Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I'm a Lightning Rod

I've been told I'm a lightning rod.  Like it's a bad thing.  Maybe the judgment is because a lot of people don't understand why anyone would want to be the tall iron rod placed atop high buildings, waiting to get hit by lightning.  The people who feel this way don't understand lightning, electricity, tall metal structures, tall people, me, or Benjamin Franklin.  You see, lightning rods are for protection.   Protection of structures and people.  Benjamin Franklin studied storms and electricity.  He learned that by placing tall iron rods on top of buildings, the electricity in a cloud could be drawn out through the rod and then channeled into the ground, protecting the structure and the people in it.  Ever since then, lightning rods have always been placed on tall buildings.

Back to the question of why is being a lightning rod a bad thing?  It's not.  I'm here to tell you, it's not.  If you want to run around chasing electrical storms on purpose, trying to get struck by lightning, that's a different thing and it doesn't help anyone, especially yourself.  What I'm talking about is the willingness to stand up tall, take a hit that could otherwise cause decimation, and channel it to where it can't do any harm.  The problem is you have to be brave, willing to stand out there by yourself, and not be afraid of getting a jolt.  It also helps if you're tall, which I am.

I went to high school in the very early 80s.  I was in high school when the AIDS epidemic was sweeping across our country, sending everyone into tremendous panic.  Nobody knew for sure how it was contracted.  All we knew is that it was prominent among the homosexual population and with drug users and people who had received blood transfusions.  It was a frightening time.  And a scary time to be gay.  I had many gay friends and they didn't want anyone to know they were gay, for a lot of reasons, but one of them was AIDS.  In my school, if anyone even thought a person was gay, they were ostracized, bullied, and shamed.  People called each other horrible names.  It was hard to see people I cared about treated this way.  In the closing senior assembly, instead of reading scripted lines that I was supposed to give for a particular skit, I spoke out to the entire student-body about how wrong it was to have treated our fellow students this way.  I named names.  I named clubs.  I named administrators.  I received a standing ovation, but not from everyone.  Just from the disenfranchised, the bullied, the marginalized and the wronged, and their friends, which was most of the school.   The drill team did not stand, nor did the cheerleaders or administrators.  The jocks didn't stand and the school officers did not stand.  But a few weeks later in my yearbook, dozens of people wrote about how much they appreciated what I did and what I said and many were from those "popular" people who had been silenced by their friends.

I have never chased storms, intentionally seeking to be a lightning rod, but there have been times when someone had to do it---had to climb on the building and take the strike.  I've tried to stand up for people throughout my life.  Friends at school, people I worked with and for, people I went to church with, and my own family.  I've tried to look out for the little guy, the misunderstood and the forgotten.  Sometimes it has been me.  Sometimes I have had to look out for the health and well-being of myself so that I could continue to care for my husband and children and do my own work in this world.

The hardest has been when I've been the lightning rod in my own family---standing up to my parents.  It's not easy to say to your parents that you will no longer tolerate their abuse, narcissism, and their hatred.  It takes a lot of guts to stay home on Thanksgiving and make your own dinner in order to have peace in your life and spend quality, loving, respectful, wholesome time with your husband and children.  It requires grit and heart to put your hand out and say, "no more!"  It takes dedication and fierce maternal love to not allow the caustic tradition of abuse to sink its teeth into your own posterity.  I've done that and I'm glad I did.  I would willingly do it again.  Someone had to stand on top of the Empire State Building of my life and say, "you shall not pass!"

Tomorrow on Thanksgiving, it's my birthday.  Sometimes it's on Thanksgiving, which I kind of enjoy.  It's nice to be in the kitchen and enjoy the company of people I dearly love.  And for the pie.  Pie is better than cake, always.  I'm told that after I was born, I came home from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day to a dinner prepared by my grandmother and all my mother's family.  I am happy to say that this year, like has been the tradition now for many years, we will eat in our home, surrounded by people we love and we'll be missing and loving the children who live far away, talking to them over Skype, I'm sure.  Long ago the traditions of my parents' family have been dimmed and changed.  What a blessing!

Here's the thing about lightning.  If it hits you, you're either going to die or you're going to be badly hurt.  If it hits your building or home, it's going to cause damage or set the thing on fire.  It's going to split trees or kill cattle.  It does damage.  It's nothing to mess with.  I have chosen to watch the sky for brewing clouds, listen for the claps of thunder to warn me when danger is near, and when the darkness gathers, to boldly stand on top of my life and say, "not here, not in this family, not in this home."  I guess that a lot of people would prefer to keep company with people and in structures where there is no lightning rod, mostly because they don't recognize the danger or pay attention to the sky, but I look for lightning rods because I know they'll keep me safe.

