Tuesday, February 19, 2013

                                                                Another Place...Another Time

 Mary loved to look at her reflection in the beautiful french doors between the dining room and the parlor of her grandparents home.  Only today she was not searching for her image, but rather peering through trying to see far into the other room.  There were too many people.  They all mingled and talked in hushed voices, the women often crying and the men with stoic expressions frozen on their faces.  And she knew they looked at her differently.  They looked down to her, trying to smile but failing, some would pat her on the head, but then all quickly looked away.  It was pity, but at the tender age of five, Mary held no comprehension of the sorrow.
She slowly took tentative steps toward the doors in her one Sunday dress with her hair fixed all pretty and wearing the shoes that hurt her feet.  She kept waiting for an adult to reach down and push her in another direction, but no one blocked her path.  Her cousins Herb and Frankie Ray were assigned to watch after her and her toddler brother, but somehow she managed to slip past them.

As she stepped through the doors, she finally got a glimpse of him.  He looked so peaceful just laying there like he was taking a nap, only now he slept in a strange looking box, with sad people surrounding him.  Her Daddy was the most handsome man, and she was his princess.  She couldn't understand what death meant, but she knew it made people cry.  And she knew she carried an awful ache in her tummy that she couldn't share with anyone.  
She noticed the owie still on  his hand where the snake bit him six weeks before.  They had gone to the well and as he pulled up the bucket a water moccasin lay coiled in the bottom.  It struck him on the hand before he jerked away, and he grew deathly sick for several days.  Momma never went to the well anymore, and Daddy cracked jokes about it.  Mary loved it when they all laughed.

Mary stood next to a group of older men who talked in low tones and never realized she stood nearby listening.

"Horace sure was a good boy."

"Strong boy."

"Damn shame."

He was just trying to finish working his field with his one horse plow so that he got his crop sowed before the rain. He told his wife his side ached,but didn't think it too urgent.  He needed to finish.  So as the pains grew more fierce, he grew more determined to finish and he did.  By the time he made it to the local doctor his swollen appendix burst.  In 1935 living in rural East Texas, the prognosis was dire.  Gangrene set in quickly and he died within the week at the age of 23.  He left behind his loving wife Pauline, his doting daughter Mary, and a toddler son Frank...Damn shame.

Mary grew more confident with each step because she came on a mission.  Once she reached the casket, she needed a boost to see over the side.  Her Daddy's loved the blue sweet peas growing outside, so she cautiously went to the flower bed and picked him a few.  Now, She gingerly tucked the sweet peas into his lapel with her tiny fingers so that he would look nice for the funeral.  And that is her most lasting memory of her father.

Mary is my mother, and even though her mother eventually remarried, she lived a pretty tough life.  From the age of seven through high school she worked long hours in the cotton fields, either hoeing or picking bolls.  She is my hero :)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We need God in schools? We need God in our hearts.

  Yesterday's horrific massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut left our country in a state of shock.  How can you imagine the unfathomable slaughtering of the innocents? You can't, but yet we can try to empathize with a community who mourns and questions "How did this happen here?".
     People react in ways to help them deal with the trauma of the events, and in that process look to "blame" something...anything.  The details of the gunman are still scarce, but this is obviously a decision made by an individual with a warped sanity.  Thinking individuals can't possible stretch their thoughts far enough to ever see this happening.  How could you?

    Today is the day that I'm hearing the blaming voices pick up in volume.  I'm so very sad by this, and yet I'm starting to get angry.  Isn't that part of the grief process?  Many are saying that we need God in schools, which I have no argument, but I do have a statement. God IS in schools!  There are many Christian teachers and administrators who care and love and pray for their students.  There are many Christian students who pray for their fellow students, and teachers and administrators.  I am quite sure that God was at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday morning.  Just look at the stories of the teachers protecting their students.

     It wasn't the lack of God in that school that allowed a deranged man to shoot innocent children.  Do you think if there was prayer in movie theaters that those poor souls in the Colorado theater would have been protected? How about prayer in malls? Maybe that would save us?  The fact is prayer should be everywhere.  But understand that evil is also everywhere.   And slapping up another "Jesus Loves You" billboard, or wearing a "WWJD" bracelet really doesn't do anything to show what Christians are truly supposed to represent.  I think both of those advertisements are great, but if the person truly doesn't buy in to the meaning, then what does it matter?

