Monday, November 13, 2017

I Saw God Today

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but didn't publish it at the time. It felt too raw. I worried about being preachy. I'm more comfortable writing about politics and parenting. I saved a draft and closed my laptop. But then I went to church yesterday and, through tears and conversations with friends who embrace me right where I am, I felt connected in a way that I had not in a while. Today, I read a passage by one of my favorite Christian authors that spoke exactly to the struggles I've been having. So, tonight I reopened this blog post and decided to share it . . .


I've been going through a challenging time with my faith recently. I have so many more questions than answers. Some of what I read in the Bible, some of the significant differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament, don't make sense to me. My instinct has been to push God and church further away.

I know my many atheist friends are thinking, "Well, of course it doesn't make sense. It's a fairy tale that was created to make people feel better about death and the other great, unanswered questions about our existence." I've thought that in the past as well. That thinking sometimes returns even now.

I also have a daughter who is questioning faith (with my encouragement as I never want my kids to have a blind and unthinking belief) and I am struggling to share with her the ways in which God has shown Himself in my life time and again in a way that makes sense to her. I've never really been a good model of faith for my children, other than getting them to church twice a week. It's even harder when I barely can make the case for faith to myself. Still, we have been having long conversations nearly every night, trying to work through the big questions together.

This evening as we chatted, I told my daughter about the multiple times today in which God reminded me that He is still right there.

This morning, I got a text message from a friend who always checks on me when I'm not at church (which has been the case more often than not recently). She has a sense when I'm stressed or sad. She asked how I was doing and how she could help my family. She just wants me to know that she is there, even if I try to hide. In her, I saw God today. She reminded me of His love and His patience

This afternoon, my former pastor, Dr. Jon Roebuck, wrote a beautiful post on social media. Dr. Roebuck saw my kids and me through the difficult days of my divorce eight years ago. He held us literally and figuratively. He teaches and leads with humor and kindness. He also is someone who rarely writes on Facebook - maybe once or twice a year. But today, he shared some important words about being cognizant of his privileged position and putting his action into faith. He closed as follows:

Would that such words could be spoken of us… that we saw darkness and tried to illumine it, saw hatred and tried to reconcile it, saw oppression and tried to lift it, saw injustice and tried to solve it. It is long past time for us to begin talking and living in better ways. It is one thing to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is quite another to give expression to that prayer. For those of us who live in the grace of freedom, may we be willing to become shackled to the responsibility of working to set free, those who remain the prisoners of oppression.

In my pastor, I saw God today. He reminded me of what it means to put faith into action, of how being witness to men and women in the faith who loved their neighbors without ceasing and without exception drew me closer to wanting to learn more about God more than a decade ago.

Tonight, I went to the grocery store with my son. On the way there, I shared some silent thoughts with God. I told Him that I felt distant recently. I told Him there was so much I did not understand. But I also told Him that I was feeling His tugging that very day.

Money has been tight, compounded by several unexpected expenses, and I carefully added each item in my head as I placed it in my cart. I worried as I cataloged the other bills that I had to pay in the upcoming weeks. I took a deep breath as I deducted a bit more from my debit card.

As we pulled up to the light to leave the shopping area, the light turned red. I looked to my left and saw a man holding a sign that read, "Homeless. Anything helps. Please." I rolled down my window and told him I did not have any cash, but asked if I please could give him some food. I asked my son to open up the grocery bags in the backseat and grab whatever he could. I then held this stranger's hand as he told me how hard it was living on the streets. I squeezed his fingers into mine. I told him I was grateful to meet him and hoped the food helped his belly that night.

I don't share this last story to brag about helping another human. Not at all. Instead, I just want to express how thankful I was for the encounter. Because there He was. There was God, right there on that street corner. Exactly when I longed to see Him.

'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Matthew 25:37-40

This doesn't mean that I will not continue to have questions. It doesn't mean that I will not doubt or struggle. It doesn't mean that I won't go through periods in which I feel uncomfortable at church. But, I needed to put today's moments into writing, maybe just to remind myself later.

If I really look, I know I can see Him every day. Whenever I see anyone choosing love over fear. Whenever I peek in on my kids sleeping and I am overcome with this physical aching in my deepest gut because I love them so much. Whenever I see someone brave enough to stand for peace over conflict. Whenever I am the recipient of forgiveness or when I will myself to forgive. Whenever I think about the many members of the village helping me to raise my family and who speak worth and precious value into the hearts of my children. Whenever I read or hear or watch exactly what my spirit needed that day. It is in all these instances that my God is near.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Twenty Questions

I'm having one of those weeks . . . a week in which I lie awake most of the night pondering a variety of questions. OK, I have one of those weeks nearly every week. I'm a horrible sleeper. But, I've read somewhere that you if you write everything down that is swirling around in your brain, it may actually allow your mind to release the questions for the time being with the trust that you will address them at a later and more appropriate moment.

So, with the hope of a decent night of slumber in my future, I present you with twenty questions that have me stumped. I welcome your feedback on any or all of them.

1. I voted for two of these men. I voted for the opponent of another. I have had a short conversation with one of them about a cheese platter. I interned for one of them and was in the same room as him on multiple occasions, but only officially ever met his cat (and his vice president . . . but the cat was more interesting). These men attacked one another on the campaign trail. They have wildly different ideas about policy and the role of government. But they have respect for one another and even have become friends. Why? Because E Pluribus Unum, which means "out of many, one." They are all Americans and love their country. My question is - how can I hang out with that entire crew all at once? Because that scene looks super awesome.

2. Statistically speaking, my life is more than halfway over. What books do I need to make sure I read before I cease to be on this planet?

3. When President Trump tweets about liddle' Bob Corker, what is the purpose of the apostrophe at the end of liddle?

4. Will I ever manage to get organized and do effective meal planning for my family so that we have healthy and well-rounded meals and snacks available on a regular basis?

5. Since Jared Kushner used a private email account to conduct official White House business, can we expect chants of "Lock Him Up" and a paper mache likeness of Kushner trapped in a cage on a float that onlookers find hilarious as part of a parade sometime soon?

6. For the seventh year in a row, am I going to be the only person in my office to be without a "plus one" at our annual holiday dinner?

7. Only the edges and one wall of my bathroom are painted in the color I selected shortly after moving into my home. It has been that way since last December because I cannot convince myself to take the couple of hours required and just finish the job. Because I hate painting. Will the two-tone, I'm-too-busy-living-my-best-life-to-finish-painting-a-small-room look take hold and find its way into the pages of Southern Living? Will I find that I simply was ahead of the trend?

8. If certain politicians believe it's their responsibility to legislate morality and protect the sanctity of marriage from a Biblical perspective, will they please finally propose legislation to outlaw divorce except in cases of adultery and abandonment?

9. When will my children finally sleep through the night? I was pretty sure that would be happening by now.

10. Would Ronald Reagan get elected by today's Republican primary voters? (OK -  I know the answer to that question. Nope.)

11. I love to exercise, but I rarely make time for it. If it is really was important to me, wouldn't I find the time at least to go for a run more often?

12. If God created us in His image, then why do we also learn that His ways are not our ways?

13. Is a person who insists on getting into a Twitter he said/she said battle with a grieving war widow really the best individual to be lecturing NFL players about how to show respect for our military?

14. Why did my generation never get a show as well done as The Wonder Years to capture life for a child of the 80s? (Do NOT come back at me with The Goldbergs.)

15. How exactly do you refine RINO, because right now it seems to mean "any Republican politician who has been in office for more than two seconds and has at least a marginal understanding of two or more major policy issues"?

16. How can I convince myself that I am worth it and finally demonstrate the will power to break my sugar addiction? (Curse you, Sour Patch Kids and brownies - Satan, get behind me!)

17. If I ever was forced to choose between Jake Ryan and Gilbert Blythe as the dark-haired fictional boyfriend of my preteen dreams, on which side would I ultimately fall?

18. Do kids have more allergies today than when I was a kid because we don't let them play outside all day and get super dirty with nature's mud and grime and therefore their systems are not forced to build up immunity to anything?

19. What are the chances that I will get to meet Alicia Keys someday and tell her how beautiful I think she is?

20. If not today, when? If not today, why not?

OK . . . got that out of my system. Here's hoping it works.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can You See Him?

