Posted by: minnow | March 1, 2015

Life Gets Scary Sometimes

I don’t know what else to do except cry, and cry out. This about torture in the name of “cure” and this about one man’s God complex terrify me. After two suspicious deaths the fact the Echo Wild Game Rangers was allowed to continue to torture children boggles my mind. And, the idea that 21st Century Americans, especially the more than 50% who are women, willingly submit to, give money to, or even listen to men who believe and expect others to believe women should be discouraged from competing in the marketplace with men, and not be paid the same when they are, because they are women flat out frightens me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to combat such ugliness. When those I believe ought to be doing something, are actually the most able to do something, but chose instead to turn their backs, bury their heads in the sand, or worse agree with the perpetrators of these dangerous deceptions I honestly wish I could stop believing. I want to quit, to give up altogether on God on the Church on humanity.

But I can’t.

The God I believe in deserves more. Those I know who truly want to love God with all their hearts deserve more.  And the few who continue to stand in the gap, continue to call attention to the harm being done, continue to pull heaven to earth by walking like Jesus to the best of their flawed human abilities deserve more.

I appreciate news sources like the Huff Post Gay Voice not because I agree with all their verbiage but rather because without them more and more extremists would get away with turning the United States into a less free, less tolerant, more theocratic, and more frightening society. Their call to arms (physical not military) may sound out of sync with the love Jesus messages many prefer to hear on Sunday morning but the truth is sometimes in order to love Jesus we need to act radically.  In order to love Jesus we need to swim against the current.  In order to love Jesus we need to risk hearing the Spirit speak to us through unlikely sources.  I doubt Moses expected a burning bush.  I imagine Balaam was pretty surprised when his donkey spoke.  David understood his friend Johnathan spoke for God but it took the death of his oldest son before Pharaoh began to listen.  My point is, we often ignore what we don’t like to hear, what seems contrary to our preconceived ideas of how life is supposed to unfold.  And honestly, being people of God doesn’t guarantee we’ll get it right.

The Israelites were God’s chosen and yet they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  Heck, they missed the Messiah, the one they had been looking for ever since they left Egypt!   They told themselves they knew what to look for.  Even though God spoke to them through the prophets they begged for a king.  They convinced themselves they could trust their leaders. They believed, sincerely believed, they knew the signs and would recognize God whenever He showed up.  I believe their belief was no less sincere than our own.  I also believe we have their mistakes to learn from if only we are willing.

The Israelites were given prophets but wanted a king.  We have been given the Holy Spirit yet prefer to put our trust in human leaders instead.  We give them nice titles–pastors, prophets, teachers, and apostolic leaders.  We tell ourselves they’ve been appointed by God, are the man of God in God’s house, and speak for God–the word of God–when they speak.  But honestly, how many of us can point to a burning bush as evidence to our claims.  Don’t get me wrong; I am NOT calling any of our leaders evil.  I do not doubt their desire to be counted as good leaders.  Nor do I question the sincerity of our individual desires to love God.  What I am saying is that like the Israelites we have gotten off track.  We have let fear and laziness have a foothold in our thinking.  As a result we place unnecessary burdens on ourselves as well as those who would run to Jesus if we let them.

Love is not easy. But, it is a much lighter burden to carry than the book of the law.  Casting off judgment, setting aside our lists of dos and don’ts and ins and outs, and simply meeting needs, sharing what we have, and listening to one another’s stories is enough.  Just after Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary…and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” the Pharisees criticized His disciples for breaking the Sabbath. Jesus replied to them, “I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Of course, Jesus was talking about Himself but the Pharisees couldn’t see it.  Let’s not make their same mistake.  Let’s instead take every opportunity we can to see Jesus in our midst.  Even if later we need to ask, “When did we see you thirsty and give you drink?” let us go out into the world carrying cups of water and loaves of bread rather than stones of condemnation.


 

Posted by: minnow | January 11, 2015

Some Wall are Love

In my little neck of the FB woods the image to the left is popping up all over the place.  I was struck by two things.  First, I found it pretty cool that the photographer captured a rainbow in the back ground given the Biblical story as to how the rainbow came into being and what it means.  Secondly I was struck especially hard by the caption which usual accompanied this picture: “Christians protecting Christians from Christians”. Let that sink in a little.

