Friday, December 5, 2014

What Do You Call a Male Diva?

I just had a conversation with my husband who called another group of males "divas".  I replied that it seemed somewhat insulting to use this female term to insult a group of males....insulting to both genders, in my opinion.  There began a discussion on what you might call a male with this type of behavior.  A diva is a selfish, spoiled, must-have-her-way female.  It is a specifically female term but what is the concurrent male term?  I'm not sure there is one. 

I don't want to get all "feminist" on you (or maybe I do) but it seems to me that there is something wrong here.  How many pejorative words can you think of for women?  I would bet more than a few starting with mild words like "witch" (or the word that rhymes with it) and ending with words much more vile.  How many words can you think of that denigrate men....especially white men?  Professor Michael Mark Cohen wrote an excellent piece on that very subject.  I encourage you to check it out.  The fact is there are lots of ways to speak badly of women and we use them freely....even when we want to speak badly of men. 

"So what?" you may be saying to which I reply that words have power and how we use them conveys something important.  Attitudes and paradigms are formed by the words we speak and the words we listen to.  How we express ourselves speaks to the people we are as well as what is happening in our hearts and heads.  

Several years ago one of our boys was on a soccer team with a coach who would routinely try to spur the boys on by slurring women.  "You run like a bunch of girls" he would say or, worse, "What color are your panties?".  I'm proud to say that my husband  approached the coach asking him what our daughter was supposed to think about these slurs.  Jeff asked him to stop this behavior and when the coach didn't stop Jeff asked him to step down.  He did so leaving Jeff to coach the rest of the season.....not quite the outcome Jeff expected but worth it to get rid of a bad role model for our children.

These are the kind of actions required of individuals if society is going to change.  Every person, every day, must step up and do it better.  We have to call one another to better verbal behavior.  We have to be cautious and thoughtful about our own use of language.  And, for Heavens sake, if you have children, teach them a better way!

Please hear me when I say that the above conversation just got me thinking on this subject.  I don't bear any ill will toward my husband.  He will read this.  I know that he was simply  using the language he had and I don't question his heart.  What I question is a culture that makes it okay to use feminine language to put down others. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I met some fascinating people yesterday and want to encourage you to come meet them too.  One of our church partners is the Pregnancy Resource Medical Center of Fort Bend County.  Their mission is to be a "non-profit organization dedicated to providing peer counseling, education, and support services to women facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy".  These are pro-lifers that are putting their time and money where their mouth is.

I have to admit here that the whole pro-life/pro-choice debate is not a comfortable one for me.  Neither is it as black and white for me as it seems to be for many Christians.  The rebel in me wants to rail at a bunch of old guys in Washington telling me what to do with my own body.  Roe vs. Wade is pretty clear on my rights as a woman and yet reproductive rights are under fire more and more (especially in my own state of Texas....for an interesting take on this from Texas Monthly magazine check this out). I believe in the rights of the child but I also believe in the rights of women to choose.  For me this is an issue with massive shades of grey.  It is not black and white.  This is a position with no defense.  

I further admit to you that the people who picket Planned Parenthood are not people I want to identify with no matter what their motive.  As a Christian I feel there ought to be better ways to effect change in the world. Picketing with  ugly signs and harassing hurting women is just not something I can see Jesus doing.

On the other hand, I've long felt that we are altogether debating the wrong thing.  I've often thought that if both sides of this debate put their considerable energy into solutions we'd have one by now.  The people at the Pregnancy Resource Medical Center are doing just that.  They offer parenting classes, marriage classes, counseling, food, clothing, and so much more for families in crisis due to pregnancy.  They are a small drop in the huge ocean of need but they are doing something other than yammering and complaining.  I want to be part of that small drop!

The PRMC offers classes for parents on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 to 1130 am.  The Children's Ministry of Sugar Grove is going to provide a Bible class and some fun for the kids of the parents attending the Thursday class.  We expect about 20 children, ages 4 years through 12 years and we would love to have your help.  Families are welcome.  Please let me know if you are interested in being a part of this wonderful work.  