I hereby acknowledge and thank the lovely Matthew McConaughey and his compelling portrayal of attorney Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill for this post.

I want you to close your eyes. Picture President Obama is at a rally in California. He has screaming and adoring fans all around him. Can you see him there? Who does he think he is - some kind of rock star? There is no real reason for his speech tonight. The campaign is long over, but you couldn't tell by the way he is acting. Instead of pep rallies, he should be focusing on the administration of our country. But, he has a huge ego that needs to be stroked regularly so he purposefully makes these trips to be adored and feel good about himself. He doesn't really say anything of substance, but the people love him anyway. One woman even faints. He focuses on himself. He uses the word "I" a lot. It's sick how obsessed he is with himself. But, even though he rambles for over an hour and people applaud and cheer for his self-aggrandizing nonsense, President Obama doesn't even acknowledge the dead servicemen who had been pulled from the water that very day. It's quite evident that he has no respect for our military.

Now open your eyes. And picture that is President Trump. Because it is.

I want you to close your eyes again. Picture President Obama is speaking in front of a group of young men who have a long history of honoring their country and their leaders and the flag. Do you see him? I want you to really see him standing there. President Obama uses this opportunity to make fun of Senator John McCain and brag about how soundly he defeated him in the recent election. He goes on a tangent and starts talking about one of his wealthy friends in Chicago and how much he liked to party. Well, that's awkward. Does he not know who his audience is today? Then he maligns President Ronald Reagan by saying, "Hey, I bet that guy never cared enough to come here and speak to you guys, did he?" And then President Obama laughs as some of the young men in the crowd, who are holding large American flags, start to boo President Reagan for being unpatriotic and never caring enough to show up and speak to them. The president is laughing because he really doesn't like America and to hear its former leaders booed makes him happy.

Now open your eyes. And picture that is President Trump. Because it is.

I want you to close your eyes again. Picture President Obama on the golf course. Of course he is there. Again. Do you see him with that club in his hand? He spent so much time during his campaign telling us that President Bush had caused so many problems for our country that he would need to clean up. But yet, he has found time to go golfing twenty-one times in the first six months of his presidency. What a joke. We really should be calling him golfer-in-chief, am I right? But maybe we should be grateful that President Obama is hanging out at the golf course so much, because at least that way he isn't busy screwing up and betraying our nation with his dangerous agenda.

Now open your eyes. And picture that is President Trump. Because it is. (Trump golfed twenty-one times in the first six months of his presidency, as opposed to eleven for Obama)

I want you to close your eyes again. Picture President Obama sitting down for an interview with 60 Minutes. Do you see him there, in his nice suit and blue necktie? Look at him. He is asked about President Putin of Russia, a leader who makes his political opponents disappear and who isn't a super big fan of free speech. The interviewer wants to know if President Obama has a problem with the fact that Putin is a killer. Now keep those eyes closed and think about your reaction as President Obama says, "There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, do you think our country is so innocent?" You can't believe what you are hearing! Did President Obama just liken our country to one that is led by a former member of the KGB who would love to bring back the glory days of Communism? Does he hate our country that much? Well, it's not surprising. His wife did say a few years that she was proud of America for the first time in her adult life. So, of course, President Obama would think that little of our nation as well.

Now open your eyes. And picture that is President Trump. Because it is.

I want you to close your eyes again. Picture President Obama back when he was a candidate in the spring of 2008. He does not have much political experience but he thinks he is soooo smart and knows everything necessary to be the leader of the free world. He doesn't need to listen to advice from everyone. So cocky. He even has the nerve to say there are flaws in our Constitution - that our founding fathers didn't know what they were doing when they set up a system of electors to choose our president. He says that we should riot in the streets if someone wins the Electoral College and not the popular vote because that is not the way our country should work! He has no respect for the framers of our Constitution and the principles upon which this nation places its foundation. Either that, or maybe he isn't as much of a constitutional scholar as he claims to be.

Now open your eyes. And picture that is President Trump trashing a part of our Constitution. Because it was Trump. Until the Electoral College worked out for him . . . and then he loved it.

I want you to close your eyes one more time. Picture President Obama going on his "apology tour" and telling the rest of the world how America had done them wrong. Picture him at that speech in Cairo. Do you see him standing there? Well, of course he looks comfortable in front of that audience. He's a secret Muslim after all. He's probably working for ISIS. This is crazy. Next thing you know, he's probably going to bow to the leader of Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-freedom regimes in the world! Yep . . . there he goes! An American leader bowing to a murderous theocrat. I never thought I would see the day. What has happened to our country?

Now open your eyes. And picture that is President Trump bowing to Saudi King Salman. Because he did.

I didn't vote for President Obama. And I definitely didn't vote for President Trump. So, I'm not approaching this comparison at a staunch defender of the policies or presidencies of either man. (Although if given the choice, I would have President Obama back in the Oval Office in a second over the current administration.) My point, though, is that those who were screaming the loudest about how egotistical and dangerous and traitorous and nonchalant Obama was are those who are finding any excuse to defend the same behavior from Trump.

The speech in Phoenix last night was a gross display of that hypocrisy, prompting me to share the other examples that only begin to scratch the surface of how Obama would have been condemned for displaying the same behavior and flip-flops that Trump has offered us throughout his campaign and continues to show as president.

Go ahead and close your eyes one more time and picture Barack Obama saying he could shoot someone in midtown Manhattan and people would still love him or picture him reassuring a national audience that he has a large penis or picture him telling you that he can grab women's vaginas because of his position of power. Or close your eyes and remember how people reacted when he bombed Syria without Congressional approval or went on vacation with his family or signed a bunch of executive orders. This fun game could go on for hours . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Note on My Fridge

Several years ago, my son came home from his summer day camp with a huge splinter going straight down the inside of his fingernail. It looked like a tree trunk on his little finger. I tried approaching him several times with tweezers, but each time he screamed in terror. I asked him if he would like one of the guys on our block to remove it instead, and he responded that he would. He would force himself to be brave for someone other than his mom. So, I gave him the choice of four names and he selected the man whom he trusted with this task. Our neighbor Tony calmly talked Ian through the process and the splinter was removed with few tears. Ian was so proud, and I was so thankful for Tony.

Now, my eight-year-old son is facing questions and social pressures and insecurities that are more complicated than removing a splinter. And there are times when he doesn't want to talk to his mom about it. So, much like we did with the splinter incident, my son and I created a list of trusted men in our family's village and we put their names on our refrigerator. When he has a problem at school or he is angry about something and he needs some "guy time" to talk through things, he can choose a name and I help him make that connection. Or, in some instances, I know my son needs that time and I make the request. Just last night, one of those guys put aside any other plans he had for the evening and played catch with my son because he had been having a rough week - the same investment of time and concern he has made in my son many times before.

I mentioned our "fridge list" to a friend yesterday and she said, "I think it's great that you allow so many people to pour love into your kids - that you are open to your children connecting with other adults."

When you are a coach who cares enough to discipline and hug and check in about school and ask how you are treating your mom, you will make the fridge list!

The thing is, I can't imagine not letting others help me love and affirm and teach my children. The more I embrace the idea that we all belong to each other, the fuller our lives have become. But daily I am convicted that I am not doing enough in return.

It can be so easy to get overwhelmed by the fear masked as anger that we see all around us. To be troubled by our inability to communicate with one another and instead resort to yelling in ALL CAPS. By the lack of interest in being witness to another person's pain and triumphs or just their basic humanity. It can be tempting to hunker down and build physical or emotional walls to protect ourselves from people who don't look like us or sound like us or love like us or pray like us. Or who we simply don't like or who make us uncomfortable. I do it all too often.

But for me, the note on my fridge is my reminder to try harder - to make more connections, even when the topic of conversation is a difficult one. It's a reminder that doing something as simple as playing catch for a half hour makes a world of difference to a kid and his mom.

I often think back on a passage I read in Jimmy Carter's autobiography a couple of years ago. He was preparing to head out for a day of door-to-door evangelizing with one of his pastoral mentors. He found himself paralyzed when thinking about how he would be received and what if he didn't make a difference. His mentor responded, "You have two jobs. You are to love God and you are to love whoever happens to be standing right in front of you at that particular moment. That's it."

