Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Like the bull, people of a certain political persuasion may hear certain words waved around the political arena, causing them to see red, and become testy. While the words that incite this type of response may vary from one voter to the next, at the helm of this political intifada are such words as "abortion" and "homosexuality". These words compel some individuals to see red.
Seeing red is a phrase which literally refers to a state of irritation or annoyance, so when people see red they are often so caught up in their aggravation that they cannot see beyond the narrowed scope of that red-caped word before them. Seeing with such constricted vision makes it impossible for them to look at any of the other applicable data related to the issue. The matter is then bound in the limited context of their anger and fear.
I don't qualify as a political pundit. You know the group of people who sound like experts on political issues, but really they get their info from "news" programs on TV who are really nothing more than political hacks. The journalists on these programs aren't really experts. They're just there to shape your views with their public opinion polls. However, the bull and cape metaphor is such a good fit for today's politics. I am no fan of bullfighting, and am less a fan of the way politicians use their political spin doctoring like the matador's cape to distract voters.
The political team behind the scenes puts their matador (candidate) in the arena (on the ballot). This bullfighter will be the only candidate on the party ticket--republican or democrat. Those torros, (voters) often dangling on their last shred of faith in the teetering democratic system, don't really like the matador that's on the party ticket (much less want him to run the Presidency), but are captivated by the fancy steering of those carefully placed political issues, and will vote all the more because anyone is better than that other guy. The candidate will gesture vehemently touting phrases like "abortion is wrong" and "homosexuality is wrong" (or fill in the blank with any hot button political issue) until he is sure that the voters finally have him (and only him) locked in their sights. The bulls, compelled to charge the polls and cast their votes, are essentially reacting to the flagrant displays of the skilled toreador, and is in effect manipulated into voting for a candidate he really doesn't want because that is what the cape is designed to do.
Given the state of politics these days, I tend to have little respect for people who emphatically endorse one candidate over the other. American voters who are lulled into the booths by candidates who marginalize hot button issues are little more than naive bulls swayed by the toreros expert deception. As with the bull's inevitable fate in the finale of the fight, the votes that they cast at the polls eventually culminate with the death of democracy.
It is a known fact that bulls don't actually see red. In fact they, like many other animals, are color-blind. In truth, it is not the color of the cape, which insights the bull, rather the vigorous taunting at the hand of the cape which antagonizes the bull to charge. However, the red cape led to the phrase seeing red hence the metaphor for this post. As with most metaphors, this one isn't perfect by any means.
Monday, August 25, 2008
That I have ignored the side effects of solitude.
Security devours impulse.
Nerve devours fear.
Light does not devour dark, though, or
Deodorant stains would not be so conspicuous on black satin dresses,
African violets would have never thrived under barrenness,
and you would have stopped me from melting by now.
I'm melting right now,
One cold stone scoop at a time.
We all scream!
For ice cream numbs the brain.
Kindhearted ice cream men scoop out the pain.
Pushing push-ups and big sticks.
They make brain freeze look like civics.
And right now, I'm so cold-blooded
That my ice cream-addicted veins are flooded.
I'm a fiend,
Injecting frozen melodies of left out right in.
So greedy for that confectionary treat
Chronically served up cold,
I chase down ice cream trucks
Car-going desertion by the boat load.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
For me, her emotional meltdown to the "Happy Birthday" song was more than ironic, it was the defining moment of the whole party. I don't think that she enjoyed one minute of her special day. Normally she's very sensitive and doesn't adjust well to new environments. At some level, I knew that she wouldn't be receptive to the overstimulated atmosphere that I created. And those who are closest to me will tell you that I lost sight of due north. Yet, sadly, I elected to navigate the course that I had mapped out full steam ahead--afterall, money was spent, guests had arrived, agendas needed to be fulfilled, and expectations (mostly mine) had already been cemented.
In retrospect, I take full responsibility for my daughter's meltdown. I went overboard with the 3-dimensional ice-cream sundae invitations, I went overboard with the activities.., I pretty much went overboard with everything. I should have known better than to create a spectacle, thus I should have done better. At some point planning her party ceased to be about celebrating my precious little daughter's one-year milestone, and began taking on a life all its own. Now, I'm sitting here in the aftermath, wading through the pictures, the birthday cards, the gifts and moreover the outstanding realization that this birthday party was more about me than anything else.
Life is tough, and at best most of us do whatever we can to keep our heads above the water. Sometimes I'm hit unexpectedly by waves driven by my past, like matters where birthday party planning dredge up buried memories of lost dreams. I got knocked off course. I lost my balance, and struggled to find my footing. Still, I rest easy knowing that with every passing day, I become more aware of the waves. I can read the tide a little better, and hopefully I can brace myself to steer clear of shipwrecks like these.
I can't change the tsunami that rocked the birthday party in my garage this past weekend. The damage is done; memories are waterlogged. With luck Simone will probably forget this storm, and her resilience will keep her afloat. But I take courage in the fact that I'm better able to read the ebbing tides, and though I have not mastered its currents, I am finding the balance.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Right, because I'm always looking for a good deal on dirt? Because I can't just get some from my own backyard (or my neighbor's backyard for that matter). Because the English language hasn't already coined a whole phrase ("dirt-cheap") illustrating just how free dirt should be? Seriously? Heaven forbid that dirt should be dirty, right? Because we all know that there's a whole lot of "clean" dirt just laying around? Does there really need to be a billboard requesting "free dirt"? And did someone actually pay to have this sign made?