I've often felt, in this broken world we live in, we can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. Here is a chance to be part of the solution and in the realm of "what would Jesus do?" I think the answer is clear.  He would be at PRMC on Thursdays with us.....wait....actually, He will be!!! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

But Also Let Them Grow Up!

My last post was about letting your children enjoy their childhood and keeping things appropriate to their age (i.e. children drinking coffee which, IMHO, is an adult beverage).  The other side of this coin is people who don't allow their kids to grow up.  We know them as Hovering or Helicopter parents. 

I read a blog article this week that brings some of these issues to the front of my brain.  You can find the blog article here but I will recap in case you don't want to read (but please do as it's completely fascinating!)  A woman ran into the store one day and left her 4 year old in the car watching an iPad.  Cool day, car locked and alarmed, 5 minutes gone....suffice to say that I could see myself doing the same thing.  Someone saw and videotaped this incident with their phone and called the police.  Her life was consumed with this event (even to the point of possibly losing her children) and consequences ensued. 

Also this week was a story on the Today Show (which I watch every morning with my own grown up cup of java) about a teacher that left a message on a parent's cell phone....more of a message than she intended.  Her phone didn't hang up and her conversation with other teachers in the room was recorded on the end of her message to the parent.  She said, "He has no common sense.   He was seven in May and he's the biggest baby in my group. She still probably wipes his butt."  Now, let's all admit that this was unkind but let's also say that people who have jobs complain about them occasionally to co-workers.  And if you think teachers don't talk about the kids you're fooling yourself.   So, what did the mom do?  She has made her complaint to administration, refused the teacher and school apology and transferred her child to another school.  It seems to me that she has verified the teacher's opinion with her actions. 

As I type this I wonder what thread links these two stories because it's not obvious but in my mind there is indeed a link.  I suppose the link is a culture of fear in which we are raising our children.  What are we afraid of?  Maybe we're afraid that something will happen to them.   Goodness knows stuff happens but is the world truly a more dangerous place than it was when we were kids?  I never wore a bike helmet or a seat belt.  No one had car seats, much less car seats for 8 year olds.  For Heaven's sake, my younger brother and I rode our bikes around our neighborhood and sold lemonade to workers building houses when we were 9 and 10.  We roamed woods and half built houses all summer.  Were there just as many child abductions then but we just didn't know because we weren't blessed with the internet?  I don't really know but I know that I survived, my siblings survived and everyone I knew did also.  There's no doubt the world can be a dangerous place but are we ruled by irrational fear?  Sometimes I think the answer to that question is "YES!"  And is this irrational fear causing us to helicopter and overprotect our kids?  That would also often be a "yes" from what I can see.  The consequences of this behavior are grave.  We see children that are afraid to live and afraid to grow up.  Could this be why adolescence is now being defined as upward to age 27?

The second story is representative of another kind of fear.  Fear that my child won't be liked or perfect or everything I want him or her to be.  Fear that they will grow up and leave me?  Maybe a bit.  Fear that other people will think I'm a bad parent?  Maybe a bit more.  Fear that my child will suffer heartache and disappointment?    Lot's of fear with parenting.  Let's admit that right off.  What you've done is introduce into your family and the world at large an individual.  A person that will have to live, representing you and yours, on their own.  You want to get it right.

So, we've defined an issue (or two) but what's a parent to do?  It's all well and good to talk about the problem but how about some solutions?  I'm not sure I have "solutions" but I do have some ideas and because blogs with bullet points are easier to read I'm going to finish this with a few bullet points.

