Fourth Day

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Today is the Fourth Day. Yesterday we were born again into eternal life and today is the day we begin to live like it. That’s why I want to tell you what I learned during this Lent.

I gave up 24 hour news channels.

I did it because I have watched people I know slide into anxiety bordering on mental illness over the last two years from watching these channels.

I did it because of how many times in the last six months the hot take has been wrong and caused massive social upheaval.

I did it because a friend told me she hoped her bro-in-law had been able to drag her sister away from CNN for her birthday.

I did it because these channels are an echo chamber. We watch the one we like the most and all they tell us is what we want to hear.  That’s disturbing on so many levels—but the one that disturbs me the most is that viewership is UP on these channels as we all align ourselves for 2020.

I did it because when the lady from Church called to tell me “Turn on  Fox News!” because Notre Dame was on fire, even after 40 days of not watching any of them, I thought to myself “I know something about you now.”

I did it because those channels are not reporting news. They are opining, which is not news. And they are opining for money which means their integrity is questionable at best and non-existent at worst.

I did it because I have noticed that people who watch these channels have lost their faith in humanity and joy in life. They are always angry, always accusing, always ready for a fight.

I did it because that was me.

I think it was probably the best way I could have spent my Lent and I am not kidding.  I learned something gnarly about myself:  how often I turned on those channels to get my “I’m right” validated.

I’m not going back. A little bit of distance has taught me that these channels want us to worship them, submit to them. And a lot of us have done it, especially the ones of us who work from home or at home or are retired. These channels are the noise running in the background of our daily lives—but what is it costing us?

Our sanity, if you ask me. Our kindness. Our faith in each other. Our faith in God. So many of us are scared, and faith-filled people aren’t scared.

You know what I’m not since I stopped watching? Scared. Angry. Suspicious. I’m not sure the world is going to hell in a handbasket. I’m not anxious.

I see love and light in the world. I see kindness and joy. I see work to do, for sure. But it’s not dire. It’s not endtimes. I believe in our ability to climb this mountain together because there is glory and goodness all around us.

All around us.

Turn them off. Just trust me and turn them off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Want To Know?

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So, Fortnight.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all Prince Harry here. To me, there’s very little difference between spending hours on Fortnight talking to friends and the hours I spent on the phone when I was 13 talking to friends.

But.

My mom couldn’t hear my friends unless she picked up the extension.

I can hear it all from the Fortnight.

I have said before that my teenage parenting strategy is to establish my crazy mom cred when my kids were young. I believe that I have done this with Gabe and his friends—the right mix of cool and I will pull my car over to yell at you, I don’t care whose kid you are.

So no one blinks that Gabe’s Fortnight is where I can hear it all. Or his phone has a mad mama control that allows me to read all his text messages. I don’t—our agreement is that I won’t unless my mom radar tells me I should.

But I could. And they all know I would.

So yeah, I have rolled into the middle of Fortnight and told some young men to watch their language and play nicely or they won’t like what happens next.

Here’s what I need to know though—if your kid is a douchebag when you aren’t listening, do you want to know?

My girlfriend’s son is 11. He plays with a kid who drops the F bomb so often she swears he’d give me a run for my money. It’s natural that my friend thinks his mom must know this, since the child is so fluent. Hard not to judge that, a house where 11 year olds use the F word in all the parts of speech and sometimes in the same sentence.

But what if his mom has no idea? What if the xBox is in his room upstairs in a house with a main floor master and all she knows is thank god for Fortnight because he’s not constantly asking her what’s for dinner?

It’s an age old mama question.

Do you want to know?

If your kid is the one with the anonymous Instagram who posts crap about other kids, do you want to know?

If your daughter is changing her clothes on the way to school into something less…modest…do you want to know?

If you kid is downlow dating someone (and by downlow, I mean that YOU don’t know but all the followers on their mom-free snapchat account know) do you want to know?

In this age where our kids are putting their lives into permanent public spaces without the proper brain function to understand the implications—or thankfully, that they aren’t as smart as they think they are—do you want to know?

I do.

I want to know.

I have told my sister mamas this. Not when my child comes to them in second mom status for a perspective that’s different than mine.

But when there is skulking, lying or tomfoolery? I need to know.

Do you?

Into the Desert–A different way to think about Lent

I have always tried to find a better way to come at Lent with my kids.

This year is no different, as we are 1 day out and Annie is settled on giving up the monkey bars.

God bless her little heart, she loves her some monkey bars.

It’s probably too much to expect a 7-year-old to be reflective, but Gabe and Kate are now old enough to learn something from Lent.