There are even people who blame the lightning rod for the lightning striking.  That's not how it works.  When a cloud is full of electricity, it has to be discharged somehow and it will strike somewhere.  Why not control how the power is channeled and reduce risk of damage and death?  When I stood up to my parents, I told them that the things they did to me were not going to happen to my children.  I stood in front of my children and protected them.  I stood in front of my gay friends in high school and tried to protect them.  I've stood in front of refugees and spoke up for them.  I've told women in church circles that their gossip needed to stop.  I've tried to protect the people I care about, including me.

This birthday and this Thanksgiving day, I'm celebrating and giving thanks for many, many blessings.  They're personal and sacred and I will not name them here.  The one thing I will share is that I'm grateful for the strength God has seen to fit me with, for He knew the storms I would face, both in my family and in my life as a woman in this crazy society.  God alone has blessed me with discernment to know when my chain is being yanked, when things are not what they seem, and to see through lies that I've been told and even to be able to sort the best from the better and good.  He has encouraged me and shown me the way to stand up on the top of my life and say, "not here!"  Why?  Because I'm a child of God, too!  Everyone always says, "we have to be nice to so-and-so, they're a child of God, or we can't judge that person, they're a child of God."  And that's all exactly true and right!  But newsflash!  I am a child of God, too!  And God does not want, expect, or condone me allowing myself to be abused, disrespected, gossiped about, or lied to, any more than He wants, expects or condones it for any of the rest of His 7 billion children.  If I'm willing to stand up for the disenfranchised and forgotten, but also for myself, does that make me a bad person?  No.  Because I can't protect anyone else if I'm beaten to a pulp by ignorant or toxic people.  I can't serve if I've given up myself.   I am tolerant of differences, but what I am not tolerant of is hate and bigotry.  I can see through the phony and the bologna.  When actions don't match words, well Houston, we have a problem.  When the fruit doesn't match the tree and the pudding proves what it's really made of, well, that's just no bueno.  You can't have your cake and eat it.  You can't profess climate change and global warming and then drive a gas guzzler 1-hour round trip to work every day.  You can't stand up for LGBTQ people and not stand up for Christians.  Not cool.   I'm not perfect, but I'm not a hypocrite.

Something beautiful happens when lightning strikes sand.  It happens only under rare conditions such as on a beach where the sand is high in silica or quartz and the temperature goes beyond 1800 degrees Celsius.  The lightning can fuse the sand into glass.  It forms a breath-taking sculpture buried underneath the beach.  That is how I see my life.  My brother keeps telling me to "get over it."  You can't get over your life.  Things happen.  I can't change those things.   And I really wouldn't want to because it made me who I am and my children who they are and it brought my husband into my life.  What I can do is channel the power that could be a negative force of destruction and make something beautiful from it.  That is what I have done.  I'm learning that the conditions for my glass masterpiece were indeed rare.  The house I emerged from was like a hot oven of fear, angst, pain, and heartache.  It was at least 1800 degrees Celsius there, if not hotter.  And there were rare conditions on the beach because every person in that family of eight people has or did have gifts and talents and personalities, expected by God to do great things, to raise good families of their own, and to be strong, gigantic forces for good in the world.  The sculpture is there, but it has to be dug up.  It has to be found.

From a scene in the movie "Sweet Home, Alabama."

This Thanksgiving and birthday, I'm publicly grateful for my lightning-rod self.  I'm even more grateful for the guts, grit, and resilience that God blessed me with, which my husband helped me cultivate, and that my children now possess in themselves.  I'm honored to have been given the chance to stand up with a rod of iron in my hand and let the pain and drama, abuse and neglect, flow through me to the ground where it belongs---in hell with satan himself.  It has not passed into our home, into my marriage, or into my children.  I am grateful for the details I pick up on and the intuition I have about others who might also be hurting or suffering the way I did.  I can help them.  I'm grateful that my Creator has trusted me enough to hold that rod of iron.  I'm just trying to protect people and myself.  It's not a bad thing.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Too Much Homework? Bahhhhhhhh!

Are you a parent that feels your child has too much homework to do?  Does your child feel they have too much homework?  Let's investigate this a little bit.  Help me out here by answering a few questions. 