  • Pray, pray and pray some more.  Pray for wisdom, strength, patience, peace and anything else you think might help.  Pray because we are children of a Father that listens and loves.  Then do your part and parent to the best of your ability.
  • Be grateful for who they are.  They aren't any more perfect than you (surprise!).  Let them be who they were meant to be even if that isn't your ideal.  That doesn't mean you don't have expectations and goals for them but at the base of it you must let them be who they are designed to be.
  • Don't protect them from life's potholes.  Just don't.  That's really hard because no one likes to see their kid struggle but, trust me, they will struggle at some point and they will be totally unprepared for it if you haven't prepared them along the way.  I love the saying "Don't prepare the path for your child, prepare your child for the path" because it's so true!
  • Remember that actions have consequences.  Your actions and their actions.....all actions have consequences.  I'm a great believer in natural consequences as a disciplinary tool but we sometimes forget that our parental actions also have consequences.  I let my 4 year old sass me and she will be more skilled at it at 12.  I do my child's homework in 4th grade and he's unable to complete a High School assignment.  With kids, much like your garden, you reap what you sow.  So remember that your actions, for good or ill, have consequences.  
Like so much of life there is a balance to be struck here.  Protect them but don't smother them.  Love them but don't make them think they are the center of the universe.  Help them be who they are meant to be but don't tell them who they are meant to be (that's a really hard one!).  It's tough.  No one ever said parenting was easy but people have been doing it for a long, long time and people generally turn out okay.  

One more story and sorry for the long post.  When our oldest, Adam, was a Sophomore in college he decided to do a semester abroad.  He wasn't at one of those schools that sent a group of kids to a select place with approved teachers and a set place to live.  (I'm thinking ACU's Oxford groups here).  No, our son signed up with American International University and hiked off to London on his own.  He arranged his place to stay (through Craig's List....gasp!) and his own ticket.  We took him to the airport with his luggage and his guitar and put him on a plane bound for one of the biggest cities in the world with no idea of where he was staying.  He had an address and a name.  Two months later we put his younger brother on a plane to visit him.   Their plan was to meet at the Burger King in Victoria Station.  This was pre-cell phone days.  I will admit that those were two of the most difficult days of my life.  I worried myself sick but I let them go because I believed they could handle what came at them and they needed to go.  We had prepared them and they were ready.  I badly wanted to hover but, that time, I didn't.  I'm glad I didn't and so were they.  They still talk about the great time they had and how wonderful it was to be together.  

As I said earlier, there is a lot to fear in this world but we can't let fear rule us or our actions.  Wasn't it Churchill who said "The only thing to fear is fear itself"?  So, be fearless in your parenting.  Be fierce in protecting your kids and their right to be kids but also their right to grow up.  Let them grow up and enjoy each moment for they will be grown up before you know it.  Trust me, I know this to be true!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Please Let Your Children Be Children

We went camping a while the rain.  Boy, can I even begin to tell you how much fun that turned out to be?  There were several families present and several kids along for the ride with some of those families.  In other words, we were camping with children whose parents were not in attendance.  Somewhere along the way some kid (not saying one with or without parents there) wanted a cup of coffee.  We are talking 10 - 12 year old kids.....drinking coffee.

So, let me start by saying that if you let your kid drink coffee I'm not being judgmental.  Really, I'm not.  What I am saying is let's give some thought to what coffee represents.  Adults drink coffee.  Your kid is not an adult even though they may think of themselves that way and therein lies the problem I'm addressing in this blog.  (and let's not even get into the addiction of coffee along with the chemicals)

We live in a society that encourages our kids to grow up way too fast.  Television shows for children are depicting children as mini-adults.  The fashion industry wants our girls to dress like mini-women.  Sports organizations want our boys to train and play like mini-pros.  We equip our children with adult electronics (how many very young children do you know with an IProduct?) and we put educational pressure on them that would decimate any but the strongest.  It's tough to be a kid these days because practically no one wants them to be one.

As a parent you can do something about this issue.  Here are some practical ways to make a difference:

1.  Watch, carefully, what they are watching on television.  Be aware of adult attitudes modeled by the young actors.  If you would not want to hear that dialogue coming from your child's mouth then they shouldn't be watching it.  