Then again, maybe I've misinterpreted the sign. Maybe it's a "wanted" poster for a Mr. Clean Fill Dirt's arrest or perhaps the sign is advertising a rally to "free" a Mr. Clean Fill Dirt. Am I the only one confused here?
I'd like to think that she gets her resilience from me. However, I know better. I don't always face new challenges with optimism. This experience has been a great reminder to me. When faced with a challenge, often the biggest obstacle to overcome is produced from the negative thoughts I sometimes entertain. Sometimes, I meet problems with an "I can't do it" attitude. Perhaps when faced with obstacles, I've already surmised that God has made the task too hard, or maybe the size of the challenge overshadows my impending victory. Whatever the rationale, essentially negative thoughts become the greater obstacle.
Remember when Joshua led the children of Israel to the Promised Land? Just as they were about to receive their blessing from God, they encountered an impenetrable wall; a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I'm sure many felt like giving up. Some probably felt misled by Moses' and Joshua's leadership. Others may have felt that God was incapable of giving them the victory. These were the same attitudes which led to their ancestors 40 year dessert wandering.
The Israelites who had came out of bondage in Egypt, could not overcome their "slave mentality". "Slave mentality" results from years of oppression, from constantly living under the boot heel of an oppressive master. For this reason, they learned to thrive under persecution-- never rising above the status quo. And, while they were no longer subjected to Egyptian servitude, their oppressor had taken on a new identity. Tyrant, thy name is Abdication!
All that Israel knew was that they were promised the land of Canaan. They thought that they would just waltz right in to possess it. However, the moment they faced a challenge, they fell back on the thoughts that kept them bound in Egypt. They wanted God's blessings, yet cloaked in defeat they were not suited to receive them. The invisible shackles of "We can't" robbed them of a great blessing.
What about you? What challenges have you faced lately? Are you intimidated by the idea of going back to school? Changing careers? Planting a church? Reviving your marriage? Overcoming debt? Starting a new ministry? Draw strength from the insights gain through learning to tie your shoes. Through Christ, you can do it! Don't spend your life fighting in the desert. Don't think that silent submission is an acceptable response. You can't afford to be silent. The lives of those who come after you depend on your victory. Besides, your children will encounter the same struggle, and/or the same attitude. So, go ahead and grab those obstacles by the laces, and walk in your victory. In this way, your children will learn to fight in the face of adversity, and possible take their victories to even higher levels.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
As an artist, I don't just look at images. I constantly analyze the parts, look for relationships between parts, pull insights from what my eyes reveal, and try to find connections between my eyes' experience and whatever's going on in my life at that instant. This process sounds laborious, but this is how my brain works.
My mind raced constantly...jumping from one visual image to another. Bounding and leaping from textures on tree trunks, lights flashing from cell phone headsets, the sun's rays reflecting off of asphalt casting this blanket of glowing mist over the cars on the road making their paint appear to be the same color --a monochromatic grey. At some point, I began to realize the physiological impact that this marathon of thought was having on my body.
Within seconds I could tell that my abdomen muscles were tense, tightened and my overall constitution was unrelaxed. It occurred to me at that point that I wasn't even breathing. I was literally holding my breath. I realized that I sometimes forget to breathe when concentrating on something. Since I am constantly analyzing things, I noticed how often it must be that I forget to breathe. However, breathing shouldn't be so remote from my thinking. Breathing is second nature. Yet sometimes, something as natural as breathing can be so foreign to me.
Instantly I was flooded with a childhood memory of being locked in a trash can. My immediate reaction to being held captive in a trash receptacle was to fight my way out. But the confinement of that small space restricted my movement. I had surrendered to the reality that I was trapped. The realization of my predicament intensified by my limited air supply and coupled with the shear darkness ignited anxiety within me, and I could feel anew the initial tension that riveted my body from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. Every muscle in my body was tense. Clothes drenched within minutes. I competed with the moisture for air. Thick breathe saturated my skin. My heart raced. I grew faint. I withdrew.
I don't often conjure this memory. Perhaps it's because in doing so the thoughts produce the same physiological reaction in my body. I can feel my heart racing as I type. Or maybe it's because the irony of my being locked in a trash can-- thrown away like refuse-- transcends it's literal meaning. It's hard to remember a time in my childhood when I felt of greater value than garbage. That reflection prompted this poem:
Refuse don't make connections.
Like revelations from conversations ladened with heavy accents from remotely located customer service reps named Chad,
I'm not making the connections.
I'm so thrown away
That I'm disconnected.
Of no use to you,
Deported to the distant dumping ground of dis-ease,
I am devoured in this space.
Treated like a second-class
You're not making the connection.
Dampened and detached from breathing--
A foreign concept--
What should be common place
Don't come natural for me.
'Cuz trash don't breathe, and
While you go on living American
I heave in Chinese.
Confined by the language barrier
I squeeze my chest.
I'm so busy gasping
for breathe that
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I'm a second class citizen accustom to garbage.
And the assimilation stunted my growth.
I'm inhaling, and exhaling a heavy mist of malaise
In on again, off again
Fits and starts.
I'm in over my head, cuz
Over my head
There's that synthetic ceiling and
I'm not making the connections.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
This revolution is like those self-check out kiosks at the grocery stores: we've been hearing about them for some time, but until they actually showed up in your local Ralphs many doubted that they'd replace clerks' jobs. Now, more and more I am beginning to see fewer and fewer clerks at the registers. And, whether you love or hate the direction that self-service check-out lanes are headed, you have to admit that the technology is more prevalent than half-price sales these days.
From a global perspective, the recent surge in outsourced tasks has transformed the way that US companies do business. Don't believe me. Call up your local customer service representative. So, why am I publishing this post?
