Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

The Mukluk Man: An Odd but Accurate Exemplar of How Assaulted Women Are Treated

It’s time to tell my story of the Mukluk Man. Well, more accurately the story is about Mr. Intense, but Mukluk Man factors in and makes for a better title. The story itself, though, is utterly representative of how women are “handled” when it comes to being treated poorly—and often criminally—by men.

Continue reading “The Mukluk Man: An Odd but Accurate Exemplar of How Assaulted Women Are Treated”

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Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

Equality: Believing in It Doesn’t Make It So

When my husband and I had our son, we knew we wanted him to see the world and its differences with as much love and as little prejudice as possible. We wanted him to know that people are both different and similar and that it made the world more interesting and beautiful. Continue reading “Equality: Believing in It Doesn’t Make It So”

Posted in Soapbox

Because One (or More) Bad Apples Can Spoil the Whole Bunch

Contrary to the Jackson Five song, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, girl. And if you don’t know that when you go apple picking, you risk losing all that you worked for.

The same goes for many professions, too— Continue reading “Because One (or More) Bad Apples Can Spoil the Whole Bunch”

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

But That’s Not Fair!

Last week, the small town of Fairdale, Illinois was ravaged by an EF-4 tornado. What was once a community is now reduced to what looks like Pick-Up-Stix. One reporter said that had the tornado struck a quarter mile either north or south, the town would have been spared.

 

Fairdale Google Map

 

All that open space, but the tornado roared right through the town.

So not fair.

Most people are born healthy while some are born sick. Some face illness later in life. Others aren’t sick a day in their lives.

Qatar is the richest country in the world, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the poorest (based on per-capita GDP). I bet whether you are born in one or the other plays a huge part in your quality of life and your future. And where you’re born really isn’t up to you now, is it?

In the much more mundane and insignificant realm, there is the story of when my over-30 softball team made it to the championship—played on a freezing November night. The opposing team brought a 200’ extension cord to power a space heater and warm up their bats. They scored three runs in the top half of the first inning before the umpire agreed that their being able to heat their bats was unfair. Those three runs were the only ones scored in the game. Championship lost. (Yes, I’m still bitter about it.)

 

trophies

 

Things happen. Bad things happen to “good” people, and good things happen to “bad” people…and vice versa. It’s a pretty simple reality—all you have to do is look around you.

Life isn’t fair.

I get frustrated when people preach that being Christian means one’s life will be easier. Pardon me, but that’s a load of crap. There is no magic get-out-of-jail-free card. Faith will help you be better able to deal with life’s injustices and challenges, but if anyone tells you that believing will make your life all sunshine and lollipops, kick them in the shin (and then turn the other cheek. Wait, I may have that a bit confused.)

Bit I digress.

Fairness is not the default of life on earth. Just ask the gazelle being chased by the cheetah.

But don’t you long for it?

 

treasure

 

My son all too often begins a sentence with, “But I was just…” and then what follows is any one of a million explanations for why he was doing something he shouldn’t. It’s as though, given an excuse, everything can be made “right” or explained away. It’s a natural instinct, but it drives me crazy. Often when I tell my son that life isn’t fair, I remind him that he needs to understand that he can’t expect it to be fair, either.

I strongly believe we have to foster that in our children—not to expect fairness, but to fight for it. While we are not entitled to it, we shouldn’t settle for life’s injustices, either. The sooner kids understand this, the sooner they can choose to be active about it and not passively wait for justice.

Thankfully, that seems to be a part of the human spirit—fighting for fairness that will innately never happen on its own, and realizing that it is an uphill battle with no apex—no final destination. Not on this earth. We will never be victors when it comes to the fairness war, but battle by battle, we can make a difference. And I don’t think we’ll ever be short of battles.

Fairdale had no chance in battling against the tornado, but they are already battling the aftermath. As we so often see, after devastation comes restoration. We humans have a tendency to rise to our best when faced with the worst, and within hours of the storm, people were helping one another in critical ways.

It never ceases to amaze me how people even begin to clean up after such loss, but piece by piece, they do.

I’ll never understand how life works, but I’m so glad I have constant reminders to keep battling on. And on.

Life isn’t fair. It’s…life.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

 

All photos are my own or have been used with attribution.
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Posted in Soapbox

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.

 

inspiration

 

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.

 

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Posted in Life As I Know It

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.

 

TKAM

 

 

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.

 

Harper

 

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.
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