Is your child in school? 
-----Well, they should have homework.  The teacher can't possibly help them learn every concept in the short time they are together at school.  Thus, HOME WORK. 

Do you want your child to succeed in life? 
-----You should pray that they have homework.  How can a child who doesn't gradually do more and more homework as they progress through school ever have a chance at earning a college degree?   We all know people that graduate from college have more success in their careers.  What about a graduate program?  More homework! 

Is it really that the child has more homework or is it that the child wants to waste their time on their phone or other device?
-----We all know that children don't play outside anymore, so what are you taking them away from by asking them to do homework? 

Do you have your child in every single activity that has ever been offered to mankind and that is why homework is a problem? 
-----Here is a solution.  One sport and one other thing.  Your kid is not going to be good at the 20 activities you have him or her enrolled in because there is no way one person can be excellent at so many things.  Pick one or two things, that they can be good at, and that they love.  That is plenty, believe me.

Are you really invested in being a good parent? 
-----Sorry, I had to say it.  But, step back and ask yourselves.  Is it YOU that doesn't want to read with your 6-year-old?  If so, aren't you setting a bad example?  Is it really YOU that doesn't want to go to the store so the poor kid can get poster paper for his country report?  When you signed up to have a baby, you signed up to help your child succeed. 

I don't believe kids have too much homework.  There is a study that showed that homework amounts have not changed in 30 years, in fact.  What I do believe is that some kids naturally work harder than others and there are some parents who push.  Personally, we have had to beg our kids to take a break from studying once in a while.  But there are also parents who are lazy and thus produce lazy kids.  I also know that some teachers are better than most and have meaningful homework, while there are others who do expect the child to learn some things on their own. 

There are a lot of things that need to change with education in America.  We are being outwitted by students in other countries because their education system is better.  BUT, my point is that, if your child is in school, then as a parent you have a responsibility to support YOUR CHILD.  If the project assigned is lame, it is lame.  Sorry.  Part of being a mom or dad.  I don't think we want to raise children who are disrespectful of authority and teachers because their parents complain about them.  This is about supporting our children and helping them succeed in the environment they are in.  If you can move in order to put your child in a better school, then do it.  If you can give up one hour of watching Downton Abbey to help quiz your child on chemistry, then, please do it.  

Our kids are in college.  Our son will graduate this spring and our daughter will graduate next spring.  They have a lot of homework.  My daughter has three math classes per semester, plus she takes upper division English classes for fun.  My son has so many Spanish and science classes with labs that he leaves at 6 a.m. and comes home at 10:30 p.m.  Then, they both study on the weekends and at night.  That is what a lot of homework looks like.  They both manage to have active social lives and work part-time jobs and serve in our community and church on top of it all.  But, I am convinced that the reason they seem to thrive in this environment, and can handle the really tough classes with all the demanding research is because of one thing:  We supported them in their homework when they were younger.  We didn't complain or gripe about the teachers.  True, there were favorite teachers, mostly in junior high and high school, that pushed them to the brink with meaningful, investigatory assignments, and there were others that were draining with the endless worksheets and such.  But we emphasized the good over the bad.  Tried to learn something along with them.  Encouraged them to talk about what they were learning at school during dinner.  And clapped and whistled when the good grades and scholarships came rolling in.  But, good grades and scholarships don't roll in.  They are earned by a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears. 

As I think about our kids graduating from college and going on to graduate school and professional careers, I often wonder what it is that made them be able to do it.  I think the answer is easy.  We were excited about learning at our house.  The kids wanted to tell us what they learned.  They still do.  It's funny now to have my son try to explain deep organic chemistry principles that are far over my head, or listen to my daughter explain in an 8-page paper "why zero is zero" for her Foundations of Algebra class.  But it makes me happy that they love learning.  They are smarter than we are and isn't that the point?  To make each generation better than the one before it?

A big payback at our house has been that because our kids have always loved school and learning, and also spent many, many hours learning and practicing music, they never have grown attached to the X-Box or Wii or Playstation.  They don't care about their smartphones.  They only use their laptops for homework.  When they are finished studying, they don't want to see another screen.  They are playing their music, out with friends, playing basketball, or skiing.  They have learned to work hard at their jobs and earn their own money. 

I do not profess to have all the answers about raising children and I would never pretend to understand all the ways we could improve the education system.  But I do know that raising children to be excited about the world around them is important and teaching them by example to respect teachers and other authorities is critical. 

