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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Keeping Life in Perspective

Today, on a morning radio show in mid-Missouri, a DJ was talking about being too busy to bother answering a survey about racism in America. "Folks are on their way to work, they don't have time to try to convince people they aren't racist...if you're not racist, you shouldn't have to prove to everyone it's true. People are busy, they're trying to get to work, to drop the kids off, to deal with life...they may not have time to answer some silly survey." Listening, I was first angered by his glib disregard for the role activism has and can play a role in this country. No one is ever too busy to be an instrument for change.

Then I was at work, listening to two professors discuss politics, each on opposing sides of today's wide divide. "No matter what middle America says or does, it doesn't matter," one of them said. "Big business and the top 1% control it all. Our votes don't count." Both men nodded, agreeing on this point. I wanted to shout, "Wow, as white men, your vote has always counted...it's women, minorities, the oppressed who've known what it's like to not have our vote count, shame on you!" I wanted to tell these men to open their eyes, to be present, to strive for equality for all and to be tolerant and accepting and don't waste any opportunities to save the world.

After my class ended, I drove back to Columbia to see my mom who lives in a memory care unit.

Her face lit up when she saw me, but she was careful not to say my name. Because she wasn't real sure who I was.

I sat with her while we listened to Father Jerry give a quick sermon, during which she kept trying to tear the Psalm's handout she was reading because she said she needed it for the puzzle she was doing (no puzzle existed).

I helped her to the lunch table in her wheelchair, but kept having to remind her to raise her feet. She kept forgetting that her feet on the ground kept the wheelchair from moving.

I got her set up at the table, but she kept trying to fold part of the tablecloth and a piece of her blue jeans, saying she needed to get them fixed, did I have a needle?

Her tablemates passed around a pencil, circling what they wanted for lunch. When it got to Mom, she looked at it and picked it up with her left hand. Instead of her usual right hand, she attempted to circle with her left then dropped it, giving up. I asked what she wanted and circled the items for her. Then she resumed messing with lining up the table cloth with her jeans.

When her food came, she picked up her fork with her left hand, passed it to her right, held it in her fist, then set it down. She had forgotten how to use it. I cut up her meat, offered her a bite, and she said, "No I'm full, I already ate before I got here...let's go home." Another employee came, gave her shoulder an affectionate squeeze, and Mom said, "Will you tell her to leave me alone?" She was talking about me, because I was trying to prompt her to eat. I got up and hugged her, told her I loved her, and she beamed, "I love you too, Lou Lou." Her use of my nickname made me ache and I had to hurry out while I could still see to walk.

Once I got to my car, I realized how important those hugs and each "I love you" are.

No matter how frustrated we get with social justice issues or how angry we get over the political climate in America, there's nothing that will keep life in perspective more than to see your mother losing herself. I want to crawl into her brain and free her, let her out, let her go. She wants to go. I see it in her eyes. Her will to live has diminished to a blip. For our pets, we consider it humane. For our people, we make them suffer.

It helps to remember that life isn't fair, that someone else has a tougher go of it, and that in the grand scheme of things, life is brief. Love every day...love life, love your family, love yourself. It matters. Tell those you love how you feel. Show them. And above all else, keep life in perspective. Loving those close to you matters. It's really all that matters.


Friday, July 22, 2016

What Teachers Could Teach Politicians

I love all my friends: tall, short; heavy, thin; black, brown, tan, off-white, golden, or sienna; short-hair, long-hair, blonde, brunette, red-headed; rich, poor, or somewhere in between; North or South American, European, Asian, African, Australian; gay, straight, bi, or questioning; catholic, presbyterian, methodist, baptist, buddhist, muslim, agnostic, atheist, or any other; liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between. I even love my friends who are Raiders, KU, and Cubs fans. It's true.

Here's my quandary: I am struggling with language that attacks whole sects, races, abilities, and professions. I'm confused by those who support commentary that denigrates fellow Americans, that picks and chooses who should have rights and who shouldn't. When did we accept that politicians should choose who can sit down on a bus or who can marry or worse...tell an entire profession of teachers they have failed? Those very teachers are who shape the future, who raise entire generations, who have the power to make REAL change in a country I believe has always been and is still great...no matter who sits in our White House. Flawed, but great. I have voted for Democrat and Republican presidents, almost equally to date. But teachers don't need politicians or their children judging us when they don't know us or don't know the first thing about doing our job.

