A Few Words About Voting, To My Christian Friends

Most of us are regular folk, just trying to carve out a connected, contented existence in this life. Our voting values reflect this desire. I am prolife, as my church dictates, from natural conception to natural death. This means that I am anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-euthanasia, anti-death penalty. It also means I support extensive and immediate environmental reforms, affordable healthcare, government assistance, open and just immigration laws, social security, medicare, public education, civil rights, equal rights and paying my fair share of taxes to help this nation function.

I bet most of you are a lot like me, with a wobble to the right or left on certain issues. Which means you’re in the same pickle as I am—it’s damn hard to vote.  The candidate who reflects my values does not exist.

How do we vote? Historically, my church has encouraged me to value the sanctity of the unborn as primary to all other life issues. But the anti-abortion candidate is not always pro-life, sometimes glaringly.  Also, abortion rates are down and the threat to the environment is universal.

This is where Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego entered the conversation in a speech he gave in January.

You can read the whole thing—but here’s how he breaks it down:

Life issues ARE primary. And after years of doing not enough, the threat to our environment (and therefore our very existence) is equal to or more threatening than the evil of abortion. They must be considered equally.

But since the candidate who will legislate as both anti-abortion and pro-environmental reform does not exist, we have to add the other life issues to the scoreboard: abolition of the death penalty and euthanasia, open and just immigration and refugee reform, protection of worker’s, civil and religious rights, assistance for the poor and hungry, promotion of marriage and family, nuclear disarmament and the protection of religious liberty.

Even this is not enough. We do not vote issues or parties into office, but people. We cannot afford to ignore the person for whom we cast the vote, no matter how aligned we are with their politics. And this consideration is three-fold.

First, we must admit that our national discourse is dysfunctional, and as a result our government has done very little good in the name of all Americans. Our nation family requires healing, which in turn requires compromise. To true patriots, who believe in the rights of all Americans and not just their own interests, it then becomes essential to select a bridgebuilder, someone who can reach across the divide and craft collaboration.

Second, they must have the same principles we try to instill in our children: truth, integrity, honor, discernment and reflection. These principles are demonstrable, and should therefore be evident.  

Third, they must be competent: Mentally, emotionally, spiritually and in statecraft. They all have resumes. It is our responsibility as moral voters to research our choices.  

This can work. Even though it may mean voting for someone with whom I do not completely align—by using these guidelines, I can make a better, more faithful decision.

Lastly, we have to refuse to participate in the spectacle. When John McCain and Mitt Romney were running for President, they were running against my candidate and, caught up the rhetoric and vitriol that is our national election, I saw them as other and enemy. Although I know that my votes for Barack Obama were faithfully sound, in hindsight I see that either of these men would have also made fine leaders, by Bishop McElroy’s standards and my own. Our presidents and presidential candidates have not always been persons of integrity, but we know what men and women of integrity look like. They build bridges, unite others, seek compromise, speak truth, reflect, apologize and are humble enough to admit they do not have all the answers.

This soundness of soul and spirit is what we should seek in a leader, and what we deserve from someone who earns our vote.

Why the high five tunnel needs to go

I knew we were in trouble when she spent three minutes telling me how she just wanted her team to have fun.

I remembered her from last year–she just wanted the kids to have fun then too, which meant playing her two best players the whole game and objecting when we stopped her team’s breakaway because it was happening on the field next to ours. “It’s just for FUN!” she yelled.

On Saturday she said “Gosh, they’re only seven.”

When I was seven, I won my first President’s Cup. When Gabe was seven, he lost his (it was five years ago and the details are hazy, but it was something like: the ref, who had a grandson on the other team, allowed an extra minute of play in which the other team scored the tying goal and then he awarded a pk in OT on an incidental handball).

One of my players has scored 15 goals in two games—four of them left footed and one that she pegged out of the air as it flew across the front of the goal. I don’t have to ask her to back off in the second half—she hangs back on defense all on her own. She’s seven.

One of my players hates it when the other team scores so much that she chased down a breakaway last week, waited til the other player slowed down to shoot and ran her off the ball. Then she cleared the ball to the sideline, not the goal line, because throw-ins are better than corners. She’s seven.