Our daughter will be a junior high or high school math teacher in a year and a half.  She has studied and worked hard to achieve this dream of hers.  I hope she is prepared to encounter parents and students that are whining about too much homework so they can play video games or participate in 12 different sports.  My daughter's whole dream of becoming a math teacher is to help our world be a better place.  She believes that if more people could get over their math phobia during those critical years and learn to love and succeed at math, we would have more engineers, more scientists, more doctors, more inventors, and a stronger economy.  She remembers the hours we spent with her to overcome her fear of fractions and will tell you herself that this one thing, getting over her fear of fractions, helped her to love math.  We did that, not her teacher.  I know she is excited about being a teacher.  My biggest fear for her is that she throws in the towel after a few years and joins the private sector where she can earn a far greater salary, just because all her efforts and passion are not respected by lazy complainers.  Please don't do this to my daughter.

I know every child is not cut out to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer.  Please don't write me and tell me that.  I know it.  I know every child has challenges and weaknesses and strengths.  My own kids do.  Please don't misunderstand.  I just want us as parents to step up to the plate and give it all we've got.  The world is in trouble.  It needs our kids.  It needs them to be strong and smart and wise.  It needs them to be prepared to be engaged in solving its problems.  They can't do this without homework.  Even if gluing cotton balls on poster board seems meaningless, and maybe it is, it is teaching our kids to sacrifice for education, for the greater good of becoming smart.  So they can be leaders and explorers and writers and teachers, and maybe even President. 

Ghandi said, "Be the good you wish to see in the world."  When it comes to this topic, we as parents can be the good.  Be a good example.  Teach your kids that it's okay to do the homework, to read the books, to make a poster.  Teach them to want to make the world a better place.  They have the power to do it, but they need inspiration.  They need us to help them.  And, if it keeps them off smartphones and video games and out of bars and jails and off drugs, then why complain about homework?

A little update.  Both of our children graduated Magna Cum Laude in Mathematics and Spanish/Chemistry.  Our daughter is now a junior high math teacher and our son is in his first year of medical school.   I'm glad they learned to love homework because they'll have it for the rest of their lives.  ☺

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Days Are Numbers

Talk about a surreal couple of weeks.  My husband spent the weekend in the hospital, and I spent it by his side.  The days leading up to his admission seem a blur now, but he wasn't well.  We took him to the doctor, but information was not relayed to us and we didn't know there was a problem.  Until.  Until the day he couldn't get out of the shower.  Until I called the doctor and asked what I should do and whether there was something that had been missed.  "Get him to the E.R.," he told me.  "Now!"  Things moved quickly when we got to the hospital, which never happens.  Once a diagnosis was realized and a plan made, the E.D. doc said, "I'm glad you're here," to my husband.  His relief at being able to help a fellow human being was palpable.  We were certainly glad we were there.

I have a strange brain and I seem to always think metaphorically and allegorically.  As I sat there, cold, practically freezing to death in that cold hospital, all I could think about was how I never saw this coming.  Never.  It's always me in the hospital or at the doctor's office, or getting expensive prescriptions.  My husband is always taking care of me.  Now he was in trouble and he was feeling horribly bad about not taking care of everyone else.  It's like his body decided it just needed a break, a little vacation and it had to go to the hospital to get it.  That night after everything began to settle down, I waited until quite late and then went home for some sleep and a shower.  The familiar drive home seemed twice as long and I hated leaving him there alone, but I had to walk out of that setting and go home to get myself together so I'd be ready to face what the next day brought.  

Something that happened while I was waiting in the hospital: I paid attention to the blabber on the television in one of the waiting rooms.  I hate waiting-room television because you are at the mercy of whatever is playing and I have a hard time ignoring it in order to read or think.  Playing on the brightly lit screen was a local show, obviously geared for women.  I've seen it before, but only in this kind of a situation where it's forced upon me and I can't get up and turn it off.  I listened and decided it was demeaning to everyone, especially women, and wondered if it meant to be so.  Demeaning in the way that it assumed that first of all, women are actually home to watch the drivel, and second because it played to a very low intelligence quotient.  There I was, pondering on some pretty large and important questions with eternal answers and on the TV they were discussing a mishmash of "ideas" for Halloween.  Free downloadable stuff so a mom can fake her way through the Halloween party, recipes that don't actually require cooking, but merely dipping store cookies in store chocolate, and some rather simplistic and common-sense/everybody-should-already-know-this kind of advice for women and "relationships."

