Friday, January 27, 2017

Taking Sides

Over the past however many years, even as I've stood up for people on the margins and called senators and shared opinions and information, I've still always maintained that there is a way to see both sides. There is a way to bridge the divide. There is a way to meet at a crossroads.

The truth is, that meant I was willing to maybe overlook or tone down someone else's racism or homophobia. In the interest of meeting them where they are and hoping to be an influencer to show them a different way.

The truth also is that I was scared to ruffle feathers or make enemies or have people not like me. And I was scared to admit that hate is very real. That racism is a thing and white privilege is a thing and violence against women is a thing and hate crimes towards gay people are very real things. I wanted nothing but love and peace and kindness.

I am seeing a lot of people trying to find that middle ground now, in the Trump era. And it's admirable. Heck, I still long for love and peace and kindness.

But I'm not there anymore. I can't just focus on those lovely things and brush aside or hide from the realities that are around me every day.

I'm too angry and fed up, I suppose. I tried to be all nice and crossroadsy before. And there are certainly days when I'm willing to be more patient than others. But there are fewer of those days.

Part of me wants to hear the "other side." But part of me is fed up with giving the other side a voice, a chance, a pulpit, a pat on the back.

I don't think it's time to bridge the divide. I think it's time to take sides. Trump isn't drawing a line in the sand - he is blowing up a canyon between people in this country. If I try to stand on both sides, I will fall in.

I'm usually very willing to see a lot of gray.

But when it comes to how we treat human life and how we value one another, it's pretty damn black and white.

I'm not saying I won't have the conversations. If people want to engage and truly learn and are ready to leap across the divide to at least visit, I'm all for it. But I'm done tip toeing around in "enemy territory." Again - been there, done that.

This also does not mean that I am cutting people out of my life or anything like that. There are people I love dearly who hold very different values than my own. I will keep loving them. And they will keep loving me. But the divide is there. And it's real. The divide changes how you perceive someone, changes how you hold them in whatever level of esteem.

And maybe this Trump divide means that some of those people who had been at the crossroads are now standing on the edge of this side of the divide - because they may not fully understand it but they can feel and see that Trump is not good for humanity. But it's going to take a lot of the crossroads people to make an impact by choosing their side.

And maybe there are people hiding on that side of the divide - that wish they could be over on this side but they don't want to cause pain or be picked on or be tossed into the divide.

Being silent is a privilege. Being silent means you are allowed to turn the other cheek and love your enemy. We like those platitudes in the Bible. We like being able to quote them and hold them up like a shield. Pointing out the rosey, sunshiney parts of our faith.

It's time to find your voice, folks. And use it. The Jesus I read about in the Bible did love people. But he loved them radically. He loved the people that others considered disposable and less than. He didn't preach that everyone should embrace the Pharisees and try to better understand archaic Jewish laws.

He taught a new way. A vastly different way.

This is about people believing they now have license to be openly hateful. Harmful. This is about homophobia and racism and sexism. How those things play out take different forms for different people. But we're at the foundation of the issues. The baseline of choosing the value of people or choosing the value of power.

Choose people or choose power.

That's it. And with that as the divide, I choose people.

Jesus chose people over power. He admonished the powerful and the rich. He healed the sick and broken and embraced those who were "less than."

So I'm taking the side of people. Specifically the people who need someone to stand up with them, for them, beside them. Black people and brown people and gay people and refugee people and immigrant people and under 18 people and female people and disabled people and non-english speaking people and poor people and....

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 2017

When the new year started, I shared that I wasn't so much into the idea of making a resolution or setting a "focus word." Instead, I made a list of things I wanted to focus on, continue, or start up.

1. I have to admit, I thought I was cheating a little with that first one. When I made my list, I had a plan for Jeff and I to sneak off for 1 night at a hotel. But then the kids got sick. So now I have to find another night when we can book a hotel and sneak away!

3. We are looking at plans for Spring Break. Gatlinburg, I think!

7. After next week, all 4 of us should be on our final belt before becoming Black Belts. Teagan will get there well ahead of the rest of us. And she will certainly continue her training while the rest of us will be satisfied with the achievement of Black Belt.

8 and 9. I need to make a plan to focus on this one in Feb.