To be a teacher, you must first be highly qualified but ultimately selfless and unbiased, caring and accepting. It is the one profession that cannot judge, that cannot pick and choose who to educate, who to love, who to teach to read, write, think for themselves. We cannot build walls or exclude anyone. I once had a child in my classroom wearing a swastika belt buckle. He believed in a German leader who inspired hate-speech, who wanted to pick and choose what race or religion should live and die, even when it wasn't his own. That student's lack of education about that symbol validated the importance of opening windows for him to see through, not building barriers that blocked his view. There was a reason Ronald Reagan demanded for Mr. Gorbachev to tear down that wall...not build our own. What if Canada chose to build one to block us out? It helps to see it from every perspective.

For decades, teachers have fought for inclusion for EVERYONE and to give them all equal perspective. We strive to break down barriers for kids, for ALL kids, so they have choices. For those who can't walk, read, marry, walk down certain streets without worry of being shot. For those who have the right to speak out for whatever they believe in, no matter what that is.

THAT is what has made America great, not some person who sits in an oval office, no matter who it is. Whoever you are reading this post, you have been far more touched by a teacher than by a president.
Hopefully you want a future filled with teachers who will accept you and your children & grandchildren for all of your wondrous differences and not judge you.

I, for one, am tired of being judged by people who don't know the first thing about who I am or what I do. #TeachersUniteUs #ShowRespectToEarnRespect







Saturday, October 31, 2015

J.T. Barrett and Today's Culture...

College Gameday is addressing J.T. Barrett's OVI early this morning... They've addressed losing his starting QB job he'd just won back, not having his leadership on the sidelines or on the field, and focused a few minutes on the importance of not putting the keys in the ignition if you've been drinking.

How about the fact that J.T. Barrett is an elite athlete and is drinking PERIOD? How about the fact that J.T. Barrett is only 20 years old and therefore is drinking underage? How about the fact that the night before your first start, at 12:30 a.m., you're out partying instead of treating your body, mind, and team with the respect they deserve? Some of us treated our bodies that way when playing college sports or even high school sports...

What happened to the era of coaches enforcing policies that players take care of themselves and one another the night before a game? It doesn't matter that his BAC was barely over the legal limit. It matters that an elite athlete is using alcohol under age the night before a game and getting behind the wheel of a car. It speaks to the culture of condoning alcohol use in our minors and of the extensive alcohol abuse in this country.

It should never be okay to drink while in season; it should never be okay to drink underage; and it should be emphatically enforced that they not drink and drive. If Urban Meyer and today's revered coaches aren't impressing young athletes with that mindset, then what else are they not teaching them? In light of Rick Pitino's program begin accused of luring athletes with escorts, it truly begs the question: what is the role of today's coach in educating student athletes? They go to college for an education, and it's unclear what -- and if -- they are learning the skills to be successful beyond sports. Football ad basketball are games; life is not.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Demand Expertise

To fulfill so many professions, you have to be trained, educated, and vetted by those with expertise in that area. This is incredibly true in education, medicine, and engineering. It is equally as true in publishing, though self-publishing has opened the door for many who struggle to break through...

So why is it not true in politics? Secretaries of education are appointed without the necessary education experience to understand classrooms of all kinds. Now we have numerous presidential candidates with virtually NO experience in understanding foreign policy, the process of law making, education reform, true middle class or lower class issues, or a thorough understanding of politics in general.

What if they each had to post a resume/CV that showed their true qualifications for public office, especially the office of the most powerful person in the western world? Or better yet, they had to work their way up, like our forefathers intended: mayor/governor/senator or representative/president. Now all you need to be is rich; and the truly wealthy, like several of our candidates, represent only 1% of our population. Very few know what it means to live in middle class America, where the majority of us earn a living.

So I challenge every person, Democrat or Republican or otherwise, to choose your candidate based on the ability to lead this country in all regards. You would expect that from your child's teacher or your baby's doctor. Why not from the person who governs our country? Vote not for personality or passion but for the expertise we demand of our teachers, doctors, and engineers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Raise Your Voice

Authors reach, on average, hundreds to thousands of readers each when we blog (the Kings, Rowlings, and Pattersons exponentially more). Imagine if we all sent the same message regarding significant issues: tolerance, bullying, body image, texting and driving, mental health. And everyone else who blogs, you have the same power: your voice. It's time we all speak up when an issue warrants it. Amazing things happen when people unite for a cause. What's yours? Do those around you know it? Silence solves little and apathy solves nothing.

Our voices are our greatest weapon.
#RaiseyourVoice
#Fight4YourCause

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Same Nation, Same Rights

Once thought of as radically conservative, Ireland makes history today being the first country to legalize marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

I find it bizarre that America, a country synonymous with progress and trend-setting, is still debating same-sex marriage.