Whether you subscribe to the first part of that advice or not, what a remarkable difference we would see if we decided to love (or at least start with tolerate or respect as a fellow human being) the person right in front of us. If we decided that person was no more or no less worthy of love and compassion than us. What if we all were invested in the lives of others to the point that we found our names on a few "fridge lists" because people knew we would be there for them?

I don't have answers to the big questions. I'm not going to protest our current leadership. I have so much work to do on me first and that is where I feel I can make a difference. I want to really see each person who is standing right before me, no matter where I am standing, and claim him or her as one of value. I want to be "fridge list" material.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Forty Days, My Son, and Faith

Our first photo as a family of three (in which I had been up for about 30 hours)

Sometimes my kids will accuse me of loving the other one more. I always reassure them that I love both of them so much and it amazes me how my heart continues to expand to love them more all the time. And while it is true that my love for one is not greater than what I feel for the other, I'm not going to deny that the relationships are different. Each relationship is bonded in unique ways, with those tethers being fiercely strong and devoted.

I can share with you the hundred ways in which I love my daughter and why our connection is so powerful. But today, as I prepare to celebrate my son's eighth birthday, I want to let you know how my son gave me strength and what he taught me about faith.

On July 23, 2009, I dropped off my three-year-old daughter at a music camp at a local church that she was attending for the week. I then took a blanket to the lake near our home, sat by the water, and cried. I was due to have my second child in a month and a half and I was newly separated from my then husband. There were so many questions. What would happen when I went into labor? Do I get my daughter to a friend's house and then drive to the hospital? Do I take my daughter to the hospital and then have a friend pick her up there? And what about after this baby was born? Would I have the energy to care for both of them? Does my daughter understand what is happening? Working as a freelance writer at the time, would I have an income steady enough to provide for my family? Will I always be sad? What do people think of me and my situation? How did this happen?

I closed my eyes and prayed. Although I had become a Christian several years prior, I'm not going to claim that prayer was my forte. I did not do it regularly and I never was convinced that I was doing it "right." But that morning, I told God that I was scared. I asked for His help. As I opened my eyes, a sprinkle of rain fell on me out of the clear blue sky and I felt such peace.

The next evening, I went into labor. In hindsight, the back pain I had been experiencing all day should have been a clue. With intense contractions now only a few minutes apart, there was no denying this kid was coming.

Here's the catch. My baby was not due until September 3. I was not ready. But here is also where it all gets amazing.

My daughter had just left for her first night ever away from me as I anticipated a fun night with friends at my home. I had six women on their way over to paint and decorate the nursery for this baby who we assumed was still at least a month away from making his or her arrival, with wine for them and water for me and pizza all around. But instead, I called the ones I could reach on cell phones and said, "Change of plans. The first one who gets here is driving me to the hospital."

I had no bag packed, so I gathered a towel, some socks, and my contact lens case, because that is what I thought I needed as I walked through the house shaking. Then I sat on my porch and waited. My friend Jill arrived first, helped me into her minivan, then called another friend whose husband is a cop and asked for advice if police should try to pull her over for speeding as we raced to the hospital. Luckily, we arrived VERY quickly but free of law enforcement encounters.

One of my closest friends and the woman whom I had asked to be by my side as I gave birth had just arrived back from her Florida vacation earlier that afternoon. Again, perfect timing. She met me at the hospital with tears in her eyes at the excitement of being my partner in all that was about to happen. Over the next couple of hours, the most amazing group of girlfriends a woman ever could hope to have left their own families at home and showed up at the hospital, holding vigil in the waiting room. I felt so loved and so safe.

Ian Charles Moore was born at 5:56am (I think?) on July 25, 2009, forty days before his due date and two inches shorter and more than a pound lighter than his sister at her birth. The neonatal nurses rushed him off soon after his delivery to check his lungs and the rest of his development, concerned that his early arrival had not allowed his body the time it needed before joining all of us on the outside. They soon returned and put him in my arms and said, "He's amazing. He is strong. He is ready to be here." I'm crying even now as I type those words.

Forty - it's a number of great significance in the Bible. Noah and his paired animals stayed on the ark for forty days. The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years. Christ fasted for forty days ahead of His crucifixion and returned for forty days after His earthly death. The number is meant to represent a period of testing, and plays a similar role in the Koran and other writings of faith. In addition to testing, though, I also see the time as being evidence of God's provision through those tests.

Those who have known me for a long time know that I did not grow up believing in God. In fact, I spent much of my teens and twenties being quite argumentative with people of faith. All along, though, there were seeds being planted and I always secretly was curious about those who found solace in Scripture and their church families. It was after reading and traveling and listening to many sermons by a pastor in Nashville who remains one of the greatest and most authentic communicators I know, that I became a Christian.

Do I still question things? Yes. All the time. I wonder about what I see as God's personality inconsistencies in the Old and New Testaments. I cringe when a mom of a returning soldier says, "God was looking out for him and brought him home safely." So God totally ignored his buddy who was killed by an IED? I don't understand why I have had friends, young parents of children, die of cancer. I hesitate to align myself with my faith when I see others using the banner of Christianity to speak and act in ways that are counter to Christ's call to love. I believe in evolution. I think that some parables in the Bible are important stories that God uses to explain how we are to act instead of literal occurrences. I'm not content with the answer, "Well, there are just some things the human mind cannot understand this side of heaven." I see that sentence as a cop out from handling the hard stuff.

But I also KNOW how I felt that day on the lake when God comforted me. While this sounds selfish, I believe God knew I needed Ian to come into the world when he did. It was the fact that I had no choice but to get up and care for my young daughter and my newborn son that kept me from heading down a very dark place that summer. And despite being an exhausted single mom, I felt more peace in those early months as a family of three than I recall having at any other point in my adult life. In the months and years that have followed, I have seen countless examples of people being His hands and feet in such selfless and inspiring ways that have meant so much to my family. I have read the words in red and they speak to me about brotherhood and compassion and caring for the marginalized and acting out of love without exception. I have been a witness to others who bear joy and peace and comfort that is beyond what their circumstances should dictate.

I get that you may read all of this and discount the role of God in Ian's birth. All of the people who were right where they needed to be when no one was expecting his arrival could have been a case of great timing and coincidence. And what about when it doesn't work out that way? Because sometimes it doesn't. I understand. Every moment that one person attributes to God can be explained away by another who holds a different belief. I'm not here to convince you otherwise. But as I celebrate the birth of my son eight years ago, forty days early, I only can tell you what I feel and what is true in my heart. Looking at the face of that beautiful soul as he sleeps and thinking about all of the precious moments of love and comfort I have experienced because of him, my faith and God's provision is affirmed time and again.

Happy birthday, Ian! I love you more every day.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Fast Foward Summer (Subtitle - My Girl is Growing Up)

On Monday morning, my girl will head out of state for camp and return on Friday afternoon. Since she will miss her brother and me so much and wants to spend as much time as possible with us this weekend, she left about an hour ago to spend the night with a group of girlfriends from her softball team.

I never was a parent who lamented each passing stage of my children's development. I did not get sad at their first birthdays or when they started their first days of kindergarten. I didn't want them to stay babies. Instead, I was excited to watch them grow and tried to embrace each stage.

The days and months went by faster once they started school. Catherine started and then finished elementary school in what seemed like mere weeks. But still, I didn't beg for time to slow down. The kids were just growing up . . . that's what they were supposed to do.

But that has changed this summer. My girl is pulling away, and there is no going back. I feel like she's punched a speed train ticket to adulthood and I'm along for the ride. This is supposed to happen. I know this. I just wasn't expecting it to start so soon.

My daughter is eleven years old and will enter middle school in a couple of weeks (because school starts on August 1 and the world is nuts). She is looking more like a young woman and less like a little girl. Spending time with her friends takes precedence over being with her family. She is starting to be concerned with how she looks and what she wears. I embarrass her on a regular basis.

The time that she has left under my roof is less than the time she already has been in my care (my calculations show that we are about 62% of the way to move out time). For the first time, I want to hold up my hands and say, "Slow down just a little bit! Give me a few more of these days! Or make a few more of those special evenings last longer!"