In Portland Oregon this weekend over a thousand people from the LGBT community and their allies gathered for the Gay Christian Network Conference.  This was not the first year GCN has held such a gathering but it is the first time the Westboro Baptist group decided to send protesters.  Yet, thanks to their pre-conference threats (perhaps in an attempt to deter some people from going) a third group showed up.  They too called themselves Christians.  Their plan was to form a wall of protection so that attendees could walk into the conference without being accosted by the Westboro group.  It worked and the thanks on my FB feed are flowing!

I would love to have gone to the Portland conference but as a first year teacher I’m not only broke but don’t have personal days to use for such events.  Still, I have enjoyed the reports coming from the conference and look forward to watching the videos.  Several in the mom’s group I’ve mentioned over the last several months went with their husbands to offer FREE MOM (and Dad) HUGS to those who need surrogate families.  I’m proud to be associated with these men and women.  I know many of their stories and am in awe of what they have overcome. I’m impressed by their determination to not only love their own children but to love those who have been rejected by their own parents, siblings, friends, and fellowships. That’s much too long a list but thankfully the numbers in those groups are dwindling.

I don’t know any of the people who formed the wall or who protested on the other side of the wall at the conference. I may have mentioned the activities of Westboro in the past but I really don’t need to give them any more attention then they’ve already gotten.  I do, however, want to talk about the groups and individuals who formed the wall.  I wish I could write each one individually and say thank you but I don’t know who they are.  I believe that was intentional.  Still, I want to thank them because while I have preached and whined and blogged about the Church standing up and representing the true face of God they actually stepped forward and did something!

These hands, feet, and hearts of God deserve our respect and our praise.  Some might have shared the same views as those attending the conference and some might not have.  That wasn’t important.  The side of the fence they stood on, and the lesson every other Christian fellowship ought to learn from them, is that the Christian God stands on the side of love.  These individuals helped to provide a safe haven and they left the rest for God to work out.  Those are not easy shoes to walk in but I am certainly glad to see more and more people doing it.

Some of the people who attended the conference did not learn that lesson soon enough to save their own children, siblings, parents, other family members and friends from the pain and damage of rejection, severed relationships, destructive behavior, and self loathing.  Some wish and pray they could have a second chance. But, those who can’t are reaching out to those they can. Instead of giving up hope altogether they hope their efforts will make a difference, heal some wounds, and eventually restore relationships within the Church.

In recent months, I feel my rage toward groups like Westboro Baptist subsiding, not because I no longer think their stance is wrong.  I am as convinced as ever that our sexual identity is not sinful and that God created each one of us with an equal capacity to love and to hate.  I further believe that He is for us, not against us and that He continuously encourages us to pick up His mantle of love.  Picking up that mantle is what helps me put down my rage or at least turn it toward more productive thoughts and behavior.  I feel less rage because I am feeling more compassion.

I firmly believe most of the individuals who comprise groups like Westboro Baptist have been raised in environments of fear and judgment.  They are trapped by the laws and condemnation they have created for themselves and expect others to live under.  They need as great an example of unconditional love as our LGBT friends and family.  And yes, while it can be argued that “they are hurting our kids”, it can also be argued that if we aren’t careful, if we don’t choose love we could be hurting their kids (as well as them).  Peace and love are never easy paths to take.  But that doesn’t make them less worthwhile.

Posted by: minnow | January 2, 2015

Apology

I thought I had a good reaction when my son finally came out.  He was nearly 20 and I accepted him.  But the reality is he felt afraid enough around me that he tried to deny himself for years prior to coming out.  He  didn’t feel safe sharing who he was.  He heard things in our home that caused him to think we might not love him if we knew his secret.  He heard things in our fellowship that caused him to think God couldn’t love him and we might choose God over him.  He spent his teen years trying to choose God over himself.  When he could not deny himself any longer he made a plan to get away from the lie he was living, to find out if he could love himself even if everyone else in his life rejected him.  He told us the truth expecting to be rejected.