Is this how women spend an hour every day--I think I heard myself mutter out loud?  This show has an actual audience?  People really go to the trouble of dipping store cookies in chocolate?  And the biggest question---does anyone ever have an original thought anymore?  I was troubled by its reflection on society and how much things have changed.  When my children were small, and it wasn't that long ago, if I needed help with something or advice from anyone, I called my best friend or my mother-in-law, or better still, I prayed some pretty long prayers asking God for help.  If I needed a recipe, I looked in my recipe books or called a friend who knew how to make a good something or other.  If I was responsible for the Halloween party, I kept it simple, focused on the good food and the people, planned regular old-fashioned games, and made food from scratch----I didn't make favors or print out any "printables," and everyone always had a lovely time.  

What has happened to our culture?  Everything seems so mediocre!  Where is the excellence and the originality?  As a societal whole do we even value true artistry and talent and know how to spot it, or in this world where everyone is trying to be an Instagram star, have we forgotten that real talent is still something to be sought for and respected?  I hate this thing called "downloadables" and "printables."  Doesn't anyone make their own stuff anymore?  Can't our children color their own designs instead of filling in the lines of someone else's creation?  Some of these people give away their material for free and I can't imagine why unless it's to get an audience or a following.  Art should never be given away---unless it's for charity!

One of my favorite songs from my youth is "Days are Numbers--The Traveller" by Alan Parsons Project.  It says:
Days are numbers; 
watch the stars.
We can only see so far.
Someday, you'll know where you are.   

Days are numbers.  How high do the numbers go before there are no more?  We can't see beyond today and so it can be tempting to waste our days and hours in pursuit of what everyone else is doing or telling us to do.  If you could see that tomorrow or even next week was the end of your days or numbers, would you still be following the cues from a bunch of wannabe celebrities and people taking your money?  How would you like to be remembered?  If you're a mother, do you want your kids to remember you as copying all the other women or being yourself?  Do you want to be remembered for what made you an individual or for how hard you tried to be like everyone else?  Alpha females don't run in packs, you know.

Many years ago, more than 30 to be sure, I was a freshman at university, enrolled as an art major.  My religious leader encouraged me to attend some religious classes on campus and to investigate joining one of the committees there, to meet other college students and become involved at school.  I did this and was invited for an interview after I had "passed" the application process.  I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I had walked all the way across campus from the art building, wearing army cargo pants and a big sweater, carrying my large and awkward portfolio and box of art supplies.  I was interviewed by a fellow student who was already on the committee and the attending advisor/teacher.  After looking me over in a puzzled sort of way, particularly eyeing the camo pants and the paint-splattered shoes, he told me that I "didn't fit in" with the other members on the committee and that it would probably be "hard for me to follow their dress code" which was actually a stupid uniform they all wore on Thursdays to be matchy-matchy.  I realized for myself that this was an opportunity I neither wanted nor needed and that dressing in maroon sweaters and skirts and ties on Thursdays so I could identify myself as a member of the Institute committee was absolutely not for me.  I excused myself from the interview process at about the same time the young man and his advisor excused me.

I have often pondered the groupthink mentality I studied in all my sociology classes.  Some people will sell their souls to the groups they so badly desire to be a part of, only to never really have a voice there after all.  Maybe it's the artist in me or maybe it's because I so strongly believe in originality that I actually shudder when I think about groupthink.  Groups do serve purposes for work and charitable efforts, church assignments and planning, and even circles of friends.  I'm talking about the group called Society---that's the one that I think is so bad.  It's almost like getting caught in a riptide, belonging to the Group Called Society, where everyone dresses the same, nobody asks any questions, original content is copied and distributed, almost like everyone shares the same sick brain.

My mother always called me a rebel, probably because I rebelled against her.  I don't like that word because it has a negative connotation.  I prefer "an original."  I don't like to follow the crowd.  I'm not afraid to speak up when something is wrong.  I hate eating at chain restaurants.  I don't like telling people where I do my shopping because I don't want to be copied.  I would never take another person's work and pass it off as my own.  I like to do my own thinking.  And, even if gatherings at my house are not always "Instagram Worthy," they're a lot of fun and a whole lot more honest than a lot of the stuff I see posted could possibly be.

