Monday, June 27, 2016

The Privilege of Being A Blogger

Living in the suburbs of an American city in an American state in this country of America, it's easy to forget what privilege and rights and freedom can actually mean.

I heard a story on my drive in to work recently that really brought some perspective to my life and my choices and my privilege.

The story comes from Bangladesh - where reporters and publishers and bloggers who defend LGBT rights are being savagely murdered.

I've written about my feelings on LGBT rights. I've written a lot about my liberal heart, my desire for social justice, my beliefs in equality and love and kindness.

And I do not fear that some terrorist group is going to break into my home and hack me to death because of the things I write.

I'm not saying that anyone who writes something in the United States is free from criticism or trolls or even death threats - that does happen. But the reality of someone being hacked to death because of their work... isn't really a fear most in the U.S. face. It's one thing to choose a career where you put your life on the line - like being a police officer or in the military. But someone who writes opinions, thoughts, articles? No one expects a writer to be choosing to put their life on the line for their readers.

We live in a country of privilege. I blog whenever I feel like I have something to say. I don't think about or worry about what I'm going to write or how it will be taken or who is going to come after me. I just write.

I write about my faith. My politics. My kids. I write about dog treats and swim lessons. I write about stress and about joy.

And no one is going to break down my door and slaughter me for it.

All too often, the world feels really heavy lately. There is so much bad stuff going on that it is a greater and greater challenge from my perch of privilege to stay focused on grace, mercy, peace, and love. It can feel like life is under attack from people who seek to cause harm, from people who are even just accepting of harm as a option, from sicknesses and illnesses and disease, from desperation and hopelessness and fear.

It is hard to stay focused on a faith that understands the depths of these despairs but still offers a message of hope.

Something I wrote in my journal recently after feeling overwhelmed with news stories of All Things Terrible in the world and after reading Psalm 75....

desperation at sea
hopelessness in disease
abuse of bodies
control of minds
hate of differences
lacking grace, mercy, and peace

life in this world
     is so desperately broken

ancient text tells me to
     Trust God

texts written during
war, famine, disease, drought, brother killing brother
refugees, cancer, rape, bullying, intolerance, divorce

times do not change

Jesus brought a message to the world

but is the world capable
does the world want love
can humans choose love over
selfishness protection rightness judging winning riches power sex anger envy wanting

Lord, do you hear our cries
are the voices of those who desire your repeated and consistent messages of love love love love love
too small
too weak

too singular

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Making Strides at Goldfish Swim School

I recently shared some really important summer safety information about water safety and shared that my son, Zach (age 8), would be starting swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School.

I am seriously impressed with Goldfish.

I'm going to tell you up front that Goldfish is providing us with some free lessons in exchange for me sharing our experiences. But what I share is completely my own opinion, our own experiences.

First, the facility is clean and comfortable and fun. We liked the theme and set up and layout. Everything is very open so it never feels like you and your child are going to be separated. No locker rooms to walk through. No gates. The sitting area is on the other side of glass to the pool so the kids can see the sitting area and the sitting area can fully see the pool area.

There are many changing rooms, a suit spin dryer, bathrooms, a table of hair dryers. Our locations also has a fish tank and a tank with a couple of turtles - which make for a great distraction for a nervous kid.

At his first lesson, Zach was given a wristband to wear. This helps the instructor to recognize that this is a brand new student who made need extra help, attention, explanation. The staff is positive, calm, happy. There is a lifeguard on duty. There were 3 or 4 areas set up in the pool with instructors. There is a supervisor watching over the lessons.

The class size makes a huge difference. I think part of why Zach did not succeed when we tried lessons was that it was s system with a large number of kids and multiple instructors working with the large group. This worked fine for Teagan when she did these lessons. But it did not work for Zach. At all.

At Goldfish, his group will never be more than 4 kids to his 1 instructor. They use up about half of one end of a lane in the pool. The water is warm. The pool is shallow. There are movable "islands" so the kids never feel like they are out in the middle of nothing but water.

After lesson 1, Zach earned a ribbon and the supervisor told me that she could tell Zach was comfortable in the water (I laughed and told her she should have seen the tears at home and heard the tales of all the ways he was certain to die as we drove there).

We have now done 3 lessons. And he is making amazing progress week to week. He doesn't love swimming. But he doesn't cry about going. He put his face in the water this past week (and got a ribbon for it). He can swim unassisted for about 5 feet.

My son will be safer around water because he will feel confident. My son will have fun with his family and friends because we can go to pool parties or water parks. Learning to swim comes easily for some and is more of a process for others. I am very glad that we were introduced to Goldfish Swim School so that Zach can learn by process.

Whether your child knows how to swim or is just learning, Goldfish Swim School has the perfect curriculum for every skill level for children ages four months to 12 years. If you would like to enroll your child(ren) in our quality swim school, we will WAIVE the registration fee – a $25 value – for all Eternal Lizdom readers. Just give the code “ETERNALLIZDOM” when you call to schedule.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Saying the Same Old Things In Response to a New Tragedy

Like many, my heart is broken. Like many, I am angry and frustrated. Like many, I want to scream and weep and take action. Like many, I am helpless.

The tragedy in Orlando... I can't really find the word that I am ok using for what happened in Orlando. Yes, it is horrific. It is a tragedy. It was a shooting. It was murder. All those things make my stomach churn. It was hate. Evil, dark, horrible, unfathomable hate. It was slaughter.

