? “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
2. Take a casserole to your next door neighbor. Or cookies or pie, peanut butter and jelly, or pizza! It doesn’t matter. You know the ones. The neighbors whose business shut down last month! The one whose beloved mother died recently. Or the one who is going through a divorce. OR the one you’ve been meaning to get to know better. “The second greatest commandment ….Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
3. Write a note of encouragement to someone who needs it desperately. This is so stinking easy. Last week I just by chance engaged in a conversation with a friend and found out that she and her family had been going through an extremely emotional and trying year. I had absolutely no idea. I went home and within 24 hours I sent her a note of encouragement. It wasn’t an idea on my part. Rather I felt like it was a command on God’s part. How could I have listened to her story and not have acknowledged it later? “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up!” 1 Thessalonians 5:11a
“….the God of all comfort who comforts is in all of our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:3-4

4. Go volunteer! And do it quickly. This is non negotiable with my teenagers. Hashtag: three teenagers who have everything they need. I believe with every fiber in my body that the quickest way to humility, joy, and most importantly perspective, is absolute without a doubt serving another human being. Volunteerism in our country is engaged by a minority of people according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Why is that? We are B.U.S.Y. But we waste as much time as we spend. And the time wasted is evident in the precious energy we expend in that vicious cycle of watching the news and the complaining that ensues. The volunteer rate for Americans 15 years and older, was little changed at 25.3 percent ending in September 2014. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25
5. UNplug your teenagers (and yourself) at least one day a week and eat dinner around the table at least three days a week. Seriously this makes a HUGE difference in the lives of your kids. It gives you opportunity to teach them how to make a difference in the lives of others. Teach them how to have a meaningful conversation with others without the aid of electronics. How? By YOU having meaningful conversations with THEM minus the aid of electronics. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11
6. Stop. Look. And listen. Remember those three little commands you taught your toddlers about crossing the road? Well, it also works when you want to make a difference in someone’s life. Last week my husband and daughters were eating breakfast at the local Ihop and engaged in a conversation with the hostess and found out she has an adult daughter in Oklahoma with late stage cancer. Her story was heartbreaking. Halle stopped. Looked at her. And listened. Then she asked her for her daughter’s name to put it in her prayer journal. I plan to follow-up with her to see if there’s something more we can do. Be aware of what’s going on in your world. In order to do that, you have to remove yourself (or your child) from the center of it.
To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.” Proverbs 18
7. Pay for someone’s meal. Sponsor a child for summer camp. Buy a single parent a refrigerator. Help your friends move. Pack out their house for them. Watch your neighbor’s dogs while they are on vacation. Invite your kids’ friends over to give their parents a night out. Make a dessert for someone who goes out of their way providing customer service. Kroger has pre-bagged groceries for the homeless. You just throw it in your cart and pay for it when you check out. Kroger does the rest. Mentor a child. Read to your kids. You get the picture.

While it’s true that our world is full of discourse and trouble, that only means it is bursting at the seams with opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life.
We simply cannot afford to allow the difficulties and the politics of this world to render us useless and helpless. That would be a shame. There’s so many wonderful acts of grace and kidness you can engage in now and so little time. So get out there. Turn off the tv (and your phone if necessary) and go make that difference. And for goodness sake, have fun doing it.

Can bad manners alone incite riots?

