(Un?)conscious Privilege

What a week, huh? Though the world has never had a single boring day, some weeks pass by without “major” events happening—or at least not that the media shares with us when there are more pressing matters like what Kim and Kanye are wearing.

But last week brought us some biggies. Continue reading “(Un?)conscious Privilege”

Let’s Not Just Remember, But Do

crosses at cemetery on Memorial Day
flag star
A star from my father’s flag.

For Americans, today is Memorial Day. A day intended to remember and appreciate the sacrifices that men and women have made so that the citizens of the United States have rights that include free speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial…and so much more.

We are indeed the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” but the U.S. is not exactly a well-oiled machine, now is it? Continue reading “Let’s Not Just Remember, But Do”

Time to Cross the Bridge

There were some inspiring acceptance speeches given at last night’s Oscars. From Patricia Arquette to Graham Moore, several recipients chose to speak their hearts, and it made the very long telecast that much more compelling.




John Legend and Common’s performance of “Glory” was absolutely beautiful, and when they accepted the Oscar for Best Original Song, their words spoke to my heart. Common recalled performing the song at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and how the bridge was “built on hope, welded with compassion, and elevated with love for all human beings.” Powerful and eloquent.

In 2015, we still need to cross that bridge. We have not yet made it to the Promised Land.

Back in 2013, I wrote a post titled “My Problem with Tolerance.” Though it is neither powerful nor eloquent, I am sharing it again here because it expresses my thoughts on one of the things I think we need to acknowledge if we are ever going to completely cross that bridge.

Don’t you think it’s time?


Originally posted on October 14, 2013.


My Problem with Tolerance


salad 3

Please note: this post may have an idea or two that you are not comfortable with, along with an extreme overuse of quotation marks and italics. There may also be some rambling. Proceed at your own risk.

I have an issue with the notion of “tolerance” as a way of coexistence.

When I hear people who are “in favor of tolerance,” I wince a bit. Why?

Here’s my issue: tolerance, by way of definition is a capacity to endure pain or hardship…sympathy or indulgence for differing beliefs…the act of allowing something…the allowable deviation from a standard.

Tolerance implies “permission” from an “authority” or “sympathy” for the different. I find it condescending.

I don’t want tolerance. I need acceptance.

Now, for me, there are times the word tolerance is spot on. For instance, I will use it with my son (“I will not tolerate your using the dog like a wheelbarrow”) because I am an authority figure (most days) for him, trying to set healthy boundaries. Other instances where this word makes perfect sense is in not tolerating abuse of others or the breaking of a law. As the definition goes, these things deviate beyond the standard. I have no issues with not tolerating pedophiles or rapists or anyone else who hurts another.

But it’s not up to me to tolerate another person’s race, religion, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation…or any other kind of law-abiding “type.”

It is not mine to offer “sympathy” for what might be different from me. Who am I to tolerate another person’s nationality? And on the flip, who is tolerating mine? Should I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t hear so many mafia jokes now that The Sopranos is off the air?

To me, it all boils down to Differentism. It’s the one ism that encompasses all the other discriminating isms—because all of them are about being different in one way or another. And what is at the core of Differentism? Fear. Fearing that which is different from you. (Or that you at least think is different from you.)

To me, it is fear that causes so much pain.

Cultures that oppress women and deny girls an education…what on God’s green earth would be a legitimate reason for wanting to keep someone uneducated? Why wouldn’t we be cheering for the support of raising up more women like the young Malala Yousafzai? The more we educate everyone, the better our overall world will be. Why would anyone want to keep another in the dark if not for fear?

Of course, the answer might also be “hatred,” but that is rooted in fear, too, isn’t it?

We fear what we don’t know or understand.

The one thing I see that helps overcome this is…learning. Talking. Connecting. Striving to understand. Realizing we are more alike than different. And while that which is different may not be our cup of tea, it’s not ours to throw stones at, either. Or to “put up with.”

As an American, I am blessed to be a part of a country that reflects the faces of many nations. Unless you are a Native American, your ancestry will cross at least one border. It’s a huge part of what makes us who we are. Our country is not a pedigree but a mutt (and if you’re a dog fan, you know that pedigrees can be sickly and quirky due to keeping the blood so “pure,” but mutts are strong and full of personality). Why are there those of us who see it as “us vs them”? We are both!

But I don’t want America to be a melting pot. You know why? Because it takes and makes everything into one thing—it boils it all down and blends it all up. I want America to be a delicious salad with all sorts of ingredients tossed together that enhance the whole dish. Together better than apart. But not all homogenized–still with the qualities that make us who we are. That shouldn’t just be the American Way, but the way of the world…at least according to me.

We don’t need to tolerate one another. We need to understand, love, support, help, and even celebrate one another.

If you’re still reading this rambling manifesto, go pour yourself a glass of wine (or beer. or vodka. or one of each. or more). You deserve it. But I hope that my tossed salad offers some food for thought about the nuances of the words we use when we talk about one another.

I don’t want you to tolerate me. I hope that you can accept me as I am: a goofy, flawed, work-in-progess.