I think that it is well worth the investment and research for today's parents to recognize that this shift is well on the horizon. As an educator and parent of children who will be entering into this new work force, I sense the urgency to at least make myself aware of these new trends. I've been reading this book by Daniel H. Pink called A Whole New Mind. At best, Pink address the problems that the Western world is facing: opulence, Asia, and computerization.
While the six aptitudes that Pink prescribes in his book for our Western culture's waning ability to survive in the global market aren't a great fit, he at least raises the right questions sounding the alarm of the coming shift. Wether you realize it our not, our children's futures are espoused in this dialogue.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I decided to surf friends blogs to see what was on their minds, when I came across Lisa P's blog. There was a link under her list of blogs to read, that had caught my eye. Normally, I only read the blogs of people I know. However in this case, God led me to do something out of the ordinary.
A blog called "Stuff Christians Like" caught my eye for the first time. So, I clicked it and this is what I found: # 375. Forgetting Who We Are. Sometimes, I don't feel like I'm 31, and after reading this blog, I felt like the three-year-old in me wanted to pour out of my eyes.
After wiping away my tears it occurred to me that I should delete the previous post and chalk it up to an answered prayer. However, I concluded that the power behind this testimony can only be realized if the whole story stays intact.
So, here I am before you sitting in awe, embracing the power of a changed perspective, humbled by God's activity in my life, and freed from the scars of indifference. God's grace is sufficient for me. I can endure these stripes, arise victorious, and teach my children to do the same.
Stereotypes embodied in white actors with painted black faces, thick lips and wooly hair play a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide. Downey's character in "Tropic Thunder" is cause for controversy.
I could care less what the plot of the movie is. No, I haven't "even" seen it. I haven't the slightest clue about it's premise. And just because the movie has a black co-lead, that doesn't make it less racially insensitive. I don't have to watch it to know that soon, I'm going to have to explain to my 3 year old daughter why being black in America is so laughable.
What boils my blood even more than this anesthetization of racial stereotypes are the very arguments which defend them. If I hear one more person justify simple one dimensional portrayals of black people with ignorant arguments like:
- No one complained when the Wayans brothers went undercover as white women in “White Chicks”.
- Did anyone complain about male actors losing out on a role when Julie Andrews did “Victor Victoria”?
- It's just as funny as when Eddie Murphy wore white make-up and white features and then acted like a nerdy white guy in society.
- It's comedy. Nothing is sacred in comedy.
then I might just have to turn into that neck snapping, finger popping, eye rolling, drama filled sister girl that is propagated in so many of our media outlets.
As my mother would say, "Two wrongs don't make a right", and while these arguments may be valid (maybe no one complained when the Wayans brother went undercover as white women), they are, at best, irrelevant and they in no way address the issue.
Look, I get that Stiller is making fun of self-important actors, but it is never funny to depict black face actors--even ironically. What is it that moves white actors to mimic groups which they've historically held down and the people who defend these actors! Have we learned nothing from the painful depictions of blacks in America's history!
And for those of you who preach about diversity, yet support movies like this one.., well, I believe it was James Brown who hit the nail right on the head with his "Talking Loud and Ain't Saying Nothing" song lyrics: you just a dull knife, Jack; just ain't cutting. You're phony, you're phony!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Look at this face! You're tell me that she is not cute enough for the Olympics' opening ceremony? Her voice is obviously good enough to sing China's national anthem, yet it was in the nation's best interest to have a much more acceptable looking kid lip sync?
"The audience will understand that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," said Chen Qigang the ceremony's Chief Music Director. I would ask what parent would exploit her child in such a way, but I forget that we're talking about a communist country. I just can not image..... You can read the rest of China's quest for perfection HERE and see a film of the little lip syncer who was decidedly more good-looking.
- 1) These six (Nadia not pictured) were so apprehensive when they first met back in June. Who knows what was going through their minds as they stood at a safe distance away from one another, curious about the different faces that stood before them, but not piqued enough to engage.
- 2) I can't even recall what happened that finally broke the ice between them (it was probably over a food item [I find food to be the great equalizer among toddlers]), but looking at them floundering around in the sand pit, you'd never know that at one point within them arose so many questions.
- 3) I am thankful of the diversity that thrives in our neighborhood. I didn't always feel this way. In fact, at one point my fears of rejection got the best of me. I projected my own insecurities onto Sadia by keeping her in a isolated part of the park. Overcoming my own apprehension became the catalyst for change.
Thank you Lisa for pointing out the missing connection.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I am sure that I am missing many great scriptures. Feel free to leave your comments with scriptures and/or categories that you believe should be added to the list. If I add your suggestion, I'll update this post with a credit link. Comments are welcome!
- The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1)
- So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
- This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
- And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
- Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. (Luke 6:38)
- So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Mathew 6:31-33)
- Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
- Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. (Lamentations 3:21-25)
- Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.Interlude. (Psalms 62:5-8)
- For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. (Ephesians 2:14-15)
- Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:9)
- I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
- Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
- Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9,10)
- That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17)
- Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
- Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Psalms 1:1-6)
- “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man. Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. (1 Kings 2:2-3)
Friday, August 08, 2008
Parenthood is a huge market. For this reason, there are many so-called "experts" who claim to have effective methods for disciplining toddlers. After conduction a little research, I have come to one conclusion: They're all pretty much peddling the same BS. So, I've decided to take them to task on their "time tested" discipline strategies that work.
In this case, I stumbled across a medical website called Wyeth which claims (among other things) to bring to the world health care that "changes lives". I've pulled out the salient points from an article posted on their website and compared their findings with mine.