Manners

Two current events and one ho-hum event from my every day life. First, riots in Baltimore that include destroying property and looting businesses, physically assaulting innocent people, and critically injuring a police officer. Second, A professor at Texas A&M University in Galveston fails his entire class as his last official act before quitting his job, citing a pervading attitude of insolence, cheating, and extreme disrespect in his class. Third, A substitute teacher at a local high school in a Houston suburb. An entire class of students refuse to do their work. They are disrespectful, mouthy, and call their substitute teacher vulgar names as they exit the classroom. What do these three events have in common? Two current events in the national news and one event in the humdrum, perhaps mundane events of my own daily life. What do they possibly have in common? One common trait from each event that stands out to me is this: they all exhibit many of the same behaviors. Rude, disrespectful, inhumane, mean-spirited, self entitled, self-centered, and sometimes criminal. Just bad manners. Period. They are from all walks of life, different races and ethnic backgrounds, men, women, boys, and girls.
But why are they acting like uncivilized human beings devoid of decency and humanity? Please don’t say they were rightly provoked by the incident surrounding Freddie Gray’s death. How could that possibly explain stealing and thievery, arson, and assault? Surely no reasonable person could excuse that sort of behavior or perceive it to be “ok” in any case whatsoever? And if you can excuse this criminal behavior, then you must also believe that a civilized society is completely incompatible with one that does not allow the freedom to commit crimes under extreme duress. I would think especially if one of the looters or arsonists or physically combative persons in Baltimore were truly indignant over an alleged act by the police which they felt to be criminal in nature, surely that person of all persons, would be completely opposed and have an aversion himself to committing a crime that he (or she) personally finds so appalling. Right? Then there’s the college classroom in Galveston. Here’s a teacher who has no history of indiscriminately failing students. By all accounts he appears to be a decent human being and teacher, above reproach in his place of employment and his community. He said “I was dealing with individuals swearing at me both in and out of class and it got to the point the school had to post security guards in this and another class.” He further claimed that the students had spread online rumors about his wife and added that their immature and incompetence would hamper their efforts at entering the professional work force. Then there is the substitute teacher abuse. Multiple classes. Multiple students. Refusing to do class work for no other reason than they simply don’t want to. Calling the teacher names like “nasty ho,” an act that if it were reversed would get the substitute teacher fired for sure.
Really how has it all came to this? But I know this is not new. People, citizens, have been acting this way for centuries. But here’s the thing. As society has progressed over the last century, there is an expectation or a belief, perhaps too unreasonable of one, that people grow and mature at the same rate as their civilized society grows. In others words, there is a general sense among Americans that we are not the “same” unlearned, prejudiced, imperialistic nation that we once were. That along with astronomical growth in areas like technology, space exploration, medical advancement, great educational strides, scientific discoveries, we are also growing and maturing as humanitarians, as generous and compassionate adults. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The former does not = the latter. In all three of these cases-two current events and my one “ho-hum” day-to-day life event, we are dealing with men and women, boys and girls, young and old alike, whose moral compass is virtually absent. The only compass they have as a guiding point is the one guiding them to ill-gotten gain, and the shortest route to satisfying their own selfish wants and desires. Whether that is a big screen tv in a looted and burning business in a district like Baltimore where political unrest has afforded a target of opportunity to combatants and aggressors to do what they might have done otherwise, or a classroom of students who just want to “goof off” and accuse their teachers of being lame or somehow beneath them, in lieu of working, studying and putting their parents’ tax school dollars to proper use. In the case of the college students, their moral compass was so absent that their teacher feared for his own life and felt his only recourse to protecting himself as well as his wife’s honor was to quit his job.
quote-the-children-now-love-luxury-they-have-bad-manners-contempt-for-authority-they-show-disrespect-socrates-310695
In 1995 I had five co workers killed in the Oklahoman city federal building, 5 best friends. I also watched my parents die as a five-year old. They drowned in a senseless accident in front of my eyes as I stood helpless on the shore with my two sisters. This event led me down paths for years to come that I found very difficult to navigate. In my life, I have been hurt by others, betrayed by some, beaten down by circumstances. Yes. But never once was I driven by my pain, betrayal, or my lot in life to loot and burn businesses to the ground, to physically assault any innocent person, including a police officer. Never once did I find it necessary or right to mouth off to a teacher, terrorize them through social media or bully adults and peers. Even someone I did not like. Never. One. Time. That’s not to say I have never been disrespectful. (If only..) It is to say that disrespect was never excused by my circumstances.
I would submit that the ones who truly care about Freddie Gray and the circumstances surrounding his death are not the ones burning down buildings and looting and stealing and assaulting police officers. No I do NOT for one minute believe that those persons perpetuating crime and violence, and terrorizing their own communities, in which they live, are the ones who give a flip about Freddie Gray. Neither my anger, my indignation, my position-wrong or right, my political beliefs, my sexual persuasion, my marital status, my lot in life, my age, my gender, my grade in school, my disagreements, my agreements, my height, my weight-Nothing. Not One Thing. No incident, tragic or joyful in my life has ever, ever persuaded me to destroy buildings, physically assault people, or treat teachers disrespectfully just because I can. My freedom was paid for with a high price. That price was too high for me to turn around and loot, burn, and hate. That is most assuredly not how I say thank you for my freedom. It is not how I choose to exercise my freedom or my rights. I simply never have a right to do what is wrong. I always tell my girls, “Do the next right thing.” That is not about following the rules, although rules are good things. It is about exercising common sense and compassion.
Good-manners-matter
Finally, where are the parents? Yes, I know it’s usually what I end with. I can’t help myself. Too many parents have too many priorities that don’t include rearing a child that is a generous and compassionate adult, and simply respectful of others. Absent fathers keep piling up along with disrespect and bad manners. And as long as they do, it will be difficult to find good candidates to teach our children, police our neighborhoods, hold town hall meetings, and to lead our communities into the future, a future that should be full of continued advancements in technology, but also one full of hope, living in a place where we feel safe and secure.