10. I've been thinking about this one. One thing I want to get more deeply involved in is fighting homelessness in my city. I am involved with a mission through my church but want to look into doing more.

11. This one is slow. I'm trying to get out and walk regularly. I am a wimp when it comes to walking in cold and wet weather, though.

12. I need to work up some courage on this one.

13. We had a date night - the overnight ended up just being dinner in celebration of Jeff's birthday. Need to plan a February date night now!

16. I did Free Hugs at the Indianapolis Women's March (Rally)! It was fantastic! One guy gave me a huge hug and then borrowed my sign so he could go hug people. Another woman hugged me and then handed me her hat (one of those infamous pink knit ones). A couple people would hug and dance at the same time! One event down, 2 to go!

17. I have read 2 books so far - A Dog's Purpose and Born A Crime. I have also been invited to join a book club and am working on forming a book club between some families!

18. I've been doing this one - especially loving a journal I'm doing with Teagan.

19. I've had some lovely time with friends - some highlights are coffee with a friend, a night watching Beaches before the terrible Lifetime redo came on, and a game night with another family.

20. We have a new chore system in place and it's going very well so far!

23. I've been wearing my FitBit almost daily. Sometimes I forget it for a day when I take it off to charge it. I really need to up my daily steps.

Making progress in some areas - not bad for the first month of the year! I plan to do monthly updates to keep myself accountable.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chores - Trying a New Approach

My kids do not have regular chores. We've tried here and there but it never sticks - mostly due to failure on the part of us as parents to follow through on rewards or tracking. We've been most successful in the summer break when we have a nanny and the kids are required to do chores in order to earn screen time for the day. But when we try to use the same idea during the school year, it fails. Mostly because there are many days where there is no time for personal screen time anyway.

For 2017, I am trying again.

In our home, we do not pay for chores. And we will not be earning personal screen time by doing chores. Instead, this approach to chores is about the family being a team and everyone having responsibility in taking care of our living space.

The reason I think chores are important is because I do see positive growth in my kids when there are daily expectations - read for 20 minutes, do chores, get physical activity. They like having responsibility, they like achieving goals.

I don't have strict rules about how the chore gets done. If you've done what's on the list, great. If you do more, even better. You can team up and work together. You can ask for help from a parent. You can do it in the morning or after school - as long as it is done before bed (exceptions include taking care of Bandit and taking out trash bins - those have to be timely).

I created calendars - 1 for each child and 1 for us (Mom & Dad). I created a list to explain what each chore is. The basic idea is that the daily chore should only take about 15 minutes of actual work but should make a big impact in how we keep up our home.

I used the provided calendar template in Excel. Nothing fancy. The calendar for the month is posted on each child's bedroom door and the list of what is expected for the chore is posted in a common area (we have a specific space in the hallway). Over the course of 2 weeks, each child will have done each chore at least once. Sundays are a day off - except for feeding the dog, of course.

I am hopeful that this will be a clearly communicated way of getting basic housework done and creating a sense of teamwork in our family.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


I've been mulling over the idea of summing up 2016, of coming up with a word to focus on in 2017, whether or not I should resolve to make any changes in the New Year.

2016 was an interesting year. At the start of the year, I had decided that my focus for the year would be to be more open to the ways people love me - to Be Loved. I'm not sure I focused on it well but I do know there was a lot of love in my life in 2016.

Teagan was in a musical at school. I saw The Force Awakens 4 or 5 times in theaters. We went to GeoFest at the Indiana State Museum. Teagan had strep throat. I had my first ever gel manicure. We took a dream trip to Disney World. I call it a dream trip because we stayed in a higher end resort and added on some special treats like a ferry cruise for fireworks and a dessert party for fireworks. American Ninja Warrior was taped on the Circle in downtown Indy - but we didn't go because filming happens overnight. We continued our advancements in tae kwon do - with a big achievement being that each of us can break a board with our bare hand! The kids finished 5th and 2nd grades and started 6th and 3rd.