In spite of the media attention, the recent suicide of Leelah Alcorn–statistically–isn’t the most recent death of a teen whose struggle to belong, be loved, or find hope ended tragically.  Leelah died several days ago; on average one 10 to 24 year old successfully commits suicide every two hours. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts and trans teens are at the high end of that statistic. You see, even though straight people throw LGBT people in one big group–lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people don’t see themselves as having all that much in common. Life can get unbearably lonely. It did so for Leelah.  It did so for my son.  My son moved out.  Leelah walked in front of a truck.

So, if Leelah isn’t the most recent then why has she become the poster child for Trans advocacy? (And to a slightly lesser extent for LGBT teen advocacy)?  Because the time is right.  It’s been right.  We’ve needed a poster child.  Leelah wanted her death to matter.  Social media is flooded with people trying to make that happen.  Some are comparing her to Matthew Shepard.  And, while it can be argued that the crime against Matthew Shepard was much more horrific than how Leelah was treated, the point is both Matthew and Leelah were too young to die.  Society SHOULD have been a safer place for them.  And, in order to help society become a safer place we want to remind one another of their innocence, of the innocence of those like them–those we can still protect.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can we keep that goal in mind as we move forward.  Absolutely, speak out against the hateful hurtful WRONG messages put out by religious organizations.  Contradict and contradict loudly the voices of those who claim to be speaking for the Christian Church but who use rhetoric that could never have come from the lips of Jesus.  But, as you lift your voices to advocate for those who have been hurt and misunderstood and marginalized remember to muster all the self control you can muster lest you become the voice of hate we so desperately need to silence.  We do not bring about peace by dropping bombs; nor can we silence hatred by spewing hate.

Leelah Alcorn’s parents are mourning the loss of their son, Joshua, because they did not know their daughter, Leelah.  How dare we, in our self righteous anger, deny them their loss!  Leelah’s death is tragic.  But, two of the most tragic figures in this whole mess are her parents.  They have been vilified by the more enlightened among us.  Their love for their child has been mocked and called into question.  Because we on the outside don’t know what it’s like to be them on the inside we think we have the right to cast judgement.  Yet, what is it that we think we are doing that makes our actions toward them so very different from their actions toward their child?

I belong to private FB page for mom’s of children who identify as part of the LGBT community.  The requirements for being part of this group are to love God and love our LGBT identifying child(ren).  We don’t have to be at a specific place in our journey.  Our questions are welcome.  Our struggles are welcome.  Our opinions are welcome.  Our pain is welcome.  As we seek to keep loving God and loving our kids we sometimes put our foot in our mouths and sometimes shock one another BUT we withhold judgement.  As a result, most of us are traveling down the road toward greater and greater acceptance of who God created our children to be. As a result most of us are learning how to truly love our neighbors and ourselves.  As a result many have been able to cast off the religious bondage we did not even realize we had come under.

One of the founders of our group lost her son to a drug overdose.  He got involved with drugs initially because he felt rejected.  Even though his parents eventually embraced who he was, the battle with addiction he ultimately lost had already begun.  Not a day passes that this mom doesn’t mourn her son.  The blame others cast on her out of their own fear, pain, ignorance, and self-righteousness can’t begin to match that which she casts on herself.  Yet, without this very real tragedy our group of moms might never have come together and over 300 women might not have found the courage to keep loving their children in spite of opposition from family, friends, society, or the Church.

Blaming Leelah’s parents for her death is pretty easy. Pointing fingers and make accusations against them doesn’t take much out of our day.  But Leelah didn’t ask us to condemn her parents for her, to practice hate by making their lives a living hell.  Enough pain has already come from this tragedy.  We don’t need more.  A dozen teens commit suicide every day–one dozen.  Instead of wasting time playing the blame game, let the dead bury the dead and let us figure out how to be a difference for the living.

Posted by: minnow | January 1, 2015

Finding Balance

2014 has been one of the best years of my adult life.  I graduated at age 55 with a BFA in art and a renewed secondary teaching certificate.  I landed a job teaching 10th grade English and journalism (even though I’ve never even taken a journalism class before).  I have five healthy (and I think fairly happy) children.  My husband and I, while feeling our age a little more these days, have no major health complaints. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, clothing to wear, a car to drive, music to enjoy, books to read, and time to write (when I make it).

