Monday, October 16, 2017

Patrick Kennedy and me

Today is my 54th birthday.  And I just don't feel that old.  I definitely feel older, but not old. 

October 16th, 1963 is my birthdate.  It was also the 1,000th day of John F. Kennedy's presidency. 

Just 71 days earlier, JFK and his wife had a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy.  He was a preemie, like their son John, Jr.  Patrick came five and a half weeks early.

He was born August 7, 1963. 

39 hours and 12 minutes later, on August 9, 1963, he died. 

Sandwiched in between those days was my sister's third birthday.  My mother would have been about four or five months pregnant with me.  I'm sure my parents followed the story, read the newspaper, watched the news, wondered if the Kennedys' baby would live, and were saddened when he did not.

Sixty-nine days later, as I understand the story, my mother went in for a regular doctor's appointment.  Her doctor told her, "You're dilating.  You need to get upstairs, immediately."  My mother's OB's office was right next to the hospital.

I was born at 3:29 p.m., October 16th, 1963, after natural childbirth.  The doctor feared killing the baby if he gave my mother anesthesia.  (This proves that I have been a pain to my mother since before I was born. :-) )

Would the Kennedy baby have crossed my mother's mind?  After all, his brief life and death was still fresh in the public's mind.  He was a preemie.  I was a preemie.  He was born five and a half weeks early.  I think I was born about that early.  I've never known what my real due date was.  Patrick was in an incubator.  So was I.  Did it cross my parents' minds that I, too, would meet the same fate as the Kennedy baby?

Despite a race to Boston Children's Hospital--an ambulance took Patrick from his birthplace at Otis Air Force Base, 70 miles away, in 90 minutes--and despite the best medical care available at the time, Patrick died of hyaline membrane disease, known now as infant respiratory distress syndrome.  All they could do for him at the time was put him in a hyperbaric chamber and treat him with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. 

Did my parents think, the Kennedy baby had the best medical care in the world, and he died.  Will the same thing happen to our baby? 

Thankfully, no.  I stayed in the hospital about six weeks and came home right around Thanksgiving.

Maybe, because Patrick was so fresh in people's minds, maybe the doctors and nurses at the hospital paid special attention to a preemie?  I'd like to think so.

Patrick's death did lead medical researchers to aggressively search for a way to effectively manage hyaline membrane disease.  Today, we know of a branch of medicine, neonatology, that saves the lives of thousands of babies yearly.  At least one of those babies, born at 2 lbs. 2 oz. (half my birth weight) attends my church as a healthy preteen.  A set of triplets born four years ago yesterday also thrive; they are the children of our children's minister.  A friend of mine works as a neonatal nurse.

During JFK's last trip, which ended on a dreadful day in Dallas, he made a brief stop in San Antonio, where the base commander at Brooks Air Force Base invited him to briefly speak to a group of men in a space simulator. 

One of JFK's questions:  "Is it possible your work might help improve oxygen chambers for premature babies?"  He was thinking of Patrick. 

The next day, he joined Patrick in death.

I don't understand the mysteries of life and death.  Why did one preemie, born to the most famous family in America at the time, whose parents could get him the best of medical care, die in a big city hospital, despite the availability of multiple doctors and state-of-the-art medicine? 

And why did another preemie, born in a small mountain town, to a teacher and his wife, who were far from wealthy, and in a hospital that was far from state-of-the-art, live? 

I don't know. 

Yesterday was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  It is a day set aside to honor and remember children loss to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early death.  (My grandmother lost a baby when she was three months old.)  One slogan used to remember these children is, "There is no footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world."

Patrick Kennedy, born August 7, 1963; died August 9, 1963, had a small footprint that left a lasting impact on the care, treatment, and survival of other preemies.

I'd like to think that I was one of the people on which his footprint left a lasting impression.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.





Monday, October 2, 2017

Going back to my morning coffee . . .

How can I go back to my morning coffee after hearing about the horrific events last night in Las Vegas, Nevada?

And yet, that's exactly what I am doing.

I am writing this at around 11 a.m., Eastern time, with a coffee container to my left.  I woke this morning to hear a report of 20 dead and multiple wounded in Las Vegas.  A half-hour later, the death toll had risen to 50. 

By now, we all know the drill:  Lone gunman, usually a white male, who opens fire on a crowd with a military-style weapon, then shoots himself as the police close in on him.  It's happened before.  It will probably happen again.  It happened at Columbine (in that situation, there were two gunmen).  It happened in Orlando.   It happened at Sandy Hook.  Last night, it happened in Las Vegas. 

And here I sit, going back to my morning coffee.

I've grown numb to the reports of violence, shootings, and stabbings in our world.  What was once a shocking, horrific, rare event has become commonplace.  I don't even know how many mass shootings we have had in the last ten, twenty years.  Statistics depend on how you define the term "mass shooting". 

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the shooting.  However, they have no evidence that they did it.  I will remind people that in the very early moments of 9/11, the PLO claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Twin Towers, and it turned out they didn't do it.

My friend Bron just posted the following tweet:  "We have reached a density of mass shootings where even pointing out that we aren't going to do anything feels tired and oversaid.@emmettRensin" 

We, as a country, are just tired and numb.  We're overrun with violence and bad news.  I have a filter on my Facebook feed that keeps out things I don't want to read about, and even then, reports of violence and turmoil creep in. 

Which is probably why I go back to my morning coffee.


What is there left to be said?  What is there left to be done?  Calls for gun control fall on deaf ears, and our pleas to "love one another" and "stop the hate" seem to do no good.  

Right now, I say my prayers for the people of Las Vegas, for the first responders, for the dead and wounded, even for the soul of the shooter, and for his family.

And then, I end up going back to my morning coffee.  :-(


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The wham shot

(Note:  Contains spoilers from the September 26th episode of This Is Us.  If you haven't seen the episode or don't want to know about the episode, do not read the following entry!)

(Spoiler space below)







TV Tropes.org calls it the Wham Shot.

Last night, Mandy Moore drove up to the exterior of a burned-out house and shrieked, and with that one shot, the producers of This Is Us broke the hearts of America.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show, This Is Us simultaneously follows the past and present stories of the Pearson family:  Jack, Rebecca, and their three children Kevin, Kate, and Randall.

We've known since about the middle of the first season that Jack Pearson died when the kids were teenagers.  We've known since the second episode that Rebecca ended up marrying Miguel, Jack's best friend.  What we haven't known is, how does Jack die?

Last night, in the premiere of the second season, This Is Us dropped a major clue as to Jack Pearson's death.

The first season ended with a vicious argument between Jack and Rebecca, resulting in Jack's moving out.  The second season opened with Jack staying at Miguel's house.