And the idea of a token “sacrifice” of chocolate or cursing for 40 days has left me wanting more. Maybe because it was always presented to me as a small thing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

But what if that’s the wrong way to think about it?

Nothing I can do will ever match what Jesus did for me.

On Sunday, a solid catechism Bible Scavenger Hunt from my partner teacher Megan dropped a new way to frame Lent into my lap.

All three of the Temptation stories in the Gospels tell us Jesus went into the desert after his baptism to prepare for his ministry.

Why the desert? If the goal was solitude, why not a boat on the sea for forty days? Or a trek into the mountains?

Why the desperate, relentless austerity of the desert?

Yes, it calls back to the forty days Moses spent on the Mount before receiving the Ten Commandments and the forty years the Israelites wandered after their escape from Egypt. Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert and refutes the temptation, staying faithful to God, in contrast to both Adam and the Israelites. There’s a whole world of theological scholarship out there about these forty days.

But I’m just a mom in front of a laptop trying to figure out a way to grow faith in my kids, so I’m going with a boots on the ground application: Jesus went into the desert so he could focus.

In the desert, there are no distractions.

We are running with that this year: Focus—not on what we’re not doing, but on removing the distractions that turn us away from our relationship with God. Making our lives more like a desert for the next 40 days.

Pack up the toys, clothes, stuff that surrounds us. Clear out the clutter. Save money by forgoing nights out, expensive dinners, new things. Use less words, especially of the cursing and gossiping kind. Spend less time online wanting what we don’t have, or what someone else has. Spend less time watching news that is designed to scare, addict, divide. Reject all the ways we are tempted, as the devil tried to tempt Jesus, by the things of this world.

Practice simplicity. Prayer. Contemplation. Fasting.

Listen for the angels who will minister to us.

Open our hearts and hands every day to the word and will of God.

This will be our Lent, our walk in the desert. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

Violet and the Bangs

It has been a few months now, but a while back, I noticed one day that Violet, my 6-year-old, had bangs.  Suddenly. They appeared out of nowhere. The girls had just come back from a weekend at their dad’s and I asked her if she had gotten a haircut…. Nope.

Well, did your dad cut your bangs?  No.

Did your grandma?  No.

Violet, did you cut your bangs?  No.

And the Mystery of the Cut Bangs began.  

Periodically I would ask Violet about the bangs.  She always replied that she didn’t know what happened.  She couldn’t remember. She didn’t know if someone cut her bangs, or who.  It was all very strange.

Then about three months later, my older daughter, Mazie, who is 8, and I were cleaning out one of the toy bins.  I picked up a red plastic cup and Mazie said to me, “That’s the cup that Violet put her hair in.” What? “Yeah, after she cut her bangs.”

Mystery solved.  

I really didn’t care if Violet cut her bangs or not, and I told that to her.  She wouldn’t have gotten in trouble. But now, now she had been lying to me for months.  Lying to my face. And that hurt.  I do not want to raise a liar. 

Lies are slippery little suckers, aren’t they?  They’re a practiced behavior that sometimes start out so small and insignificant.  I’ve often told students that the first lie you tell someone is the hardest one to tell.  The first time you break that trust tears your guts out.  The next time you lie though, it’s easier. And the easier it gets, the bigger the lies become.  

I dated a guy once that would lie about anything.  If he had eggs for breakfast, he could swear on the Bible that he’d eaten cereal.  And he would lie about little things like that. At the time, it just didn’t make any sense to me, but when I found his emails with 4 other women, all of the lies began to unravel.  

Truth is big around these parts.  Jen and I had lots of conversations when we created this blog about Truth being the cornerstone of our writing.  I challenge you today to live in truth.  If you’re doing something you feel you need to lie about, I have an idea:  don’t do that thing! Don’t practice lying. Stop being good at it.  Walk in integrity. It’s so worth it.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened with little Violet, this is how it went down:  She walked back in the room while we were cleaning, and I said, “Hey Violet, is this the cup you put your hair in when you cut your bangs?”  The poor little girl never had a chance. Without missing a beat she said, “Yep!”  And then her eyes got real big.  

Mama always knows. Game. Set. Match.

I want to tell you something about that kid who had to cut his dreads to wrestle.

The ref is the villain of this story. But the failure is not his. He has been honest about who he is.

The failure rests elsewhere.

Andrew Johnson is 16 years old. I know 16 year olds. They were my whole career. And I don’t need to know him personally to know things about him.

Like how he’s stuck in that difficult place between childhood and adulthood where it’s not always clear to him when he has the right to speak for himself.