Each year on or near the first I land on a word to meditate on throughout the year. I give credit to God for the inspiration.  My “word for the year” two years ago was confront.  This past year it was release.  (Initially I thought they were connected in that I was supposed to let go of those things I didn’t confront the year before). In the end, release meant less to me than my Spirit inspired words have meant to me in past years and yet as I look back, it actually was a year of letting go.  I let go of needing to be, wanting to be, being, directly involved in my older children’s lives.  I let go of the protected environment of school related art projects.  I let go of arguing my point until the other person yells uncle.  (Okay, so I’m still working on that one).  But, I did let go of the known and familiar dailiness of graveyard work, full-time school, and various household duties in exchange for the new adventure of full-time teaching and a stint at semi-single parenthood.

Still, some parts of life I’ve been trying to let go of but have not been particularly successful in letting go of remain to taunt me.  I haven’t, for example, completely disconnected the guilt button.  I worry about the impact of my parenting mistakes on my children and how many of my bad habits they have picked up.  After 40 plus years, I still don’t balance my check book and often rob Peter to pay Paul. The financial stress spills into the rest of my life and flavors many if not all of my relationships.  I can be manipulated by the mere thought of not measuring up (or disappointing my Dad especially) and desperately want to prove myself–my point of view, my recollection, my facts–my worth.  Even if the messages I receive changed today, not enough years are left in my Dad’s lifetime or in mine to counter balance the negative messages I’ve already imbedded, rewind, repeat, replay and wrestle with–in each of my relationships.  I still need to let go of those tapes, of their toxic impact, of the past I cannot change.  Letting go is an on going process.

While most of my life I struggled to belong, fit in, be accepted or even {smiley face} embraced, 2014 was a year of growing my own wings and becoming comfortable with my aloneness.  I believe 2015 will be a year of learning to love my less than idea self.  Recently, I tried to explain what I meant to my oldest daughter and middle son.  I used the relatively minor example of pet ownership.  I have always wanted to be the perfect dog owner–the kind of person whose dog would follow me around, obey my every command, and be loyal to the death.  What I failed to realize about this ideal image is that it took a lot of work on the part of the owner.  In order for dogs to make that kind of deep connection with their owners they need to be loved, trained, cared for, and included.  The connection needs to be continuous and consistent. I am not that disciplined or that determined thus my idealized version of myself as a pet owner doesn’t have much of a chance to be realized.  A while back I decided I would quit telling myself the “someday lie” and simply face the fact that despite having a dog that would readily respond to that type of intense training I will not ever be the ideal pet owner.  Now I have to figure out how to be okay with the less than ideal self such a decision makes me in my own mind.

Kind of convoluted, right?  Well, multiply that simple example by a dozen other idealized images and you can begin to see where I live emotionally–how I struggle to balance my ideal self with my real self.  Expand the notion of ideal by applying it to education, politics, religion, social justice, etc. and you can begin to understand how I wrestle with the world around me.  My husband once queried if I had ever felt content.  Revisiting his question has inspired my journey to find balance between the real and the ideal.  A long time friend of my husband has for as long as I’ve known him signed his letters with the phrase Walk in Balance.  It has always irritated me.  I frankly don’t like the word.  Thus, it is no surprise that balance is the word the Spirit seems to have given me for 2015.  We shall see where it leads.

*          *          *

I am trying to maintain two blogs.  Minnowhealth and this one.  In the past I wrote posts about receiving a “word” on this blog.  This will be my last such post on this blog as I will now divide the more personal stuff (Minnowhealth) from the more issue oriented stuff (here).

Posted by: minnow | December 11, 2014

Guns: Life VS Liberty

I just about went off on a FB acquaintance who re-posted a “letter to the editor” thread ridiculing people who want greater gun control.  I’ve seen the thread multiple times and usually can just keep scrolling.  It’s meant to be funny but today for whatever reason it just didn’t strike me that way. I wrote a comment, then deleted it, undid the delete, copied it, and deleted it again.  Here’s what I wrote:

I don’t want to regulate your guns. I want to regulate those individuals who would use guns to kill innocent people. I want to make it more difficult for the average person to own semi-automatic assault rifles when the only purpose for owning such weapons is to use them, not to hunt game, but to kill people. I don’t want it to be easy for people who are mentally unstable to get a hold of a weapon that can kill multiple people in seconds. The letter you posted isn’t brilliant as it was titled. It’s ignorant.