In the "present day" scenes, Kevin, Kate and Randall are celebrating their 37th birthday.  Kate is gathering up the courage to pursue a career as a singer, Kevin is making a movie with Ron Howard (who appears in a short scene), and Randall and his wife are exploring the possibility of adopting another child.

The end of the first episode shows Rebecca going to Miguel's house, banging on the door, demanding to talk to Jack.

She says they can work things out together.

He admits to being an alcoholic, that he's been drunk all day, and that he needs to work this out alone.

He closes the door.

She bangs on it again.

He opens it.

She orders him to get in the car, that they would work things out together.

They drive home, with her saying that things would be okay and that they'd get back to normal.

Cut to Rebecca, wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, driving alone in the car.  A plastic bag with various items sits next to her on the seat.

Cut to a shot of Miguel.

Cut to a shot of Randall and Kate as teenagers, crying; Kate saying, we need to find Kevin.

Cut to a shot of Kevin's leg in a signed cast.

Cut to a shot of the red mailbox reading "Pearson".

Cut to Rebecca sitting in the car, wailing and sobbing.

Camera tilts up to the shell of a burned-out house.

Wham shot.

Like others, I'm a bit confused with the final shots.  Did Rebecca really go over to Miguel's house?  Did Jack really tell her he was an alcoholic?  Did Rebecca really order him to get into the car and drive him home?

Was all of that just a figment of Rebecca's imagination, something she wished she'd done and didn't do?

Was the part where Rebecca ordered Jack to get in the car just a figment of her imagination?  As in, "If I'd just done this, Jack would never have died"?

Or did all of it really happen?

We know that Jack Pearson is dead.

We now know that it had something to do with a house fire.

What other wham shots do the producers of This Is Us have in store for us this season?

We can't wait to find out.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



Saturday, September 23, 2017

Where's the instruction manual?

Lately, I feel like I'm trying to operate in a world without an instruction manual.

I feel like I have been sent to war without weapons or ammunition, and the rules of engagement say that I'm not allowed to fight back.

Everybody is offended by everything, and I don't know anymore what to say or what not to say, what to do or not to do, what to think or what not to think.

As an example:  In the last few years, there's been a movement towards "person-first" language, especially when referring to people with disabilities.  For example, it's "person with autism", not "autistic", or "person with diabetes", not "diabetic", or "person who uses a wheelchair", not "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair".

As I understand "person-first language", it's an attempt to not define the person by their disability, or illness, or condition.

Recently, in discussing my son, I said, "my son, who has high-functioning autism".  I say, "he has autism" rather than "he's autistic".  In the autism community, there are people who do wish to be called "autistic".  If that's their preference, I'll respect that.

One response I got to my post was, "I must ask that you use person-first language."

Here's the thing:

In referring to my son as "having high-functioning autism," I THOUGHT I WAS USING PERSON-FIRST LANGUAGE!!

I was also chastised by the same person for using the term "high-functioning autism".

For God's sake, what terminology am I supposed to use??  I don't know!

This week, I've seen a post about someone being offended over Hobby Lobby selling cotton stalks as decorations in their stores.  It was a reminder of slavery to that person.  In the same week, the president of Lipscomb University was criticized for using cotton stalks as decorations for a dinner he'd invited black students to, and also for serving collard greens.  Several of the students were disturbed by his choice of food and decoration.  To his credit, the president issued an apology.

I am not going to say that people shouldn't be offended by this or that or the other thing.  If someone is offended, they are offended.

Here's where my frustration comes in:

I don't know anymore what offends people and what doesn't.

I don't know anymore what is considered racist and what isn't.

I don't know how to refer to people in ways that are not offensive.

Is there some sort of handbook I'm supposed to read?  Classes I'm supposed to take?  An instruction manual I'm supposed to consult?

And sometimes I feel like all the understanding has to come from me.  I have to make all of the effort.

I don't want to be deliberately offensive.  If I offend someone, I'd like to be taken aside and told, "I don't think you realize this, but this was offensive, and here's why . . ."

But it seems like everything I think, say, and/or do is some sort of target these days, and I really feel angry and frustrated about it.

And I can't find the instruction manual I'm supposed to use.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Unaccidental coincidences

I was supposed to go on a retreat this past weekend with members of my church's praise team.

I was supposed to go to the Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama, (a Baptist retreat center) and spend Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday morning in quiet retreat, along with sessions with our worship minister and his guests, musicians that he's been acquainted with over the years.

I was supposed to learn about worship from our worship minister and from the guests he invited.

Well . . .

I did go on a retreat this past weekend with members of my church's praise team.

I did go to the Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama.

I did spend time in quiet retreat.

I did spend time in sessions with our worship minister and his guests.

I did learn about worship.

It just did not go according to the plans we made.

Our best laid plans of mice and men started going "gang aft agley" when our worship minster told us on Saturday morning that a group of FEMA workers en route to Houston (to help with those affected by Hurricane Harvey) had been told to stop because it was likely they'd be needed in Florida (to help with Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma).  A man from FEMA heard us singing.  They found out that we were going to have a worship service that night.  Could the people from FEMA join us?

Of course!

I told our worship minister afterwards, "It is no accident that this happened."

Little did I know.

That evening -- after I'd spent the afternoon listening to practical tips about singing and vocalizing from the people acquainted with our worship minister, and after I'd spent some time walking around the retreat grounds, and after I'd spent an hour in fun singing with some of my praise team friends (after which I was later told I'd participated in a "vocal jam session") -- I went to dinner.  (Side note: They feed you well at retreat centers.)

And during dinner, a praise team member met a minister, Jose Lebron, who'd just led a six-car caravan out of Naples, Florida (which, as I write this, has just suffered the onslaught of Irma.)  He's a Lutheran who pastors the Emmanuel Community Church.  He and his congregants are Hispanic.

Jose told us that he'd gone looking for a place to evacuate to, and providence led him and other members to Shocco Springs.

So we invited them to worship with us that evening and the next morning.

What you saw in those two worship services was summed up by our worship minister as "a picture of heaven".

A group of Church of Christ members, together with members from a community church led by a Lutheran; most of whom spoke English, several of who spoke Spanish, a few who spoke both; kids ranging from months old to mid-teens, all singing together to the tune of a drum and three guitars.

We sang songs of comfort and of hope.  We reminded each other that God had not forgotten us.  We praised God because we knew He was there.  I gave my limited Spanish a workout and called on Google Translate during a couple of difficult moments.  I played peek-a-boo with a three-year-old girl:  "Donde esta?  Aqui!"

We took communion together.  And we prayed.