A girl on the other team saved a breakaway by grabbing my player by her jersey, allowing her teammate to steal the ball. Her coach told her never to do that again. I told her next time don’t get caught. She smiled at me because she knew I knew.  She’s seven.

My own daughter buried her head in my hip and burst into tears at halftime—because she’d only scored one goal. She’s seven.

So they’re not only seven. They’re already seven. And a meat-eater is a meat-eater they day she is born.

After the game, we shook hands and my girls went for their snacks. “Hey,” Just-For-Fun called “Don’t you do the high five tunnel?” This is where the parents make a tunnel and the kids run through it all together after the game. Fun and necessary for four and five year olds.  Last Spring, my team decided it was dumb. At the end of the game, they want one thing: snack.

“We don’t” I told her.

“Really? Why not?” she asked incredulously.

I shrugged. “They don’t like it. They’re seven.”

“Right, ” an outraged voice belonging to the dad coaching on the field next to us piped in.  “They’re only seven.”

“Yeah, you know they do the high five tunnel with the 5th graders, right?” Just-For-Fun said.

“Right,” random coach dad said, shaking his head at me. “Wow. Whatever.”

I didn’t say any of the words in my head.  

But I did watch her team run the high five tunnel, game completely forgotten.

Then I watched one of my girls Facetime her mom at work to tell her she’d scored twice. I watched another get an up in the air hug from her dad for a pull back move she used to change direction and break away.  I watched Annie kick dirt over to Shea with a puss on her face because she didn’t play the way she wanted to play. I didn’t have to hear it to know that the man I married honored her frustration by saying “Ok. What are you going to do better next time?”

And I thought What a load of BS.

This sports parenting culture that asks the meat-eaters to make themselves smaller so no one else feels badly is ridiculous.  So is flatline parenting—we can’t eliminate the highs and lows. We have to teach kids to negotiate them. And don’t even get me started on random guy popping off from the other sideline. This isn’t Facebook, friend. You don’t get to comment.

Beware the parents who are so intent on manufacturing every emotion their child feels that they will even try to control other people’s kids. Which is what Just-For-Fun coach really wanted—for my team to act like winning wasn’t important so that her team would feel better about losing.

I’m not doing that. We won 11-4. I played all eight players the same amount of time. Four of them scored. We don’t need the high five tunnel–we had lots of fun all on our own.

A $10,000 Kitchen Make-Over

Sometimes you want a $50,000 kitchen. And sometimes your husband says “We have $10,000.”

The kitchen in our 1968 ranch house was marketed as “newly remodeled”.  My husband thought it was nice.

 I thought there was a giant kitchen trying to break free, so I called my good friend Bethany from Reclaimed Cottage and asked her to bring her husband David and her color wheel and come on over.

I love Bethany because she doesn’t make crazy eyes when I say things like “Let’s cut the peninsula and make it an island” Or “Let’s flatten the ceiling and panel it”.

David, though. David had a prescient warning: “You never know what you’re going to find behind the walls. And once you find it, you have to fix it”.

We discovered that the “kitchen remodel” mentioned in the listing was DIY with box store pre-fab cabinets. They must have been on sale because two sections were of the under-the-sink variety, with faux drawers. Ditto in the bathroom, btw. The quartz countertops were also self-installed, as was the laminate counter on the back wall.

Glass half full–once the quartz on the peninsula was cut, the cabinets underneath separated easily into their prefab sections and were very easy to turn.

Opening the walls and doorways was a bigger issue. The electrical was a maze.  In order to fit the refrigerator we had to knock out a half wall and relocate the main light switches. In the process, we somehow cut a line to the back of the house. There were so many wires in the attic, it took a two week process of elimination to find and then rewire the circuits.

The peninsula did not just magically turn into an island. It was too long for code on both ends and had to be shortened. Then it just looked like a bunch of cut cabinets. Bethany designed a “look” for the island, which included beadboard, trim and a cute little bookshelf at one end, and David made it so.

We opened both the doorways and took them up to the ceiling. David removed the soffet where the peninsula used to be and we paneled the ceiling with tongue and groove pine, purchased at Home Depot and stained just a hinch to call in the mantel in the family room.