So I ask you, if you sit in the hospital next to your spouse or loved one this weekend, or maybe you're the one lying in the hospital bed yourself, and you're facing some pretty big questions and changes to your life, will you change anything else?  Would you dare to be a little bit more you and a lot less "them?"  Would you be brave enough to commit to going forward in your life a little bit more honestly than before?  Can you find some independent ways to find advice, decorate for the Halloween party, or find a recipe?  Do you dare to rebel and do your own damn thing?  If you're caught in the "look at me/no-filter/copy me/I'm a star" mentality of social media, please consider that there are billions of people in the world and you're not really that special.  Yes, I just said that.  I mean, you are special to God and to your family and the people who love you, but you're not special in the simple fact that there are billions of people in the world, and millions and millions of them are trying to copy everyone else.

Halloween is almost here.  I challenge you to something big.  Take off the mask if you're wearing one and look at your beautiful face!  You don't need to be like everyone else!  Turn on some music that makes you dance and celebrate your originality!  Stop following people on Instagram that make you feel badly about yourself or especially those that are a big bunch of phony hot air--not practicing what they preach, but all the while giving you advice.  How does that make any sense?  It doesn't!  Look at some old photos of when you were younger.  Who did you admire then?  What made you special?  Get that little person back!  I promise you--she's still there inside of you!  She desperately wants you to find her and dust her off and help her shine.  God didn't make us all the same only for us to start copying each other and trying to be exactly like each other!

Days are numbers, my friends.  They really are.  And someday, like the song says, we will know where we are.  Right now I'm afraid I don't recognize humanity in society like I used to.  We've lost or are losing the really cool and interesting parts of ourselves that make us human.  We need to remember we are created in God's image and that means we are created in the image of Greatness!  Greatness cannot be manifest in Xerox copies.  We need to be the Originals that God made us to be.  Original artwork is expensive.  Anyone can make a copy out of anything, but the original is always higher in value because it's one of a kind.  Be One of a Kind.  Be Original.  Be Greatness.  Because days are numbers, and one day the number won't go any higher.  What is the legacy you want to leave?  Me?  One word:  Gina.  I want to be me.

#thealanparsonsproject #daysarenumbers #thetraveller #youtube

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I'm Rubber and You're Glue

When I was a kid, sometimes we would go to the drive-in movie.  There was always a double feature.  A kid friendly show earlier in the evening and a scarier, more grown-up show when that was over.  Everyone had a station-wagon or a pick-up truck then, not a van.  The fare was for the whole car load, making it affordable to take the whole family.  We’d put the seats all down and make a bed in the back of the ugly gold Dodge wagon.  After the animated feature the other show would play and the kids would be sound asleep.  I remember seeing Sleeping Beauty there and being terrified of Maleficent.  I also remember a John Wayne picture, Rooster Cogburn, that I was probably supposed to be asleep for because it gave me nightmares, but I loved John Wayne.  When our own children were small, we’d take them to the drive-in movie, too, but our little kids called it the drive-out movie because they remember being awakened from the back of our Subaru and being put back in their car seats and buckled up to drive out and go home.

I think most people and even children were smart enough to know that the movie played on the outdoor screen did not originate from the screen itself.  The screen was merely a blank canvas that the film was played upon, the picture projected from a projector in a nearby building.  Even the sound did not come from the screen.  The clunky metal speaker had to be hooked onto a partially rolled-down car window.  By the time our kids were small, we would just tune our car radio to the station and play the sound through the car stereo, but there was a time when the sound came through the ugly gray speaker sitting next to your dad’s ear.  If the projector guy had trouble with the film, there would be a delay and you’d have to go swing on the swings and get more popcorn at the Snack Bar while waiting for it to be repaired.  

Projection.  That’s what I’m talking about.  As in coming from another source—the film projector as an example, and shown on something else---like the movie screen.  Just like the movie doesn’t come from inside the screen, the things people project onto each other do not emanate from the person it’s attached to, but from the source it’s being projected from.  We all do it, not even meaning to and most of the time it’s just the realness of being mortal that makes it occur.  An example is the tired mommy who’s been up all night with a sick child.  She might project her fatigue and headache onto the grocery store clerk the next day when she goes to buy diapers.  If the clerk isn’t fast enough or doesn’t bag the groceries correctly, the tired mother might make a retort or even cry.  But, it’s coming from her and not the clerk.  It’s not the clerk’s fault that she’s worn out and foggy.  

This is a typical example of what we all do when we’re sick or tired or even have had a bad day at work or school.  It’s not justified, but it’s understandable.  It’s wise to not to take our stress out on other innocent people who don’t even know why we’re so rough around the edges.  The kind of projection I want to talk about here is more serious, what seems to me to be a blatant refusal to accept one’s denial about personal choices and mantras and instead, choosing living and breathing targets to project garbage onto, sometimes using a sling-shot.  And rocks.  And broken glass.