Saturday night, several praise team members made a run to Walmart, where they bought several hundred dollars' worth of gift cards and presented them to Jose on Sunday morning.  He accepted them with a visible tremor in his voice.

We sang "The Lord Bless You And Keep You" to them at the end.

And then we hugged good-bye and wished them "Dios te bendiga" (God bless you).

There's a saying that "A coincidence is a miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous."  I don't believe it was a mere coincidence or an accident that we "just happened" to be there on the same weekend.  We planned the retreat.  We planned the location of the retreat.  We didn't plan Irma.  Nor did a group of refugees plan to arrive on the same weekend that we planned to.  Call it an accident, call it a coincidence.  I, for one, do not believe it was an accident -- an "unaccidental coincidence", perhaps you could say.

We in Christendom are divided.  We have legitimate concerns about doctrine and practice.  We also bicker and fight over trivial things.

But, for a night and a day, a group from a Church of Christ connected with a group from a Lutheran community church at a Baptist conference center; and for that moment, denominational concerns fell by the wayside.

We were simply a group that gathered together in worship and praise to a God we followed, a God we loved, and a God we worshipped.  We were simply a group that, for that period of time, chose to "love one another" because God first loved us.

Perhaps God does his best work in these unaccidental "coincidences".

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



Sunday, September 3, 2017

Donating beets

Twenty-five years ago, I woke up to find the interior walls of my apartment shaking.

That was Hurricane Andrew's way of saying, "Hello!  I've arrived!"

I was lucky.  I lived in Miami Lakes, Florida, at the time, which is five minutes south of the Broward County line.  All we got was a lot of downed trees and some relatively minor property damage.  I didn't even lose power.  The worst inconvenience was that my AC didn't work for a week.

The people down in south Dade County?  They lived through what people in Houston are living through now; the aftermath of a severe hurricane.  There are differences between Dade County's experience and Houston's.  Andrew was known as a "dry storm".  It moved in and out of the Miami are very fast, and thus, the majority of damage was wind damage.  The Houston area is dealing with catastrophic flooding.  Much of their damage is water damage.

In both cases, Andrew and Harvey left behind a large population in desperate need of help.

I did have some canned goods in my apartment that I didn't need. So I donated those.  A few days later, I went with some friends over to the Opa-Locka Airport to help sort and pack supplies being ferried in from all over the country.

One well-meaning but misguided soul sent down several industrial-sized cans of beets.

Yes, beets.  A dark-red vegetable that is touted as being good for you but that probably few people would eat.  (No offense to those who are beet lovers.)

So, Tina, what's your problem with beets?

Well, first of all, they're beets.  Enough said there.

But my main problem was this:  You're sending down industrial-sized cans of food into an area with NO POWER.  If you open that industrial-sized can of beets, and you don't eat it all, what happens when you can't store your leftovers because you don't have power to run a refrigerator?
I have many memories of Andrew:  the people that were concerned about us, the pictures on TV, Bryan Norcross' laryngitis after being on the air for so many hours, a piece of plywood with "Welcome to Homelessstead" spray painted on it.  But it's the story of the beets that I keep coming back to, because for me, it just encapsulates in one example what people don't need after a disaster.

In the aftermath of Harvey, I'm heartened to see that one of the very first concerns of people has been, "How can I help?"  And I'm sure one of the first responses of people is to gather up stuff they don't need, pack it, and drop it at the nearest place collecting supplies for the people in Houston.

Well, before you start packing, read this article.

Kindly, but firmly, Amy Slenker-Smith states that Houston does not need your stuff.  What they need is money.  That money can go into the hands of people on the ground there, who know what to get and how to get it there.

This article gets much more specific about what NOT to donate.  Used clothing?  Don't bother? Stuffed animals?  Sounds fine . . . but, as a quote from the article says, a teddy bear can't pay for a funeral.

There are organizations you can contact who know what they are doing and how to do it.  They can tell you what they need and what they don't need.  My own church is in contact with several churches in the Houston area--people on the ground--who will give them ideas of how to help.  Next week we are taking up a special collection of funds specifically for Harvey relief.  We also, in the near future, plan to send people to aid in the recovery effort.  This is similar to what we did many years ago with Katrina--we partnered with a church on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and sent teams of volunteers in over a period of a year.  The people we send, and any items we will send, will only be sent in cooperation with people that are in the area--not a "willy-nilly" collection of items, and not just a group of people saying, "Hi, we're here; put us to work."  (We are planning to collect and send cleaning supplies in the next few weeks--buckets, mops, brooms, trash bags, etc.  Those will be needed.)

So how can you help people affected by Harvey?

Find an organization you trust and make a cash donation.  If they're a group like Churches of Christ Disaster Relief (that my own church has worked with) and they are asking for specific items, go donate.  These groups know how to get the stuff to where it needs to go.

If you pray, pray.   If you belong to a church, maybe they know a place where you can volunteer your services.

Just don't throw stuff into a box without thought and drop it off at a collection point.

And, for the love of all that is holy and reasonable, please do not send any industrial-sized cans of beets.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Harvey, devastation, the truth, and "rich man's problems"

No, a shark was not swimming down a Houston freeway next to a driver.

No, the planes at Houston Hobby airport are not underwater.

No, there are not alligators crawling up Houston driveways.

Yes, the rainfall in the Houston area is being measured in FEET, not inches.

Yes, the National Weather Service did have to add colors so that it could accurately show how much rain has fallen in the area.

Yes, people are stranded on rooftops and being rescued by people with boats.

Yes, the police have gone looking for boats to commandeer.

And yes, the videos and many of the pictures coming out of Houston and other areas are heartbreaking.

This morning, I posted a Facebook status saying that I wondered if some of the pictures I was seeing were fake.  One picture, of an assisted living center with water up to the residents' waists, I wondered if it were real.  Unfortunately, it was real.  My post sparked some discussion about stuff that was fake and real.  There are fake photos going viral (including one of President Obama serving food at a shelter -- that photo is a real one, but it was from Thanksgiving 2015, where he was helping at a homeless shelter.)  It may not be accurate to refer to some photos as "fake", as in "Photoshopped", but rather "mislabeled", as in the Obama picture I mentioned.  Also, the alligators crawling up the driveways are real pictures, but not specifically from Harvey.  I understand that there IS an alligator refuge in danger of flooding where alligators could escape.

I have read at least one Facebook post urging us to pray rather than worry about fake pictures.  A friend answered that it wasn't helpful to be passing along fake information.  I also pointed out that one could pray and also be concerned about what information is true or false.

In my church's small group on Sunday, I shared some personal concerns.  One of them is about our dryer, which decided it didn't want to heat.  It's since decided to start heating again.  I suspect it may need to be serviced.  One of the small group members commented that many of our problems are what are called "rich man's problems".  In my case, although I have a malfunctioning dryer, I live close to a laundromat.  I can take my laundry there and back.