2.  Be watchful for others putting adult attitudes on your kids.  Going to a ballgame where parents berate the kid players?  Speak up and ask people to stop.  Going shopping with your child who definitely has an opinion about what she wants to wear?  Be strong and tell her what is not appropriate and what you will allow.  It's your money and your parental responsibility to see that she dresses in an age appropriate manner (trust me, when you are older she'll do the same for you! - thank you Leah)

3.  Don't give your child every thing they ask for.  In a recent Bible class of Kindergartners I asked them to list the things they need.  They said a roof, food, air, safety, water, and because we were in a Bible class, Jesus (that's never a wrong answer in Bible class!).  At 5 and 6 they knew the difference between what they needed and what they wanted.  Your kids do too.  They don't need everything they want and they definitely don't need everything you have.  You are the adult.....they are the kid.....this is an important distinction.  And, guess what, everyone doesn't have that cool thing they want even if they say everyone does.  Actually, this is the perfect time to say "and if everyone were jumping off of a bridge would you do that too?".  I used to love it when my mom said that one.

Back to coffee.  It's not the coffee.  It's what the coffee represents.  Adulthood and drinking adult beverages makes one an adult.   This may sound simplistic and on its own maybe not such a big deal but if you look around you will see many ways in which our society is encouraging our children to prematurely leave childhood behind.  We should fight this with everything we have in our parental arsenal.  Step up and be the parent.  Remember your child is a child and will be a healthier adult with a healthy childhood behind him.   

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Real Men Unmasked

Once again, sorry to have been away for so long.  Here is my excuse:  my son got married 11 days before Christmas, then we had Christmas, and a short sabbatical (which wasn't really very sabbatically).  Anyway, I'm back and I have a few things to say.  No one that knows remotely anything about me will be shocked by this statement.

Have you seen the video making the Internet circuit about the three worst words you can say to your son? I'll try to add a link on this post but if I fail just google "the most damaging words you can tell your son".  It'll pop.  

There is a lot said about feminism and gender equality so sometimes the message of this video can be lost but it is profoundly true that there is another side to this equation.  Patriarchal notions of masculinity hurt men and it starts when they are little boys.  "Be a man" we say.  "Don't cry" we tell them.  "Suck it up" we go on....and on....and on.  We deny them the chance to tell what they feel and force them to stuff all that emotion down their gullets.  It's no wonder there is so much anger in young men.  What are we teaching as the definition of "manhood"?  What is a real man?  This, of course, is up for debate but I'll step up and tell you my opinion. (once again, unsurprising to anyone that knows me)

Real men care.  They care deeply and they show it.  Their actions and words display an empathy for others that is unrestrained.  They take care of small children, change diapers, bath their babies, play with with them and sing them to sleep.  They care that their wives are worn out and they step up to do what they can to relieve her stress.  They care about being part of the team that is their family and they do their part as a part of that team.  A lot of people care but real men show they care.

Real men share.  They share their strength and their weaknesses.  They share their feelings and are unashamed.  They share their wealth, their giftedness, and themselves.  They share who they are...unmasked and real.  It isn't always pretty when someone shares themselves, unmasked and unashamed, but real men do it because they care.

Real men dare.  They dare to be who they are.  They cry when they pray.  They laugh when they goof up. They openly admit when they are shy or embarrassed or feeling great or what ever it is they feel.  They dare to be people of integrity and justice.  Real men step up to be who they were meant to be.  

Where do real men come from?  They come from families that raise them that way and often from fathers that are real men.  I realize this is a lot of pressure on moms and dads but that's the deal.  You are raising the next generation of men and women.  Think before you speak.  Consider before you act.  Pray all the time.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"As long as we both shall love".....WHAT?!?!?