The “why” and the “what” of April 19, 1995

April 19, 1995
April 19, 1995
20 years. That’s how long it has been since my world was turned upside down, inside out. That’s how long since so many lives were forever changed by the heartless acts of a domestic terrorist in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 168 people died that day in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building at 200 NW 5th Street. 168 men, women, and children, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers. This weekend, 100’s of us will gather together on the ground where my “home away from home” once stood and remember our loved ones. But we will have something else on our mind during that time. It will not be just the past and the dead that we will be pondering. We will also be thinking about our present and our future and the living. We will be looking at those who are standing around us and marveling at the resilience of life. In our office alone, (DEA 9th floor) I am aware of the births of at least a dozen children and grand children borne by survivors. Out of the ashes of death, life blooms. In places where it seems only darkness can live, survivors manage to defy those odds. They get married. They have families. They graduate. They get jobs and promotions. They love and they grow. They retire. They continue to work and be passionate. They live on. They just live.

When I woke up on April 19, 1995, I fully expected to go on with my day, business as usual. But that was not to be the case. I simply cannot describe the feeling, the emotions and the devastation that consumed me standing in the rubble at the base of my building, trying to organize my thoughts, the names and faces rolling through my head: Who’s dead? Who’s alive? The tears streaming down my face were mixed with the sweat procured after sprinting from a meeting 4 blocks away to the sight I now beheld in grievous disbelief.

If you talk to anyone who survives a disaster, a car crash, a battle field, a bombing, while others they know and love perish, then you are certainly familiar with the term “survivor guilt.” In the weeks to follow, I know that I struggled with this. And 100’s of others did as well. Not just those of us who worked in the building. But also the rescue workers who spent hours recovering the bodies and endangering their own lives to do so. So many struggled with the question “Why them and not me?” And truly, when someone would say to me, “God must have a plan for you,” it would dig the knife in a little bit deeper. After all, did God not have a plan for my beloved friends? Did he not have a plan for the children? But I knew then (and now) that it is so difficult to know what to say to someone who has suffered a great loss. I know because I have been the one attempting to offer words of encouragement to others as often as I have been on the receiving end. I love and appreciate all who care so much for me that they struggle with what to say in my hour of need. So it was that after the bombing as recovery efforts continued to deliver us the news one by one of the names of those found in the rubble that day, I found myself contemplating the “why” and the “what!”

The “why:” As I sit here, incredibly 20 years later, I wish I could give you a reasonable and enlightened answer for the “why.” Why did Timothy McVeigh do what he did? Why did my best friend, or my spouse, or my child have to die like that? Why why why? I can’t. Sometimes you just can’t explain such evil and devastation. It has been going on for 1000’s of years, and I am sure it will continue as long as there is the will of some (or many) to pervert a civil society. In the same way, any tragedy that ruthlessly befalls us-the loss of a child, divorce, hurt, betrayal-the “why” can plague us, paralyze us, and break us. And truly, though I cannot answer the “why,” I do know that the unending pursuit for “why” will likely render us hopeless and helpless. It can and will pluck the fruit from our tree and rob us of our peace. At some point we must simply put one foot forward, forcibly if necessary, and trust in the Creator that indeed He has an “eye” on us. And moreover in this world, He has the last word.

The “what:” I can’t answer the “why,” but ironically because of that, I am compelled to ask “what?” What must I do now? In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, that was different for all of us. The “what” included grieving. It included supporting the families of the fallen, attending funerals, burying the dead, gathering up the physical remains of our office files, counseling, rebuilding, and the list went on and on. As the days turned into years, the “what” turned into- continue to do my job well, take care of each other, celebrate babies, birthdays, graduations, communions, baptisms, live life, retire, and perhaps even suffer more loss. Because as we know all too well, loss is an inevitable part of living.

So this Sunday, as we reflect and celebrate those loved ones who have died, we will look around and consider the living. We’ll say things like, “I can’t believe how much she’s grown,” or “Congratulations on retirement,” or “Have you seen his grand kids? They are adorable.” And in those moments whether we realize it or not we will have achieved the “what.” Presently we have answered the question we were posed 20 years ago-the most important question of all, not the “why” question, but the “what!” As one of my dear friends told me once, “when something goes wrong, we do the next right thing.” That’s the “what.” The next right thing. In that we honor our lost loved ones and we also find a great measure of healing.

I will see many people this week that I love like family though we don’t actually share DNA. They have suffered much. And while it’s true that many of us have suffered with survivor guilt, there is truly nothing to feel guilty about. We have continued to work hard. We have had beautiful children. We have taught others well. We have remembered our lost loved ones, each in our own way, and we share those stories with our children, their namesakes, who will continue to do the same. We have lived lives of integrity, examples of goodness and perseverance. Now what will we do in the next 20 years? Much of the very same thing I hope. Always remembering and always moving forward.

