Why You Should Read the Stanford Victim’s Letter

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I didn’t want to read it.

The injustice is getting enough play on the news. The Stanford rapist who will go to jail for only six months because he’s white and wealthy and the judge felt sorry for him and his dad asked for leniency.

That’s all I’m going to say about him, because it’s not about him.

His victim, she wrote a letter. You’ve probably heard that by now too. I didn’t want to read it because I don’t like to step into that kind of pain unless I have to.

At 2:30 yesterday afternoon, I realized something. I have two daughters. I live in a world of injustice. My God calls me to justice.

I have to read it.

So I did.

In college, the nights I was in that same situation are too numerous to count. The mornings I woke up not remembering a thing—not a thing—of how I got home or who brought me.

Me and all my friends. Every one of us. Over and over.

It’s blind, stupid luck that I did not become a victim. This is not to say that she is at fault. Only to second what she says in the letter—that she was the “wounded antelope of the herd”. And that hunters know what they’re looking for.

I think if you have college aged kids, maybe even high school aged, they should read this letter after you do.

Then you should talk about what it means.

The part where she realizes that she isn’t wearing her underwear anymore and understands how she’s been assaulted. Where she says the man who rescued her was crying too hard to give a statement to the police, because of what he’d seen.

How she found out the details of her assault from a TV news report.

The questions she was asked on the witness stand.

The picture of bicycles she has posted above her bed.

And don’t miss the part where she says she told the probation officer that she didn’t want her assailant to rot away in prison. She reached for mercy. They used it against her.

All of it. Talk about all of it. The drinking. The guilt her sister feels. The frat party where it went down. The judge, and how his justice is not blind, but sees skin color and wealth and privilege. All the things that could have been different, should have been different.

It raises a lot of questions. And the answers are hard. But we have to talk about it.

 

For the full text of her letter: Here’s the Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud to Her Attacker 

To sign a petition to have the judge recalled from his elected position: Remove Judge Aaron Persky From the Bench

 

I’m Boycotting the Leprechaun

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I’m all about celebrating holidays. And as most of you know, I really love Christmas. We do trees, hang lights, string garland, bake cookies, take Santa pictures, and I cry. I actually cry about how I love Christmas. And I love Easter. We’ve got eggs galore strewn about the house, along with bunnies, nests with little birds in them, and stuffed baby ducks. We don’t go as large as I’d like for Halloween, but give it some time.

But here’s the thing. I’m boycotting the Leprechaun. And the Ginger Bread Man. Seriously. Here’s something you need to know about Jen and me. We don’t do goodie bags at parties. We don’t do crafts at home.   We don’t fill our children’s every waking moment with some kind of contrived, magical activity. Because we’re tired. And they’re kids. And we’re tired of making every stinking moment magical. (This coming from a woman who’s had a Disneyland pass for 20 years.)

When I was in elementary school, I remember St. Patrick’s Day. You wore green. And if you didn’t, you got pinched. That was about the extent of it. But let me tell you what happened at preschool Monday. The Leprechaun happened. The story was leaked a few weeks ago (yes, weeks) that on St. Patrick’s Day, the Leprechaun was going to come and play tricks on us, and that the kids were going to try to catch him.   So that started spinning my Mazie up something fierce.   (This is a piggy-back on them chasing the Ginger Bread Man around the school, after he escaped from the oven, which ended in the snack lady “catching him” back in the oven and screaming in dramatic fashion, “I got him! I got him!” Which left poor Kingston in tears.) So Monday they made paper shamrocks with scary faces to scare him away, they made little traps with Lucky Charms to catch him, and when they got back into the classroom after recess, that darned leprechaun had upended all the chairs and made a mess of the blocks. And the kids went wild.

After a whole afternoon of my girls running around the house and obsessively searching for the leprechaun, thinking they had seen him, Mazie had a little break down at night. She was really tired because she hadn’t been able to nap, and she was really upset. I asked her how she was feeling. “Tired and nervous.” Nervous? About what? “The leprechaun coming into our house.” And there it is folks.

I know not all the kids are scared about the leprechaun. But let me tell you, when I was 5, I would have been freaked out about a little red-headed elf coming into my house and running amok while I slept. And before you get all up in arms about one kid ruining all the fun for everyone, let me just pose this… Why do we have to make such a big deal about every stinking thing? I mean, we take these fake holidays and blow them up into huge ordeals. We manufacture “Hallmark Holidays” then complain about our society being too materialistic. Can’t we save the big stuff for, you know, the big stuff? Like the birth and resurrection of Christ, perhaps?