No one who is calling for greater gun control is trying to harm law biding citizens. We aren’t out to get hunters. We don’t want to stop average Americans from having fun at target practice. We don’t even want to stop people from owning hand guns for self protection (Although the number of household members killed by a homeowner’s gun out numbers the number of intruders killed).

Guns can’t think.  They can’t act. They can’t obey the law.  People however can.  And it’s people who need to be regulated.  So, this letter you call brilliant, just lets us see how foolish some gun enthusiasts can be.

My husband and oldest son hunt.  I live in Montana and know people who rely on the game for their meat supply. I, personally, have never held a gun nor do I plan on learning how.  I hope no one in my family will ever have the need to defend their home or country by taking up arms.  I don’t know anyone who has ever been shot, has ever shot another person, or has ever lost a loved one due to gun violence.  So honestly, I don’t have a dog in this fight, not yet.  My initial response to the thread my FB acquaintance posted was actually due to the insincerity of the thread.

Gun control advocates have legitimate concerns.  Gun related accidents and gun violence in America are  embarrassingly high statistics–over 30,000 gun related deaths annually.  But we will not make any progress toward solving these problems if we continue to waste our time and our resources on hyperbole, political pandering, finger pointing, and name calling.  We need to recognize we have a problem,  put an end to grandstanding and seek solutions we can all begin to implement.  Lives and livelihoods might be at stake.

Posted by: minnow | November 23, 2014

Letting Go and Holding On

Last Sunday (11/16) in a FB group I belong to a member confessed she just “lost her church (fellowship)” after sitting through a message which included statements about Christian principles being under attack because a bakery was sued for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.  The pastor told his congregants they needed to stand strong against such attacks.  My friend left the service knowing she could not just keep trying to show “the other side of love”.  She ended her comment to us with the question: “Why is it hurting so much?”  Our group is very quick to love on moms going through this kind of pain after all the purpose of the group is to support Christian moms of LGBT identifying children and most of us have similar stories.

I have been a part of the group for about seven months now and it has nearly double in size since I joined (just over 300 members).  Multiple times a day women in places of grief are respected, heard, and assured that they are not alone and it will get better.  My answer to the above question is one I have shared in various forms multiple times.

It hurts because the very people who are supposed to show the world the love of Christ can not let go of their own fears, judgments, and pain long enough to realize they are passing those very things on to others. We seriously do not trust that God’s love for us is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, that it is unconditional, and that it is able to reach to everyone. I am sorry for your loss, for the pain. I am sorry, too, for theirs.

While I do see life getting better I am almost always struck by how deeply many of the women in my mom’s group feel the pain caused by broken fellowship, rejection, and ugly religious rhetoric.  I am probably lucky to have moved as much as I have as an adult.  My roots in one particular group (9 fellowships) were not so deep that moving on was especially painful.  In addition, my last exodus was not caused by a child coming out as gay although his exodus from that fellowship was. His exit actually helped me  understand the pain involved just a little since he had been deeply rooted.

Feeling deceived by the fellowships I have been a part actually overshadowed the pain of broken relationship.  And, those feelings can be frightening and painful as well.  Often those going through Church hurt due to rejection are left with lots of questions, one of which is almost always: How could I have been so foolish as to think they cared? These questions are followed by serious doubts as to whether we will ever trust such a fellowship again, even if we are able to find one.  This combination of pain, fear, and doubt generally leads to loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness, none of which sound like the manifestations of a loving God to me.

I will forever be confused by my fellow Christians who believe in a place of never ending torment and who think rejecting entire groups of people suddenly lines up with God’s character as loving. And yet, through all of my childhood and most of my adulthood I held my own vague belief in hell.  It was only after my thoughts of hell were blatantly challenged by a growing revelation that God truly is the manifestation of love that I understood how disjointed this thinking had been.

I found a huge disconnect between my experience of love (NOTE: 1 Corinthians 13) and the idea that God’s character would suddenly change and become very un-loving toward me if I didn’t lived up to the correct interpretation of scripture.  I tried to imagine under what circumstances I could reject my own children but I could not come up with any. And so, I cannot understand people who while calling themselves Christians think one of their great callings in life is to model rejection, censure, and ugliness in our fellowships and to the world. These misguided souls–and they must be misguided or seriously tormented themselves to believe such things– honestly hold some twisted definition of agape love that allows it to include condemnation and abandonment.