Psalm 27:13-14 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord.
Be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

PERSPECTIVE

PERSPECTIVE

Perspective. We all need it. It’s always relevant. But not necessarily easily accomplished. This very week in history, a co-pilot for a commercial airliner from Germany en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, is believed to have taken his own life. Unfortunately, he took another 150 innocent lives with him.They had not chosen the end to his life, or that this would be the end to theirs. Sometimes we can only pray for the darkness in this world. We can only hope and believe that the God of this universe is supreme and secures our immortality knowing that such immortality is in no way guaranteed in this life on this earth. So back to perspective. I have three teenagers of my own. With that, as you can imagine or know first hand, comes a lot of stress. Rigorous academics, short grading periods, try outs for drill team, theater productions, auditions for college, how to pay for college, major grade tests, End of Course Testing, and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot for young people to manage, and can be equally stressful for parents. Sometimes, some days I do feel like I am coming undone. I also sub teach in our school district. As a sub, I have lots of students, typically 12 to 19 years of age, and usually 6th grade through seniors. Their list of concerns and stressors often include divorced parents, custody battles, failing classes, pressure to have sex, teen pregnancy, unemployed parents, poverty, and that list goes on and on. Perspective. Often is the case when I get really frustrated with my teenagers, I remember some of these teenagers, my students, who don’t have parents or loving role models in their own lives-no one to worry about their grades and their happiness. Rapidly I regain perspective. I feel guilty about seeing someone else’s tragic circumstances and hardship as my means of maintaining proper perspective in my life. But it’s true, so true that there is always someone else who 1 has either gone through what you are going through or 2 who is actually enduring something worse. So what’s the importance of perspective? A more important question may be “what do you stand to lose without it?” Peace. Productivity. Common sense. Friends. Family. Faith. All important things and there are many more things you stand to lose when you can not wrap your mind around what is important-AND-when you are not able to push past the difficulties in your life by way of gaining perspective. And as adults we also have to teach our kids this important principle. Yes it is of paramount importance-like kindness, manners, respect, and hard work. We know and agree that these are impactful and necessary teaching points, but we don’t always think about the importance of teaching perspective. But truthfully all the former important behavioral traits are near impossible without the latter. Recently my 9th grader had a friend who said she simply “could not go on” since one member of the boy band, “One Direction,” had left the band and apparently decided to go in another direction. Pardon the pun. Now I realize that with teenagers there is a LOT of drama and a fair number of exaggerations. Remember? I have three teens. But hopefully as parents we are not just laughing off this kind of obsession, on the part of our children, with events and issues that we absolutely know as parents-“It. Just. Doesn’t. Matter.” Give yourself a gift. Give yourself perspective. Give your kids a gift. Teach them perspective. How? Discuss current events in a meaningful way. It doesn’t have to dominate all of your conversations nor does it have to happen every single day. But it should happen often. Secondly, make sure they are serving someone besides themselves. They need a volunteer activity. Do it through your church or you community center. Look for volunteer efforts coordinated through their schools. Get them involved with helping SOMEone who has nothing! Third, eat dinner together around the table as much as possible. Fourth, unplug from electronics at least one day a week and always during certain specific activities-like dinner around the table! Our day is Sunday for no electronics. Finally, remove your kids from the center of the universe. Honestly, they don’t deserve to be there. And neither do we. This is a good start for getting ourselves and our kids’ minds wrapped around perspective. And when we do, maybe their hearts will break in two over those 150 lives lost on that German Wings flight or maybe their hearts will break for that young person in their class at school who really needs a friend-or the homeless, hungry, and helpless-as opposed to their heart breaking over the breakup of their favorite pop band. Perspective gives us purpose and in the process makes us much happier and better members of our families and our communities, and virtually compels us to give back a very tiny (microscopic) part of all that we have been given.

Get your travel warning reality check here!