    We say the Pledge of Allegiance at my school.  I make my students stand and say it, sometimes with serious chastisement. I am under no misconception that this makes them any more patriotic or love our country any more.  We have a moment of silence, and I try to keep it quiet.  People are allowed to pray. There are student lead bible studies at my school.  God is there, but I don't think he needs a government mandated prayer over an intercom to establish residence.

     Prayer should be everywhere, every day, all the time by Christians living in today's evil world.  Hatred is rampant.  Somewhere along the way we've decided, even God loving Christians, that hatred is okay as long as the person "deserves" it.  I think Jesus commanded us to "love our neighbor".  This was not just a command to love those we liked, because if we only showed respect to those like us, then what difference had Jesus truly made in our lives?  Atheists love those that are like them.  We are called to ask for God's assistance with this, so that we are not mistaken and piously believe we're so righteously good.  He said to love everyone, and that's how the world would know us. So I believe that means we are supposed to show love and respect in the Walmart parking lot, towards those with different political beliefs, those who may not share your views on gun control, or abortion, or religion.  I can't find the scripture that says it is just fine with Jesus for you to judge others based on their beliefs or behavior. In fact, I think we are supposed to leave that up to him.

     Sometimes as Christians we are so disheartened by the hatred in the world around us, and it leaves us with a sense of helplessness.  I believe it's not just that we need God in schools, we need him in our country. First, prayer starts at home, and how you treat those that live with you.  Then, comes prayer in your workplace and how you treat your coworkers. Next, is prayer in your community and for your country, and finally is prayer for the strangers and unbelievers.  I believe we should have love for all of these, and if not, then we need to ask God to help us with that.

     Make no doubt that God was at that school yesterday morning, and his heart broke over the needless murders.  But God is with us today too, and he calls us to respond in a manner based on scripture, not on emotion.  He calls us to act as Christians in our homes toward our family, on the roads, our social networking posts, and in our community.  Saying a prayer out of one side of your mouth while cursing your neighbor with opposing views saddens Him as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Same song...2nd verse