Remember the old recess chant, “I’m rubber and you’re glue—your words bounce off me and stick on you?”  That’s about projection.  I was in my studio cutting some glass this week for a new stained-glass piece and it struck me as I was using my trusted can of rubber cement that this type of glue is so useful in a project like mine because the cement actually becomes rubber and rolls off easily after it’s almost dry.  It doesn’t leave any  marks and it’s not permanent.  It works wonderfully for glass because after I’ve attached my pattern pieces to use as a guide for cutting the glass pieces into precisely the right sizes and shapes, the paper can be peeled off and the glue washed away from the glass, leaving it ready to be foiled and soldered and connected to other glass pieces, turning it into a beautiful window.  But not all glue is rubber cement.  There is super glue and Elmer’s glue, Gorilla glue and school paste.  Just about every kind of glue for your gluing needs.  Many are permanent and strong.  Some will even glue your fingers together if you’re sloppy in the application.   

Why was that little rhyme about glue and rubber chanted on playgrounds?  Bullying.  That is why.  When a mean kid would say something mean, because that’s what mean kids do is say mean words, the other kid would yell back with the “I’m rubber” thing, as if to galvanize himself from the sticky insults.  It meant that the criticism or name-calling returned from whence it came—that it held no power over the “rubber” kid and eventually found its way back to its “glue” kid, where it rightfully belonged.  Don’t you see this happening everywhere? True bigots calling other people who are nothing like bigots, bigots.  Substitute other words here like “racist” and that works also.  One of my favorites is “hater.”  It’s usually yelled at someone in a strong declaration such as “hey, you hater!”  It’s never gently suggested that someone might actually hate someone else.  It’s always attached with some form of vengeance and rage.  Who is really the “hater?”  

Let me tell you about something that recently happened to me.  I learned that someone I always held in high esteem had done something that deeply disappointed me.  This person had made threats toward people whom they deemed did not share a certain political view.  When this person admitted to me what had been threatened, it caught me off-guard, because in my own heart, I knew that I did not share this political view.  And, this was a horrible and nonsensical threat.  Did they mean to also harm or insult me?  My children?   My husband?  After some discussion, I confirmed that because this person views me as a “religious” person, I am automatically guilty of a long list of crimes of hate and bigotry and general intolerance, just because I go to church and admit that I need and want God in my life.  In fact, if you look at the facts, the people who most exemplify this particular view in personal conduct and consumer choices is actually my own little family.  The accuser is actually the worst example of living this kind of life and their consumer choices and personal habits testify to exactly the opposite of what they verbally profess each day.  

I’m rubber, you’re glue……..   The person is really calling himself or herself what they are calling me or you.  It’s because they know they are living a lie and it’s eating them up inside so they have to attach it to someone else for their own personal relief.  But Karma is Karma and well, rubber, so what you throw at Karma, it throws back on you.  

Look, I get it that we live in troubled times, but I don’t buy that people have to behave the way they do.  We don’t have to loot businesses after elections and hurricanes.  We don’t have to give into playing the race card and then blame it on the people we don’t think understand us, but who we make no effort to understand.  We don’t need to project our own insecurities onto other people just because we fear they have a better life or job or home or opportunity than we do.  We don’t have to undermine authority and then complain about lack of leadership.  We have to stop judging people and that means getting really honest about the fact that we all do it.  One group of people can’t yell “hater” to another group without owning the hate.  One side can’t claim “bigotry” without being bigots themselves.   And nobody can force anyone else to draw or paint or say or sing or feel or think  or write what someone else says they should.  

The projecting has got to stop.  It’s one thing to have a headache and snap at someone in line ahead of you.  It’s another thing to try to take away someone’s religious freedom or freedom of speech simply because you don’t practice religion or even know how to speak.   Can you see how stupid that is?  It’s like me saying that if I don’t like green beans and never want to eat them or even see them on my plate again, that nobody, no one, no person, can ever, in the history of time going forward, eat, smell, plant, grow, harvest, prepare, cook or even see a green bean.  Because I said so.  Because I have the corner on the “I hate green beans” market.  If you don’t believe in God and don’t want to go to church---don’t.  But, you have to let me believe in God and go to church.  If I want to help refugees and you don’t, then don’t, but don’t tell me I can’t.  If I enjoy reading and you don’t, then don’t read, but you have to let me read.  