What I discovered might surprise you. Apart from valuable insight, this face off should provide an interesting read for everyone.
|1. What are the ages of your child(ren)?||N/A||3 yr. old, 1 yr. old|
|2. Do you offer your expertise with the purpose of making money?||Yes||No|
|3. What is your field of expertise?||Health Care||Parenting|
|4. Why do toddlers misbehave?||To test cause and effect, distractions, poor impulse control||To walk the fine line between being an angel and pushing mommy's buttons.|
|5. Are toddlers "bad" if they do the same "no-nos" on purpose?||Probably no.||Probably so.|
|6. Should a parent offer rewards in exchange for cooperation?||Yes. Rewards can encourage her to see things your way.||Yes. Rewards such as, living to see her next birthday, encourage her to see things my way.|
|7. Does telling a toddler "no" limit her development?||Reserve saying "no" for situations that threaten others, your toddler, or your home.||Frequently saying "no" makes her more appreciative on the rare occasions when she might hear a "yes".|
|8. Should I refrain from "spanking" my toddler?||Yes. Unless you want her to develop a real pain in her butt.||Yes. Only if you prefer raising a real pain in the butt.|
|9. How do "time-outs" work?||Isolation for 1 or 2 minutes should make an impact and keep a hand on her shoulder to make her sit still.||They don't.|
|10. What are some effective discipline strategies?||Consequences, consistency, rules, carrying out punishments immediately||My toddler responds well to threats.|
At what point does compromise become destructive?
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
My three year old daughter woke up this morning and decided to dress herself without consultation. There is this bikini bra-top that she's been dying to wear. Sadly, I bought it for her. However, as soon as I brought it home I realized that even though it was in her size, it was inappropriate for a three year old to wear. Accordingly, I did what any self respecting mother would do in my position, I shoved it all the way to the back of her drawer.
Yet, what do I see poking out from behind her shirt? That's right, the straps to said obnoxious bikini top. It's detection prompted a very mature conversation between mother and daughter about the merits of appropriate bra usage. What follows is the outcome of that discussion:
me: Sadia, what are you wearing underneath your shirt?
Sadia: my bra
me: Honey, that isn't a bra.
Sadia: Yes it is; it's my bra. I have to wear my bra.
me: No, you don't.
Sadia: YOU wear a bra all the time.
Can you see her logic? You have breast, which is why you wear a bra. I have breasts, therefore I have to wear a bra too. Since I do not actually own a bra, I have to use the next best thing.., my swim suit bra top. She's too young to understand that what is appropriate for mommy, a grown woman, is not always fitting for her, a child.
Now, I can respect this kind of logic, trust me. I'm sure that I've used the same argument before with my mother. However, just as it was with my mother, so it goes with me--her argument ain't flyin'. The conversation resumes:
me: Sadia, mommy wears a bra because it would be inappropriate for an adult not to (Women's Libbers, please refrain from commenting). Three year olds don't wear bras, because they aren't suppose to.
Sadia: I need a bra so, so, so, so my big breasts don't get wet.
While I can appreciate the subtle joys of dry breasts, Sadia's rationale proves to me why it was a good idea in the first place to shove the swim suit to the back of her dresser. She can't distinguish underwear from swim wear. Additionally, her argument prompts my own memories of hurrying to grow breasts.
I can remember running around the house with rolled-up tube socks meticulously tucked into my training bra. Despite their lopsided tendencies, and the discomfort of having the super small support cup on my training bra stretched out-of-wack due to the newly implanted protrusions, I pranced around the house pleased as punch.
Except here's the caveat. Our little girls are growing up too fast. Reflecting on my childhood, dancing through the house in my training bra, I was twelve years old. My daughter is only three years old, and already she feels the compulsion to defend bogus breasts.
With the clothes, the make-up, the t.v. shows, and the music it seems that the stuff that I was drawn to at twelve is being marketed to girls at age three. Sadly, I bought into it, because after all this stuff is too cute to pass up. Besides that, all of the other little three year olds are wearing it (hopefully red flags are going off all over the place in your mind as you've recognized this kind of reasoning from, let see.., when was that.., oh yes, that's it-- JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL).
I know that it's just a swim suit, but I believe that the pressure for our little girls to grow up too fast has gone too far. It's becoming harder and harder to find one piece children's swim suits, or panties that aren't bikini cut or low rise. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm fighting like heck to leave the grown-up stuff for when she grows up. What about you? Do you think that little girls are pressured to grow up too fast?
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Certainly, if my pessimistic persona didn't sell the image, then my credentials were sure to close the deal. My upbringing is no secret; I am from South Central, LA. In the past, I wielded my hometown like a magic wand. Essentially, it was another layer of the illusion. When interacting with people, my wand revealed people's own assumptions about "hood-life". In other words, when people heard of my background, they'd automatically associate me with what they had already presumed about others like me. Though deceptive, the benefit was two-fold: first, I didn't have to be transparent; and second, people didn't have to invest time into really getting to know me, since their superficial understanding of who I was sufficed. Still, the charade became an expertise.
If practice makes perfect, then I guess you could have called me a consummate illusionist, and my persona became the illusion. Over time, my act evolved to include my empty childhood. I exploited my own pain as a means of adding more depth to everyone else's perceptions. It was as though the darkness of my adolescence sprouted tiny tassels with which to cloak me-- a fitting front for a master magician. All the while, the real me laid hidden just beneath the cloak, beyond the smoke and the mirrors waiting to emerge from houdini's hat.