Zach learned how to swim! Teagan marched in 2 parades with our tae kwon do school. As a family, we attended Cons and Rallies - both representing things that matter to us. Teagan and I got more involved with music at church - singing in special ensembles and both of us joining the handbell choir. We enjoyed several days at the Indiana State Fair before school started. Jeff had his knee scoped due to a meniscus tear. Liz had IT band issues and went through some physical therapy. This delayed our progress in TKD for about a month or so.

Teagan ran cross country. Jeff got involved with the junior high youth group at our church. Our whole family got involved with a ministry in our church to help house families who are striving to get out of homelessness. There was a really, really ugly presidential election with results that were shocking to many. I had a very brief health issue with my heart. Zach and some friends started a club to "build up" people in their school and community.

It was a year of loss for a lot of people in my circles. Death, job loss, serious health problems, ending relationships.

Instead of a focus word or a resolution, I want to make a list of things I want to do in the coming year. Some of them are things I already do but want to keep a priority. And some are new things I haven't ever done. And the list will change, I think.

1. Spend a night away from my kids with my husband.
2. Spend a weekend away from my husband and kids.
3. Take a family vacation.
4. Learn more about other faiths like Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam.
5. Spend quiet time in nature.
6. Spend active time in nature.
7. Achieve Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
8. Find time for prayer and reflection.
9. Pray more.
10. Find a single passion and focus my efforts.
11. Commit to more exercise - daily walking or finding a group exercise thing (Zumba, etc).
12. Take a yoga class.
13. Plan regular (at least every 6 weeks) date nights with my husband.
14. Participate in at least 3 5K events.
15. Ride my bike.
16. Free Hug in at least 3 places / events.
17. Read / Listen to at least one book per month.
18. Journal
19. Make time with friends to stay connected or strengthen connections.
20. Get consistent about family chores.
21. Continue to love others in bigger ways.
22. Walk the labyrinth at my church quarterly as part of my prayer/meditation.
23. Wear my FitBit.

What are you wanting in 2017? What will you hold on to and what are you wanting to change?

Friday, November 18, 2016

So Now What?

I have said a lot of stuff on the blog this week.

I'm Not Racist, But...

Kindness Isn't Enough

What My Feelings Are Not

Defining My Faith

It's a lot. And it was pretty raw. And very therapeutic for me.

That doesn't mean I am now all better, though. It doesn't work that way.

I am still struggling but I am also trying to figure out what I am supposed to do now. What can I do that will impact change? Or that will protect change?

Am I called to get involved in politics and impact systemic change?

Am I called to do more volunteer work to focus on those who are marginalized?

Am I called to get involved at rallies and protests?

And then I struggle.... will any of it even matter?

I am watching as Trump entertains, taps and names known racists for cabinet positions and important jobs.

I am watching as friends share stories of hate directed at them or their loved ones.

I am watching as Americans, people who are supposed to believe in liberty and freedom and dignity, talk about a Muslim registry.

The fact that ANY of these things have to be explained as blatantly wrong is simply beyond the pale.

Clearly, action is required. There is no option to hide or "wait and see." The exact things that so many of us were afraid of are exactly what is happening.

But what do we do about it?

Here are some ideas.

1. Republicans Step Up. I have heard from Republican friends that they voted for Trump or know people who did but they weren't happy about it because of his bigotry. Well, now is the time for you to step up and be louder than the rest of us. You put him in office, now tell him that he is failing you. Talk to your fellow Republicans and demand action. Fighting bigotry is exactly where the country should be coming together.

2. Brush up on your Civics Lessons. There is a lot we all forget of what we learned in history and social studies back in school. You have to know how the systems work in order to influence change in those systems. This pdf is designed to help immigrants pass a citizenship test - so it seems like an ideal place to start. And this is a website designed to make learning about civics a little more fun and engaging. Finally, I've always enjoyed TED talks and here is a collection of various TED talks that cover civics topics.

3. Contact your government representatives - local, state, and federal. This also calls back to number 1. I live in a red state and have few Democrats to rely on to fight for things I believe in. So I need to make sure the elected Republicans understand that they also represent my voice in their office. You can use this website to find out who your representatives are. Mark your calendar to call your reps - call about specific legislation, call about topics that are important to you. Write a script and say the same thing every time if you have to. But your elected officials - especially if you didn't vote for them - need to be reminded that their agenda should be for all the people they represent, not just those who voted for them.