People, like wounded animals, often lash out at others when they’re hurt, so I understand the pain turned to anger some of the women in my mom’s group feel toward the Church.  Still, if we are going to be advocates of real change within Church walls we need to figure out how to love and educate, love and confront wrong thinking, love and speak the truth, love and in some cases let go, bow out, and refuse to engage. When those we have been holding onto refuse to let go of the beliefs and attitudes that harm and misrepresent the God of love we believe in, as well as our families, our best option is sometimes to let go, regroup, and move on.

I left a building several years ago but I did not leave the Church.  I still believe in a benevolent Creator, a relational God.  And, having left one building is not saying I won’t ever walk into another.  Groups  meet needs more effectively than individuals.  Shared resources and energy often proves the adage “many hands make light work”.  Help, meeting needs, providing services, developing fellowship becomes more reliable, accessible, and possible when multiple people pull together, share the burden, and spread the joy.  Even though I have not yet found another, safer, building I still believe God’s creation is meant to work together and I have confidence that even if I need to look in the most unlikely places I will find others who try to reach out, choose to lift up, and want to share life.

 

Posted by: minnow | October 13, 2014

Letting Go

     A woman I’ve never met except through a private FB page I’ve belonged to since May passed away today.  The group, a safe haven for Christian moms of LGBT identifying children, is populated with women from across the country and even a few from the other side of the globe.  I did not know Jeannie Moran Androsoff personally.  In fact, except to read a few of her posts I know almost nothing about her other than she started a website called ifoundoutmom.com. From the posts in the private group I know Jeannie was a pretty spectacular woman who loved her son fiercely.  I also know her website was launched shortly after finding out the cancer, which ultimately took her earthly life this morning (10/13), had returned.

The reason I mention Jeannie at all is because reading the posts to and about her over the past couple days, and reflecting on her impact on the private FB group I happen to be a part of, made me realize just how disconnected I have been most of my life.  While many in this private group were once part of what they would describe as tightly knit, caring church families, I have never in my life felt like part of an inner circle.  At best I’ve been a distant relative, a second cousin once removed sort of status, especially with regard to church families.  At times, as I read about someone’s frustration with or hurt at the hands of a once upon a time “family” member over issues connected to their LGBT children, I find myself wanting to shout, “Get over it!  Let go and move on for goodness sake.”  You see, I have never had to let go of someone who held that kind of emotional weight in my life.  So, I guess it’s been fairly easy for me to have a “Get over it!” attitude.

As much as I want–intellectually–for those in the Church and those in places of power to desire truth, treat the other with respect, and be willing to work for justice, I honestly don’t care how people feel about me or if I get an invitation to Sunday dinner.  I don’t need “likes”, although I do like conversation.  Mostly, I don’t have time for arguments that don’t work toward solutions to problems, build a framework for cooperation, or  lay the groundwork for better understanding.  Having the same fruitless discussions with the same people on a slightly different thread is a waste.  I never did it much and I simply don’t want to do it any more.  So, I apologize for my rather detached empathy for those of you who continue to struggle with family, friends, and associates over issues that get in the way of the relationships you long to have.  If the shout outs and remembrances for Jeannie are any indicator of what comes from never letting go, I believe your efforts are worth while.  That said, the difference between helping someone wake from their slumber and banging one’s head against the wall can sometimes feel like a very thin line.  My best prayer is that we’re able to discern the difference before we give ourselves concussions.

Posted by: minnow | October 12, 2014

Having Trouble Finding Time

My once a month blogging isn’t really cutting it.  Since I no longer have hours during my graveyard shifts to fill I have found finding time to write quite difficult.  In late August I started teaching three standard 10th grade English classes, a Journalism class (I’ve never even taken a journalism class), and a Basic English 10 class.  Next semester I’ll add a 12th grade Basic English class.  The Basic English classes are supposed to be less strenuous than the regular English classes and thus have fewer students.  The students however tend to be less motivated to work on assignments and or have more difficulty understanding expectations thus require more individual supervision.   I don’t have any Honors classes which would probably be more interesting but would also mean another prep and a different kind of work load.  My time has already been gobbled up creating curriculum, correcting quizzes, and commenting on essays.