Unfortunately, the tangled web of deception entombed me and eventually, my voice was buried (but then again, which of the great magicians wouldn't risk death in order to sell a stunt). For strength, true strength, is emboldened through vulnerability. I had forgotten what it was to be vulnerable, and (having isolated myself from the world) at the end of the day all I really had was my hocus-pocus. I didn't know what it meant to really live.
Recently, I made a commitment to be known. The irony is that I credit death to my rebirth. Hopefully, with my background as an illusionist, this post will help some to recognize the techniques of the magician. I don't wish to become a crusader against the art of pretense, rather a sounding board of awareness and a bastion of empathy.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
I took my daughters to the park this morning. Simone is an awesome little girl. At just 11 months, she's growing to be about 4 inches taller than your average t.v. table from head to toe. Still, she's gotten to be very clumsy learning to stand with her awkward legs.
I was sitting down next to Simone on our picnic blanket, while Sadia was off digging up buried treasure in a nearby sandbox. Back on our pallet, I was more or less a scaffold for Simone, rather than a blanket buddy. She was discovering a treasure all her own. For the first time at the park, she was attempting to stand apart from me or anything else holding her up.
Sometimes, when she notices that she's been free standing for a while, she thrusts both hands into the air and begins bouncing up and down with her knees slightly bent in celebration. Her eyes light up and she cracks a smile from here to the moon. Ordinarily, I can't help but to join in on the laughter. However, on this particular occasion, smiling had escaped me.
After a few successful stints at free standing, Simone was feeling quite bold. Her celebrations grew more elaborate. She had begun to incorporate clapping into the routine-- a sure sign of the proverbial haughtiness preceding the fall.
Thus, I had resisted the urge to reach out and buffer her as she was falling over. What a perfect opportunity to seize this teachable moment. Thinking that I would gently guide my youngest into understanding the value in never becoming too sure of herself, I withheld my hand of support. After all, a child needs to know her limits, right? WRONG!
At some point in her celebration, Simone began to tetter. She extended her tiny little hands out towards the closest thing she could grab, in a struggle to brace herself. That thing just so happened to be my unpretentious breast. Hear me when I say that when the child looked up and saw that I wasn't going to try and prevent her from falling, she literally took matters into her own hands.
In an effort to cinch her balance, Simone grabbed a fistful of my left boob, now emaciated from years of nursing. Her fingers, like five miniature carabiners locked onto my bust, anchoring her feet securely to ground.
Now if this whole scene had played out just a few years earlier, girlfriend would have had a time wrapping her little fingers around my girls. She would have been on her own. However the fact that she could, with her infinitesimally small hands, get a good grasp of my lady bumps only emphasizes the sheer utilitarianism of it all.
For instance, in a recent post called Gaining a birds-eye perspective of the Father, I wrote about my experiencing God's imminence through a brief visit from a singularly unexpected source. God chose a pithy pop-in by an ordinary bird to unveil the mystery of His nearness to me. On any other occasion I may never have taken a second glance at the bird. There was nothing of its appearance that stood out. You could say that we were just in the right place at the right time. When was the last time you had a "right place, right time" experience, through which God communicated some aspect of His nature to you?
This morning, after having a tough time working through some negative thoughts that have plagued me recently, I went into the kitchen to water my plant. I guess I can't call it a plant really, since all there is to it is some soil. I planted the seeds about four weeks ago and still nothing is sprouting up from the dirt. Overcome by frustration, I lifted the tera cotta pot from the kitchen counter and heaved it over to expose its contents. I was determined to get to the bottom of its inactivity or completely rid myself of the eyesore.
Much to my surprise, what I had unearthed astounded me. There, beneath the dampened earth in my little lavender vessel, was an exposed and tightly intertwined network of roots. I couldn't see the growth because I was so focused on the nothing that was happening on the surface. However, there it was growing right before my eyes, and here I was just minutes earlier planning to uproot and discard the whole undertaking. It was as though God was unveiling yet another layer of Himself to me. He was telling me to be patient because He was orchestrating my healing on the inside.
In that instant I began to see myself the way God sees me. He doesn't see me as an individual wrought through and through with destitution, the way that I perceived the empty pot taking up space on my counter-top. Instead, God sees me as I am; an intricate soul undergoing some serious heart reconstruction. It's easy for me to get frustrated with myself, because judging from the outside there just doesn't seem to be any progress. Looking at my exterior, it doesn't appear that I am healing from pasts hurts. But Oh, thank God for the roots of reconciliation that are sprawling on the inside. I believe that my break thru is already there by faith, and, in His time, He will bring forth the fruit .
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to oversimplify the process of recovering from past hurts. Mines is a painful and arduous evolution, as is yours to be sure. All I'm trying to do is share my testimony. Certainly, there will be more mountains to traverse in my quest for wholeness. Still, I am so glad that I won't have to go it alone, because now I recognize that God is with me.
Moreover, I can encourage myself whenever, judging from the outward appearance, things don't appear to be moving along the way I think that they should be. Furthermore, I am awestruck by the reality of worshiping a God who, much like myself, seeks to be known.
After all, where's the sense in worshiping an invisible God.
Once I came to the realization that this was God answering my prayer, I backed away from Simone's door. She wasn't going to wake up. God had simply succeeded in getting me out of bed, and now I was up for good. I immediately went downstairs and made a cup of coffee. I really wanted to make good on my commitment to spend some quiet time with Him. With my extra large cup of freshly brewed coffee in hand, I stepped outside onto our patio, pulled up a chair and took a moment to notice my surroundings.