Paris 2015

Ironically, Paul and I were in Paris on the day Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists, which left 12 innocent people dead. We had arrived at our hotel that very evening. We were reading emails and text messages from friends and family back home, even before we saw it on CNN inside our hotel room. Naturally, they were concerned for our safety. I found it ironic that we were more concerned for our safety in our hometown back in Texas than in this foreign city of 2,000,000 plus inhabitants. This-in spite of the horrific terrorist attack that had tragically occurred just hours before our arrival. Why? Maybe because (on American soil) I survived the Oklahoma City bombing, but lost 5 of my best friends and multiple colleagues to an act of terrorism, albeit domestic. Maybe it’s because my law enforcement background reminds me there is no perfectly safe place in this world. No place that is completely crime proof. No school. No city. No workplace. Or maybe it’s because the crime in our hometown in Texas (population 11000) a suburb of Houston (population 2,200,000) boasts a ridiculously high crime rate. The Whataburger restaurant frequented by our teenagers (sans parents) was recently robbed at gunpoint along with its patrons, including two students from our high school. Nearby CVS, Walgreens, and Burger King, and many other businesses, have been robbed and/or burglarized recently. Sadly, home invasions in our immediate area are reported way more than I like to hear. It’s unsettling. The mall closest to us in proximity (also frequented by our teenagers sans parents) was the scene of a robbery the very week we were in France. They held women at gunpoint, and took their purses. Those same perpetrators then followed a woman in her vehicle for miles purportedly to reach her home. Only their home invasion scheme was foiled due to her vigilance and awareness. She noticed their car in her rear view mirror, and called the police. Later, the police apprehended them in a neighborhood where several of our friends live just north of ours. They were taken into custody without further incident. Neighborhood and vehicle break-ins are very common in our neighborhood and the surrounding area. And it doesn’t matter if they are gated subdivisions or not. I don’t mean to be the bearer of gloom and doom. I just want to deliver a reality check to anyone who thinks that traveling to a foreign country-or even a different state within these wonderful United States-is too risky. Look closer. Reevaluate! Of course there are places that are such a threat to Americans that traveling there poses too high a risk-places like North Korea, Iran, or Iraq. But alas, France is not one of them. Nor are the countries that border France. And really, how regrettable and sad that there was not ONE American President, diplomat or US representative from our great country in attendance on Saturday (January 10, 2015) at a world rally in Paris, to join together with France and so many other countries taking a stand against the viciousness of terrorism. Seriously, this broke my heart as an American patriot, as a former ex pat of Europe, as a frequent visitor to France-a country who has treated me with the utmost respect and care each time I have visited. I thought about the beaches of Normandy on D-DAY June 6, 1944. Thousands of Americans and other allies lost their lives on those French beaches in a battle that ultimately helped liberate France from Nazi tyranny. Yet 71 years later, we are completely absent at a Paris rally of the free world to end terrorism. Our American history with France is infinite and rich, and that history crosses the French borders to include surrounding countries of Europe’s free world. We should embrace that, teach it, share it, and as much as possible enjoy it whether that means talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, or if you are lucky enough-getting your passport stamped! Anything less is tipping a hat to those low-down, hateful, spiteful, foul-mouthed, no good-evil terrorists! Je suis Charlie!

The Santa Clause Dilemma

Three little Santa's and how they grew!
Three little Santas and how they believed!

When our girls were little, they believed in Santa Clause. That caused us no undue panic. It wasn’t because we lied to them. But neither was it because we eagerly or overly embraced the whole Santa Clause cause. No, it was for two simple reasons. 1 We had a life. This means they interacted with the general public, neighbors, neighbors’ children, their little friends, and they attended public school. We also lived that life within a culture that, generally speaking, heavily promoted the Santa aspect of the holiday season. And 2 They believed in Santa because they had vivid imaginations.
Paul and I neither one, were interested, NOR did we have the time or inclination, to be so dogmatic and malicious as to intentionally denounce another person’s stance on Santa Clause. Especially since many of these other persons were both our close friends and friends of our own children. And furthermore, our children had an enormous number of imaginary friends, both conjured up from their own play time and from the many books they read. Yes, that’s right non-existent-though they may have been-just like Santa, these imaginary friends made them smarter, savvier, emotionally healthy, more generous, and more compassionate human begins. And I believe their fictitious friends most assuredly raised their IQ! And most importantly, imaginary friends allowed them to be children in a world and culture that wants to rob our kids of that precious innocent season of their lives. What? Imaginary friends (like Santa) can do all that? Yes! Just like imaginary books, you know the genre! FICTION!
So what’s the dilemma? The dilemma can exist for both Christians or non Christians alike. “Santa is not real. Jesus is real.” And/or “There are children all over the world who don’t receive gifts! How can we possibly perpetuate the Santa fallacy?”
Those parents entrapped by the Santa Clause dilemma usually fall into one of two opposing camps. Those who want to promote the big snow bearded guy as truth for as long as possible. And those who want to debunk the theory from the time their child exits the womb. Those in the first camp are died in the wool Santa fools. (I mean that in the nicest of ways.) These folks not only leave Santa cookies and milk, but they also leave feed for the reindeer. They totally embrace Santa on a deep level with their children-not only in fun-but as an intricate and necessary element of their childhood-which it clearly is not! They get angry when someone on the playground or on a public school bus spills the beans about Santa (and his reindeer.) To this camp, I would say good luck trying to keep the conspiracy going until YOU are ready to sit Junior down and tell him yourself. If you live in the “real” world, you cannot avoid the unavoidable. Don’t die trying.
Then there are the anti Santa Clause crusaders in the other camp. This group of parents believe it is their sworn and Godly duty as parents to craft the perfect plan to prevent their children’s minds from being ruined by believing in the jolly old guy. Furthermore, it’s also their duty to let others know they are lying to their children, and they feel completely justified in telling other people’s’ children the truth about Santa (as if they are never going to find out on their own!) This group will struggle with every form of imaginary play engaged by their child, that doesn’t cut the mustard with their own self-imposed censorship. And good luck with that too.
To both of these camps, I would say that these parents often live in the land I like to refer to as UNreality. Both of these camps need to realize that the world neither revolves around you or your child.
For us personally, we thought, “how bad can this Santa character be for our kids? He’s loving, compassionate, generous, and big and plump with rosy cheeks. And he’s PRETEND!” We left the cookies on the mantle for Santa. We hugged our kids when those little eyes sparkled at the thought of Santa and his sleigh. But we also required from a very young age, for them to buy and donate toys and clothing to the less fortunate. We shared (still share) our faith, did (still do) advent and taught them (still teach) about Jesus. And somewhere along the way, those little girls became big girls with servants’ hearts. There was no trauma, drama or necessary therapy. Just one day they figured the Santa thing out. I think we had it easy because we chose not to languish in either of those pointless camps. We just let them be kids, and we just left everyone else alone with their version of the Santa Clause story. Whether you are for Santa or against him, the harder you charge, the more needless drama and trauma you inflict on others and possibly even on your own kids. Please spend your time and energy on the things that matter in parenting: Rearing kids that become constructive, generous, compassionate, adults. And leave the Santa dilemma behind. Because. It. Just. Doesn’t. Matter.