Even though she is likely to pick her friends (or listening to music in her room or watching You Tube videos about slime) over her family, we still have fun together when those opportunities occur. Just today, the two of us developed a fantastic front flip, back flip, cartwheel, final jump flourish synchronized swimming routine at the neighborhood swimming pool. (And side note - my 42-year-old underwater back flip is still on point . . . other than the one time I scraped my face on the bottom of the pool.) She still asks for family movie nights on the couch and marathon board games sessions. She wants to talk to me every night at bedtime (well, when she's home) about whatever is on her mind. I am thankful for all of these things.

And besides, this growth is exactly what I want for her! Isn't one of our primary jobs as parents to raise kids who are independent and incrementally don't need us anymore? We seem to be proceeding down that "cut the apron strings" road just fine. It's the same road I remember walking from her perspective about thirty years ago (to the beat of Debbie Gibson and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam).

Still, I can't help but ask myself some of the big questions this summer when it comes to my preteen girl.

Have I spent enough time with her? Does she feel like I've been available in the big moments and the small? Does she have the confidence to make her way through the tough waters of middle school and high school? What will she remember of her childhood? Does she KNOW how much I love her? What do I need to tell her and teach her in the next seven years? Does she want me to ask her to spend more time together? How does she feel about growing up? Have I created a home that she will look forward to visiting for comfort once she is an adult?

Are there other moms of preteens out there experiencing these same feelings? Or moms who are further down this road who can offer some advice?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

This American's Confession

For as long as I can remember, I've had the tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. This morning, I read it before having my first cup of coffee and I likely will read it again tonight. In the last several years, I've added watching America: The Story of Us to my annual activities. While I don't usually get to sit and watch it all day, I make sure the program is on my television screen. I'm looking at it right now. The documentary series is one of my favorite shows ever made. It has sparked dozens of great conversations with my kids.

So, here is my admission. For the first time in my life, this holiday has me feeling a bit sad. I'm concerned about where we are as a country. It's hard for me to be excited about the United States right now. I hate this feeling, because to be American is to be optimistic. So shame on me.

And, it's not just because of who is sitting in the Oval Office. Sure, that's a large part of it, because while I disagreed often with both President Bush and President Obama, and shared as much in many blog posts, this is the first time that I'm actually embarrassed by our president.

But it's more than that.

Our nation was built on the ideas of freedom and bold actions and risks. It was further crafted by debates that lasted for hours over the questions of who we wanted to be as Americans and families who took steps through the western wilderness and brilliant minds that developed railroads and dams and steel production and electricity. It was refined by the contributions of immigrants whose invitation to our shores is carved into the Statue of Liberty and orators who spoke out about injustices in our land and a compassion that offers care to those within our borders and beyond.

Do we still have people who would walk ten miles a day for six months, like those men, women, and children who settled the land that would become our western states? Would I do that with my kids? Institutionally or in our own families, do we encourage the hard work that is needed to build roads and bridges and farm our produce? Do we respect ideas and constructive debate and being thoughtful?

I know the answers to all these questions is "yes" on a micro level. I can point to plenty of individuals and groups who embody the work ethic and the perseverance and the embracing of diversity and new ideas that, to me, symbolize America.

But what about on a macro level? Collectively as Americans, can we still answer "yes" to these questions in 2017? Or, have we shifted to a nation that has become complacent in our successes and that is quick to attack instead of understand?

And when did we become OK with the campaigns from both major parties being built on anger and fear?

We are better than all of that. I know we are. Anger and fear and division run counter to the bravery and the boldness and the collective strength of all our parts that make this nation so amazing.    

I'm not foolish or ungrateful. I know that I have rights and opportunities that many people around the world cannot even imagine. I am a woman who was allowed to go to school and work and marry (and then divorce) the person I wanted. My children go to sleep at night without bombs going off around them or on the cold floor of a refugee's tent. There is an entire aisle at each of the multiple grocery stores near me dedicated to cereal. I get to vote for my president and my members of Congress and my school board and judges. I get to write and speak unkind words when I do not like what these elected officials are doing without fear of persecution by my government (despite what the current head of the executive branch thinks he can do). I am forever humbled that the sheer luck of my birthplace has afforded me so much that I deserve no more than women born in Syria or Haiti.

And maybe I'm not supposed to be sharing these thoughts on Independence Day. You only should think good things about people and countries on their birthdays. On the other hand, perhaps this is the exact right day to share how I feel. Why? Because I love America and her founding ideals so much. I have a physical ache for how much I love this country. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, Kennedy's inaugural address . . . I could go on and on. They all give me chills. So, it's in America's defense and using my awesome First Amendment freedoms that I share how I'm feeling today. I live in a country in which I can type these words and not be sent to jail or be killed. I do not take that for granted. But I also KNOW we are better than how we treat each other and how we are perceived around the world today. And I'm still rooting for a return to the principles that make us so proud when we see that flag flying.

Today I celebrate our history. I celebrate our amazing founding documents and the ideals contained in them that we eventually saw fit to extend to all of our citizens. I celebrate the stories of entrepreneurship and artistry. I celebrate the men and women who keep us free through their sacrifices on the battlefield and their advocacy in the halls of our legislatures and on our streets. I celebrate the amazing people in our past, both heralded in textbooks and whose stories should be known but aren't, who have shaped our nation. I celebrate my freedom, and your freedom, to succeed and fail. And I celebrate that I know that the way I feel today will motivate me to do better where I can and to start those conversations and those ignitions of change right where I am.

Happy 241st birthday, America. May our best days always be ahead of us.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

To the Men Who . . .

Today is Father's Day. While we take time to celebrate the men who gave us life, the job of being a father figure extends well beyond contributing DNA. I read several years ago that even in an "ideal family" of two parents and 2.5 children, kids need at least five people other than their own mom and dad who influence and pour into their lives. I am grateful that my children have so many men in their lives who love them and teach them. I am thinking of all of you today, those pictured below and many more who have brought so much to my family.

To the men who show my son that you can be strong and love sports but also be vulnerable and cry, I thank you today.

To the men who tell my daughter that she is smart and beautiful, that she is of great value and treasured, I thank you today.

To the men who model love for their wives and families, I thank you today.

To the men who have coached my children and, in doing so, have shared with them important lessons about character and teamwork and effort, I thank you today.

To the men who discipline my children as they do their own, I thank you today.

To the men who taught my son to tie a necktie and whose assistance will be needed again when it's time for him to shave, I thank you today.

To the men who hold my children close with a much needed "dad hug" after a rough day, I thank you today.

To the men who encourage me and offer me hugs and an ear to listen when I'm having a rough day, I thank you today.

To the two senior men who sat with my son between them in a hallway at church this morning and quietly talked with him about his behavior and their expectations for him, I thank you today.

To my dad, who taught me to love learning and who shares with me often that he is proud of my family and who is a caring and involved grandpa with my kids, I thank you today.

To the man I married fifteen years ago and divorced eight years ago, but with whom between those times I brought two amazing people into existence, I thank you today. The kids love you dearly.

The Moore Trio has a large family that is not defined by genetics or who lives in our home. On this Father's Day, thank you to the many men in our tribe who have made a difference in the lives of my children.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Anniversary

Dear Home,

Happy anniversary! It's hard to believe that one year ago today, I signed my name approximately 487 times and got the keys to open your front door. From the very first afternoon, when Catherine and Ian both met neighbors their age and ran off to play and then we were invited next door for an amazing dinner instead of our planned meal of "pizza while sitting on the floor" and we finally finished the evening with time at our neighborhood pool meeting even more new friends, I knew we found a great fit.

Celebrating one year in our home on this super hot Nashville day (selfie photo credit to Catherine)

Thank you for being located in a neighborhood that is filled with kids who ride bikes and play ball in the street and get in fights and roam from yard to yard and block to block for hours on end.

Thank you for allowing my kids to attend amazing schools from now until when they graduate from high school. I know it is up to Catherine and Ian to determine what they make of these opportunities, but I'm grateful they are afforded the chance.

Thank for giving us space to grow - for providing my kids their own big rooms that are nowhere close to my room, a detail for which I imagine we all will be grateful as the teenage years approach. Sometimes we all need to retreat to our personal space.