I also tend to whine about not having an iPhone (my Android only has about 2GB memory) and about only having one car.  But I have transportation, and my husband can take public transportation to and from work.

In comparison to the vast majority of the world, I am rich, and therefore, several of the problems I have are "rich man's problems."

In contrast, what the people in Houston are dealing with are NOT "rich man's problems".  They are life or death problems.  Six people are already dead in flooding and I'm sure the death toll will rise.  As I write this, I'm watching Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, and he's reporting a levee breach in one area.  A FB friend has family in the area and she's very afraid for them.  People have lost power, they have no running water, and they are running out of food.  Hundreds, probably thousands, will wind up losing everything.

Those are NOT "rich man's problems".

THOSE problems put my "rich man's problems" in perspective.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Losing hope

This is a depressing post, and for that I'm sorry.

To begin with, my mother has been in and out of the hospital for the last week and a half.  She had a blood clot in the same leg where she's had problems before.  The whole situation has been very stressful on all the people involved.

I've been concerned about North Korea.  But I also think that the little dictator there has a serious case of short-man complex that he compensates for by saber-rattling.

And then came Charlottesville.

I have not been sitting in front of the TV camped out with either CNN or Fox.  But it's impossible to avoid the news of the last few days.

I am fed up, and I have lost hope for this country.

We are so angry.  We are so much at each others' throats.  We've lost common ground.  I'm just waiting for someone to throw the Molotov cocktail that will launch us into World War III.

And at the risk of making people even angrier, I do agree with our President to an extent:  there is hatred on both sides.  I wish he had called out the Nazis and the alt-right immediately.  When you walk around wearing white hoods and carrying a swastika flag, what in the world do you expect is going to happen??  When you identify with the people who perpetrated one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history, you DESERVE to be called out and condemned, pronto!

On the other hand, it seems that the sins of the right are always magnified, while the sins of the left are ignored or minimized.

I truly feel like throwing up my hands and screaming, "Forget it!" along with a lot of other nasty words.  Because it seems like nothing I can do or say is going to do one bit of good.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nursery Duty

Today I served in our church nursery.  Between three volunteers, we had one baby, and I ended up hogging her the entire time.

She rewarded me by slobbering all over my left shoulder.

Even though I was wearing a smock, the left sleeve of my blouse ended up getting wet.

I loved it.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

I remember they lied

In 5th grade, my teacher one day told all the boys that our girls' PE teacher was sick and that the boys needed to leave the room so she could talk to the girls about it.

Once all the boys left, she passed out permission slips to the girls to see a movie about menstruation.

To this day, the thing that I remember about that whole event is that my fifth grade teacher lied to get the boys out of the room.

This was either 1973 or 1974.  I was ten years old.  We weren't that far removed from a time when sex just wasn't discussed publicly, and where certain subjects such as menstruation just weren't talked about unless it was in secret, or in very veiled terms.  My teacher was an older woman; I remember that she had gray hair and she may have been just a little bit older than I am now.  (Which means that she probably wasn't that old. :-) )  I understand that she came from a different generation, a different way of thinking, and she may not have known any other way to get those permission slips passed out. 

But the one question I still have is, "Did she have to lie?"  I mean, surely she could have said, "I need to talk to the girls alone for a minute; you boys need to leave the room."  She didn't have to tell them why she needed to talk to the girls alone.

I thought about this episode while reading about a very tragic event that happened last week in my county.

Five members of the same family, a father and four children, were all stabbed to death in Loganville, Georgia.  The mother was arrested and charged with murder.

Today, I read a story about the neighborhood the family lived in and the reaction to the neighbors to the murder.  A five-year-old girl who lived in the neighborhood was close to one of the children that died. The article quoted a family member that said that they'd decided not to tell the little girl that her friend had died.

Instead, they chose to tell her that her friend had moved.

When I read that, I immediately thought of how adults, in order to shield children from the death of a relative, would often say that the person "went away" or "went off on a long trip," rather than saying, "they died".  But here's the problem with that explanation:  What happens when the person doesn't come back?

And what happens when the child learns the truth?  That the person died?

I believe this family means well.  They're trying to cope with a horrific reality.  

But some day, this little girl is going to learn about what happened to her friend.  She's going to learn that this little girl didn't move.  Instead, she's going to learn that her friend died . . . and she's going to learn that her family lied to her.  

Yes, the neighborhood is going through shock, horror, and every other emotion in the aftermath of this murder.  How in the world do you explain to a five-year-old that your friend has died?  No, it's not necessary to tell this kid all the horrific details.  She doesn't need to know the entire story.

But although I can understand wanting to shield the kid, why lie to her and say she's moved?  

Because eventually, she's going to find out what happened.  Maybe she'll understand why her parents told her that story.  But I also wonder if she'll think, "Why did you lie to me?  And if you lied about this, what else did you lie about?"

In the case of my fifth grade teacher, I'm old enough now to understand some of the nuances that I couldn't understand when I was ten.  Menstruation is a difficult subject to talk about; it's awkward and messy, and finding the correct words to discuss the subject is not easy.  

It's the same with murder.  Murder is much harder to talk about when it's happened in your neighborhood and when you know the people that it happened to.  

The little girl in this story that lost her friend--when she's old enough to understand the entire story, will she remember what I remember about my fifth grade teacher?

Because, even when all is said and done, even when I take into account the subject and the context of the times, what I still remember is that my teacher lied to me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.









Friday, July 7, 2017

Final bike ride . . .

We know her sister got a good night's sleep the previous evening. *

But did she?

She'd been busy for most of the afternoon, and maybe she did collapse in bed that night.  The next morning, she was going on a bike ride.  Her riding partner was due to be there very early in the morning, and she needed to be ready to go the minute her partner arrived.

We don't know what was going on in her mind.  Did she sleep?  Or did she lie awake thinking about that next day's bike ride?

Did she envy her sister's sound sleep in the next bed?

Did she hear the beginning of the rain that night?  Or did she wake up and, only then, find out it was raining?

The rain wasn't going to matter, because she was going on that bike ride no matter what.

Next morning, the ring of the doorbell or the knock at the door may have made her jump, but she was there with her bike at the appointed hour.  Immediately, after telling her parents good-bye, she mounted, gripped the handlebars, set her feet on the pedals, and pushed.

Perhaps the last thing her parents said to her was, "Be careful," as millions of parents all over the world say to their children before they start off on a bike ride, or a car trip, or before doing something risky or downright dangerous.

Telling her not to go, in spite of the rain, was out of the question.