4. Get Involved. Decide on what is most important to you. And then put time towards what matters. Put money towards the groups that are fighting the systems.

5. Call Out Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia, Homophobia. This one is specifically for white people. For men. For Americans born in the US. For straight people. We are inside the culture that needs to change. When you hear comments or jokes or support of the things that you know are wrong, you have to be willing to speak up.  This one might be the most important, and maybe the hardest.

6. Mix Up Your Social Groups  If you look around at the people you spend time with and they are all basically just like you, it's time to mix it up. You are going to have to get very purposeful about widening your circle. Getting involved in volunteer organizations, finding a church with a more diverse population, finding groups that specifically seek to create bridges between communities - that's what needs to happen. Step outside of your bubble.

7. Have A Plan Ready  If you see someone being mistreated, know how you will handle it. I've prepped my middle schooler - told her that my expectation is that she get involved. Step in and get the victim out (I'm supposed to take you to the office). Get an adult to help. You don't have to confront the bigot/bully. But we can't turn a blind eye, turn our backs, look away. Every one of us has to be willing to step into a situation. You can step into the situation to be next to the person being attacked or taunted - be their ally and help them get to a safe place. Sit next to the woman in hijab on the bus. Stay close to the transgender person in your bathroom. Walk by the non-white person.

It's hard to find the drive to fight in the midst of reeling from what is happening all around us. But the reality is that what Trump said and showed is proving to be exactly the truth. We all said we were afraid of his supporters - the people who took his words as permission to fly the bigot flag and be very open about their nationalist and supremacist desires. We all said we were afraid of what Trump would do in office - and those fears are coming true as we watch him build his administration.

The reality is here. The fight has begun. Figure out what you can do and start doing it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Defining My Faith

I was doing research on another topic - civil discourse. And I was ruminating on this blog post. This week has essentially been my personal therapeutic post-election series. My relationship with God will always be the foundation of my healing.

So I'm reading and researching and ruminating. And I come across this pdf from an Episcopal church. The 6th page has a list of Scriptures, thoughts from Thomas Merton, and a prayer of Saint Francis. I looked up all the Scriptures. I read the words of Thomas Merton. I read and then prayed the prayer of Saint Francis. I can't really say it any better than it was all laid out in this one pdf page.

Did you read all that? How are you feeling after reading all of it?

Because I felt convicted. I felt like I was being reminded of my purpose. That how I treat others is what matters more than anything else, and especially matters more than how others treat me.

We are all connected - to each other and to God.  Help the poor, listen, protect people, show love, act justly, be humble, speak up, speak out.

Then I went on to read 1 Corinthians 12. It's the Scripture about all of us being the body - and we all have different parts to play. Click on it and go read it. It'll take a couple of minutes but it's important.

We each have a gift. We each have some way that God intends to use us for good.

And then there was that cliffhanger at the end. "Let me tell you of a more excellent way - love."

So I clicked on over to 1 Corinthians 13.

Go on, click over with me.

I can do all kinds of fancy and important stuff. But if I'm not loving people, it doesn't mean a damn thing.

Then there is all that well known, usually heard at weddings and stuff. But the love in this passage isn't just about romantic love. This is love between all people. This is love in action, being a verb. Love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not easily angered, not selfish. All people are created by God. This love is how we should be treating each other. All of the each others. Our kids and our spouses, our friends, our congregations, our neighbors. Our parents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Our teachers and bosses and co-workers and fast food workers and toilet cleaners and doctors and bus drivers and cashiers and CEO's.

And even our president-elects.


And even the people who are using the example of the president-elect as the power behind their deplorable behavior.


I'm not saying we all need to suck up all these feelings we've been having. Not in the SLIGHTEST. Because I have to read all of this along with the rest of the Scripture.

I have to figure out how to radically love all people. And stand up for the poor. And listen to those who are on the margins. And stand up against injustices. And see the connections between all of us and God. And be the voices of those on the margins.

So how on earth do I follow my faith and radically love everyone?

That's maybe where those gifts come in to play.