Right now, I’m sick of St. Patrick’s Day. And I even love a good party. In fact, I’m cooking up a corned beef on Thursday and baking some soda bread (here’s my recipe, Irish-tested). Most people don’t even know who St. Patrick was. They just drink green beer and wear stupid “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, even though they aren’t Irish. And all this leprechaun stuff? This isn’t for the kids… it’s for the moms. Just like the out of control party bags, the catered croissant sandwiches that showed up for the “snack” at the Christmas party for a bunch of 4 year olds, and Elf on a Shelf. Yep, I went there. Elf. On. A. Shelf.

Parents, for the love of humanity, can we just dial it back a notch? Can we not wind our kids up at every opportunity?  Because you know what your kids want tonight? They want to eat dinner with you. You know what they want to do after? They want you to read a book to them, or watch their favorite show with them. They want to take a walk around the block with you. And hold hands. And kick the gosh-darned soccer ball in the front yard. And play Chutes and Ladders, even though you hate that dumb game.

Tales From the Third Row

 

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I’ve been doing after school care for my neighbor whose sweet kids go to the same school as Gabe. This means that Tuesday-Wednesday, I have a full car. My mom has always said that she learned everything she needed to know about our lives by driving us around with our friends. I get it now. It has been fascinating and funny. If you follow us on Facebook, you know that last week, they worked together to figure out how old I was in dog years.

The next day, there was a conversation about Minecraft. I was not really listening to it but then I heard this: “It’s not that bad. Not as bad as Slender Man.”

I broke every smooth mom rule by screeching “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY???”

The children went very still like robots powered down into sleep mode. The rest of the conversation happened under duress, a cross between “You aren’t in trouble” and “You WILL tell me”.

Luckily, their knowledge of Slender Man was playground level. The child who brought it up was throwing around a name he’d heard enough to know it was bad. Probably a little showing off. No way did he expect me to lose my mama cool.

Then another child in the backseat said “Well, if you think that’s bad, you probably don’t want to know how many kids at school play Five Nights With Freddie.”

What in sam hill is THAT? I thought to myself.

Five minutes on my phone told me that it’s a “point and click survival horror video game” where you are the security guard in a pizza joint that becomes over run by murderous animatronic animals at night.

The goal is to survive the night. And then the next one. And so on.

This game is described as a “point and click survival horror video game” where the one thing everyone agrees on is that you will be scared out of your shoes.

I’m all for corrective behavior fairy tales. But this is something else. Now the monsters have come to life with Facebook pages and Twitters.

Awesome.

I sat on my phone on the drive home so that I wouldn’t text my friend in the middle of her meeting. There was no good way to tell her our kids had more than a passing knowledge of survival horror video games, especially one infamous for attempted murder committed by 13 year olds in its name.

But I definitely felt like I was sitting at PARCon 4 all by myself.

I know that the kids have got to walk in the world. And I am confident that we are doing all we can to grow them with strong warrior hearts for Jesus.

But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of a world where I am in charge and all parents have to do what I say, like pay stricter attention to the games their children play and follow the age limitations and not let 8 years old have phones and emails and Facebook accounts.  Just in case.

The next day it was business as usual in the back seats. My friend’s son has decided to pool all his money and buy donuts for when he and Gabe play their 30 minutes of Minecraft. And not one donut each, either. As many donuts as $20 will buy.

No, he hasn’t run it by his mom. I told him I wasn’t saying no, but he should ask his mom first and then have her come talk to me about it.

Then he wondered if they should get cookies instead, maybe to make it more palatable to the mamas. Or maybe cookies and donuts? Or maybe–

“Hey, what do you call a donut crossed with a cookie?” he asked Gabe.

“A DOOOOOOOKIE!!!!!” Gabe yelled. And the backseats erupted into raucous laughter.

I put my head on the steering wheel and thanked God for the attention spans of 8 and 9 year olds.

#talesfromthethirdrow

 

Hurricane Mama

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Why are we changing the rules? Did something happen when I looked the other way? Why do things feel different? Are we ok?