She probably wore a raincoat over her clothes that day.  Her bike tires splashed through puddles and her feet may have slipped a few times on her pedals as she followed her bike partner on their chosen route for that day.  She wore glasses, and if she wore them while she rode her bike, they were spotted with the raindrops, and she would have had to stop and wipe them occasionally so she could see.

Her body was used to her bike seat, and she knew how to maneuver her way through the streets.

This ride, though, held more than its usual share of apprehension.

Were there people looking at her as she pushed her pedals, steered her handlebars, braked as she needed to?  Everyone that met her eyes, did they know who she was and wonder where she was going?

She was missing a mandatory meeting in order to take this bike ride.  Was her name being called at this very moment?  Did anyone know yet that she wasn't there?  How long would it take before her absence was noted, and how long would it be before people started looking for her?

Her heart pounded harder than usual as she rode, and today, it wasn't because she was getting her exercise.

Nearly an hour later, she and her riding partner, soaked from the rain and weary from negotiating the streets, finally slowed, braked, and stopped.  They hurried inside, out of the rain at last.

When the bike rider, fleeing from a Gestapo summons, stepped through the office door at 263 Prinsengratch in Amsterdam, on July 6, 1942, she would not emerge until August 4, 1944.

We know that Anne Frank got a good night's sleep the previous evening.

But did Margot?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.


* ("I was exhausted, and even though I knew it'd be my last night in my own bed, I fell asleep right away and didn't wake up until Mother called me at five-thirty the next morning." -- Frank, Anne; The Diary of a Young Girl : the Definitive Edition.  New York: Doubleday, 1991, p. 21.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why we celebrate

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --

Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
  • For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
  • For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
  • For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
  • For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
  • For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
  • For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.


We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

1,322 words that say it all.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Looking for revival?

"Anybody here looking for revival?"

This is the question that starts off the title song of Third Day's new album, "Revival".

I heard this song for the first time the other day while playing the radio in my car.  It's catchy, and it's a throwback to good-old Southern rock gospel.  



Anybody here looking for revival
In our own hearts and across the land?
Anybody looking for a revival
Lift up your voice and say Amen
Lift up your voice and say Amen

If I were at a Third Day concert and heard that song, I'd be clapping along, tapping my feet, and at the end of the verse, I'd be lifting up my voice and saying, "Amen!" along with the rest of the crowd.  I mean, I'm a Christian.  What Christian doesn't want "revival", especially in this day and age, where it seems like wrong has become right and right has become wrong?
But then Mac Powell's voice continues to sing out:


Ain't gonna find it in a politician
Not from the government or any law
Can't get it going by your own religion
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Come with me
Come on with me, yeah!


I think we are all guilty of looking for a human "savior".  We want rescue, and we'd prefer someone to do the rescuing.  And there are times we need rescuing.  I needed rescue from sin.

Since the 2008 election, I think we've been guilty of looking for "revival" in a politician. People voted for Barack Obama because they wanted hope and change and thought he'd give it to them.  Only history will show whether or not he was a great, average, or poor president.

In 2016, the pendulum flipped, and people put their hopes for "revival" on the shoulders of Donald Trump.  To borrow Dr. Phil's catchphrase, "How's that working for you?"

Government and politics will NOT give us revival.  A "Christian nation" is not going to give us revival.  We can have all the prayer in school we want, we can put up the Ten Commandments on every courthouse lawn/wall in the nation, but this is NOT going to give us revival.


You can work all you want but you might not see it
Give all you got but it can't be bought
Try everything but you best believe it's
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Come with me

Come on with me, yeah!

Church programs, as good as they are, are not going to give us revival.  Simply having more people darkening the doors of a church isn't going to give us revival.  And I hate to disappoint my Church of Christ brethren and sisteren, but a strict adherence to a cobbled-together "pattern of worship" isn't going to give us revival, either.  Neither will adding an instrumental service. :-) 

So, Tina, what's going to bring revival?

Notice the refrain?

Only by the Spirit and the Word of God.

I think we can look for and pray for revival.  But God's going to move when God's going to move, and we cannot force his hand or manipulate him.  I think there's a difference between saying to God, I want revival, and doing things so that we can say to God, "Hey! Look what we're doing!  Now are you going to send us a revival?"

Where does revival start?

If we want Christian revival, if we want a "move of God" across the land, if we really want people to know God, confess their sins, receive the Holy Spirit, and follow God . . . what do we do?

Well, I think it starts with me.

I'm not called to be a minster or preacher in the pulpit.  I'm a writer and proofreader, mother and wife. :-)  But I am called to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and I can only do that through the Spirit of God.  I can't conjure up "revival".  I can only ask God for the help I need desperately. 


Anybody here looking for revival?
I am.  And it starts with me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Liar! Li-errr!!!

I've been doing a lot of lying to myself lately.

Mainly, about how "no one likes me and no one tells the truth."

I dealt with a lot of bullying growing up, and even now, it's very easy for me to project onto people what I think they're thinking about me.  It is so easy for me to think that "no one likes me" when the truth is, plenty of people like me and the vast majority of the world's population doesn't even know or care that I exist. 😊  It is true that there are probably people who don't like me.  In saying that, I'm just stating a fact:  there's no one in this world who is liked by everyone.  Even Jesus was hated by a lot of people.  He still is.

It's also not true that everyone lies.  I do think it's more difficult in this day and age of "fake news" and information overload to determine exactly what truth is.  And while I don't want to be paranoid, I do think that a healthy skepticism is called for.

I asked the question "Am I wrong?" in this last blog entry.  There's things I don't think I'm wrong about.  I believe there is a God, and I believe the Bible reveals Him.  And I do believe Jesus when he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through me."  (Just a few verses later, Pilate asked, "What is truth?"  He didn't realize truth was standing in front of him.)

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul calls on Timothy to, among other things, "correctly handle" the word of truth.  I grew up with the King James Version, which translated this verse as "rightly dividing the word of truth".  Much of my frustration with "who's right?" revolves around whether or not the Bible is "correctly handled".  This is what I mean when I talk about everyone being able to "prove" they are right by Scripture, but coming out with diametrically opposed conclusions.

In Acts 17, a group of people in Berea were called "noble" because they examined the Scriptures to see if a fellow named Paul was handling them accurately.  It's possible, since we are different people, to come to differing opinions on matters.  Even Paul, in the books of Romans and I Corinthians, addressed matters such as whether or not to marry and eating meat offered to idols, acknowledging that different believers would believe different things on such matters, and that believers should respect the opinions of others.

He did, however, hold firm to certain bedrock truths:  that Jesus was the Son of God, that salvation was not by works of the law but through faith, that Christ had indeed been raised from the dead.  And plenty of people hated him, too.