Thank you for neighbors who care for and discipline my kids, who help me move furniture and fix appliances, who offer me a beer as we chat in the driveway, who make me laugh, and who remove deceased woodland creatures from my backyard following my dog's early morning eagerness to defend our property.

Thank you for a backyard that already was home to beautiful trees and to which we have added flowers and vegetables. Thank you for having a fence, which has allowed us to add our beautiful rescue dogs to our family. Thank for the satisfaction and the therapy I get from mowing your grass on a summer evening.

Thank you to the amazing village that got us into our home - for a realtor who is also one of my best friends and without whom we not have found the home that has made us so happy, the friends who helped us pack and clean our previous home and unpack and clean the new one, the friends who inspected every inch of this home and helped me with small repairs to give us the best start possible, the friends who let us live with them for a month while we waited for our new home to become truly ours, the beloved neighbors of our old neighborhood whom we love and miss dearly and who taught us how to be amazing neighbors to those around us on our new street, to my parents who have helped me in countless ways and who told me time and again how proud they are of me for getting my family here.

As my boy said today, "You know, Mom. It's amazing that we get to live here. It has everything you want for us and I love it! We just need to stay here." I agree, son. I agree.

Since the traditional gift for the one-year anniversary is paper, I think I will write a check for the mortgage. I can't think of a more fitting way to mark the occasion. Only 348 payments and then we REALLY can celebrate!

I know that, like me, you probably have Tony Toni Tone stuck in your head today. But, just in case you need a little more help celebrating this special day, here you go:

Love always,

Monday, May 22, 2017

Notre Dame Walkout is Part of the Problem

As I've written on numerous occasions, I am no fan of Donald Trump. I think he is an awful and embarrassing president and nothing he has done since January 20 of this year has altered my opinion. In fact, his actions and words and tweets have served only to magnify how I feel about him. I still expect his time in the Oval Office to be short, as I believe he will get bored and/or irritated and resign. And that's fine with me. In the meantime, I will continue to wince every time I see a Trump sticker on a car and I will vote enthusiastically against any Republican who endorsed Trump and thinks he is awesome.

I also don't care for Mike Pence's policies or redirect or willingness to play a supporting role in the World of Trump. I think he's less likely than Trump to make the world blow up, so I guess he's got that going for him.

All that being said, I was disappointed to see that a (small percentage) of Notre Dame students chose to walk out during Vice President Pence's commencement address over the weekend. Yes, their act was one of free speech and I never would suggest the students don't have the right to protest if they wish. I am sad, however, that this act represents the much larger problem (on college campuses and beyond) of people not wanting to hear opinions different than their own.

Last month, Ann Coulter (who, my free speech allows me to say, is a below average writer and someone who earns a lot of money by expressing intentionally incendiary things but never really anything of substance) had to cancel a speech at Berkeley because of THREATS OF VIOLENCE. The students were so incensed at the notion of hearing words they found offensive (even though this was a speech that none of them was being forced to attend!) that some had intentions to harm her and/or property. Berkeley - a progressive campus of open expression and dialogue, as long as you are on the left! I don't agree with Coulter on much, but she was spot on when she noted that her cancellation was a sad day for free speech.

College campuses should be places where you hear things that enlighten and educate you, but also offend and anger and sadden you. If my children do not experience all of those emotions during conversations in college, I just don't want them to go at all.

The same problem exists beyond the lawns and classrooms of our institutions of higher learning. On both the left and right, it seems that we increasingly are seeking out the news sources and opinion writers who align with our point of view and, in doing so, become more resolute in our positions. Anyone who dares to purport a different perspective is buying into "fake news." We don't have civil conversations with one another anymore . . . we attack each other in all caps in comments sections or by posting ridiculous memes that pass for actual political thought.

I believe there are three primary things to be gained by listening to someone with whom you strongly disagree. First, you may have your own position reinforced. Great. Second, you may learn to look at an issue from a different angle and find your own conclusions changing a bit. That's great, too. And lastly, you bring some humanity to the situation. It's much harder to dismiss someone as stupid or evil for holding a certain opinion or voting a certain way when you are sitting at a table with him or her or when you have to look people in the eyes instead of through words on a computer screen. And recognizing someone's humanity takes a lot more maturity than dismissing them or labeling them as "other" and leaving it there. Oh, I know it's difficult to find the humanity in some people . . . but that's what makes the concept of "they go low, we go high" so challenging and important!

I tell my children as often as I can that I expect them to listen to and do their best to understand all sides of an issue and then they are welcome to reach any conclusion they wish. My daughter and I already have some differing political opinions and I love that!

(Side note - I love the show United Shades of America, hosted by Kamau Bell on CNN. Check it out if you haven't. In this program, Mr. Bell sits down for conversations with people across the political and racial and religious spectrums. He has the in-depth discussions that we are sorely lacking in our society.)

So, back to Notre Dame. I love our Constitution and the rights afforded to these students (and the faculty members who applauded them) to do exactly as they did. I just wish they hadn't. These graduates will spend the rest of their lives hearing opinions they do not like but tuning them out will not make other viewpoints go away. I've been to plenty of events at which I did not agree with the speaker. I listened to every word. Sometimes I didn't clap. Or I sat while everyone stood at the conclusion of a speech. But I listened. By walking out in the middle of a ceremony, the graduates, from my perspective, were saying silently, "Look at me. Look at how much I don't want to hear Pence. Are you looking at me? Because that's what I want. I want my ideology noticed and reinforced."

But you know what? This post isn't just empty words on my part. I've thought a lot about what happened over the weekend, but I'm still willing to admit my conclusions may be wrong. And I would love to hear from you if you have a different viewpoint to share!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Are Strangers REALLY Dangers? (Subtitle: Tales from Inside IKEA)

When my daughter was five years old, a man knocked on my apartment door, pointed to my girl and a couple of other kids playing in the courtyard, and said, "Is that your daughter?" 

I quickly assessed his facial expression and tone before deciding that I would claim her. 

He said, "I just want to let you know how happy she made me the other day. She and her friends were outside drawing pictures and she offered one to me as I walked by. I was having a horrible morning and was preparing for a long road trip for work and talking with her changed my day. I put her drawing on my dashboard and kept it there my whole trip. It made me smile. So, just thank you for raising her like you do."

I should just end the blog post right here by telling you I'm an awesome mom and I appreciate the lovely gentleman taking the time to reinforce this truth. But that's not the point (I mean, if you take that away as an aside, so be it). I could tell you the mistakes I've made as a parent just this week, but that's not as fun for me. And if you think my posts are long now . . .

The point is that if I had taught my child to be afraid of strangers . . . if I had yelled "stranger danger" every time someone with whom we do not know made eye contact with her, she would have missed out on an opportunity to make this man's day better. 

That's not to say I did not use the incident as a learning moment. After the guy left, I called Catherine over and told her what the man said and how proud I was of her for brightening his day. But I also asked her, "Now what if he had asked you to go with him as he walked toward his car?"

Catherine responded, "I would have said 'no' and I would have come and told you. He seems really nice but that doesn't matter because I don't know him and you don't go anywhere with someone you don't know." Exactly. Great answer, daughter of mine. Now go and play. (Side note - I know each kid is different and will grasp concepts at a different rate and I will admit that I trusted my daughter to absorb and use this information at an earlier age than I did my son because they see the world differently - my daughter is a cynic and my son believes all people are lovely, but by this point they are both on board with my stranger lessons.)

In the age of social media, articles and Facebook posts about alleged child snatchings spread to millions of people in no time and are taken to be the gospel truth. You have the mom in IKEA who convinced a nation her kids were about to be victims of child trafficking. Her story was retold on news sites with phrases like "harrowing tale" and "one mom's warning." But her post has since been deleted and store security never found any evidence of danger and media accountability sites have disputed her claims. There's the mom, Jodie Norton, who said a couple of "punks" tried to lure her kids into a bathroom at a hospital. Her tale of the "freaky, perverted strangers" was picked up by countless news sites and discussed on the Today Show. Only the security footage shows the people she described never interacted with her kids and the police dropped the investigation. I will admit that her emphasis on teaching her kids about "tricky people" instead of "stranger danger" makes sense, but her inflated details for the sake of publicity and shock value negate the potentially good message. And then last week there was an article about an attempted abduction at a Dunkin' Donuts in Philly. Except the parents even came out after the fact and said the man pictured in the video was not trying to steal their baby.