Besides the fallen leaves, the carcass of a decaying beetle, and the ankle high weeds that lined the deck floor, I was alone. There is a small cluster of trees that frame the front side of our patio wall. Their branches, jumble together so that you can't tell one set of limbs from the next. They sort of hang over our patio like intertwined fingers pursed tightly together, which is nicely suited for privacy and which also provides a great shade in the summer time. However some times the shrubbery can get so dense that you can hardly make out the visitors that traverse the stems bounding from one arm to the next. Nevertheless I scouered the thickets and realized that they hadn't drawn any guests. I could hear the unnatural sound of the neighbors air conditioning unit invading the stillness of the morning and fought hard to block it out as I closed my eyes in a posture of prayer.
When I pray, I usually envision myself in what I picture to be the throne room where God sits in heaven. I am extremely visual and find that this method of visualization helps me to focus on God when I pray, rather than the million and one other things that are racing through my mind at that moment. Anyway, I am aware that my lame attempts at creating this image of heaven don't do it's greatness any justice. Nonetheless, I make the attempt. As I am praying--crying out to God--my prayer is briefly interrupted by the sound of the hostile air conditioning unit nearby shutting off. For some reason this novel silence breaks my concentration away from my original prayer and, with eyes still shut, I begin to take note of the posture of my body in my imagination.
I had never really paid this much attention before. During this revelation, I was on my knees before God with my face as far into the floor as it could possibly go. My hands were extended in front of me as far as they could stretch. The position I was in looked quite uncomfortable. Especially since after three knee replacement surgeries, I know that my knees don't bend like that anymore. Kneeling before, what I imagine to be, God seemed both unnatural and laborious. My position on the ground afforded me a limited perspective, so I assume that it was God that I was kneeling before. I could see the floor with clarity; I could see the foot of God, but never His face. That is the way it has always been when I go before the Lord in prayer.
Now, just to give you some idea the scene's scale, the height of my entire body is about one tenth the size of God's pinky toe (btw did I mention God is always barefoot). So, there I am in the throne room of grace. I am all alone on the cold hard floor some distance from God's feet. That is the way I always envision myself as I am brining my cares before God. There, on my patio deck, I realize what a lonely discomforting picture I have of Who God is.
Saddened by my finite understanding of God's imminence, I immediately open my eyes and begin to cry. In the midst of the chaos of my life, I never really felt the closeness of God. I have always experienced Him as this distant force remotely orchestrating the events of my life. I never experienced Him as being near to me. As I wiped the tears from my eyes and my blurred sight came into focused I noticed a small rustling in the trees. I was startled. Usually the stillness of the morning betrays any movement in the trees.
I peered into the dense foliage more closely to distinguish a tiny bird barely noticeable at first, but once I could make out his small frame, he seemed so ostentatious. "That's strange. How long had he been there?" I thought to myself, as I hadn't noticed him before. I didn't hear him fly into the trees. Had he been there this whole time and I just hadn't seen him? That's when it hit me?
God was speaking to me through my nestling visitor. I thought that I was all alone out on the patio this morning. Yet, right there with me the whole time was my invisible observer. Indeed he had been there all along and so has God. I began to see clearly what God was telling me in the quietness. The confusion of the branches represented the shambles of my past. God was always there with me during the various times and places in my life when I felt most alone; when I felt distanced from Him. Except, now God was giving me a new understanding of Who He is in relation to my suffering. Just like that tiny bird had been there perched in the confusion of the branches, so God had been with me.
At that moment, I revisited my prayer poster. Only this time, I wasn't sprawled out on the cold floor like some awkwardly discarded folding chair. I was climbing up God's gynormous leg into His welcoming hand, which were now holding me near. His hands. No longer were they absent from the picture as they had been before. His nail scarred hands had become apart of my understanding of who God is to me now. It feels great to be able to envision God's hands holding me as I am sitting poised onto His lap, and looking up towards His all encompassing face. How have I managed for this long without knowing this feeling? I now refer to this new prayer poster as my "time with my Father".
And the closing of the matter is this, with my new understanding of God as my Daddy, rather than just some distant force, I can sense His closeness to me now more than ever. This is a feeling that I won't soon forget. I welcomed this new prayer poster and all of the secrets that it will reveal.
How much time do you spend each day in worship? I'm not speaking of the brief intervals spent in the car singing along to your favorite
cd, while en route from one destination to the another (that's me), but of a time devoted to honoring and revering The Most High God. I'm speaking of
I'm referring to the kind of worship where you have to lift up your hands to the heavens in humble devotion to the Creator.., the kind of worship that steers you into a pregnant pause as you reflect on God's unfathomable holiness.., the kind of worship that ignites a sincere and integral heart, radiating a fire on the inside that makes you want to live right on the outside.., the kind of worship that God desires?
You know, preaching will pass away.
Evangelism will not exist in eternity.
We won't be
to church in glory.
What will remain is worship. We will be spending all of eternity worshiping the God of heaven and Earth.
How much of your day is devoted to true worship?
Buy a clear container and fill it with 25,550 gum balls. Every morning before leaving the house, grab a gum ball. Each day, as the jar slowly empties the image is supposed to offer a tangible perspective on our fleeting lives.
On second thought, I don't think I'd have the impulse control for this to even be effective. My life span would go up in one huge bubble some where around day 6 or so.
I'm not sure if our men understand the power that they wield at the bargaining tables in our marriages.
Never underestimate the undeniably raw appeal of a man folding and putting away a pile of cleaned laundry.
Maybe it's the shower deprivation, or the unceasing deluge of mommy and me preparations, or maybe the evolution of things, but a chiseled body including rock hard abs just don't do it for me anymore.