I am such a people-pleaser at times that it's not even funny.  I care a great deal about "what people think of me" and too many times, that just leads me to a lot of turmoil.  I don't want to use "not being a people-pleaser" as an excuse to be rude, arrogant, and uncaring.  But I don't want to be so wound up in "what people think" that I have no convictions about anything.

Right now, I think the best course of action is to recognize where I've been lying to myself and ask God to steer me towards the truth.

In the meantime, here's a funny note to end on, from The Princess Bride:



Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Am I wrong?

It's probably no secret to the small handful of readers of this blog that I'm dealing with a crisis.

So I'll just make it public:

I'm dealing with a crisis.

I'm not doing too well in this "brave new world" of sexual fluidity, fake news, alternative facts, and other things.  In this blog entry, and in this blog entry, I've shared plenty of my frustrations, especially about religion.

I am just officially stuck.  I think it would be bad enough if I were only dealing with faith issues, or if I were only dealing with current events, or if I were only dealing with past bullying issues, or if I were only dealing with a young adult with autism, or if I were only dealing with my mother's health.  (And she lives in another state, in assisted living, and it's my sister that does the hands-on stuff with her.  I just sit and worry.  My sister has much more on her plate concerning our mother than I do.)

But I am dealing with them all at once.

For the well-meaning people that advise me to "stop listening to the news":  I don't sit in front of the TV and binge out on Fox or CNN or our local news stations.  I DO check headlines, and I DO listen to "three things to know to get your day started" from Kevin & Taylor of 104.7 The Fish.  I DO get news updates from news apps, which consist of two local TV stations, one local radio station, CNN, Associated Press, and BBC.  I read the comics and glance at the headlines from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  I keep the local news mainly for traffic (and in Atlanta, knowing the traffic at any given moment is an absolute necessity.)  I think it's very naive to totally ignore the news.

The frustration I have is when news is discussed.  I have a filter on Facebook, FB Purity, which filters out certain words I tell it to filter.  And even that doesn't catch everything.

I've just about given up pointing out false or satirical links on Facebook that people think are true, because people usually don't listen.  They WANT their fake news to be true, whether it be Obama being born in Kenya or FEMA building camps to put dissenters into.

As much as I would like to support this current President, I worry that he doesn't know what he's doing.  On the other hand, I also believe there are some in the media that WANT him to fail.  They WANT him to resign.  Then they will want President Pence to resign.  They will not stop until they get the people THEY want in the White House and in Congress, and they do not care if it hurts people.

I'm white.  I'm mostly conservative.  I'm female.  I'm Christian.  I'm straight.  And I feel like a criminal.  No matter what opinions I may hold on a particular subject, if someone disagrees with me, I feel as if I am the one who has to change.  I am the one that has to listen and understand, but I don't often feel as if I get the same courtesy.

With the Bible, it seems that everyone can "prove" through Scripture that they are right.  And when conclusions from the Bible are diametrically opposed to each other, they cannot all be right.

So am I wrong?  Am I wrong about what I believe?

I did believe, as a child, that one could "pray the prayer" and ask Jesus to come into my heart.  I even did that when I was about seven or eight years old.  Then I ran into people who showed me Scripture about the necessity of baptism.  I'd been baptized when I was about eight, but "according to Scripture" I hadn't done it for the right reasons.  So I did it again.

I understand that baptism is by immersion for the forgiveness of sins.

Am I wrong?

I understood the definition of "sexual immorality" as being "you do not have sex with anyone until the minister pronounces you man and wife.  Then, you only have sex with the person you are married to."

Am I wrong?

I understood that having sex with anyone of the same sex is a sin, and that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

Am I wrong?

I'm starting to think that people who believe women can preach may have a valid point.

Am I wrong?

I thought that there was such a thing as the rapture (see the Left Behind series).  Then I learned that that particular doctrine may not necessarily be true, that while there will be a Second Coming and a judgment, the belief of a seven-year tribulation may not be true.  Then, I heard of people who believe, and can "prove" from Scripture, that the Second Coming happened in 70 AD with the destruction of the Jewish temple.

Am I wrong?

I have been told to "forget what the Bible says and just look at the teachings of Jesus."  These days, though, that's often code for "Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality, so he must be okay with it or at least not really care about it."

Am I wrong?

I was under the impression that the news media was supposed to report the facts and let people make up their own minds about the story they are reporting, and if they are offering their opinion, it was supposed to be clearly labeled "opinion".

Am I wrong?

I truly and honestly do not know what I believe anymore.

Or what I am supposed to believe.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

June 20th can't come soon enough!

One of my FB friends recently posted that he was not going to listen to 104.7 The Fish, one of our local Christian radio stations, until after June 20th because, contrary to its slogan, it was running ads that were not "safe for the whole family."

The ads?

Political ads.

Right now, Georgia's 6th Congressional district is holding a special runoff election.  Their previous Congressional representative, Tom Price, was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services. When he accepted the offer, he vacated the Congressional seat, thus requiring a special election.

Already, we in Atlanta have been inundated--make that, saturated--with political ads that rival the nastiness shown during the Presidential election.  On April 18th, voters in the 6th Congressional District went to the polls to choose between 18 candidates of various political persuasions.  None of them gained over 50% of the vote, so now, we have to go through a runoff election between the top two candidates.  Jon Ossoff represents the Democrats; Karen Handel, the Republicans.  The runoff election is June 20th.

I don't live in the 6th Congressional District, therefore, I don't have to worry about who I'm going to vote for.  However, because I live in the Atlanta area, and because the 6th District is in Atlanta, I have to put up with the daily barrage of political ads accusing Jon Ossoff of being a liberal who will "rubber-stamp Nancy Pelosi's liberal agenda" and Karen Handel of being more than willing to spend taxpayer's money.  As of the beginning of May, this election stands as the most expensive Congressional election in history.

The FB friend who complained about the ads on The Fish said that his three-year-old behaved better than the people who made the ads.  I'd say that most three-year-olds behaved better than the ad makers!

I do listen to The Fish in the mornings, mainly because I enjoy their morning show.  This morning, the following (paraphrased by me) statement caught my attention:  "The following is a political ad that we are required by law to run.  The views expressed by these ads are not necessarily those of the management of this station or its owner.  Trust us, June 20th can't come soon enough!"

I did a little bit of research, and found out that the law does require stations to run all Federal political ads.  I'm assuming that the current Congressional race falls under Federal politics.  So The Fish doesn't have a choice.  Even though the people making political ads are behaving at the level of three-year-olds (which is rather insulting to your average three-year-old), if it deals with Federal elections, it has to go on the air.