Inauguration Day...January 20th
This Tuesday is a historical moment for our country.  Barack Obama becomes the first African American to claim the office of President of the United States of America.  If you had asked me a year ago, I would have bet everything I owned that Hillary was the Democratic shoo-in.  He fought a tremendous battle, and won fair and square.  He won across the board, all races, religions and economic backgrounds.  His claim to unite the masses proved true on Nov. 4th, 2008.
Let me make my stance clear.  He wasn't my guy.  I voted for someone else.  I also had serious issues about him.  But come Tuesday, he is the President of my country.    I do not expect him to be perfect.  He is a man, but he will have my prayers and support as he deserves for winning the election.
I do not vote according to party lines, but I am a conservative, so most of the time I vote Republican.  I realize I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and I understand the influcence my locale has on my beliefs.  Texas probably won't vote Democrat for a tremendously long time.  But here is my problem.  The Republicans didn't win.  So you know what?  We need to come together and support those that did win the election rather than sit along the sidelines throwing stones and being naysayers.  United we stand.
In grade school we either played kickball or flag football at lunchtime.  Being the tomboy I was, that was grand by me.  But we had this one boy who loved football and hated kickball.  Somedays we played to his liking, but somedays we picked kickball.  Do you know what he did?  He refused to play.  Only then he sat on the sideline during kickball days and berated those of us still playing.  Anytime anything went wrong he was there to merrily point it out to us.  But did he ever play the game when he didn't get his way. No.  It was beneath him. 
This is the way I see the people whose candidate didn't win and then they sit back and berate the winner.  C'mon.  This is America.  We have the opportunity that our candidate may or may not win.  But if our candidate loses, it does not give us  the right to sit out and pout.  We are Americans.  We should grow up and come together no matter who the winner is.  Ask the people in Haiti if their candidate ever wins, or possibly Zimbabwe? Consider ourselves fortunate for where we live, and support our leaders rather than adding to the dissension and hatred.
I am not saying I have no understanding of corruption or frustration with bureacracy.  I do.  I am a teacher, and just ask me to go on about standardized testing. But I also would not wish for their job.  I for one have too  many skeletons in my closet and too many willing to sell me out to The Enquirer for a buck.  But if you are disgruntled, if you are unhappy, do you ever write or contact your congressman for that matter?  Or do you just badmouth the politicians to your hair dresser?  If you want change shouldn't you actually take the avenues to stimulate that change.  How can the politicians know your point of view if you don't convey your thoughts?
Now to those of you that choose to abstain from voting, you do have that right.  Men and women have gone through a world of pain to make sure you maintain that right, but it is yours.   I will not begrudge you the right of NOT voting. But if you choose not to vote and then gripe about the outcome, then in my most polite voice I tell you, "Shut the hell up".  Millions of people are willing to die for a chance to live in our country.  We take our rights for granted.  You have the right to not vote, but I believe you lose the right to bitch about the outcome if you don't appreciate that right enough to exercise it.
I am disappointed by the reaction of those who voted as I, but continue to stir hatred and dissension even in our defeat.  We lost.  Obama won.  That is the glory of our country.  We don't always win.  We have the right to the PURSUIT of happiness.  To me that is an action verb that requires something of me, not the expectation that I always get my way.  And not the expectation that the government is supposed to fix all my problems.  I am supposed to contribute to solutions for me and solutions for my country as well. We still live in a wonderful country.  Believe in that and unite as one under the President that was elected by the majority whether he was our pick or not. 
If you are not happy with the current situation in our country, then make your voice known.  Write your congressmen, or run for office.  But do now complain to your barber, but then refrain from voting.  Basically I'm saying don't talk crap to people that make no decisions, but then sit quietly by and never offer your opinions to those that represent you. Take the time and have the guts to state what you believe to those that matter. 
I love sports, and I think lots of life pertains to sports.  There are many armchair quarterbacks who think they could play better than those currently on the roster.  If you believe that, then get your lard ass out out of the Lazy Boy and set up a tryout with the owner.  In the realm of politics, I believe it is exactly the same.  If you are unhappy and think you can do better, then run for office.  Be a commisioner, a mayor, but at least be involved rather than sitting along the sidelines as a naysayer.
I know our country has problems.  We are still facing a war that is unfavorable and an economic breakdown our country hasn't seen in decades.  I am not a Pollyanna that refuses to see the issues.  But my main concern is to overcome, as our great country has done during tough times of the past.  I just think that if we are able to do this, we must first unite.  Not only when we get our way, or when our candidate gets elected. But consistently. Always.  I know there are many reasons to stay divided.  This isn't fair, or those people aren't for our country.  But as long as we blame others, we will never be united.    If it doesn't start at home, with you, then where does it start?  I am challenging you, those that are both for Obama or were against him,  to support him as OUR president. 
As a Christian, we are commanded to pray for our leaders. Not just when we think it is the one we like, but all leaders.  I will pray for him.  I will support him.
He is our President of the United States, and he deserves that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teeter Totter---Finding the balance

I used to love riding the teeter totter on the playground.  Granted, the proportion of fun directly related to the size of my co-totterer and their desire to play at the same speed as my expectation.  Sometimes it was fun to go just as fast as two silly girls could jump, but other times the process of finding perfect equilibrium and balance between the two of us proved a more significant challenge.  It required thought and teamwork.

Isn't that funny how life often mimics this same pattern.  Sometimes it is fun to simply chase through life as fast as you can with no regard to tomorrow or even the next minute.  A person devoting all their time to school, or their job, or even their church.  But usually a time comes when there develops another priority that gains in value and later requires a balance, such as a significant relationship, a child or a friend in need. Finding the true balance is the difficult part.  Ask any working parent how hard it is to provide for their family while making sure each child feels love and importance within the family.  It's a daily investment and choice.

Finding balance is everywhere.  I think my greatest struggle comes with my eating habits.  I can either eat very little in strict compliance and work out like crazy, or snack on the ice cream while laying around watching a movie.  I know that the ultimate success occurs when I eat and exercise with balance, instead of riding the pendulum from starvation to gluttony, back and forth, back and forth, sometimes just as fast as the teeter totter in warp speed mode.