Not to make light of the situation, but let's face it, men are simple creatures. For men, doing the deed goes a long way. And it's not that we, women, see anything wrong with a little bump and grind, it's just that sometimes we're so overwhelmed with house work that by the time Marvin Gaye's cd Let's Get it On starts spinning in the cd changer, we're taxed.
I could be completely off base here and let me know if I am, but there is nothing sexier than a man on all fours scrubbing the kitchen floor or emptying the dish washer.
Want to rekindle the flame in the bedroom? Want to get us in the mood? Welcome us home from work wearing an apron (additional clothing optional), with dinner prepared and on the table.
This is a win win proposal here and frankly I am surprised that generations of couples before us haven't figured it out.
If men would just harness the power of carrying out some basic house hold chores, we can all get what we want.
I read a blog post by a friend of mine named Diane about a week ago. I can't remember all of the context, but essentially it was about being aware of the people around us. I spoke with a friend name Robin last night about our basic need to be heard. She mentioned that she tries to validate the existence of the people around her. She either takes a moment to listen to their pain, or if she doesn't have the time she makes eye contact with them while explaining that she doesn't have the time. But, who has time for that--right. Particularly, who has time for something as simple as eye contact? Offering my eyes can be so difficult for me.
Here's the bean..,the light represents those candid opportunities that God provides for us each day to pour into someone else, if for no other reason but to make them feel validated. While the darkness illustrates the selfish world that we LIVE in, where we chose to sulk in our own affliction, rather than show mercy to others as they endure theirs.
In my case, the Tetra is a symbol for my life. I surround myself with the darkness from past pain. I can't see outside the murkiness of my life. Adaptation to my obscurity is a perceived necessity, because I have convinced myself that I vaguely remember a time where there was light in my life. Even though light Is all around me, I am blinded to this obvious fact. Like these fish that live IN caves, I too have no eyes. Unable to see beyond my own darkness, I have adapted fins and swim by people in pain, day after day unaware and unmoved by their very apparent hunger to be known.
Sometimes I feel troubled when my 3 year old wants to describe A new experience that she's excited about, or when my husband wants to tell me about his hectic day. I can't stand to pull away from whatever I'm doing to empathize with a friend about an unhealthy relationship, or spend some time with a loved one who is convalescing.
As I came to this realization, I am reminded of a very simple bible study lesson. Sadia, my 3 year old shared this with me in the car ride home from VBS tonight. I asked her what she had learned in her class. She said, "The man put blood on the man's eyes, and now he can see." My confusion prompted further probing.
"Sadia," I said gengerly not wanting to discourage her desire to share, "do you mean Jesus?"
"Yeah!" she replied excitedly.
"I don't think that he put blood on the man's eyes," I said hoping to jog her memory as I realized that she was a little foggy on the details, and as I struggled to remember the particulars of this biblical account myself.
"Mommy, blood rhymes with mud," she piped as my emphasis on the word "blood" quickly triggered her memory.
Immediately, the light went on for me as well. "Oh, that's right," I exclaimed with shared enlightenment, "Jesus healed the man's blindness with mud, so that he could see"
In particular, I realize that the Light continues to shine for me. I don't have to continue living in my CAVE of misery. A man named Jesus used the fish that live in caves to bring restoration to my eyes.
Experiencing rejection from my mother as a young child, which eventually led to her abandoning me at age 17, undergoing desertion from my father at age 13, and then having to aid in his rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction as a young adult, being estranged form my brother and younger sister, and recently learning that I was molested as a young child foster mistrust in me. The family bonds, which should have made the world a safe place in my adolescence, are broken, so my view of life is that it is a bad place where people don't have my best interest at heart. As a result, I second guess, criticize, and react both verbally and nonverbally to everything. I am pregnant with pessimism.
Even more telling, just a couple of months into my marriage I asked my husband, "So, how long do you think it will be before we get tired of each other?" This thought was more than just the wonderings of a newlywed estimating when the euphoria would wear off, but rather the epitaph which has been-- without my permission-- etched onto my life's script. In other words, how long before the marriage would disappear like so many other loved ones have before.
I enter into relationships expecting them not to last; expecting that one day they will become runaway balloons disappearing like tiny o's into the sky.
I suppose you could say that I had the trinity of pack and go chemistry: T-minus 40 minutes both Sadia and Simone were dressed, their faces immaculate, and their crops had been dusted (crop dusted origin: typically used in my parents generation; African American slang; a phrase that narrowly means to braid one's hair and more loosely can mean simply combing one's hair); T-minus 20 minutes the diaper bag was filled and fully loaded; T-minus 15 minutes and the buzzer on my stackable energy efficient dryer sounded. I quickly swung the dryer door open, drug out my shorts which had been dried to perfection, jumped into the bermudas, swooped up the girls, hauled them into the car and set off with 5 minutes to spare.
An 11:00 am read aloud at the public library (library name has been omitted to protect the innocent) was on our agenda. My friend Crystal and her two girls Logan and Avery were even going to meet us there. After arriving 10 minutes early, I caved into Sadia's request to sign-up for some kind of summer reading program. With my 10 month old, Simone (dubbed the "Michelin Baby"), glued to my hip and diaper bag in tote, I stood by to oversee the whole operation.
"Ah, there's Crystal now," I thought. We made small talk and then headed over to the multi purpose room a bit early, so that our girls could pull up some prime real estate in the front row with their carpet squares. "How could this day be more perfect?" I quipped prematurely to myself.