If you don't like the ads, your only two alternatives are to stop listening to The Fish, which is what my FB friend did; or ignore the ads by turning down the volume or removing your earbuds or headphones, which is what I did this morning.

We both agree with The Fish, and probably with the entire metro Atlanta area:

June 20th can't come soon enough!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

No tears, but plenty of pride

Last night I didn't cry.

I even brought Kleenex just to make sure I'd have some if I did cry.

But I didn't cry.

Instead, I felt a tremendous amount of pride.

Somewhere between 9 and 9:45 p.m. last night, my son became a high school graduate.

He officially received a "certificate of achievement." He will not receive a diploma until he finishes the STRIVE program, which he'll begin in August.

He marched into the stadium along with about 600 other graduates of Parkview High School.  They came in wearing their blue-and-white robes and caps with tassels in the Parkview colors of orange, blue, and white, while a recorded loop of "Pomp and Circumstance" played over the PA system.

He sat and listened to several speeches by adults and teenagers encouraging them as they left Parkview and went forth into the world.  One young man talked about windshields and rear view mirrors--how windshields allowed you to look forward and rear view mirrors let you look back, but that it wasn't healthy to spend all your time looking in the rear view mirror.  A young lady spoke of her desire to become a Marine Corps officer.  And another young man sang Neil Young's "Forever Young" as his graduation speech.

It took probably about a half hour, maybe a little more, for all the names to be called and for each student to walk across the stage, shake the hands of the people there, and get their picture taken (and which I will probably receive the chance to order in the next few weeks.)

I took some crocheting with me and I worked on a crochet basket.  That was my antidote against being bored while waiting for the ceremony to begin and while listening to the speeches.

Inevitably, I drew comparisons between my own high school graduation in 1981 and my son's in 2017.

Mine was held indoors at the Mahaffey Theater at the old Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, and I think mine was in the morning.  I remember walking down the aisle rather quickly instead of at a processional pace.  We all sat on stage behind our speakers.  The valedictorian of our class is a Facebook friend; I told him that the only thing I remembered about his speech was the phrase, "Remember 12th period?" He was referring to the days when our school was on double sessions with the freshmen/sophomores going to school in the afternoon and the juniors/seniors going to school in the morning.  Because of the sound system and the acoustics, I couldn't hear his speech.

Our chorus sang, "I Sing the Body Electric" from the movie "Fame", which was appropriate because it was the song the characters sang at their graduation.

As a member of National Honor Society, I got to wear a set of yellow honor cords, which I still have. In my graduation program, my name is marked as a NHS member and also as graduating in the top ten percent of my class.  (I was #4 and I was either the top-ranked or second-ranked girl.)

At Matthew's graduation, there were other honor cords:  science, languages, and others I can't remember, and NHS members wore sashes.   The class officers, valedictorian, and salutatorian got to graduate first.

In the graduation program, I saw a list of names that reflected the diversity that my graduating class didn't have:  Nguyen, Patel, Tran, Li, and a number of Hispanic names.  That's a reflection of the ethnic diversity that characterizes my area of Gwinnett County, Georgia.  (There was one year where my son was the only white child in his class.  Autism does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity.)

And the crowd received the order that no graduation crowd ever follows:  "Please hold your applause until everyone has graduated."  You could tell where each graduate's family was sitting because you could hear the cheers from that section as their graduate's name was called.

My graduating didn't throw our hats or turn our tassels.  Matthew's class did, although Matthew was advised not to, because he might lose his tassel.

When the ceremony was over and the parents rushed the field, I was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to find Matthew.  And then I saw him, standing alone, looking around, and I yelled at him, "Don't move!"

And when I got down on the field, I gave him a very big mother-hug.

We took his picture, and then went to the cafeteria, where he got his certificate.

Just like that, it was over.  Fifteen years of classes and school buildings and teachers.

IEP meetings are not yet over.  I still have them as part of Matthew's participation in the STRIVE program.

But here was the thing that touched me the most, both at the graduation rehearsal yesterday and graduation last night:

The non-special ed students that told Matthew congratulations and hugged him.

Matthew, in addition to being in an autism class, also took drama and worked in the Java Jungle, the coffee shop in the cafeteria.  So there were plenty of students who knew him and liked him.

In 1981, the year I graduated from high school, I don't recall the special ed students being integrated into the life of the school.  In fact, I didn't know anyone with special needs.  The federal mainstreaming law had just been passed in the mid-1970's and I'm sure that its effects were still working its way into our school system.

Yesterday, when I went to Matthew's graduation rehearsal, I saw at least one student using a cane.  And who knows how many other students were dealing with disabilities that I couldn't see.

And after that rehearsal, Matthew spoke to several students; just as he did when we were leaving Parkview after the ceremony.

He was part of the life of his high school, not just shoved into a back classroom and ignored.

I am pleased.

And I am proud.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Believe WHAT?

I no longer know who and what I believe anymore.

Everyone lies, and there is no way anymore to figure out what the truth is.

We live in a world of fake news, alternative facts, sexual fluidity, and on and on and on.

I'm a conservative, morally, politically, and fiscally, but conservatives have not had a decent victory since Ronald Reagan.  The liberals control the media and they know how to scream.  They always win.  When they're in power, they win.  When they're not in power, they make conservatives cave. And conservatives are not helping their cause by spreading around the rumors, half-truths, and outright lies of the Alex Joneses and the Breitbarts.

The people who get listened to are the ones who scream the loudest.  If you're pretty, popular, and have media control, you WILL get listened to.  If you dare to challenge the opinion leaders, you are screamed at, mocked, and ridiculed.  If you talk back, they talk louder.  They ALWAYS get in the last word.

I'm a Christian who's supposed to read the Bible to find out what I believe.  But the Bible is too often used as a weapon to club people.  I have to rely on an English translation which may or may not be accurate because I can't read Hebrew, Aramaic or Attic Greek, which are the original Biblical languages.

And if I just sit down and read the Bible?

"Well, you have to consider the context/consider the original language/consider who it was written to/consider the culture."  I'm to the point where the idea of doing such study is more daunting than anything else.

Everyone has a verse.

Everyone believes they are right and can prove it.

And while God does not lie, men can and do use His name to lie.

I've also been told to "ignore what the Bible says and just look at the words of Jesus."  Unfortunately, that's often code for, "Jesus didn't say anything about . . . so he must have been okay with it."  (Jesus never said anything about rape, pedophilia, or incest; was he okay with those behaviors?)

I often feel like the Boy Rangers in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, who were attacked and brutalized when they tried to buck the system that was controlled by a political machine.

Vote?  Why vote?  Nothing changes?

Run away?  There's no place to run to.