I saw a wedding on The Today Show a couple of weeks ago (yes, they got married on morning TV but that's a whole other post) and heard the officiate say something that made my head snap up, my mouth drop open and my sensibilities curdle.  She had them promise to be together "as long as you both shall love". 
As long as you both shall love?  Let me tell you won't always feel that "love" that you feel on the day you get married.  First of all, that's not as good as "love" can's not the deeply committed, fight for it, do anything to keep it love that you will feel after you've experienced many years together.  On the day you get married you "love" one another in the way people do when they are new to love and have fewer life experiences.  It's "love", don't misunderstand me, but it's not what it will be if you hang in there and work at it. 
On the day you get married it feels as though all of life, in it's wonderful glory, is ahead of you.  Possibilities seem endless and obstacles easily overcome.  This is normal and good or else no one would ever get married.  No one, on their wedding day, foresees job loss, sick children, cancer and disease or any other myriad things life can throw your way simply because we live in a fallen world.  And that is the outside stuff!  What about the fallen-ness within?  The pride, poor self esteem, control issues, and lack of self discipline that plague many relationships?  There are lots of reasons and circumstances that cause people to "fall out of love" and then what?  You walk away?  We no longer feel that love so we no longer have to be married?  To quote Weezer, "say it ain't so!"
Marriage takes commitment.....Herculean commitment.  You've married an imperfect person.  And, newsflash, you are also imperfect.  One of my favorite lines in the Broadway play Rent is when two characters are singing about getting together (they have AIDS).  One sings, "I have baggage" and the other replies, "I'm looking for baggage that goes with mine".  I think that's pretty profound.  Acknowledge that we all have baggage.....stuff with which we struggle.  Don't just look at him or her and be irritated about their baggage.  Look to your own baggage as well.  Trust me, it's just as irritating.  Chances are your spouse is putting up with as much as you are. 
One piece of advice I give my kids regarding their own relationships is this....assume there is love between you.  When you look at, listen to, or talk to your spouse you should assume there is love flowing.  Lots will happen in your life that can threaten that flow of love.  There will be times when you can't really feel it or see it but you should assume it's always there.  Love is a choice.  It's really as simple as that in my opinion.  Two imperfect people who live in an imperfect world choose to love one another day after day after day....minute by minute by minute.....come what matter what.  Trust, respect, forgiveness, mercy, grace.....all must flow freely back and forth between you.  This takes effort but, once again, sooooo worth it! 
Jeff and I have been married 36 years.  We have four kids less than 6 years apart.  We've experienced loss of jobs, a houseful of small children, two miscarriages, broken down cars and flooding houses, a hurricane, jobs that overwhelm us and sometimes keep us apart with travels.  Our marriage is a good one as our baggage is well matched.  His weaknesses are my strengths and my weaknesses are his strengths.  We've found a way to be together that makes us both better people.  A life without him is unimaginable.  Our son recently wrote, "my parents have a strong and enviable marriage".  We do and it all takes effort, good effort, but effort nonetheless.  Strong and enviable marriages do not occur by happenstance.
"As long as you both shall love"......I guess that's okay if you continue to make love an intentional priority in your relationship.  I actually prefer "as long as we both shall live" because I intend to love as long as I live. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Hazard of Hyperconnectivity