This is what anxiety sisters do when the applecart is upset. We ask a lot of questions, rapid-fire. We wait a good 1.5 seconds for answers. When they don’t come, we know this is a sign of the apocalypse.

I’m going to give you a moment to send blessings on my husband.  Especially since most anxiety sisters are of average size and turn into Category 3 hurricanes at the most.

Not me. I am six feet of Category 5 coming at you.

The last seven days have been stormy in my house.

I have a child in a new school through no fault of his own. Because he came from me, he also hates change. And now he is the new kid. Again. In the middle of the school year. Again. He doesn’t know where the pencils are. Again.

Plus, when you’ve been bullied repeatedly over a long period of time, you may come out of that with some anger. You may have a really short trigger when you think people are not listening to you. You may even feel guilty that all of this is somehow your fault.

Then, it was Thanksgiving. We do it small but still. There’s shopping and parties and 3 year olds who run fevers right before the whole world goes on vacation for four days.

To call the pediatrician or not call the pediatrician?  That is the question that will spin a tropical storm mama into a Category 2.

Then on Friday after dinner my mom was crying into the phone. I think the number of times this has happened in my life is less than the fingers on one hand. My dad—who’d had surgery ten days before—was experiencing a complication that required another emergency surgery. They’d been up since 4 am, sitting at the ER since 10 and my dad was so hopped up on pain meds that he was barely awake as they rolled him away.

WEATHER BULLETIN: Hurricane Mama is now Category 5 with winds in excess of 200 mph and a 100% chance of precipitation. All humans living within the affected area are directed to take shelter immediately. And STAY there, for the love of God.

It was a dodgy 12 hours. I activated every prayer chain I know, and women all over the country called down the power of heaven to be with my family.

My dad came through surgery like a champ and is on the road to recovery. My mom got some sleep and her feet back under her. Gabriel came home from school with an invitation to a birthday party. Some might even say that things are looking up.

Hurricane Mama is not so sure. Or maybe it’s that the stress of it all seems to linger. Why these things seem to come in clumps, I’ll never understand. I am grateful for the calm after the storm, I truly am. I revel in it.

But it takes me a minute to get there.

If you have an anxiety sister in your life, can I make a plea on her behalf? This is a tough time of year. Chances are, she’s had it planned out in her head for months, but life happens, like last week. She’s going to need a minute to reorder it in her head and her heart, and there may be wind and rain before she does.

Tell the kids to take shelter, because we don’t need to add guilt to the storm. Then help her by doing something, by taking something off her list. The fastest way to calm the storm is by controlling the things that are easy to control. I can’t explain why, but it makes the big, out of our control things seem so much easier to bear when the little things are going right.

It will pass and she will be your uber-competent, joyful wife-daughter-sister-friend again before you know it

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)

 

 

 

Welcome the Stranger

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I stopped and started this 12 times, trying to find the right words, until I gave up. My words are not called.

We need the words of Jesus.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. ‘Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”  (Matthew 25)

Those poor people, the mothers and fathers and babies and grandparents fleeing from the very evil that struck Paris?

We have to shelter them. Here or there, no matter. Somewhere. Because those people are Christ walking in the world and if we turn our backs we fail our Christ.

This is our prayer: Open. Soften. Lighten.

The Greatest Sacrifice

This post originally appeared November 11, 2014. In August, Dr. Terry Mays commented on the post: “I’m the Squadron coordinator for the 419th NFS. “Marvelous” Marvin Walker is in the book I wrote on the squadron; “Night Hawks and Black Widows: 13th Air Force Nightfigters in the South and Southwest Pacific, 1943-1945”…One 419th NFS vet who would know him is still alive. The others joined the unit after Marvin went down. I knew and interviewed the squadron officer who investigated Marvin’s crash.” Dana and her family were thrilled to learn more about her great uncle. We honor Marvelous Marvin Walker and all his fellow Veterans on this Veteran’s Day 2015 and give thanks and prayers for your sacrifice.

Yesterday my daughters and I went to the Riverside National Cemetery, where my Grandpa Art is buried.  It’s only 4 miles from our house and on a drive by, we noticed that a small flag had been placed at every grave.  Every.  We just had to turn in. It was quite a sight to see.

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But today, in honor of Veterans’ Day, I would like to tell the story of my great uncle, Marvin, who served his country faithfully during World War 2, to honor his sacrifice.