In the middle of this madness, I found a wall clock.  It’s my most favorite color palette and it informed the colors choices for the entire house.

White walls, light blue cabinets and a cherry red island in the kitchen. Soft blue throughout the core of the home. Refuge blue—the same color from our last house—in the dining room. The family room walls lean about three shades away from white towards gray and while we need a new couch and curtains in there, I am waiting to find the right ones.

I did the dishes one night in the middle of all this and realized we were missing cabinets to the left of the sink. Didn’t have the budget for one more cabinet. So I went to Home Depot, bought a stair tread, cut it in half, stained and hung it with brackets I got from an Etsy shop. Total cost: $23.

Viola-ish.

The laminate counter is still there. The quartz counters too, rough cut edges and all. The ten year old appliances. It’s all there, and will be until we can save up to replace them.

Also, the bathrooms. They are an homage to 80s wallpaper:

They have to wait. My husband said “We have $10,000”. It is what it is.

“Good Grace” by Hillsong United

You know when you hear a song and all the hairs stand up on your head? This one.

Maybe it’s because I am feeling grateful beyond words that my friend and her family escaped disaster last week when their home caught fire. Maybe too, at the love they have been shown since. God is good. People are good. Life is good.

Still. Somebody needs this today.

If it’s not you, you know someone. Tell them.

So don’t let your heart be troubled
Hold your head up high
Don’t fear no evil
Fix your eyes on this one truth
God is madly in love with you
So take courage
Hold on
Be strong
Remember where our help comes from

Play it LOUD friends. Love is all around us.

Things I have learned from having a daughter in 5th grade.

  1. This is not your son’s fifth grade. Not even close.
  2. However, the way you parented your son when he was ages 2-6 will come in handy for your daughter’s fifth grade.
  3. Fifth grade girls don’t hit with their hands, but they hit. Hard.
  4. Yes, your daughter too. I don’t care who she’s been for the last ten years. She is full of hormones and no longer in control of her body, mind or emotions.
  5. It doesn’t matter how she acts at home. Group think has kicked in and no fifth grader is strong enough to resist it.
  6. Good luck figuring out the truth. When she was little, she spoke full truth or full lie. Now she lives firmly in the gray area, embroidering her stories with perceptions, assumptions, exaggerations. Sometimes, this will leave your family howling laughing. And sometimes—almost always after you have moved heaven and earth to set up a parent-teacher-principal meeting to demand an explanation—she will concede “Well, that was the way it made me feel.”
  7. Not all teachers are equipped to handle this. They will need your patience, your permission and your help. They may think you haven’t noticed that shrieking harpy is now a facet of your daughter’s personality. The earlier you let her know that you see truth, the easier it will be to cage the harpy.
  8. Not all moms are equipped to handle this. There are a lot of reasons for this—denial, defense, deflection, among others. Moms who haven’t walked in truth the first five years you’ve known them at school are not going to wake up one morning and see. It is not your job to help them see. Fifth grade is where Mom’s Nights Out go to die.
  9. It is past time to transition away from words as your primary form of discipline. It was never a good idea, but now it’s malpractice. Words are not a consequence. Fifth graders figure out that words just have to be endured. 9th graders see words as a challenge. YOU NEED TO GET IN FRONT OF THIS. Actions are consequences. You should clear a secret space high among the shelves in your closet for all the stuff you are going to take away from your fifth grade daughter.
  10. Somewhere along the year, your girl will outwit you. When your son did it, he thought it was funny and then apologized. When she does it, she will file it away as R&D. If she’s still got a smidge of sugar and spice left, she will remind you constantly that she “got you”. If she never brings it up again, you should know she is laying strategic groundwork to own you in ways explicit and implicit for the next 7 years. At this point, her dad is already a casualty. You are the last stand. Train accordingly.
  11. Finally, if you haven’t started talking about sisterhood to your daughter, you are behind the game. In fifth grade, girls want to be friends with other girls. The problem is that they still think this has to happen in pairs. They leave their friends they have had for years and cleave to new friends. You can see how this sucks. Sisterhood is the answer.

Enjoy your summer, moms of fourth grade daughters.

Then fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy year.