Courtesy and Respect. Are we losing ground?

“These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.” Anthony de Mello
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Courtesy. Respect. Kindness. Forgotten fundamentals.
There are many events in history we can undoubtedly pen as building blocks of this country. Valor. Courage on the battlefield. Skyscrapers. Inventions. Industrial progress. Technological and digital advances. But what we don’t often think of when we are considering forward progress and advancement in this great country we live in, is how such fundamental behaviors as courtesy, respect, and kindness figured into that equation. Were these behaviors absent in the early settlers of America? When The Great Depression of the 30’s was king, and later, when economies rebounded? Were they completely nonexistent when the largest allied effort ever-set foot on the beaches of Normandy, France in the fight against the most evil triple axis of the 20th century? Were these basic behavior characteristics not present when women were given the right to vote in 1923? When battles were fought, wars were won? When railroad tracks blazed a line westward, when cell phones were invented, when civil rights were forged with blood and tears, when canals were dug, when a country adorned the trees in their front yards with yellow ribbons, when championships were lost and won and when gold medals were donned and the anthem played? Were they absent when Apple Macintosh debuted their first computer? When scaffolding was a sign of growth, and when families ate dinner around the table together? Was kindness, courtesy, and respect a part of this nation’s infrastructure that grew at maddening speed out of deliberation and hard work? Did courtesy and respect ever in our history play any part of the exponential growth of this young country into a world power? Did it? Or was it only IQ and a drive for money that saw such progress? Is the equation in retrospect only brilliance (IQ) + satisfying basic needs (making money) = present day world power? I don’t think so. Common courtesy most certainly did not always accompany our every effort. Neither kindness or respect could be seen in the brutality that often accompanied our country’s expansion. The very lack of kindness, courtesy and respect, in a large part, prompted the fight for civil rights in the 60’s and later. But I think at every juncture, at the center of every campaign and effort set forth in this country, there were both common and extraordinary people whose efforts exuded kindness and respect as virtues necessary for progress. Moms, Dads, school teachers. Soldiers, preachers, and common laborers and yes even politicians. Neighbors, children, teenagers, parishioners, store clerks, and doctors. But somehow we have suspended the need for such common courtesies. Thank you. Please. You’re welcome. Can I help? Friendly driving. Holding the door open for someone. Looking the person in the eye when you speak to them. Answering messages. Good morning. Good evening. Listening before speaking. Respecting authority. Showing interest in others. It’s almost as if we have unilaterally decided that we have come so far and now have so much, that kindness and courtesy is no longer required or necessary for growth and progress. As if that were the only reason to show respect and courtesy to others. It’s as if we have replaced these traits with the need for vengeance, self entitlement and paying back wrongs with wrongs. When I substitute teach, I am often aghast at the lack of respect afforded subs and teachers alike. Just driving from point A to point B affords a lesson in how to be rude and selfish. Even at church, kindness and genuine openness seems to be a challenge for many. Sadly Christmas shopping seems to bring out the worst in so many whose season of peace and good will is completely lost in the madness of being the first in line. Go through the list of common courtesies named in the sentences above. Somewhere along the way, we have failed as parents, teachers, preachers, neighbors, drivers, builders, expanders, innovators, coaches, presidents and as human beings to show and to teach others the virtues of common courtesies and yes, the success that accompanies that. Most importantly when we fail to value these common fundamental behavior traits, then our children fail to value them. And so in this department, we fail our children. Our children are truly the future. We may raise kids who are successful in business and in athletics, but will we raise kids who are able to see the value in kindness, not only for themselves, but for the continued growth and health of this great country that we live in? Are the two connected? I think the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Life saving conversations with your kids! Start them today!