And I’ll do the same for you.


Please note that there may be advertisements below via WordPress.com.
The presence of these ads does not constitute endorsement of the information, services, or products found in them.

Only Light Can Do That

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 Strength To Love, 1963


The recent deadly attacks in Paris by terrorists against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have much of the world on edge. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I can’t help but wonder what the Rev. Dr. King would have to say about it all. Though we have made strides in fulfilling his “dream,” we have a very long way to go.

When I think of Dr. King, I think of his faith, hope, perseverance, love, wisdom, compassion, grace, and peace–and his work for justice and freedom for all.

I don’t believe we can move forward by staying silent, and as a former English teacher, you can bet your sweet bippy that I am not a fan of book banning. Censorship does not make “bad” go away–it just makes it find other ways to come out. And who exactly has the final word on what “bad” is anyway? To this day, books like To Kill a Mockingbird are banned from many schools.

I absolutely loved teaching Mockingbird in major part because of the fact that it offered opportunities for students to discuss some very important issues–discussions that often led to understanding the world and each other a little better. That’s what brings the light.

So on this day, I want to share a post I wrote around a year ago. (It was back when I posted on “Frabjous Friday,” which I no longer do because of time constraints.) Though my story doesn’t directly deal with civil rights, I believe Dr. King would appreciate it because those students felt what it was like to have a voice. And as he said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Thank you, Dr. King.





The Day Harper Lee Wrote Back


Originally posted January 3, 2014.


The idea behind my Frabjous Friday posts is to share something joyful–or at least something that will make you smile. Today’s post was a very joyful moment in my life, and I’d like to share it with you. It happened 17 years ago almost to the day. It’s a little longer than my typical Friday post, but I hope you’ll find it worth your time.

Back when I taught high school English, my freshman class read To Kill a Mockingbird as one of our core novels. I loved that book as a student, and I treasured it as a teacher. So many layers to explore and think about all delivered in a wonderfully descriptive and even suspenseful way. There was no greater joy for me as a teacher than to see a student come alive within the pages of a book, and Ms. Lee’s one and only published novel kindled that time and again.

One of the activities that we did after reading it was to send notes to Harper Lee. The first time I did this and told the kids we were really going to send the letters, they were stunned. Really? In junior high they did the activity frequently, and it was just for “pretend,” as they called it. I told them why wouldn’t we send them when she is still around to receive them? This made them take their own words a little more seriously. A real author–one whose work many had grown to care for–would be reading it, after all!

I showed them all how I put their letters into a big manila envelope and addressed it to “Harper Lee, Monroeville, Alabama” with the proper zip code. Since Harper Lee was a recluse, this was the best I could do. I figured the town knew her whereabouts.

The first year’s letter writing experience had been positive enough that I did it again the next year, with much the same response from the students. As a teacher, it was satisfying to know that the kids realized their words were being delivered. It mattered.

I just didn’t know it mattered to Ms. Lee, too.

One day, a few weeks after the second batch of letters had been sent, I went to my teacher’s mailbox. Inside was an envelope the size of a thank you card, and I could see that the return address had “Monroeville, AL” written on it. My hands started to tremble. Was it possible that one of the nation’s great authors had written back to us?

Why, yes. Yes she did.




I couldn’t believe it. How kind she was to let my students (and me!) know that she had read every letter with “great care and enjoyment.” My students were giddy with excitement–and it’s not often you see 14-year-olds giddy about anything. It was a tremendous validation for them–and for me as an educator. Words matter. Thought matters. Kindness matters.

I hope my former students think back on that experience with joy. I know I do. Ms. Lee’s letter still graces my office and makes me smile every time I see it.

17 years ago Harper Lee wished me and my students a Happy New Year. How cool is that?

Happy New Year to all of you, too!

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~Atticus Finch


All photos are my own.
Please note that there may be advertisements below via WordPress.com.
The presence of these ads does not constitute endorsement of the information, services, or products found in them.

Don’t Duck, Goose!

While I was in the bathroom yesterday morning, my son came knocking with a, “Mom! What do you feed a baby goose?!” Of course, I wondered why this question was of such urgency, and he informed me that there was a baby goose in our front yard.

I’m sure most moms know the next line of this script: “I’ll be right out,” I told him.


purple cropped_tag


In the couple minutes it took me to get to the yard, our little feathered friend had moved to the next yard over—which was being mowed by big landscaper mowers. My husband pointed me in the right direction, and I could already hear the little one’s cries over the white noise of the mower.

The landscaper knew we were trying to help the little bugger who, for simplicity’s sake, I will now refer to as Gus. Gus the Goose. He wasn’t quite a baby goose, though, more like a toddler or tween (beyond “gosling”—and I don’t mean Ryan—I am not up on my goose terminology). So the landscaper scooped up Gus, who was ensnared in some tall weeds, and gently set him down on our side of the fence.

Little Gus freaked.

He cried and ran around, well—for lack of an appropriate goose cliché—like a chicken with his head cut off.