To so many, this should not be up for debate. It is equivalent of past debates that fall under the “this doesn’t really affect you” category.

People once opposed women having the right to vote. Men would allow a woman to sleep in their beds, cook their meals, raise their children, care for them in their declining years….yet they couldn’t vote? You could argue that this did affect others – giving women equal say in our nation’s decisions. But it was only a matter of time. Half the nation could not be oppressed.

The right to bear arms has raised many fists over the decades. No! We shouldn’t be able to have guns, to own them and have them in our homes where we can have and do absolutely anything else: cook meth, watch porn, beat your wife/husband/child). Why should we have the same weapons the criminals who might accost us have? And to align with the argument, if you don’t want a gun, if you don’t agree in the right to bear arms…don’t buy one.

A raging war has existed for half a century over whether a woman should be able to have control over her own body. Should a government have a say over whether I cut my hair? Show my face? Open my mouth…or my legs? Many governments do. Don’t get me wrong; I am not an advocate for abortion. Morally, I would choose not to have one. Yet I do not believe the government should have any say over what I do – or don’t do – with my body. And ultimately, if you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.

This may ire people to rebut: a child is a life at conception and it is precious. I agree. But…there is always a but. I believe God loves us all and He wants what is best for us as human beings. He does not want suffering or judgment, condemnation or retaliation. He has allowed us to create our world and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences for the choices we’ve made. Even God embraced change…those who live and die by the Old Testament need only consider why there was a New Testament. Ideologies from Old to New changed.

Just as they have now.

The sanctity of marriage occurs when two people who love one another want to make a lifelong commitment. Only a few decades ago, those two people could not be of different color. Today, the barrier is whether any two people can vow to love one another – in a time when over half of the men and women who marry eventually divorce. What right do people who cannot honor their vows have to deny everyone else the right to the same opportunity? The opportunity to no longer hide their relationship, to know what it feels like to hold hands in public. Many people can’t know the ache of wanting to wrap your arms around the person you love but not being able to because someone might see. The right to marry is one step closer to that kind of equality.

So it comes down to the core of the debate: why are some people so opposed to same-sex marriage? Heterosexual couples engage in immoral and illegal sexual practices daily in their own bedrooms. Women sell sex for a living. We have slave trade of children in sex-trafficking rings, and whether to allow people who love each other to marry is our issue? It begs the question, why do they care? And at the risk of being redundant, if you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, don’t have one, don’t go to one, don’t watch one. But honor that sanctimonious soapbox you stand on and embrace the most important adage: don’t judge one.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year End Thoughts...

As this strange year winds to a close, I found myself pondering a few questions...
  • Remember when planes that took off landed where they were supposed to and didn't get shot down or lost at sea?
  • Remember when the police were thought of as investigators and protectors from injustices, and we trusted that when they arrived on scene, everything would be okay? People would do what they were told, the police would respond accordingly...
  • Remember when you thought of Robin Williams, and you just couldn't help smile because he was always just so darn funny?
  • Remember when no matter which news channel you watched, you got an unbiased, non-partisan account of what was going on?
  • Remember when Matthew Shepherd tried to hold a boy's hand in Wyoming, it got him killed, and we thought, Gay people will never have any equality in this country? 
  • Remember after 9-11, when we as Americans came together, and we thought we were overcoming the racial inequality within our nation?
  • Remember when Ebola was a topic of a sci-fi movie starring Dustin Hoffman or Gwyneth Paltrow? 
  • Remember when the majority of professional athletes were thought of as "the good guys"? 
  • Remember when the chasm between the rich and poor didn't seem like the Mississippi cubed? 
  • Remember when we thought the Cold War was over and the Ukraine was just an ally of Russia?
  • Remember when the weather was a topic of conversation over coffee and not a potential for disaster? 
  • Remember when we celebrated our soldiers coming home, no matter how that needed to happen, no matter who we exchanged for them? Remember the parades we would throw for our veterans who provided the very freedoms that allow this blog to be posted?
  • Remember when the favorite princess in England was Diana and the adorable kids were William and Harry? 
  • Remember when getting hacked made you think of Matthew Broderick or someone accessing your email and not causing a potential airstrike from North Korea? 
  • Remember when pouring ice over your head was simply a way to wake up?  
  • Remember when college sports were amateurs playing for their schools and not a business paying its leaders (coaches) millions to teach our youth what it means to be a student-athlete?
  • Remember when women in the Middle East stayed silent and would not even be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize for doing just the opposite? 

  • Remember when being an American meant other people looked on in reverence and wanted to be just like us? 

Yeah, me neither...