The state of writing in the 10th grade (if my classes are representative of the rest of what’s out there) is abominable.  On the one hand I might blame teacher for not requiring students to write more.  However, when the average high school English teacher has between 60 and 120 students who can realistically expect those teachers to give, read, and correct and comment on multiple writing assignments. I spend close to as much time grading my student’s essays as they spend writing them.  I literally have no social life because I spend my out of school hours generating and then assessing assignments, minus the two hours a night I fix dinner and monitor/help my daughter with her homework.

Yes, I’m whining.  I feel sorry for myself because I’d like to blog instead of create curriculum and grade poorly written papers.  At the same time, I am frustrated by the lack of writing skills on the part of my students.  Thus I have a dilemma.  So long as I’m collecting a pay check I feel obliged to do what I have been hired to do and sadly that doesn’t mean blogging, at least not in the near future.  My apologizes to the one or two who may actually check in every now and again.

Posted by: minnow | September 5, 2014

November’s Comin’

I just started a new job as an English teacher and feel like I’m swimming upstream with one nostril above water most of the time.  So…needless to say I haven’t felt like I had the time to blog.  Humm…

The problem is I keep finding things when I chose to take shorts breaks here and there, that capture my attention or gnaw at my brain.  Today a FB “friend” posted the picture below and the snarky, fed up with the right-wing conservative non-compassionate even if they’re Christian faction of the GOP, thinking person in me has a few things to say.  I wanted to quip back at this friend that “in November we would introduce some Senate Republicans to the private sector where they’d be expected to take responsibility for their actions, but oops the private sector is where most of them learned they don’t have to take responsibility for anything they do as long as they have enough money and someone else to blame.

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SADLY, the truth is after the elections in November we will in all likelihood end up with a Congress and Senate that doesn’t look a whole lot different than it looks right now.  AND SADDER STILL, the newly elected will probably not accomplish any more than the basically nothing that’s been accomplished since I could vote.  That being said, I DO NOT want what this “friend” wants and I’m really sick of the never ending whining on the topic that’s coming from the right. The Affordable Care Act is not the devil in disguise.  Personally I wish we would cut out health insurance altogether, and begin Health Savings Plans that accumulate monthly before taxes from each pay check.  I’d also like to see us move to a single payer system for the rest.

The legislature is out of sync with the nation.  That point was not lost on me.  But the reason we’re at a stale mate has more to do with the fact that half those who could vote don’t bother than it does with the Affordable Care Act.  If we want thinking people with creative problem solving skills to run for office and have a chance to be elected WE THE PEOPLE need to speak up and vote.  We need serious campaign finance reform–to begin with put a cap on what candidates can spend and what other groups can spend on their behalf.  We also need term limits–perhaps with a rest between terms component.  Our forefathers never envisioned the kind of career politicians we have today.

November is right around the corner.  Please find out who your candidates are, where they truly stand on the issues, AND VOTE.  Don’t let the talking heads fill your mind with lies about the “other guy” without explaining what they plan to do differently.  Ignore every ad that talks about the bad thing one person did if it’s paid for the supporters of the other side.  Demand that the person you plan to vote for has a laid out plan and not simply a promise.  Figure out what the make or break issues are for you and what each candidate is planning to do about those issues so you know who actually REPRESENTS YOU.  Ask questions and if you don’t like the answers ask follow-up questions!

In other words–be a citizen who matters not just a person who posts inflammatory gobbly-gook on FB so you can act like you’re informed and politically and socially aware.

Posted by: minnow | August 14, 2014

Our Dis-connect

The monthly Synchroblog topic for August is Connection.  The Synchroblog crash topic for August (in light of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams) is to share our thoughts about a Robin Williams movie that impacted our life. (Those posts were downloaded a couple days ago and some links will follow this post.  I did this post instead).  Initially, I thought I’d pull up an old post to fit the Connection theme since I’d written several in the last few months about my connections to my family and on-line community. In other words, I wasn’t too inspired to write anything new.  When I heard of Robin Williams’ death and the idea for a crash topic I immediately thought about my three favorite Williams films–The Fisher King, Goodwill Hunting, and Dead Poets Society.  Like my son whose FB status stated:

Robin Williams did not only make me laugh. He made me cry. He made me believe I could be a kid no matter what my age. As “O Captain! My Captain!” he gave me an ideal to strive for. And he allowed me see Joy in even the most sorrowful of times. I will miss his heart far more than his humor.