So these stories get shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter and everyone goes on high alert and starts commenting about what a scary world we live in and stuff like this happens "all the time now" and "you can't take your eyes off your kids for a second." But when they are retracted or affirmatively refuted, this follow up information never gets the same publicity. 

I want my kids to know that 99% of the time, strangers are just amazing people they haven't met yet. And I encourage them to talk to people they don't know. Both of my kids, especially my daughter because that's just her personality, are more confident talking to strangers than I ever was as a child. 

This doesn't mean I don't want my kids to be street smart and oblivious to the fact that there is a tiny percentage of the population that may mean them harm. As I already mentioned, I tell my kids that you NEVER go somewhere with a person you do not know. You also NEVER walk close to a car if an adult rolls down a window to ask you a question. They also know that if someone ever does grab them (which I assured them is super extremely unlikely), they are to scream as loudly as they can, kick the person's genitals (man or woman . . . because that's a shocking move either way), and jam their small, weapon-like child fingers into their assailant's eyes. 

I know awful things happen to kids. I know human trafficking is real and it's horrifying and desperately sad. (I've also learned that it's usually done by grooming and coercing vulnerable kids, not grabbing them from a crowded department store.) I want to raise children who are alert to their surroundings and who have the tools in their brain to make wise choices about the company they keep and the places they go.

At the same time, I refuse to have my kids believe the world is a terrifying place full of monsters. I don't want them to be afraid to ask an adult for help because that person is a "stranger." I don't want them automatically to suspect that the man sitting alone at the playground is waiting for the right moment to kidnap them . . . which I balance by telling my kids always to be aware of all people around them and to trust their instincts if they feel unsafe. And always to travel in packs. 

My kids (and your kids) will find much greater risk to their lives by riding to school in a car or playing sports or walking through a parking lot or on a crosswalk or swimming at the local pool or eating too much junk food or being in a home with an unsecured gun. But most of our kids do some of these things and many do all of them. 

Have you seen that news article that got shared 300,000 times on Facebook and Twitter and got featured on The Today Show? You know - the one in which a terrified mom tells a reporter that she was driving her daughter to school and a car came flying through the stop sign and she slammed on her brakes just in time! No? Of course not. Me, either. But that very real and frequent danger doesn't grab the worried-riddled parent like an abduction scare. 

I read an article recently that included the quote "a child is vastly more likely to have a heart attack (than be kidnapped by a stranger), and child heart attacks are so rare that most parents never even consider the risk." When was the last time you fretted over your child's risk of a heart attack? I've never even thought about it. Our children also are twice as likely to be struck by lightning than be the victim of stranger abduction. So I teach my kids not to play outside in the middle of a thunderstorm and I teach my kids to know who and what is around them at all times . . . and will admit despite all I'm writing here that the latter worries me more even knowing the chance of real danger is lower. 

The thought of someone taking my child is terrifying and makes me ill just thinking about it. I have had those moments when my heart stopped because I couldn't find them. I've experienced that maternal instinct (it's real and it's powerful) when something seemed off and I took steps to get my kids away without alarming them. But for the sake of our kids and their anxiety level and letting them play and teaching them confidence in interacting with the world around them, don't we need to be careful to keep potential dangers in perspective? And refrain from feeding the anxiety beast by sharing scary "it happened to me" Facebook posts until the truth is a bit more clear?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Know-Nothing Foreign Policy Brought to You By Twitter (and it's as dangerous as it sounds)!

I listened to a few moments of President Trump's (those are two words I have yet to say out loud together) announcement last night that he had authorized the bombing of air bases in Syria. It's the first time I've watched him since he was elected. I had to turn it off after less than a minute because it is so disheartening to realize that he is in charge of our nation's military and our foreign policy decisions. The man who has stated he doesn't need daily intelligence briefings because he's "like, a smart person" now gets to decide who we bomb (because he changed his previous position that Congress actually should be consulted about such things).

I'm not going to argue here whether or not the bombings were an appropriate response to the horrific use of sarin in a chemical attack against the Syrian people, including many children. Bashar al-Assad is a nasty individual and his atrocities are long and reprehensible. Many world leaders as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle in our country have spoken out with support for Trump's decision. I know Hillary Clinton would have bombed those same airbases if she was sitting in the Oval Office. But I just don't trust the man who is making the decisions for our country and his ability to navigate the consequences moving forward.

Back in September 2013, Trump had a very different opinion on whether or not we should respond to the horror in Syria with military action (and side note - I think that Syria is one of President Obama's greatest policy failures, with the "line in the sand" that somehow just disappeared):

Now, I understand that people's positions on issues can change over time. For example, we saw both President Obama and Secretary Clinton's stance on gay marriage shift over the course of a decade. I hope we all are open to hearing other perspectives and perhaps adjusting our own opinions when we receive new information or better understand a persuasive argument. But our current president has changed the position he took just one week ago!

Our ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said at the end of March that it no longer would be a priority of the United States to remove Assad from power. Our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shared that the fate of Assad should be left to the Syrian people. This redirect seems to show the administration's desire to keeps our country's hands out of the Syrian conflict and "worry about our own," which was a popular campaign point. Go back a few more months, and Trump asserted during the second presidential debate that we should work with Russia and Syria (aka Putin and Assad) to defeat ISIS (which ran counter to the approach that his then-running mate Pence put forth in his own debate, because I guess they don't talk to each other).

So, what happened? From what I understand, he saw the video of the chemical weapon victims and was shocked, SHOCKED by what had taken place. He said it was horrible. You know what? I think it was horrible as well. My heart aches for the people of Syria, for the children who are no different than my own and who deserve the security that my family enjoys. But sadly, I wasn't shocked. Not really at all. It's par for the course for the murderous regime under which the Syrian people suffer. That is, when they aren't being slaughtered by ISIS or the Russians. (But please, let's keep them far away from our shores, right? I challenge you to look in the eyes of the man who lost his wife and twin babies in the gas attack this week and tell him you would have been opposed to letting his family into our country to escape their gruesome fate. #MAGA)

If our president actually read his intelligence briefings, maybe he wouldn't have been so surprised.

Our leaders should be disturbed by videos of children suffocating to death. On that point, the president and I agree. But Trump is a man who admits he does not read, who gets his information about global affairs from morning talk shows, and who likely has a less nuanced understanding of geopolitics than my seven-year-old son. He feels one way on a policy matter when it fits what he needs and then does a complete reversal not based on logic or new information but because of emotion or hurt feelings (ex. he hated the Electoral College and thought we should march in the streets against it and then suddenly, on November 8 of last year, he thought it was awesome -- his Twitter history will back me up on this one).

And let's go back to those 2013 tweets for a moment. There WAS video evidence of the chemical attack in the Ghouta region of Syria that summer. I remember watching it on the news and crying. You can still find the link to the news stories right here, and the BBC will warn you that the images are disturbing. And it was AFTER the media shared images of the 2013 war crimes that Trump tweeted his opposition to getting involved. Here's another "Trump tweet," just two weeks after the chemical weapons were dropped on August 21, 2013:

The acts of Assad were war crimes in 2013 and they continue to be in 2017. Why didn't the visual evidence bother him the first time? Why did he have a completely different reaction to the exact same atrocity? I guess The Apprentice was filming four years ago and Trump didn't get a chance to see the tiny victims in 2013. Surely then he would have refrained from GOING ALL CAPS and claiming that our president would be "FOOLISH" to attack Syria . . . for the very same reasons and with the same evidence that Trump is attacking that country now.

It's just all so troubling because every move that Trump makes seems to be borne out of a rash and emotional reaction, like when my child falls on the floor in anguish as I tell him he needs to brush his teeth. (Son, if you stop and think about it for a minute and read those cute cavity prevention briefings that the Tooth Fairy brought to your school, you would realize that brushing your teeth is good for you.) I do not see any foresight or long-term planning in the actions taken by the president, domestically or internationally.