Get a Bible study book?  Sounds good, but I often wonder if the Bible teachers out there are really interested in giving you Bible study tools or if they're just trying to guide you towards a predetermined conclusion.  How do I know who does/does not have a hidden agenda?

I spouted off at my poor BFF earlier today.  She's fortunately a very understanding person.

If the current President is impeached and removed from office, there will then be a movement to impeach the next President and remove him from office.

It no longer matters if the candidate is a good candidate.  It's more important that the candidate be a part of a particular ethnic/gender group.

I was told I had to vote for Trump because, the Supreme Court.  I was also told that, "he's a Cyrus/he's an outside/he'll 'Make America Great Again'".  Because people were so terrified of a Clinton presidency, they chose to put the White House in the hands of an incompetent President and his equally incompetent staff.  Not that Hillary would have been much better.  That's why I wrote in Snoopy.  In the past, I would have held my nose and voted for the less evil candidate.  This time, I just couldn't do it.

I'm an active member of a church, I participate in a Bible study, I sing on a praise team, I take my son to activities . . . and here I am, saying that I don't know what I believe.  I've been stuck on the question of "who's right when everyone can 'prove' they are right?" for over two decades, and I still have not figured out the answers.

I'm afraid of getting it wrong and going to hell.  There.  I've said it.  I am afraid of going before God on Judgment Day and only then finding out that I was wrong on some supposedly important "salvation issue", and by then, it'll be too late to do anything about it.

There was a time as a child that I thought I had things right as far as the Bible was concerned.  Then I got involved with a group that said, no, we are the only ones who have the truth.

I ended up leaving that group and getting involved with a group that went to the other extreme--as long as you believe in God and believe in Jesus, it doesn't matter what else you believe.

And while the place I'm at now isn't as extreme as either of the previous places . . . I'm still dealing with the issues that I was left with when I left both groups.

If you're left with the impression that I am angry and frustrated . . . well, you're right.

I'm very angry.

And I'm very frustrated.

And I have no idea what I believe.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Giving them my peace of mind . . .

I just read this story on Facebook and it's perfect for a blog post.

Someone posted a comment about a woman who was teaching herself English.  She got angry at someone and later reported that she gave the person her "peace of mind".

It looks and sounds funny, the way it's written above, because obviously, she meant to say "give them a piece of my mind".

But I wonder, how many people have I ever given my "peace of mind" to?

I'm a people-pleaser.  I despise having anybody unhappy with me, and if I even have a hint that someone's not happy with what I've done or say, I have a visceral, physical reaction.  In a sense, that's giving that person my "peace of mind".

This is probably another way of saying "you're letting them live rent-free in your head."  I'm not so sure if they're living there rent-free.  The people living in your head are the rent collectors, and the rent they are collecting is your peace of mind!

At the moment, I don't have solutions for not giving away your peace of mind.  But today's story does give me pause and may just help me be aware of who gets my "peace of mind"!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.


Monday, May 15, 2017

From one commander to another . . .

I don’t know where my son got the idea to do this, but his nickname for our church’s youth minister is “commander”. I guess he thinks that’s appropriate since our youth minister is the one “in charge.”

Last night, during our church’s Senior Honors Night, each graduating high school senior was presented with a Bible and their own Bible verse. (No, none of the kids got “Jesus wept” as their own personal verse. :-) )

When Matthew’s turn came, I was curious as to what his verse would be. 

As it turned out, it was quite appropriate. 

It was Isaiah 55:4: “See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.” (New International Version)

Before reading this verse, our youth minister told the story of Matthew's nickname for him. And then, after reading the verse, he said that my son was a witness. 

I agree.  He is a witness to the power of inclusion and the result of the power of God’s love. 

It’s an appropriate gift from one “commander” to another.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The oil of gladness

He wanted to quit.

Losing two students within five months--one to a car accident, the other to suicide--is enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails.

Especially when you're a youth minister, and your job is to teach, comfort, and encourage your students, and attempt to answer questions of "why?" when you don't even know the answers yourself.

Who could blame him for wanting to quit?

Sometimes, though, you have to grit your teeth and gut it out where your faith is concerned.

So he took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and chose to gut it out.

The next class of sixth graders was coming into the youth ministry, and he needed to get ready for them.

He was especially concerned about one of them.  This student had special needs, and the minister wasn't quite sure if the kid was going to fit.  It was challenging enough to deal with kids without special needs.  How was he going to handle a child with those special needs?

Youth ministry is a job, and a calling.  Surely this child deserved his efforts as well as the other sixth graders who were about to be part of the youth group.

So he decided that he was going to do everything he could to make sure that that child--that child with special needs--would be able to participate in the youth group to the best extent possible.


Tonight I sat in our church's Family Enrichment Center and watched as seventeen high school seniors participated in our annual Senior Honors Night.  I watched as their youth minister spoke of how proud he was of this group of seniors and how much they'd meant to him.

Each student, and their parents, came up to the stage, where they received a personalized Bible.  Each student had a special verse that was underlined in their Bible.  (One student, ill with a 102 temperature, attended the event via FaceTime.)

But before that, our youth minister had a few words to say about this class as a whole.

This group of students came into our youth ministry in August of 2010.  The previous year, from June to November of 2009, saw five deaths in our congregation.

Two of those deaths were of teenagers from our youth ministry.

One of those teenagers, along with his mother, died in a car crash.  The other teenager committed suicide.

Our youth minister admitted that it had been a dark time for him.  And he didn't want to do it anymore.

He wanted to quit.

But then he said that this was the class--this class of seniors that we honored tonight--that brought back the oil of gladness to his ministry.

Isaiah 61:1-4 is a prophecy about the coming Messiah, but I'd like to think that it could also apply to this class of graduating seniors:

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities, 

the devastations of many generations."  (English Standard Version)

These seniors brought the joy back that a minister desperately needed.  They were ones who brought good news to the poor, comforted those that mourned, and brought the oil of gladness rather than of mourning.  They served.  They loved others.  And in doing so, they were the ones that restored joy. 

  
Oh, I should mention something about our youth minister's opening remarks.

He said that he had lost a Matthew, but gained a Matthew in return.

The young man that died in 2009 was named Matthew.

So was a sixth-grader that came into the youth ministry in 2010.  

He was the same sixth-grader with special needs, a sixth-grader who our youth minister wasn't sure would fit.  But our youth minister, instead of giving into the darkness of grief, chose to do what he could to help this kid fit in to the best extent possible.  

Tonight, my son Matthew received his Bible from his youth minister.  

Tonight, my son learned that he had helped to restore the oil of gladness to a ministry that needed it.  

Mourning has been turned into dancing.

Sorrow has been turned into joy.  

Thank you, class of 2017.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.