I will miss the serious Williams every bit as much as the comedian, for even in his comedy he usually made a point that gave me much to ponder.  The best comedians make those kinds of connections and Williams was one of the best.  Ironically, my three favorite Williams movies deal, in different ways, with mental illness, isolation, suicide, and finding connection.

I am fortunate.  I am connected to a community.  I do not suffer from chronic bouts of depression.  I am not addicted to anything more dangerous than caffeine.  I am not famous.  Even so, I have often felt the need to “act”.  I have addiction tendencies, need to watch my alcohol and sugar intake, quit smoking and don’t dare have “just one”.  I’ve contemplated suicide though not to the point of making a plan.  And, I do not always trust my community with my pain.

The blogishere has been full of analysis, advice, criticism, etc. regarding Robin Williams specifically and suicide in general.  Some of it has been harsh, some of it ridiculous, and some of it helpful.  Why should we expect anything else?!  Aren’t we all trying to make sense of a tragedy?  Don’t we each want an answer that guarantees this won’t happen again.  But it will.  And as humans, we will need to continue to wrestle with how that. it. makes us feel.

Two posts from the dozen’s I’ve seen stand out to me.  While some have criticized Matt Walsh’s article as insensitive and simplistic in its conclusion I think he actually contributes one perspective, one point of view to the conversation: we don’t want to make it easier for people to commit suicide.  We don’t want to add more hopelessness–the disease won’t let me say no–to the despair a person already feels.  In that sense Walsh is correct, even if everything he says isn’t completely thought through.

Katie Hurley offers a different take in her Huffington Post piece yet she, too, has missed a few beats.  Being in a dark place, feeling like you are a burden, losing hope that anything in your life will change–those feelings can be overwhelming. They put a person in despair and shut down rational thought.  Yet understanding how one gets to such a dark place does not take away the impact suicide has on those left to wrestle with self blame, guilt, anger, grief, and sometimes their own despair. Understanding why does not negate the fact that suicide can be, in fact often is, a self oriented solution to an overwhelming problem.  So while Hurley brings a level of compassion to the discussion:  just because it can be called selfish does not diminish the pain the individual who takes his or her life feels, she, like Walsh, was not entirely sensitive to the complexities of the issue.

The bottom line is, I do not know what brings people to the point of following through with their thoughts of suicide and frankly, neither does anyone else–including the experts.  What we can all agree on, I hope, is that the conversation needs to continue.  We need more not less talk.  We need to heighten awareness.  We need to make access to mental health care more available.  We need to reduce the stigmas that contribute to the fear and shame that keep people isolated and in the shadows.  As individuals we need to educate ourselves and one another about depression.  We need to learn the signs that tell us someone is contemplating suicide.  We need to take the signs seriously and to act when we see someone in trouble.

And after all that, we need to understand that we are not going to solve the problem of suicide over night.  In fact, it may never be solved completely which is why we must become more sensitive.  We must become more available to those left in the aftermath.  We, as much as those who have died, are the victims of suicide unless we are able to grow out of the pain.  To grow, we need to work at hearing one  another’s heart as well as all the words.  Welsh and Hurley, along with the rest of us, are best able to contribute to our understanding of this incredibly complex issue if we want to understand what is true more than we want to prove someone else wrong.  Our connections and our on-going conversations are the biggest defenses we have against depression and suicide.

*     *     *

Connections Link list:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

Here is the Crash topic link list:

Chad Jones – A Reflection Upon the Death of Robin Williams

Justin Steckbauer – Remembering Robin Williams

Glenn Hager – It’s Not Your Fault

Ryan Thomas Neace – Requiem for a Therapist:A Tribute to Robin Williams

The links for the Connections theme will be posted as soon as I get them after the 20th (I’m moving so it might take a little time:

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