That his default is still to defer to the adults in charge when he thinks he’s on shaky ground.

That he still believes people like teachers and coaches will defend him from those who would hurt him.

They are on the ones who failed him.

I watched the video of the trainer cutting his hair once. I yelled at her to stop, stop, stop. I waited for a coach to grab the scissors. I waited for someone’s mama, anyone’s mama to rush to the floor, wrap her arms around him and protect him.

We don’t know how Andrew feels about all this today, because he hasn’t spoken yet. But we saw how he felt about it after the match. And as I watched him cry, I knew one thing:

Not worth it, not worth it, not worth.

I wish to God that the story had been about the high school athletic trainer who was fired because she refused to cut a boy’s hair for a wrestling match. Or the coach who was arrested for unruly behavior towards a ref. Or at the very least, suspended from coaching for forfeiting the whole meet in protest of the ref’s decision.

I wish the video was of parents who came down from the stands and stood around the boy to protect him. Or all the coaches at the meet throwing the ref out of the gym.

Instead, there were adults who thought a forfeit was worse than cutting a child’s hair off his head.

Adults who thought their stony silence was enough.

Adults who should have known better.

Just a few years ago, I would have read this as a story about a nasty bigot. But since then, some of us have been forced to face truth about how far we have come with racial equality. Not as far as we thought. Only 13% of Division 1 college wrestlers are African-American, which means the sport is weak at recognizing and responding to racism in its ranks.

This was it.  An abuse of power by a man who had previously demonstrated his bigotry and been allowed to return to interacting with young athletes. And the complete failure of the adults around Andrew Johnson to protect him from that abuse.

Bigots need permission. Everyone who stood and watched gave it to him.

Poon With Marshmallows

My sainted grandmother used to make a thing that was called sweet potato poon.

It had marshmallows. That’s all I remember about it. That and the year she was NOT DRUNK, NOT DRUNK I TELL YOU and left it under the broiler until the marshmallows caught on fire.

A few years ago, I went looking for a poon recipe. Couldn’t find one. Not online. Not in my Charleston cookbook. Not in my Oklahoma cookbook.

I chalked it up to family tradition, kind of like the Charleston Shorts cookies she made every year, for which there is no recipe on earth.

Wednesday, I was reflecting on my Thanksgiving menu, and out of the clear blue sky, it hit me—maybe she meant pone. I will chalk this inspiration up to Outlander and Charles Frazier. I searched sweet potato pone and bingo—1 million recipes.

I called cousin Lesley and yelled “She meant PONE!” and because we’re family, she knew exactly what I was talking about. Then we conference called all our parents who happen to be staying in one place this week. We had a good laugh about the little ol’ lady from Charleston

“What is pone?” Lesley asked. Good question, especially since the pictures I was looking at online did not look like the poon I remembered. The official definition is unleavened cornbread in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves, originally as prepared with water by North American Indians and cooked in hot ashes.

No mention of marshmallows. Huh.

Thirty seconds after we hung up with our parents, my mom called me back.

“You aunt just went in and turned on the Today show and GUESS WHAT AL ROKER IS MAKING????”

This.

Poon

I could hear my grandmother laughing at me all the way from heaven.

PS: My English/Irish/Hawaiian husband cannot hear this word without snickering, thanks to the 70s. Turns out neither could Twitter after Al Roker’s segment, which drove some folks to investigate further and yes, poon is a Southern variation of the word pone.

PPS: I made the poon. I damn near burned the marshmallows. Broilers are a tricky business and it had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SPIKED EGGNOG.

100 Days

 

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Somehow in the mess of the world, I lost sight of the fact that IT’S OCTOBER.

And you know what that means??????

100 days of Holidays has officially begun!

We have red trees and orange trees and yellow trees and yes, that is SUPER early for us, but everyone is saying the 30 days of Smoke (which is quickly becoming another part of the Oregon social calendar) is to blame.

I’ll take it. The skies are blue and the clouds are fluffy and white and the smokey days of August seem so far away.

I am not coming at you with Halloween decor, or recipes for 10,000 things to do with an apple.

I’m going to start you off gently.

  1. It’s time to ask your kids what they want to be for Halloween. It is. I’m sorry.
  2. Go to this website and order the world’s greatest coffee: http://www.doorcountycoffee.com. I recommend Wisconsin Harvest and a BIG 5 LB BAG of Door County Christmas.

That’s it, friends. Two things. Ease into the crazy.

I’ll be back later with the stuff about the apples. In the meantime:

26 days til Halloween

48 days til Thanksgiving

81 days til Christmas.