Like this example, as a health care policy aside: "Hey, Freedom Caucus . . . even those you all are really conservative and some voters actually thought I might be . . . ha, ha, ha!! . . . you guys now suck because you don't like everything I do and I'm awesome so now I'm going to work with the Democrats and make sure you lose your next election."

Trump has no idea what he is doing and the consequences are "huuuger" than can be expressed.

With Russia and North Korea and terrorist groups like ISIS plaguing the security of our planet, we cannot afford a president who puts no thought into foreign policy and whose perspective suddenly can change based on a video that should have disgusted but not shocked any person with knowledge of the region. We now get to sit back and watch as he continues to make uninformed decisions about war and death as he goes. Whatever he fancies in that moment will do. Do you know what Trump's next steps are in Syria? You're not alone . . . neither does he.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Teens on TV - Then and Now

Last weekend, I was flipping channels and landed on an episode of Full House. I watched as a classic story line unfolded. DJ's boyfriend Steve was elected prom king. Then DJ's face fell as Steve's ex-girlfriend was announced as his queen. Would standing side by side on that high school gymnasium stage reignite old passions and leave DJ standing alone? Or would Steve realize the other girl was an "ex" for a reason and DJ was the only one for him?

As the plot reached its climax, with Uncle Jesse's band providing well-placed background music, I could not help but think about two details that make this 1993 episode different than the offerings of the same genre that are available today.

First, DJ Tanner dressed like most girls her age were dressing across America in 1993. In fact, her prom dress looks almost exactly like a dress I wore to homecoming in 1990 (because, apparently, I am more fashion forward than a fictional teenager in San Francisco). She looked like a typical 17-year-old kid and, as I also attended my senior prom in 1993, I probably watched that show and was able to see myself in DJ Tanner and her friends.

Second, if filmed in 2017, Candace Cameron probably would have been mocked on social media for being overweight. It breaks my heart that I had such a gut reaction when watching the show, but it shows how ridiculous and harmful our expectations have become. I mean, did you see all the internet cowards mocking the fierce and beautiful Lady Gaga after her halftime performance for supposedly having too much of a belly? It's absurd.

When I was growing up, I watched characters like Mallory Keaton on Family Ties, Vanessa Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Darlene Connor on Roseanne, Samantha Micelli on Who's the Boss?, and whoever the girl was on ALF (I just remember that I really liked the denim skirt she wore during the opening credits). They were relatable in their sweaters and jeans. They acted like the other kids and teenagers in my neighborhood. They worried about grades and friends and argued with their parents. They got cranky. They fought with their siblings. They wore all black when going through a season of not understanding who they are or where they fit in and then graduated to a lot of flannel (I'm looking at you, Darlene, and I feel you).


My daughter occasionally will watch some of the offerings on the Disney Channel that feature preteen and teenage girls. While some of these shows offer good messages about being smart and being engaged in your community (and most are just painful with bad writing and parental figures who either are absent or act like idiots . . . seriously, the parents in these shows have nothing to offer), I also tell her these girls do not seem very realistic to me. Every leading girl is dressed in professionally accessorized ensembles with make up application that bests my wedding day face.

I've seen the awesome middle school and high school kids waiting for the bus in my neighborhood every morning. They don't look like that.

Liv and Maddie -- one's a tomboy and one likes dresses! (2013 - present)

I know that body image issues have existed as long as we have had bodies. Even DJ Tanner passed out on the stairmaster in one episode of Full House after exercising too hard and not eating (this is my most Full House-filled post ever). Lisa Whelchel shared that she was often told by producers on The Facts of Life that she needed to lose weight. Tracy Gold battled anorexia for much of her time starring on Growing Pains. And I remember putting on my new pair of Lee jeans in 1984, when I was nine years old, and thinking they made my thighs look smaller. I realize that problems existed then. So, I don't THINK I'm wearing rose-colored glasses when comparing my childhood shows to what is available today. Or am I? Am I just caught in a wave of nostalgia?

And don't get me wrong -- girls can be anything they want and look any way they want. After all, we come in all sorts of healthy shapes and sizes and the media should portray that. If it brings a girl joy to embrace fashion and cosmetics, then go for it. (If she wants to try wearing eye shadow for the first time in the eighth grade and when people ask what is wrong with her face, she wants to tell them she fell and hit a door instead of admitting that the pink and purple shadow combo wasn't really working for her, then she should do that . . . I mean, this is just a hypothetical, of course . . . I have no knowledge of something like this actually happening . . . in 1988 . . . in Mrs. Algire's English class.) I just feel like the branding and the expectations of these young women is so different than when I was growing up. Everything is so polished all the time.

I'm sure that Netflix or Amazon Prime has some multiple-award-winning show that perfectly captures today's preteen. Or maybe there is even some network show that I'm just missing. Or maybe people just aren't making sitcoms much anymore at all, for any age group, so the opportunities to portray a variety of 12-17 year old girls is not there. I just want my daughter to have a couple of those shows like I did--that told stories for girls of her age in funny and real and awkward ways.

I would love to hear from other parents who grew up watching the same shows as me. Is the programming for kids and teens different now? Are there "realistic" portrayals of everyday life out there for viewing consumption? I am ready and willing to learn that I'm super wrong about my perceptions of today's TV.

Friday, January 13, 2017

1,461 Days

Starting a week from today, our country begins the first of 1,461 days in which it must endure a Trump administration. That is, if our president-elect doesn't become bored of the job before January 20, 2021, and I'm not altogether convinced that won't happen.

I have opposed the platforms of presidents before. I have wished that other candidates won the nomination of their party. I did not vote for President Obama in 2008 or 2012 and disagree with a good deal of his policies. I still think it's a bit weird how little we know about his childhood friends and his education and pretty much everything else before he became a state senator in Illinois, because (I think) the media did not want to look too hard and risk finding something they didn't like. However, I was able to criticize his positions on certain issues and still have respect for the man and the office he holds. I was able to tell my children, "I did not vote for him. I have many opinions that differ from those he holds. But, he is a smart man, a kind man, and he appears to be an amazing husband and father. I could sit down with him and discuss our differences and feel like he was listening to me. That's important. That's leadership."

One week from today, this will change.

Donald Trump is going to be awful for our country. I need to believe that the United States is going to survive his presidency (and I mean "survive" literally . . . I really hope our nation doesn't actually blow up) but it's not going to be a pleasant ride in the meantime. Most Americans are hard-working, charitable, strong, community-minded, justice-seeking people. Most people are good. We still have founding documents that, when not abused, promote liberty and prosperity and the right to both succeed and fail. That is our hope moving forward.

I don't declare my dismay over our president-elect as a "libtard snowflake" (one of the sweet nicknames created by the alt-right for those who are dismayed by the election results) who is upset my side lost. In fact, I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, either, even though I think she would have been far less dangerous sitting in the Oval Office than the man who is about to be there.

Instead, I reach my position as someone who has immersed herself in politics for three decades, who has read the Constitution countless times, who majored in government and politics, who taught political science, and who campaigned for dozens of candidates. I reach my position as a small government conservative who values the arguments made in The Federalist Papers in support of our fledgling nation, as someone who wants D.C. to be involved in as little as possible. In other words, my conclusions come from the head and not from the heart (although my heart finds him super gross as well and sometimes listening to your gut/emotions is a good way to go).

I know that others who have studied the issues as much or more than me have reached an opposite conclusion. We will just have to disagree and wait and see what happens.

Yes, Trump is boorish. But, on its face, that is not my main concern. There have been many crude presidents before him and, in spite of that, some of these men have made amazing contributions to our country. Lyndon Johnson said offensive things about women, and engaged in acts with women, that easily could rival what Trump has shown us. And, the story goes that he would put his genitals on display as an intimidation tactic during meetings in the Oval Office. So, that's something.

Point is, there sadly is no shortage of leaders in our country who have viewed woman as their playthings. I imagine at least several of our former presidents have made statements similar to those infamous comments that Trump made to Billy Bush on a bus. But they did so during a time when presidents (for better or worse) were protected by the media and technology did not allow every utterance to be caught on audio and video and then analyzed without end on 24/7 media. Now we have a president-elect who brags about the size of his penis during a (inter)nationally televised debate supposedly on the issues of our day (that made for a fun mother-daughter moment in my home -- nothing like having to censor a presidential debate due to its explicit sexual content), who wonders aloud during a television interview if his newborn daughter will have large breasts like his wife, and who openly, knowing he is being recorded, calls women "pigs" and "nice pieces of ass."