Marvin R. Walker was born in 1919, in a small farm town in Iowa. Marvin’s mother, Mildred, had divorced his father, Boyd, an uncommon occurrence in the early 1900s. On a day that Boyd had come to visit Marvin and his brother, Boyd Jr., then aged 3 and 2, he did something that is to the modern parent, unthinkable. He took the boys and moved to Canada. He left, without a trace. Mildred was heartbroken, but in 1921, women didn’t have the voice or the rights that we have today, and the children were lost to her. Boyd Jr. was lost forever as he died from influenza just a year later, unbeknownst to her.

Mildred got married again to a man who already had a daughter, Lenora, and had 3 more children, Betty, Mazie, and Jack.   Another divorce and the beginning of the Second World War found Mildred, Lenora, Betty, Mazie, and Jack off of the farm. Mildred continued her long time profession of teaching, while Lenora and Betty had moved to California and worked at Mc Donald Douglas aircraft, supporting the war effort.

Then suddenly, a miracle happened. Marvin found Mildred. He knew the town she lived in and wrote her a letter. He had enlisted in the Army’s Air Force division in a small town in Oregon and was stationed in Southern California, waiting for deployment. Mildred immediately wrote to Betty, and was soon on a train bound for California.  The reunion between mother and son was full of joy, elation, wonder, and excitement. Mildred was so proud of the man that Marvin had become.  He was kind, funny, sweet, incredibly handsome, and loved his mother dearly.  Betty and Marvin hit it off and were instantaneously best friends. Betty, now 92, recalls afternoons spent at the beach or the city pool, dinners together, and laughter. Lots of laughter.  “He would just grab me and go,” she told me in a recent conversation.  “He was so happy to have his kid sister.”

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As many stories of The Greatest Generation go, the war soon separated this lovely, reunited family once again.  Mildred returned to Iowa, and Marvin went to a base in Arizona.  He begged Betty to move there with him.  She decided to stay in Long Beach, but they made plans, plans for his return… Then, tragedy. Marvin was sent to the Pacific front. He was a pilot, 2nd Lieutenant in the 419th Night Fighter Squadron. And on March 16th, 1944, his plane went down. He was lost at sea. Lost again, forever.

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Betty is my grandmother.  And I have heard her stories of the war my entire life. And to this day, the pain of losing her brother, her sweet, gentle, long-lost brother, still makes her cry. As a mother, I cannot imagine the ache in Mildred, my Nana’s heart, losing her boy not once, but twice. It just doesn’t make sense.

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In 1959, Mildred published a book of poetry, including one for Marvin:

“The Depths”

So, it has come

The dreaded word, plunging

Straight into my heart;

Uprooting, tearing out

The hopes, the plans, the joy

Of looking toward your coming;

Making place for pain,

Hot tears, and cold despair.

So let it be.

Nor let anxiety abate;

Nor loneliness be comforted;

Let nothing ease the pain;

Let nothing compensate;

Let every aching nerve

Cry out its grief to every

Auditory sense

Of body, mind, and soul,

That I may know my loss.

And let me sip it, sip it,

Year by year by year,

As long as life shall last.

This sad story, however, does not end there.  Seventy years later, in the summer of 2014, came another “miracle,” the miracle of modern technology. In May of this year, my mom joined Ancestry.com to begin tracing our family tree. A fun hobby, we thought. Instantly we were overwhelmed with pictures, and family, and relatives, and DNA matches that we never knew existed. It’s amazing how much information there truly is and how easily it is all accessed. A click here, a click there, and suddenly a note in the inbox from a cousin containing a link to the website American War Graves.  This lovely website that contains the information of over 100,000 soldiers who were killed in action in World War I, World War 2, or the Korean War.

And there was his name. There was our Marvin.

I always imagined that since he was lost at sea, there is no burial site. However, under burial details, it says that our Marvin is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. I’m not sure why seeing just his name there affected me the way that it did, but a wave of tears flooded down my face. His picture hangs on our wall, his gorgeous, infectious smile staring out at us from the past. And I can feel the love and the loss when I look at him.  After all of these years, it felt like we had found Marvin.

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As luck, or fate, would have it, I have a friend from high school who lives in Manila. Jopet and another good friend of mine, Ray, who was traveling to Manila in September, graciously agreed to take the time to travel to the memorial and make a rubbing of his name.  They faced a few obstacles: finding that Marvin’s name is *just* out of reach, trying to find a ladder, getting help from the staff at the cemetery. But my friends were amazing and did this task for me.  And I am so grateful to them for bringing Marvin home to us.

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As I run my fingers over the letters of his name, I can’t help but feel the gravity of his sacrifice.  I feel the sacrifice that my family made, all of them:  Nana, Grandma Betty, Aunt Mazie, Aunt Lee, and Uncle Jack, who still remembers seeing Marvin’s picture in his mother’s room and dreaming of the brother that he never met.  The heaviness of this loss never quite healed for any of them.

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There is something quite healing though, knowing that he is memorialized somewhere, that he hasn’t been forgotten.  It feels like this loss isn’t our own.  Nana never knew about the Tablets of the Missing.  She never knew that there was a sacred place that honored her boy.  But I think it would have meant the world to her to know that America, too, felt her loss and honored him.

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I know that our story is not unique.  I know that so, so many have braved this ultimate sacrifice for this great country of ours.  I know the sacrifice that their families endure, all to carry out the cry for liberty.  Veterans’ Day honors those who were willing to give their lives for the United States of America, and even if they do not give their full measure of devotion, they and their families give so much protecting us.   To the veterans reading this, to those currently serving our country in the military, to the family members of our soldiers, please accept our heartfelt thanks and please know that Jen and I honor you on this Veterans’ Day.

You Can’t Play Without A Partner

When I was a little girl, my parents would play a card game called Rook with my brother and his wife. It’s played with a special deck of cards and involves a trump suit, bidding on the hand that you’re given, hoping that your partner has a few cards of the trump suit, and that the holes will be filled in with what you pick up in the Kitty. If you know my dad, or have read about him here, you know that my dad did not like to lose… but he was also not afraid to take a risk. So at times, he would bid on hands that weren’t that strong, really hoping that his partner would come through in the end. Then the game would begin. He would be missing the high card of his trump. Tensions grew at the table as he collected his point cards, not quite making the bid. Who had the high card? The opposite team would win control of the round, throwing points into the pot that would cripple him. Then, from across the table, his partner would throw on the missing trump card! The round was saved; dad would make his bid. A wry smile always crossed his lips, a cackle of a laugh would explode out of his mouth, and he would say, “You can’t play without a partner!”

We are a very team-oriented family. We watched lots of baseball, basketball, football, volleyball. We played all those sports, too, always supporting one another’s efforts. In fact, I remember one time my brother was playing church league fast-pitch and I was arguing with the umpire from the stands behind home plate about a called strike, which clearly was a ball, while my brother was still at-bat. He was furious with me.  But we were partners, me and him. And if someone was doing my partner wrong, I wasn’t going to sit idly in the stands. You can’t play without a partner.

I took the idea of team with me into school sports, which I loved dearly. When I began playing volleyball at Long Beach State, I really took the idea of team to heart. It was obvious that we were only as strong as our weakest link. Sometimes our teammates didn’t like each other off the court, but one thing we knew was that we had each other’s backs on the court. We weren’t friends all the time. In fact, we weren’t afraid to get in each other’s face. But it was all in the name of the united goal, a Final Four win. We couldn’t do it just on the backs of a few “stars.” I remember being on the court in serve-receive, looking at the three other passers. We each had our job. I would take deep, my partner had short. If the ball came cross-court, my job changed, so did hers. We stuck to our roles. What I couldn’t get, she would. What she couldn’t get, you KNOW I would. You can’t play without a partner.

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This summer has been a difficult one for me.  Those of you who read us regularly have noticed that I haven’t written, not a word, in months. And this isn’t my first hiatus. When my dad was sick and dying, I took a good chunk of time off, too. And do you know what has happened during both times I couldn’t get words onto page? My writing partner, my friend, Jen stepped up. Without frustration, without question, without hesitation, she has kept writing, week after week, so that our blog wouldn’t fade away. We both love this blog, but neither of us can do it alone. She has sustained us, once again. But that’s just the kind of woman she is. She sees a need and she fills it. She sees someone hurting and she helps. She sees her friend falling, and she picks her up, holds her hand, and helps her get back on her feet. You can’t play without a partner, and I am so grateful that Jen is mine.   Thank you.

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