I think most people today fill many roles throughout their 24 hours around the sun. mother, father, daughter, son, sibling, coworker, friend, boss, neighbor, member, etc.  I hate it when I feel as though I've performed many jobs throughout the day, filled several roles, and none completed in a way that allowed me to feel proud.  I feel sometimes like I merely half-ass do everything simply to reach the "end of the daily list". And I know when my soul feels this way, I'm searching for balance, and not yet finding it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Falling off the pedestal

Do you consider yourself a judging person? Do you make assumptions about others based on their circumstance, attitudes and appearances?

In my younger days I would argue that I was nonjudgemental...I tried to accept everyone for who they were.  I didn't judge based on race, income or religion. Blah ti Dah Blah

In reality, I judged all the time. I don't think I set out to be this person basking on the knowledge pedestal casting my wisdom around, but the truth of the matter was that I did think I owned all the answers in my wise 20 year old brain. 

I'm a teacher.  When I first began my career, I like many recent graduates thought many children in special education classes simply misbehaved because their parents didn't discipline them properly.  I could not fathom the idea of a parent placing their child on medication to merely get them to "act right".  I was appalled. I truly felt that it was a cop out for parents to place the blame of their poor parenting skills somewhere other than where it squarely belonged, their shoulders. 

Some of those judgements are valid in individual instances, but I made the blanket assumptions for all.  Luckily, God blessed me with a child who suffers from ADHD. I say luckily because I have tremendous faith in God's plan, and out of all the kids in the world He could have chosen for me, I got the son that is mine. 

Maybe I don't possess the greatest parenting skills, and I know that you should constantly learn.  But I had a son that was once on Adderall, and we constantly work  on behavior, impulsivity, acting out and all those other annoying habits that drive people crazy.  I must add that he's improved so much in the last year, and he no longer takes the medication for which I'm thankful.  I can't tell you how many books I've read.  If there was a behavior and discipline plan, I tried it at one point.  I tried supplements and changes in diet, and everything before resorting to the medication after 2 years.  But having your 9 year old telling you he wants to die because everyone at school, including the teachers hate him...well then that changes your perspective a little.

Now, I am enlightened, and no longer blaming all the parents for every ill that befalls their children.  It's a controversial subject.  Feel free to judge, but I made the best decision for us.  One parent I know said, "If parents were perfect, then our kids wouldn't need God."  I love that, and with that said, my son definitely needs God. I am better person now, and a much more empathetic teacher because of this life experience. 

Another great example is when I used to not fully comprehend how a woman could live with physical or mental abuse.  Why would you keep going back for more? Especially if you had a job, or family and a means out?  How could a woman be so weak?  To be honest it almost irritated me at times to hear the cycle of a woman going back to her abuser. 

Here again life helped me answer that little question with a second husband who appeared normal to the outside world, but was full of anger and control on the inside.  And while I was lucky in the fact I wasn't really physically abused, the mental angst was fairly substantial.  How do you get so weak, I asked? You inch there slowly a little bit each day, making excuses, hoping and praying for a change until you wake up one morning with no recollection of the eyes staring back at you in the mirror.  And you realize that when he tells you how pathetically weak you are...that he is exactly right.

I am fortunate in the regards that I got out and now recognize that woman who smiles back at me today in the mirror. But I no longer cast doubts on those in their own predicaments. And when I cross someone in that awful place, I try to offer hope and strength, not criticism.

So what about you? When you see a person holding a sign for food, do you think they could just do better if they WANTED  to work.  Do you think they may be a con like the ones shown on 20/20? Or do you have empathy?  Do you think that given their circumstances that you would never stoop so low, or that your character wouldn't suffer a few dents?

What about the rich guy who passes you in his flashy convertible? Do you automatically assume that he must be a snob or a jerk?  It goes both ways.  Or the lady who cuts in front of you without her blinker...is she automatically an idiot? Maybe she just heard some earth shattering news and is having trouble concentrating.  Or how about the kid with the saggy clothes and the baseball cap on sideways?  Is he presumably a thug?