Someone out there has gifts that will allow them to preach love into the hearts of those whose hearts are hardened. Those who are lashing out against brown skinned people and non-Christian people and differently-abled people and non-male people and same sex loving people. The people whose hearts and minds and actions are overcome with hate need some seriously radical love and only God can break through those barriers.

God is the one who can tear down that wall. And Christ is the one who paid for it.

As for me, my call to love radically has always been focused on the people in those damn margins. People who haven't been "allowed" to know God's love in churches. People who have been mistreated, harmed, damaged, hurt, enslaved, killed - because of who God created them to be. And often times by people using the name of God to cause harm.

So there it is. The reminder.

Do what you've always done.


Things are different now. So do what you've always done but do it more, do it louder, do it for more people. Focus on the radical part of loving others. Because that's what's needed now more than ever. Radical, far-reaching, extensive, profound, sweeping, wide-ranging, complete and total acts of love beyond my circles, pulling people into my circles, and inside my circles.

It won't be easy. It requires risk, discomfort. My spirit needs a little more time to build up strength.

And then the radical love revolution begins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What My Feelings Are Not

There seems to be a lot of confusion and assumptions about what the "election losers" are feeling.

I am sure that some people are feeling the disappointment of their candidate losing. I am sure that some people are concerned about what will happen on the issues that matter most to them. I am sure that some people are worried about a man taking this job who has no qualifications, no experience. I am sure there are people who are crushed at the loss of the first potential female president. I am sure some people are angry that the popular vote doesn't bear more weight and consequence.

I can't speak for all the people who either didn't vote or who voted against Trump or who voted for Clinton.

I do think it's important to speak about my own feelings, though. We are one week out from waking up to the news (or having only gotten a few hours sleep and waking up to the reality because we'd hoped the news was wrong) that Trump is now the president-elect.

I have been around long enough to see Republicans win some elections and Democrats win some elections. This isn't about that.

I have been around long enough to know that racism is real. Sexism is real. Homophobia is real. Xenophobia is real. And all of this existed before the election. While I think things are different than they were 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago (and so on), I did not live in a bubble that thought all these things had been eradicated.

Here's what my feelings are not.

I am not "in shock."

I am not having a pity party.

I am not being a sore loser.

I don't feel hatred towards Trump or his supporters.

Here's what I can determine that my feelings actually are:

I am angry. I am confused. I am worried. I am scared. I am sad. I am heartsick.

Not because a Republican won. Not because someone completely unqualified won. Not because someone completely inexperienced and ignorant to the job won.

But because there are people who voted this man into office and did not care or completely denied the awful things he said and implied and justified.

I look around me and I wonder.... Does that white guy recognize his racism and privilege? Does that white woman recognize the sexism she lives in and perpetuates? Would that straight guy deny service or condone violence against my gay friend?

Are people that I love and respect aware of the reality of bigotry and everything that it means?

It isn't that I think every white man or white woman is automatically a bigot. But I look at white skin and I make assumptions. I have questions. I have doubts. I don't trust. Same for men.

I know there are some good and loving and kind white people / men. They want to understand. Maybe the election result is their first time really having to face bigotry and hate. But how do I know? How do I know that your remark is well intentioned but simply lacking experience or understanding? How do I know if you are one of the "good" ones?

And a safety pin or a bumper sticker or a t-shirt isn't the answer.

The most important thing about the feelings I am having is that these are the feelings so many Americans live with and have lived with daily. For years. For centuries and decades. For some, these feelings are locked up inside their "closet." For some, these feelings are always screaming at them because you can't turn off the color of your skin. For some, these feelings are realized when they put on their hijab and feel the burn of hate and misunderstanding in the eyes that only see the headscarf.

And here's the thing. I can choose to turn off the feelings and just move on. I can choose to go back to life as usual. Because I am white and straight and Christian. I can blend in. I can turn a blind eye. To be completely honest, there is a good chance that will happen anyway. That what I am seeing and hearing and feeling this past week will end up becoming a new normal and I will become slightly numb to it.

I have the privilege of going numb if I want to. White, straight, Christian gives me that privilege.

But being a Christ-follower means I don't get to rest in that privilege. I am called to stay aware. I am called to love radically. I am called to fight injustice. Even if I am tired. Even if I am scared. Even if I just want to go numb.