No matter how slowly we moved or sweetly we cooed to him, he wanted nothing to do with us. The trouble was, he couldn’t fly, and unless he wanted to live in our yard until that day where his wings would lift him, he needed our help.

Unlike the wonderful nature shows filled with men and women who are extremely knowledgeable about wildlife, our little group’s best instinct was to offer water and some sunflower seeds along with some calming and reassuring voices.

Shockingly, Gus did not speak English. If we approached two steps, Gus frantically waddled seventy.

Eventually he resigned himself to his panic and fear and the seeming futility of it all. He waddled to the corner of our house by the glider door, nestled down, and ducked his little beak under a row of siding.


Vito and Gus


Our dog, Vito, as you can see, offered up a welcoming committee that Gus denied.

Here he was, needing help, having people want to help him, and all he could do was poop on our deck.

After he rested a few, we planned to pick him up and put him over our fence to set him free.

Still not speaking English, Gus freaked again.

He ran to the far corner of our yard, which has a compost hill, and climbed it. It wasn’t tall enough for him to make his escape, though, and while my husband moved in to scoop him up, poor Gus just jammed his head through the hole of the chain-link fence—as if maybe if he tried hard enough, his whole body would pop through.

He pretty much looked like a tween goose in the stockade.


Vito close_tag


But while he was in his own self-imposed stocks, my husband scooped him up and set him out of our yard.

Now he had his freedom, but…what would that mean? Little Gus on his own? My son and husband jumped the fence to follow Gus and make sure he could find his way to our nearby lake.

Within minutes, they came back and shared that they hadn’t made it to the lake because on the way, there was a group of adult geese that Gus ran into. It didn’t seem like his family, they said, because the geese didn’t exactly welcome him. No, first…they pecked him. I guess there is actual meaning behind the term “pecking order”! And once they pecked him a couple of times, they let him stay.

Now, I don’t speak Goose, just like Gus didn’t know English, but I’d like to think that that was their way of saying, “You can stick with us, just know your place,” because my guys said that after that, they all just kept on waddling.


bird feeder_tag


It was time to exhale. Our little Gus had found his adoptive family, or at least picked up with a group that might show him the way back home.

After all of the excitement, I got to thinking—how many times had I, like Gus, been unable to see the helping hand extended to me? How many times had I ducked my figurative beak into a wall and hoped the problem would go away?

Gus was offered help all along—from the kind landscaper to our clumsy family—but he was too scared to be able to trust the offer. How many times and in how many ways have I been running around squawking and essentially running away from help, just like our little goose?

Someday Gus will make it to flight stage. He will be able to soar and swoop and see the world in a whole new way. I doubt that he’ll remember that before he could fly, he needed a little lift from a family of strangers…but I’d like to think that somewhere in his birdbrain he does have a little less fear and a slightly better understanding of the world around him.

Just like me.

It’s Not About the Burgers

flag star
A star from my father’s flag.

It’s that time of year where we speak of “the kickoff to summer,” as we celebrate a long weekend and fire up the grill…

But it’s not about the burgers, is it?

Of course, it is a great opportunity to hang out with family and friends and enjoy time together–but if we don’t stop to remember why we have this day off, well, then…we miss out. Memorial Day isn’t just an arbitrary Monday off in the US.

It’s so much more than that.

Since I post to this blog on Mondays, I knew that there would be a post of mine from last year’s Memorial Day. In looking back at it, it still pretty much says what I feel about this day, so I’m going to share it here again. I hope that you will find it worth a few minutes of your time. And I hope that you make the time to remember this day for its true intent: to honor the fallen who gave their lives so that we might be able to live ours in freedom.

[To the international readers who grace me with your visits–thank you! And I hope you can understand and appreciate my focus on today’s American holiday of Memorial Day.]


On This, We Can Agree

Originally published 5.27.13

Most people recognize that today’s America is extremely polarized. Hostile camps are set up on pretty much every issue, to the point where our government can’t even work together to solve very solvable problems, and our population is all too comfortable denigrating one another’s views. But on this—I hope, I pray—we can agree: we thank and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. And we are grateful to all those who serve.

crosses at cemetery on Memorial Day
Thanking and remembering ALL.

Memorial Day was created after the Civil War to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that war. (And, of course, it has evolved to honor all Americans who have died in military service.) But perhaps its origin should be a lesson to us today—that extremely opposite sides can come together to honor the sacrifices made for this blessed country of ours.

I don’t mean to be simplistic about this at all. War is certainly not just good vs evil. Sometimes it is not even right. But no matter what the gray areas are of any given conflict, we must always remember that we have people who say, “I will risk my life for this”—and the “this” is ultimately the freedom we Americans enjoy—warts and all.

My dad served in World War II. My father-in-law was present at the Cuban Missile Crisis. I never got to know a cousin of mine because he died in Vietnam when I was just a baby. I have friends and neighbors who bravely serve and have served. Hundreds of thousands of people who don’t even know me are taking care of business on my behalf.

Thank you all.

I pray that as a country we strive to be better people every day, and that we grow in acceptance, respect, and love for one another. To me, anything less is a dishonor to those who have given us their all.

Thank you.
Thank you.