Beaming with delight I watched Sadia as she sat quietly on her own carpet square. She wasn't doing her usual steam roller impression all over the auditorium floor. She refrained from jumping up and down while shouting out random facts not even remotely related to the story topics. She was an angel. I think that maybe all of the stars were aligned in the cosmos, because precious days like this one came along once in a blue moon (Moms, just nod your head right were you are if you can feel me).
At the close of the session, Sadia and Logan ran up to the front for their hand stamps. All of the adults and children were leaving the room, when Logan and Sadia started a game of tag. In true mommy fashion, Crystal and I struck up a conversation about--what else?-- our children. Crystal, while bouncing 4 month old Avery in her lap, dove into the conversation with a comment about her current daycare provider.
"I want to put Logan (now 3 years old) into preschool, except they won't take her until she's potty trained," she commiserated.
Just then I glanced over at Logan and noticed that she had been wearing a pull-up, while Sadia (now 3 approaching 4 in 2 and a half months) had been wearing her "big girl panties".
"She just refuses to pee in the potty and I refuse to buy new carpet," she confessed quite matter-of-factly.
No sooner than she could finish her statement, Sadia--my big girl wearing "big girl panties"-- stopped at the center of the theater carpet mid-tag, commenced to spread her legs just shoulder length apart, and peed on herself.
If I didn't know any better, I'd swear the whole scene played out in slow motion something like this: Fade in to Sadia; cut to Sadia from head-to-toe as her legs spread; pan left to a close-up shot of Crystals face as she notices my anguished look; Crystal turns her glance abruptly in Sadia's direction; cut to a close-up of the look on Sadia's face painted with sweet relief; pan out to a head-to-toe shot of Sadia, as her pants gradually sprout little pee pee trails meandering length ways down her pants legs; close-up of Sadia's feet now consecrated with her holy water resulting as her bladder runneth over; cut to an extreme close-up of the subsequent pool of anointing baptizing the library's carpet.
You laugh, but the experience was so religious that it brought me to my knees. Fighting back tears, I completed a contrite prayer of repentance for future sins of commission, grabbed little John the Baptist by the hand, and crusaded my band of holy rollers right out of the front door of the library.
Ladies and Gentlemen...I am proud to announce that my 10 month old, Simone, has officially mastered the critically acclaimed spin maneuver, the Booty Swivel. This scoot is no ordinary pivot, butt easy enough for an infant to crack. Though a bit cheeky, the Booty Swivels's primary objective is to improve tactical maneuver functions, maximizing visibility from every peripheral.
Essentially, at a sitting position, one must rotate around an invisible axis which has the posterior as the focus. The procedure exposes the bare naked flaws realized during the previous administration of the lesser "over-the-shoulder" glance. Unfortunately, Simone suffered many casualties behind this antiquated strategy. Given the disproportionate ratio of the circumference of her head in comparison to her body, the "over-the-shoulder" glance generally resulted in Simone sailing, head first, into the floor.
The bottom line is that when executed properly, the Booty Swivel eliminates all blind spots. With a manufactured safety heel dig feature, she managed her first successful roll over test yesterday, and instituted her very own anti-lock break system--which incidentally causes the toes and feet to involuntarily spring approximately 3 cm into the air. All of this comes standard with two front, side and rear airbags more affectionately referred to as "junk in the trunk".
Now she has implemented an emergency horizontal arm extension that helps to counter body weight mid-pivot, because one thing has always been more important than anything else...superior glutial balance. After reading this breakthrough, those naysayers who choose to continue in vain with the "over-the-shoulder" glance, to you I say, "tush, tush, tush".
Yes, you did spend 45 whole minutes scouring the shelves at Ralphs, a mission which usually takes you about 20 minutes, but with the added responsibilities, increased the whole undertaking by "25 more minutes". Not to mention the fact that the diaper bag is pink with little swirly things and flowers all over it, which, I am aware, does nothing for your manly physic. Including the fact that you did survive the dreaded diaper change in a public unisex restroom and you accomplished all of this while maintaining your masculinity and dignity.
Besides you did bring them back home alive, along with all of the groceries on the shopping list, minus the popsicles, which turned out to be a necessary deduction given the impromptu temper tantrum that our eldest child threw in the center of the frozen foods isle.
Of particular note, I am aware of the countless hours that you spent scrubbing the tacky glue residue left behind from the Ralphs' stickers that the eldest child stuck to the backseat window of your car. Yes, you did manage to bring both children back home in one piece. You single handedly engineered arguable the greatest feat known to man.
However, NO, you do not get to bring-up that story to support your argument against having to take both children with you on your next trip out of the house. It's called PARENTING; husband, parenting- parenting, husband. I realize that you two have not been formally introduced, but get used to it cuz it'll be staying with us for a while. ;)
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)"
Can she indeed...this was my devotional scripture this morning. What strikes me about this scripture is the emphasis on the question, "Can a woman forget a nursing child". Obviously the question is rhetorical, but what blares at me from this verse is my apparent and opposing reality. Not only was I "forgotten" or neglected by my mother, but I was abandoned by her at age 16 as well.
The scripture attempts to draw a contrast between the innate bond between a mother and her child and the divine bond between the Father and His children. The verse concludes with the phrase, "I will not forget." The "I" in this verse referring to God, of course. Ironically, at the present moment I feel as though God is preoccupied and has lost sight of the sensitive needs in my life right now . I haven't been in contact with my mother for over 10 years, which begs the question: how can a mother become so preoccupied with other things that she forgets the needs of her child? I fear that my crises has caused me to wonder whether God has forgotten about me.
Needless to say, this imagery doesn't reassure me...at least not at the present moment. I just don't feel like I can claim the truth in this scripture at this point in my life.