I feel sorry for kids today trying to develop relationships with all the technology available.  Just think, you are able to know where someone is at all times via the Find Friends app; you can communicate constantly and instantly with anyone on your Contact List; and you have intimate knowledge of your "friends" deepest thoughts about politics, sports, food and so much more via FaceBook.  I'm not sure any of this is a good thing.  It seems that maybe we've lost the ability to have face-to-face meaningful conversations.
Now, before you go all "she's-too-old-and-doesn't-get-it" on me let me direct your attention to a piece of an essay written by my oldest child.  Adam is 27 years old and this is only part of what he has to add to this discussion:
It is perhaps the most sinister aspect of what feels like a uniquely technology- and post-9/11-informed brand of alienation to someone of my personality profile that two of its most debilitating manifestations – a general lack of focus (traditionally blamed on ADHD or ADD or Starbucks or whatever the latest study picked up by USA Today reports) and a weakened ability to express oneself eloquently and meaningfully due to the reduction in time and effort required to produce a message and the gradual shortening of the message length itself – have so effectively prevented me from elaborating on its causes, its markers, its miseries, and its possible solutions for so long. Rather than confront and develop a strategy for dealing with a phenomenon that I believe has adversely affected every last one of my relationships – romantic or otherwise – since early high school, I have spent over ten years struggling, suffering, and occasionally acting out jealously, angrily, and irrationally due to breakdowns in technological communication, communication otherwise affected by a critical reliance on technology, or the existence of virtual “other lives” we all must now maintain and keep separate and selectively private if we wish to be kept in the ambiguous loop of various goings-on.
Paradoxically, another part of what has made confronting the phenomenon so difficult has been our insistence that supposedly meaningful communication via the various media in question is not something to be taken seriously. I hold that it is and almost always has been: “Facebook is no place to get political;” “I don’t want to hear about your latest text message fight;” “I’m tired of reading blog posts about arguments on Twitter;” all of the above are the dismissive mantras of a people in denial that their most raw, emotional, and meaningful exchanges no longer take place chiefly in person, where body language, eye movements, hand gestures, accents, and tone of voice contribute to better and more humanized understandings of messages and viewpoints, but rather safely behind a hazy screen of "anonymity" through which messages are rendered into a series of digital dots and beamed down to our little devices and computer screens for us to make sense of with all of our (or all of my) attendant neuroses and hangups about the minutiae of human communication.
Since my mid-teens, I have spent countless nights staring at my ceiling waiting for a text. I have spent more tense moments than I care to remember sitting nervously across the table from a girl, wondering to whom she is sending a message, and whether it is okay to ask (I have learned the hard way that it is not). I have had to repeat myself thousands of times, and others have had to repeat themselves for me. I have wondered nervously about what this or that text means. I have wondered why a period and not an exclamation point. I have wondered why one exclamation point and not two. I have wondered why no emoticon, or why not a more emotive one. I have missed sunsets, unforgettable scenery, faces of passersby, oncoming cars, beautiful songs, and hilarious jokes. I have screamed and cried. I have been tempted to pry where my eyes do not belong, and I have succumbed to such temptations. I have been at the end of my rope, I have cursed the age in which I was born, and I have begged and pleaded to be taken back to an earlier time. Never, I realize, has the anxiety paradoxically plaguing and propelling my existence had a more tangible face than the one that stares up at me blankly from my lap in a dark movie theater or begs me to check it while I write this essay.

Trust me, he is not alone.  Many young people suffer with this phenomenon or suffer from it and are unaware of how hyperconnectivity affects their relationships.  So, what's a person to do?  This oldster has a few ideas:
1.  Use FaceBook as a way to inform people about the common happenings of your life.  That means pictures your family might be interested in or updates for those who live far away and want to know how you're doing.  No politics, no angst, no over-sharing.  Please.
2.  Never, ever, ever have an important conversation over Text Message, FaceBook, or even E-Mail.  Important conversations should be face-to-face if at all possible.  That is all.
3.  When you are with people who matter to you put your phone away.  Turn your phone off if the temptation to look at it is too great but at a minimum put it away.  The message you receive, the game you play, the update you are looking at cannot possibly be more important than the actual people you are with.  You are saying something when you have your face in your mobile device during a conversation.  Be aware of the messages you are sending to the people actually in your presence.
4.  Write a letter.  Yeah, I said "Write a letter".  This is quickly becoming a lost art.  The summer before my daughter got engaged she and her future fiancĂ© worked in separate states and he did not have Internet access.  Their only way to communicate was one phone call a week (when he came out of the mountains and had cell phone service) and the letters they wrote to one another.   Can you imagine what you might say in a letter to someone  you love if that were the only way to communicate?  I bet you can't imagine it but give it a try and write it down in a letter.  Seal it with a kiss.

So, the big walk away point of this blog?  When it comes to relationships, technology has it's place (what on earth did we do to find one another in the mall before we had cell phones?) but nothing can replace a face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation with someone you care about sans distractions.  Don't use technology to stalk, bully or be fake.  Keep it in its's a tool so don't be one.