Conversations with your kids
Conversations with your kids

When is the last time you had a conversation with your son or daughter? A real one. Not a superficial conversation about after school pick-up or football practice times, or “I’ll be running late so start dinner without me,” or anything to do with the logistics of running a household-but a real conversation. What happened in your day? What could you have done differently or what went well? What’s the importance of treating others with respect? Summer vacation is soon here; how do you plan to balance leisure activity with serving in your community? Conversations regarding the implications of those who choose to be sexually active early. Planning to be financially responsible and avoiding debt! These are a just a few “life saving” conversations. Obviously, not all of our hours can be devoted solely to these discussions. We are all busy. But you better believe that not allotting time in your busy schedules for these dialogues could be a powerful measuring stick for their future success and even their safety…….

To read this post and learn more about starting life saving conversations with your kids, go to http://www.crayonmarksandtigerstripes.com/guest-post-conversations-kids/
I am guest posting there today for my friend Stephanie.

Sexual assault on college campuses! Who’s responsible?

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The perpetrator is ALWAYS responsible for his or her crimes. Whether it is something as harmless as a 10-year-old child throwing a rock through the neighbor’s window or something far more threatening and harmful, like a male college student sexually assaulting a female peer incapacitated by alcohol. Clearly and unequivocally, the perpetrator is responsible. This blog entry does not attempt to identify “who” is responsible. We know who that is. Whether his sorry no good parents who produced him and sent him off to college to prey on women-OR their attorney, believe it or not-the responsible one is indeed their son-the perpetrator. This blog is designed, not to assert who is responsible for these crimes, but rather to address what we can do to stop it. There are two things that we need to do in order to stop sexual assault in its tracks on college campuses. One is to report the crime to law enforcement personnel when it happens. (not simply to college personnel) And the second thing that needs to be done is prevention. We need to teach our girls about the dangers of sexual assault in typical college settings, and then equip them with simple skills to help them avoid becoming a victim. I read an article this morning that absolutely alarmed me. But as in every case, considering the source, it may or may not be surprising. Ms. Hartman is a recent graduate, very young I am sure. Probably not a parent herself, which as we all know, puts a very different spin on life and the lenses through which we see and process information. Nevertheless, Avery Hartman, (a recent Syracuse University graduate and intern for USA Today) reported in USA today the absolute necessity to report sexual assault on campus. And I agree with that point. A crime which by all accounts goes unreported a good portion of the time. Indeed, according to TIME magazine, sexual assault of our girls on college campuses happens to 1 in 5 of them, and typically it is college freshman. Furthermore, combined studies have shown that a mere 12% is reported to law enforcement. Another study revealed that about 30 percent (or 1/3) are reported to a college counseling staff. (Which begs the question, what is the staff doing with those cases reported to them but not to law enforcement?) And furthermore, TIME reports as follows: “The 1-in-5 number shouldn’t be taken to mean that young American men are a horde of violent rapists. The best research suggest that a large proportion of the worst offenses are committed by a relatively small group of students-sexual predators who find college an alarmingly auspicious environment both for targeting women and escaping punishment.” (Time Magazine May 26, 2014) So if you think I was too hard on the parents of these specific perpetrators earlier in this article, now at least you know why-whether or not you agree. But back to Ms. Hartman’s article. Her main point, the entire gist of her article, was report the crime. Nothing about prevention. Nothing about the dangers lurking at college parties where alcohol is prevalent and free-flowing. Nothing. IN FACT, that isn’t even the alarming part. The alarming part is that she actually discourages prevention. “Our responsibility is not to cover ourselves up and tamp down our desires. It’s not a question of being careful enough, because we shouldn’t have to be. In an ideal world, my mother shouldn’t have had to tell me to keep an eagle eye on my drink and use the buddy system at parties. Instead, our responsibility is this: to report it. To tell someone, to seek help and to stop blaming ourselves.” I am highlighting Ms. Hartman’s article here not because she is an anomaly. But rather, because I am afraid that FINALLY when sexual assault on college campuses is getting the spotlight it deserves, we are going to miss this huge piece. There is a dangerous trend in mass media, not just with Ms. Hartman. And that trend is this: the tendency to render our girls completely incapable of taking care of themselves, completely helpless and destined to be victimized. I am an old ex cop. (no emphasis on old) So let me outline this for you Ms. Hartman, female college students, and parents of girls I HOPE are reading this. Wearing your personal rights as a badge of honor at the expense of simple preventative measures, is totally reckless. You may as well hang a medal on your chest that says “victim.” Remember when you were little and played bad guys and good guys? Well, the bad guys here are the perps committing sexual assault! And the bad guy doesn’t give a flip about your personal rights. If he did, whenever he encountered a drunk and incapacitated coed, he would respect her. Indeed he would remove her from danger, not place her in danger. And he certainly would not rape her. THUS, the nick name “the bad guys.” Ms. Hartman’s quote is unbelievably naive: “It’s not a question to be careful enough, because we shouldn’t have to be. In an ideal world…..shouldn’t have to keep an eagle eye on my drink and use the buddy system at parties.” Parents first of all, we don’t live in an ideal world. Secondly, if you choose to participate in casual sex, would any sensible person, parent, or professional ever in a million years, recommend not using condoms? No, on the contrary, we would recommend condoms or abstinence. Anything else exposes the willing participant to AIDS, STD’s, pregnancy, etc. Yet, on the other hand, USA Today along, with many other media sources, publishes articles like Ms. Hartman’s sending this message to our college freshman: ‘Yes, by all means go to parties, do your thing girl, have fun, get drunk, and when and if you do get sexually assaulted, be sure and report it to law enforcement and get help.’ God help us. God help me if I send any one of my three teenage daughters off to college without teaching them a few basic tools necessary to maximize the chances they will not be a victim. No, I insist we teach our children, sons and daughters, to be proactive, not reactive. In this case, reporting the crime, while absolutely necessary, is reactive. Proactive is making wise choices. It’s taking necessary precautions like letting someone know where you will be for the evening. It’s being aware of who your friends are and who they are not! It’s understanding that freedom of choice, while a wonderful privilege, means that some choices we make can make us very vulnerable to pain. I tell my girls when they are walking into the movies never walk and look at your phone at the same time. Not allowed. Remove the element of surprise from the “bad guy” and you are immediately less vulnerable. We should not allow ourselves to believe the lie that is perpetuated constantly in this self-entitled culture that says if we are careful about our choices: opposite sex, parties, etc., then we are boring and destined to be bored. On the contrary, our kids will be healthy, happy, adjusted, savvy, and full of life when they know and believe they are personally capable of helping to prevent themselves and others from becoming victims. In fact, the more our college aged kids take personal action to prevent sexual assault in the first place, the more they are in control of their own future, their personal rights, and what happens to their bodies. Do you really want to empower young women on college campuses to combat sexual assault? Reporting the crime is paramount. But it is only half of the equation.