I think back 20 years and I could have been in that club. When my best friend came out, we would go together to a local gay nightclub. I spent many, many nights dancing, drinking, laughing, watching drag shows, and meeting all kinds of people. It was my big introduction to the gay community. And it is a community. And these clubs and restaurants do feel like a safe place. Or they did. I know that the club we frequented was a place where some men and women were first dipping their toe into the community, first being open about their sexuality. And it was a place where they were accepted as they were.

I even got to experience a small piece of that sense of it being a safe place. I was raised with different values than I embrace now. So being in the gay community, embracing my best friend as he came out and figured out who he was, was something I never imagined being part of my life. I wasn't taught to be an Ally - but I certainly became one.

I have written my opinions on equality many times.

But as the events of Sunday morning unfolded and as I was reminded how many people I love were reminded of the fear that is always constantly pressent in their lives... I was also reminded of what I see as an ugly side of people.

The people who used this as an opportunity to blast Muslims, Islam, immigrants, homosexuality, and the debate over gun control. Answering hate with hate is not a good combination.

Sometimes, I really prefer just staying in my little bubble where I can pretend that the majority of people in the world really do believe in Love and Peace and Compassion and that it is really the outliers who just haven't caught on to it yet.

But this tragedy, because it involves more buzz words than previous shootings, and our current political climate in the US, shows me that we still have a long way to go.

Because it sure seems like our love of guns is a higher priority than our love of the LGBTQ community, our love of the people in the movie seats around us, our love of our co-workers, our love of college students, our love of Amish school children and our love of elementary school children and their teachers.

If your response to the news of violence is "don't take away my guns," you might need to re-examine your self-claimed pro-life stance.

If your response to the news of violence is "God is punishing them for sin," you need to re-examine your understanding of the Bible.

If your only response to the news of violence is to pray, you need to find a way to take action. Especially actions of love.

In the wake of this current tragedy, if you are someone who has been afraid to use your voice to speak up for those who are marginalized, who has been worried what others would think of you if you speak up for equality, who has been scared of the fallout if you speak your heart... I have been there. I have worried and fretted about who I might insult, who might think less of me, who might stop loving me or liking me. But it is important to speak up, speak out. Be an ally. Stand against current gun laws. Fight for change.

We each have a different way that we feel called to respond. We each have a different way to speak out, to take action.

In some ways, it might feel easy to just turn away from this. To just not look at the pictures or read the names. They're gay - I'm not. They're Latino - I'm not. They're young - I'm not. But here is your chance to take step one to really learn to embrace people. Look at each picture. Listen to the stories of the people who survived. The people who helped. The people who are mourning. And then pay attention to the people around you everyday. The barista at Starbucks. The person who greets you at a ride at Disney World. The background dancer at a local community theatre show. Your UPS delivery guy. The driver in the car next to you. Because those are the people who were killed.

I'm tired. I'm angry. And I'm longing for my bubble to be the real world. For people to know what joy and peace and love really feel like.

Peace and Love,

Friday, June 3, 2016

Summer Chores

My kids don't have chores during the school year. It's mostly because I'm lazy and trying to keep up with them doing the chores is more work than just taking care of it myself. Or, if I'm being really honest, just not having it done at all. The school year's routine is more focused on responsibility for reading, homework, projects, organization.

In the summertime, if we were to put the kids in day camps like we used to, we would most likely have the same expectations of no chores. Or minimal chores.

But we hired a nanny.

I have zero expectation of the nanny doing housework. I know that some nannies advertise their willingness to do light housework. But I want our nanny to be focused on my kids, not my messy house.

And I want my kids to do more than spend the summer playing video games, watching TV, and playing on iPads.

So each day weekday, they are required to earn their screen time.

To earn 1 hour of screen time, you must read for 30 minutes, do 2 chores from the chore list, and do specific physical activity.

Reading for 30 minutes is easy. The kids both enjoy reading, especially in the summertime. There are plenty of reading programs they participate in - at our tae kwon do school, our local library, and various book stores, for example. And after the first hour of screen time is earned, more time can be earned for reading more.

Physical activity is pretty easy, too. This summer, the focus is on tae kwon do. The kids both need a stronger core to improve balance and strength. So a total of 40 core exercises (sit ups, for example) or practicing their poomse (form). They can do it together or on their own.

And my favorite part - chores!

Here is our list from week 1. And we will use pretty much the same list for week 2.

The kids get to choose what they want to do. No repeating what you did the day before (last year, the windows and bathroom mirror got cleaned daily and became something they fought over). And the whole list should get done over the course of the week.

After a couple of weeks with the list like this, I plan to mix it up a little. The chores will mostly be the same but I will divide them up by room. A couple of weeks after that, maybe I will assign some to be chosen and some specifically to Teagan and specifically to Zach. The idea just being that mixing it up a little makes it feel fresh and new.

They have their own cleaning supplies - a vinegar and water mix (3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, a bit of lemon juice, couple drops of lemon essential oil) in a spray bottle. This can be used on floors, counters, walls, toilets, whatever.

I'd like to say that breaking it down this way means I might be able to make this continue in the school year. Maybe. But for now, I just want to make it last through the summer!

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg