Yeah, but why is he yelling?

20180324_110425

Most of the protesters drove by in cars.

But this guy stood on our side of the street. Since we were walking on the sidewalk, he was standing in the bushes, inches from the marchers.

“WE NEED OUR GUNS” he yelled. “WE AREN’T SAFE HERE.”

Then, strangely “IF YOU DON’T LIKE GUNS, GO TO MEXICO.”

A grandmother in front of us stopped. She spoke softly: “We don’t mind guns. I have guns.”

“THEN WHY ARE YOU MARCHING?” he yelled in her face.

“Because I don’t think teachers should carry guns.”

“YEAH, YEAH” he yelled, “TEACHERS NEEDS GUNS. GUNS TO KEEP THE KIDS SAFE. MORE GUNS!”

Gabriel turned around and looked at me with a raised eyebrow and a laugh. “Mom, what the HECK is that guy talking about?”

Sweet bud. I’m glad you think it’s laughable. It was odd and laughable to me too. But I was proud of you, and your sister, who asked me why he was yelling. I told her that he disagreed and that he gets to disagree. She said “Yeah, but why is he yelling?”

I think that’s what makes this pack of kids so threatening to the “pray, pay and obey” crowd. They have demonstrated remarkable ability in a couple key ways: 1. They are inherently geared toward consensus  2. They tolerate disagreement and 3. They aren’t scared. They don’t give a rat’s behind for who’s against them. They care about who is with them.

This makes their momentum hard to control and predict. They threaten the status quo because they show what the status quo could be. Should be.

The grown-ups who make their money in destruction instead of building won’t be able to stop themselves from trying to make these kids get in line.

It’s already started, with the photoshopped picture of Emma Gonzalez tearing up the Constitution. They were willing to take a 17 year old trauma survivor and make her a villain.

And Rick Santorum? I can’t even. Marie Antoinette. He was Marie Antoinette, times about a hundred.

But it didn’t matter. The kids were not distracted.

The kids laughed. Then they got back to work.

This is why I think they are the answer and not just for the gun control problem. They are the answer to the nastiness, the kitchen sink fighting that has become the norm in our national discourse. They remember the lesson that we, their parents, taught them when they were little and scared of the dark:

The monster under the bed lives on fear and darkness.

Don’t feed the monster.

Average Mom

My friend Tonya posted this on her Facebook page. I paid close attention because she doesn’t usually say this much. It’s pretty phenomenal, so I asked if I could share it here. 

My children all unanimously decided I was “an average mom”. We were all having a deep and insightful conversation over dinner last night, and at one point in the dialoguing, I was coined this term….”average”.
Now….let it be known that I’m extremely sensitive and take most direct and potentially opinionated comments towards me personally. However? I found myself laughing inside and out, that my children were all on the same page regarding this fact!

They, in true insightful form, had reason to back their theories! I listened and opened my mind as best I could. I was captivated at their strong and researched hypothesis….case in point…I am a “mom”, I am a “hairdresser” and “photographer” and I am, at times, a homemaker that doesn’t bake.

I am comfortable submitting to my children’s opinions and theories. I am comfortable seeking their opinions and their perspectives and I am VERY comfortable confiding in them and trusting them, because they are “beyond average” and have shown me though example and concrete evidence, that they are worthy.

After we all went to bed…I pondered this and realized? I’m glad that I am average in their eyes. In my humble opinion, that moniker makes me “approachable”, “attainable” and “real”, and, let’s be honest, it makes me human to them. All of a sudden, I felt a little “average” tinge of victory as a mom!

I want to enable them with all the artillery they need to achieve their dreams. I want to applaud and encourage their journeys. I want to see their successes and failures shape them into the best versions of themselves. I want to empower their unique gifts and qualities and help illuminate to the world all they have to offer. I want to take the brunt for them and elevate my 3 to the heights they are meant for. And the person best for this job? Is their “average” mom! Because? Sometimes? It takes a mediocre type of thinking to see the magic and beauty within others.

See?

We are all instrumental in the big picture…we all play a role and we all bring something unique and special to the table. Whether we are “average” or “above average” or “below average”….(whatever those guidelines mean???) We all have something to offer. Let’s honor “us” and support others, and let us begin to look beyond…for we all matter and we all have something to say; average or not! Thank you to my beautiful children for the insight I crave and need. NO better three I can think of, that have this ability to help me witness these truths within myself. I wish for you all great things, and in “great”, I MAY mean average;) Because you know what??? I may know a thing or two about what I’m talking about! ❤️

(Average mom)
T~

God Calling

I forgot to tell you a story about Vacation Bible School.

The theme was hearing God’s call in our lives. One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was have a phone call from God every morning to kick us off.

Joyce, our director of ministries, thought this was awesome sauce. Not because of the edgy, cool connection between technology and God’s message, but because she had just bought a foam cutter for the parish. To this day, which is all the days between when I told her I needed a giant foam phone until today, I have no idea what a foam cutter is. But Joyce used it to make me a giant iPhone.

I wrote a script. I asked Don to be God. We put a chair in the closet and gave him a microphone. Kelsey, our youth minister, made the phone ring. I just had to hit accept and say “Hello?” Five minutes before I did it the first time, I panicked and thought “This was the lamest idea EVER!”

I underestimated the five year olds, who have the most tremendous capacity to suspend disbelief in all of human nature.

When God said good morning, they yelled back at him “Good morning God!” And even though it was in the script for God to tell them “I love you”, one of the girls screamed it out first. “I LOVE YOU!!!!” Some of you evangelical Christians may not be surprised by this. But we’re Catholics. We took ourselves very seriously for 2000 years. Since Vatican II, we’re still learning to be ok when our spiritual emotions overflow.

The daily phone call from God became a thing. One little girl wrapped herself around my leg on day 3 and whispered “Do you think God will call us today?” On day 4, at the end of God’s call, I forgot to walk over and smack the “Reject” on the big foam and paper phone. Riley, an almost 1st grader who doesn’t miss a trick, shouted at me from 3 feet away “Miss Jen, you didn’t hang up the call! You are WASTING GOD’S DATA!!!”

And on the last morning, this:

Waiting on God to call.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jesus said “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus didn’t mean that we should be treated like children, although too many churches have interpreted it this way. He wanted us to believe like children, with a bone deep certainty that God is there and He is love.  He wants us to have that same selfish focus for Him that allows kindergartners to think God has nothing better to do on a Friday morning than call 70 kids at a VBS in Southern Oregon.

See God through the eyes of a child.

 

 

 

Teaching Gratitude

IMAG0289

We went to Lake Tahoe for Easter. We stayed with cousins. We went to the sno-park and had a seafood dinner and there was ice cream and swimming and prime rib and an Easter egg hunt.

And then on Sunday afternoon, when I wanted to hit the shops before dinner, one of my lovelies threw a fit: I don’t want to go shopping. That’s not fun for me. Can I stay home?

Sometimes, when we do stuff, I see my kids grow and learn and I think “This was worth it.”

But sometimes I think “We give them too much for nothing.”

I’ve talked about this before—my worry that the life we give them because we are older parents with more working years and discretionary income under our belts comes with a cost.

My kids have travelled a lot. Shea and I like to travel and make it a priority. But there are moments where I see that the children have come to expect certain things.

At 4 am that troubles me.

In the middle of a condo in Lake Tahoe on Sunday, my head exploded.

That’s not fun for me.

I think teaching our kids gratitude may be the hardest of all parenting lessons. It’s so big and goes on for so long. First, say please. Then thank you. Wait your turn. Share. Be a good listener. Let others go first.

Those are the easy ones.

The older kids get, the more conceptual gratitude becomes. It’s not enough to say please and thank you. Some of the rudest pre-teens I know always remember to say please and thank you.

So here’s what I said: “Life is not all about you. It is not about what’s fun for you. It’s not about you at all. It will never be about you, not ever, ever in your whole life. Unless you are the Grinch and live in a cave with your dog. Even then, you will have to think about the dog. But if you want a family, friends, a job and general happiness, then life will never, ever, ever be just about you. EVER.”

It was a moment. Such a moment that I thought maybe I had cut off too big a slice of truth for their ears. I retreated to my spiritual mom guilt cave and thought about it. For like, 20 seconds, because mom guilt is not my thing and the cave is small.

For five of those seconds my mom ego yelled But these kids ARE special and there should be whole years dedicated to their specialness and one day if we just love them and protect them and write their college entrance essays, they are going to RULE THE WORLD!

I shut her up fast because that is the wrong thing. Jesus wrong, kindness wrong, other people matter wrong. Wrong.

Teaching them that they belong to and are responsible for each other? That’s right. It’s not too early either, because the secular world is selling a different message and selling it loudly. We have to start today so by tomorrow they will realize how connected they are to others and that decisions have rippling consequences and those ripples can be positive and turn into waves and help them CHANGE THE WORLD.

Much better.

In the immortal words of my dad, Papa T—parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Which means start early AND stay the course. We can’t stop at please and thank you and think we’ve done our job.

It’s bigger than that.

 

My Babies Are Your Babies Are My Babies

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”  Steve King

I have grown.

I used to fear and pray for and love over only my own children. For so long, that was my measure of personal well-being, if my own babies were healthy and happy.

My world was small because I was so scared. And I was scared because my world was so small.

Once I saw it, I fought hard to spread my net of love and prayer farther than just my own babies. And when I did, when I reached out my hands in benediction for more than just my own, my world got bigger. I touched hands with other mamas, spreading their light of prayers and love outward over more than just their own too, and my babies got safer.

My babies are your babies are my babies.

There’s a responsibility here though. To feel the pain. To stand in solidarity with the mothers who have lost.

Who are losing.

Are fighting.

Hiding.

Fleeing.

Searching.

Grieving.

No matter their color, country or creed.

“There’s no such thing as other people’s children.” Hillary Clinton

cropped-img_20150201_154100.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Let Her Play

On Saturday, Kate and some of her teammates found out they were badass.

They’re playing basketball for the YMCA. Shea is coaching them. He’s taught them to run the 3rd and 4th grade version of the Michigan State offense. You should see my girl set a pick. It’s a thing of beauty. And she only had to set it once. The rest of the game, that poor other girl was looking over her shoulder.

img_8875

That’s Kate setting the pick and Abby rolling off. Down inside is JoJo, waiting for the outlet.

As any coach of young girls will tell you, it’s a struggle to get them to be aggressive. Part of it is nature, but part of it is nurture, too. There’s something to that song Sit Still, Look Pretty and if you disagree consider this:  Coaches implore boy’s teams to stop shooting and pass. But they implore girl’s teams to stop passing and shoot.

All week, Shea worked with our team on stealing the ball. Because they wouldn’t. Would not. And Kate let go of a contested rebound two weeks ago because it was the other girl’s turn to have it. So every day when she woke up and before she went to bed he said to her “Kate, what do you do if someone sticks the ball in your face?”

“You steal it, dad.”

“That’s right. Then what do you do?”

“You drive for the basket.”

The team we played beat us four times last year because they have a gifted little point guard whose older brothers have taught her well. She was the star of the league because no one would challenge her.

Saturday, Kate stole the ball from her in the first thirty seconds of the game, and it was on. I mean on. As a team, we had over 20 steals and ended that game pink-cheeked, sweaty and winners. Our girls were lit up. You know why?

Because they LIT IT UP and no one told them to slow down, be quiet, or fix their hair.

I can make an argument that the song and dance class Kate takes and her desire to play the guitar and her artistic talents will all contribute to her sense of self-worth and giftedness.

But not the way sports will. Nothing else will ground her strength to her feet and help her hold her space in quite the same way.

Sports will raise her chin, her goals and her voice. And that is why we let her play.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ok, you got me.

“Let her play”. Ha!

As if we could stop her.

 

God is a Sports Fan

On Sunday, Gabe’s football team—which hasn’t lost a game in five years—was down 18-14 at halftime of their playoff game.

We’ve only been on this team for a season so the mystique of the Undefeated is new to us.

I was proud of how they all handled it. Coach kept his cool. The parents kept cheering positively, with the exception of me and Shea and AJ’s mom–but to be fair, Gabe and AJ were being held for twenty plays before the refs actually threw a fricking flag.

Still, Gabe’s eyes were wide and his eyebrows were floating around his hairline, which is family code for “I’m freaking out.” He kept looking at me, but the league frowns on parents doing pep talks on the sideline so I just gave him a thumbs-up and a smile.

Thirty seconds before halftime ended, it hit me: between Mass and Sunday School and pre-game practice, we hadn’t prayed. So then I did get up and walk down to the sideline. He saw me coming and when I said “We didn’t pray” he stood on his tiptoes and reached his hand up to the railing. I grabbed it and we prayed this prayer:

Dear Lord,

In the battle that goes on in life,

We ask but a field that is fair

Give us the strength to meet the strife

The courage to do and dare.

If we should win let it be by the code with our faith and our honor high.

If we should lose let us stand by the road and cheer as the winners go by.

His eyebrows went back to their normal place and in the second half the refs found their flags and the offense got their feet under them and we won the game 28-18.

Afterwards he came to me and said “It’s because we prayed.”

Oh buddy. He comes from a long line of athletes who pray. In high school, we hit the quiet cool of the church for a decade of the rosary before every game. When we made the play-offs, it was a full rosary. Then we prayed the Memorare on the court before lining up, along with a shout-out to St. Therese: Little Flower, show your power, help us in this needy hour. The end of every huddle went like this: Our Lady, Queen of Victory…pray for us…St. Anthony…pray for us.

When I coached, we did the same, except I replaced the Memorare with the prayer I say with my kids. You ain’t heard nothing in a huddle until you’ve heard high school boys pray to “cheer as the winners go by”, although one later admitted to me that he crossed his fingers every time he said that part.

But it was never superstition. It was what we did, but not what we needed to do to win, like wearing lucky socks or sitting in the same seats on the bus.  I think that’s a really important conversation Gabe and I will have. His team didn’t win because Gabe and I prayed. My teams didn’t win because we prayed. God doesn’t work on a pray to play basis.

But did we play better because we took those moments to be centered in the presence of God first, to lay down our cares and worries? To remember that win or lose, we were beloved children of God? I did. I looked forward to the empty, darkened church and the murmured prayers of my teammates. As a coach, I wanted my players to know that peace.

I loved our voices raised in prayer together. I loved Gabe’s dirty, reaching fingers in my hand as we prayed in the rain. And the sweet bowed heads of Kate and her teammate Jo as we prayed in the gym. I loved watching high school players pray over each other on the sideline of their public school game a few weeks ago. I love how Tim Tebow—that’s right, I said it—leaps into the stands to pray over fans in distress.

And that’s how I know God is a sports fan.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

                                                                                                                                                Matthew 18:20