Transparency

Transparency is good!
Transparency is good!

Transparency as a personality trait is a good thing. Too many people hide behind their gifts, talents, education level, careers, money, or daily calendars! None of us know who you truly are or what you’re truly about when you allow yourself to only be seen through the filter of all you have accomplished. Transparency is about bringing authenticity to your relationships. Being real. One way we do this is by personal disclosure. This is very rarely accomplished by vomiting every detail of your life (sordid or perfect) to those you meet along the way. But it is about being honest with others in a way that requires us to admit such things as our faults, our fears, our confusion, or in general-admitting we just don’t have it all together. Ah yes, we don’t always have it all together. We’re imperfect parents, spouses, Christians, friends, bosses, employees! We are imperfect creatures created by a perfect God. But often what makes us imperfect also makes us different. And well, that’s a good thing. Transparency also makes us approachable. No one is going to feel like they can stack up next to super mom, or a super hero colleague! Nope! You who cannot in any way practice transparency need never worry about someone confiding in you about their struggles or their fears, or most probably even their hopes or their dreams. So being an opaque (yes that would be the opposite of transparent) kind of gal may seem productive to you, but it’s unfortunate for those closest to you. Think of your kids, husband, neighbors and friends. All people who would benefit greatly from knowing the real you, but instead, being convinced you are unapproachable, and “I could never be that perfect….” I remember once, when my kids were babies and my husband was deployed a LOT, speaking with an older wiser friend who had experienced a similar military lifestyle to mine. I confided to her that the struggle of “family reintegration” when Paul returned home was challenging and arguing often ensued. Her exact words to me “oh well my husband and I never argued.” I said “Well, congratulations.” And that was the last time I ever shared a single concern with her again. There are plenty of people in this world who do plenty of things much better than I ever could. That is a truth that will never change. But what’s in my grasp is to be to others a true picture of someone who has often failed on the way to all things wonderful in life. Transparent people invite change in others. Transparency also fosters hope and provides a safe place for someone else to reach their full potential on their way to all things wonderful in life.