I still catch myself from time to time, but I really try to watch it.  I always ask God for forgiveness because mainly he just always has to show me the lesson, and I've already lived through a couple.  I'd rather just choose to stop passing judgement and not have to learn from the field trip. 

It's a challenge.  In one day, how many times do you presume to know someone's character or personality simply by a small observation, but without really getting to know them as a human being?  Make a guess, and then see how close to that number you are at the end of the day.  I'm working on bringing my two numbers closer together, and lower in general.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011


    Whose side are you on?
    What church do you go to?
    What team picked you?
    Are you in the green turtle group or the blue dolphin group?
    What's your last name?

    At an early age we are taught divisiveness that doesn't include a single numeral or symbol.  We learn that there is a place we "belong", and simply because of that we learn a loyalty to whatever group that may include.  Family, school, church, activities.  All of these offer an identity within a group, and the strength of that bond and connectedness allows for the learning of loyalty.  The sad news is that this process is slowly dying in our country.

    What happens when parents divorce?  How can a child truly stay loyal to one parent without the feeling of betrayal to the other?  What happened to "For better or worse".  Too many times when the "worse" comes down, the loyalty to each other evaporates.  Our generations are learning that the average length of forever is 7 years.

     The very act of staying with an establishment even in times of disagreement is a rarity.  Explain why there is a church on every corner?  Is it because we just have so many Christians that we fill one and another house of pews needs to be built? Or is it that the inside bickering and disagreement of theology lends those to create their own church rather than remain loyal and work through the conflict?

    I think the very core of loyalty is unselfishness. When the bonds of loyalty are tested and stretched, the truth shows one willing to honor a commitment,or oath, rather than choosing a different self serving option.

    I suppose I think that loyalty should follow the following hierachy. Faith, Family,Country,Self. Certainly, the last one is important, but too often remains forgotten.  I think being  loyal to yourself makes it possiblle for your loyalty to grow in others.

     I know that one remains loyal to other things, but with the invention of free agency it's a little more difficult in football.

    Monday, May 30, 2011


    "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

     Remember those questions as a youngster?  My answers varied with my age and changed from a horse jockey, veterinarian, horse trainer, computer programmer, teacher, actuary, psychologist, and back to teacher.  Most all of my ideas based my "success" on wins or money, or both.  My personal gauge for success or failure fluctuated at the money in the bank, or lines in the newspaper.   Probably no different than many other teenagers, and so I always answered that question based on attaining my inner view of what would make me "successful".  No one answers the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question with an idea of unsuccessful.

    The journey to reality happened as I lived "life", and not necessarily my mythical expectations.  So many things that I thought were "easy", turned out to be what really means success, and I realized some of the other worldly measurements really didn't mean that much.

    I naively thought that marriage would be easy if you truly loved someone.  I learned that even when you truly love someone, they can still hurt you.  I've survived divorce, and realize that an anniversary, no matter what the number, is success. 

    I believed that labor was the most difficult part of being a mom.  I later understood, that success is potty training, hearing a thank you, the honor roll. Difficult is teething, the first day of school, and later the misunderstood hormones of a teenager.

    I thought that joy came from money and a prestigious job.  I later learned that money doesn't buy appreciation or satisfaction at the end of the day for me.  As a teacher, success is a high school senior who passes their exit exam when they have never passed before.  My bank account never fluctuates when that happens, nor does the newspaper feature a story.  No wait, the newspaper does report on the whole school, especially if the scores go down, but it is not about me anymore.

    Now I believe success is finding joy every single day, no matter how small.  It comes from within me, and not directed by someone else, and I strive to not allow anyone to steal that joy.  Success is looking into my eyes in the mirror and liking what I see, aside from the crows feet.  Success is those closest too me know that I love them unconditionally, and friends knowing who to call in times of need. Success is a smile and laughter.

    I've learned that my ideas of success are never static, so even as I write this they continue to evolve as do I. And for that I'm grateful, because this journey is so much more exciting than I ever envisioned.  The following is a poem that is framed on my desk.  I give a card sized version of it to my seniors. 

    Inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

    To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people
    and the affection of children;
    To earn the appreciation of honest critics
    and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
    a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
    To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
    This is to have succeeded.