There also have been other presidents who fit the label of racist much better than Trump ever will (again, see Lyndon Johnson . . . and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Johnson and . . .). There have been others who had to learn the issues after being elected and who were generally offensive people and bullies. Trump is not a trailblazer in any of these categories. Let's not pretend to gasp in collective shock at the notion that our country could elect someone with his viewpoints and behavior. It's not OK, but it's not uncommon in our history (or the history of any nation, for that matter).

Here's the problem, though. We live in a different world now, much different even than when President Obama was first elected in 2008 -- a world in which communication is instant and far reaching and permanent. And, we have elected a man who shares his preschool temperament with the entire globe on social media -- usually to belittle or taunt all of his real and perceived enemies. Just this morning, he threw out a tweet calling Hillary Clinton a huge loser. Why? The election ended two months ago. How un-presidential it is to continue to grind her nose in it! What a lovely example for our children.

In 2017, as we exist in a world in which millions of people can read a ridiculous tweet in a matter of seconds, this outlet is dangerous in the wrong hands. Those who believe Donald Trump is going to make America safe again (especially after he made fear the centerpiece of his convention and painted our country as a terrifying place with death and violence lurking around every corner) have placed our nation in the care of a man who has no discipline when it comes to editing what is in his brain before he makes it available for public consumption. That is going to irritate the wrong world leader or terrorist and the consequences will be fatal. I'm not saying you don't stand up to dictators and religious zealots bent on genocide, but you do it thoughtfully and with a plan -- not with the same vitriol and shooting-from-the-hip style that you use to mock Meryl Streep.

But let's go beyond personality and communication style. What about policy substance? Our country has elected an authoritarian who seems to have little knowledge of, or regard for, the Constitution -- a man who had people cheering with cult-like fervor at his rallies as he made incendiary statements against all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (refresher course -- religion, assembly, petition, press, and speech). I fail to understand how conservatives who wrapped themselves in the flag believe that this guy will be a champion for limited government, federalism, and the other founding principles upon which our nation is founded. I have no doubt that my fifth grader knows more about the Bill of Rights, the machinations of our three branches, and the pivotal events in our nation's history than the man who is about to be our president. But, my biggest problem with Trump's lack of policy insight is that he doesn't seem to CARE that he doesn't know anything! In fact, he flaunts it!

I was not bothered when then-presidential candidate George W. Bush could not name the leader of every small nation in Eastern Europe and Africa. Who would expect the governor of Texas to know them? (I instead thought the reporter was acting like a jerk for pulling that stunt.) What matters is how you immerse yourself in new information and respect those who have knowledge to share with you once you're in office. And with Trump's lack of interest in attending security briefings (good thing there's nothing dangerous going on in the world and no threats at all to our homeland!) and his distrust of our intelligence community, we now will have a president who wishes to remain blissfully ignorant and make rash decisions. Awesome.

It breaks my heart for our country that we will spend 1,461 days with President Trump. I love America so much . . . she deserves better. I'm sad that my daughter will be a freshman in high school by the time he's out of office. (I'm only giving the man one term . . . there's no way America will want more than four years of this stuff, right? Let's have our "stick it to the D.C. politicians" moment and move on.) I've told my parents to stay healthy and strong so that they can make sure Donald Trump is not the last president that have to experience here on earth.

But, here's the thing. It doesn't do me any good to wring my hands or wish America could wake up from this nightmare or continue to assert how bad Trump is going to be for men and women, black and white, rich and poor in our nation. It's a waste of time. I'm not under some ridiculous assumption that someone is going to read my blog and think, "Man, I was all about the Trump train and making America great again but I was super wrong about all that!" My blog is my needed outlet. I do it for me. That's all.

So, knowing my acute limitations in affecting change, I've been working on my survival plan . . . what I will and will not be doing over the next four years to endure a Trump administration.

I WILL NOT watch the inauguration on January 20. Instead, I have a doctor's appointment that morning that involves multiple needles and then a two-hour meeting at work in which we are going to review the fourth-quarter earnings. Both of my agenda items are more appealing than watching Trump become president, so I'm good there. But I also WILL NOT take issue with my family and friends who are attending the inauguration or who are excited to watch it on TV.

I WILL tell my children that Trump's behavior and his language and his lack of intellectual curiosity are not appropriate and that we should expect more from our leaders.

I WILL NOT endorse any name calling like "orange Cheeto man" and "buffoon" and "Nazi" and "***** *** ****** ****" because it's pointless and belittles any real criticism of the man and makes our behavior as silly and abhorrent as that of the incoming president himself. I despised the name calling when it happened to George W. Bush and Barack Obama as well. It's childish.

I WILL continue to share that Trump stands in stark contradiction to my values as a Christian and that my faith played a large role in my complete inability to vote for him. I understand that some Christians voted for him because they saw him as the lesser of two evils among the major party candidates. I DON'T understand the evangelical leaders who enthusiastically endorsed him above all others, threw their arms around him, and said it was God's will for a great man like Trump to lead our nation (I'm looking at you, Franklin Graham.) How many of the red words of Scripture did they have to ignore to believe what they were selling?

I WILL NOT declare that you cannot be a Christian if you voted for Trump. I saw this proclaimed so much in reverse during the campaign, and, to me, this division among the body of Christ was one of the saddest things to happen in 2016. Some of the men and women who I admire as Christian mentors, who are generous and loving and true servants in their community, did not vote for Donald Trump. And some of them did. To question their faith in either instance is absurd.

I WILL continue to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both by myself and with my children. It's almost time to introduce my girl to The Federalist Papers and Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Doing this is now more important than ever.

I WILL unfollow anyone on Facebook who posts fake news stories, particularly ones with misleading headlines that have random words in capital letters. I think there is little more that caused destruction in the last election cycle than "news" articles posted by internet "news" sites on the far right and far left that purposefully spread garbage. People would share these links online without ever reading the articles or fact checking to see if the assertions are true. And then others would believe they were true because a friend posted them so it must be legit. I make it a point to read opinion pieces from different perspectives and to have conversations with people who disagree with me, and need to do it even more. But I have no use for trash websites that seek to inflame with twisting of the truth or just outright lies. Along those same lines, I will give an automatic unfollow to anyone who posts outrageous political memes. Our discourse has to be better than that.

I WILL vote in every local, state, and federal election over the next four years, which is no different than my track record over the last twenty-four years. And, I imagine there will be Republican, Democrats, and third-party candidates who receive my vote. I WILL NOT vote for anyone who actively campaigned for President-elect Trump.

I WILL NOT support the call to build a wall along our border (a project for which the American taxpayer will be the only contributor ever). Why? Because as much as Trump seems to get along with and admire the leadership style of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, we are not a Soviet regime and the Rio Grande is not Berlin.

I WILL advocate for sensible immigration reform. I do believe we need to have a better grasp of who is coming in and out of our country and what their intentions are. It's 2017 . . . there are more efficient and humane ways of doing this than with bricks.

I WILL make my village even stronger and welcome new friends into its fold. We all will need community even more in the days ahead. Most importantly, we need this because are so separated by technology and stereotypes and fear that we don't know how to interact with each other anymore, especially when the other person doesn't look like us or talk like us or worship like us or vote like us. This country will find a lot of healing just by looking our neighbors in the eyes and listening to their stories.  Also, I'm not much into doomsday predictions and I don't have an underground bunker filled with canned goods and matches, but I do think Trump is capable of wreaking serious havoc on our infrastructure and homeland security. I want to know I'm part of a crew that looks out for one another (and if one looks like, and shoots a crossbow like, Daryl, that would be a bonus) when things get tough.

I WILL continue on my quest to find someone who can introduce me to Detroit Lions' running back Ameer Abdullah. I have kept him on my fantasy football team for the past two years even when he was injured because he was a history major in college and because I think he is super handsome and I feel like he should know that.