Some of the worst projecting I see is the projecting that women do to other women.  If I know how to put an outfit together and you don’t, maybe you could either learn and let me teach you or just leave it be.   If you aren’t doing what’s necessary to maintain your testimony of Jesus Christ and the scriptures, please don’t project that onto me and criticize me for what you really know you should be doing too.  If your husband is unfaithful to you or you are unfaithful to your husband and you’re feeling alone or guilty, please don’t make it my problem and project your choices and experience onto me just because I’m happily married.  If your kids are disrespectful, lazy, and angry because you never want to be home and you secretly resent being a mother, please don’t minimize my experience and my passion by mocking motherhood and the importance of teaching children just so you can make yourself feel better.  And idleness?  Well, it really is the devil’s playground.  So if the devil is afoot in your life, take a look at your idleness level and ask yourself whether or not you're really seeking out virtue, but don’t blame me.  

Look, here’s the deal.  I feel plenty low about myself enough on a regular basis not to need any help from any of you.  For those of you who think everything is perfect in my life, you might want to know that I struggle with feeling healthy enough every day to just do the minimum tasks required to stay registered as a breathing human being.  I’m just a person like you, trying to do my best every day to work hard, be a good wife and mother, learn new things, discover new talents, laugh and smile, make memories with my family, and find out what it is God truly wants me to do with my life.  I give you credit for doing the same, which is your best.  Surely there must be something on which we can all agree.   

But one thing is certain.  I am not your movie screen.  I am not your rubber throwing mat for your nasty clumps of glue.  If you don't like how I live my life or speak or bear my testimony at church or even how I've raised my family and what I believe about marriage, then don't pay attention to me or read my blog or buy my art.  I don't watch or listen to things that perturb me.  So if I anger you by being me, well, that's you're problem and not mine.  I'm not a movie screen, I'm not a punching bag, and I'm not a door mat.  I will say what I want and when, I will believe what I choose and not apologize, and I will stand up for my beliefs and my rights.  I also make you a promise.  I will not, and I do not, use harsh words, call you names, gossip about you behind your back, and dis-invite you from my life because we might see things differently.  I won't ask for gifts I gave you to be returned and I won't act like a baby.  I respect and love all people enough to know what we all are supposed to be different.  That's the way God made us.  But being different does not give anyone the license to coerce others to go along with their belief system and try to change the entire planet just because they don't like something or they want something.   Remember the green beans example?  Well, it's time to stay away from green beans if you don't care for them and eat all you want if you like them.   But the green bean lovers and haters can't make us all agree about green beans.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

1 Cup Walnuts: Optional

It had been some time since I'd made cookies and when I saw the packages of Nestle chocolate chips and walnuts on the pantry shelf, I knew it was time to preheat the oven.  Everyone has their favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Mine is on the package.  "Nestle Toll House Cookies."  It wins with me every single time.  No other recipe does it for me like that one does.  Maybe it's the brown sugar?  The chocolate chips themselves?  Or just maybe, it's the walnuts.  I really think that is the secret.  Walnuts in nice large pieces combined with the semi-sweet chocolate pieces and the butter really does turn into homemade confection perfection that's best with an ice cold glass of milk.

I made a double batch and put most of them in the freezer in small bags.  Later in the week I was enjoying a cookie with milk after lunch when I wondered why most people I know don't put the walnuts in cookies.  It's true that a lot of people use different recipes that might not call for the nuts, but even people I know who make Toll House cookies usually leave the nuts out.  "That's too bad," I lamented to myself inside my own brain, "cookies are always so much better with the nuts."  I was thinking of all the reasons a person might choose to leave the nuts out like allergies, general dislike of nuts, not having them on hand, and maybe they're sometimes seen as an unnecessary and expensive ingredient that can just be left out.  Chocolate chips are supposed to be the stars, right?  Then suddenly, a morose thought danced over my mind.  I was that cup of walnuts in the Toll House cookies from my childhood family.  And I didn't make it into the final batch.  

Does that ever happen to anyone else?  I'm thinking about how cookies are truly better with walnuts and then I'm unable to breathe and tears are streaming down my face because I remember some things from growing up.  A cookie and milk turn into a metaphor for my family relationships with my parents and siblings.  

Earlier in the week I had listened to two tapes my sister shared with me that we had made for my grandma living out of state.  We had made them for her at Christmas time.  It was a little like our own version of the Donny and Marie show.  Some piano tunes, a few jokes, each child talking about school or what was going on in their lives, and my parents sharing things that the children were up to and how much snow was piled up outside.  

My husband asked me if it was smart to listen to the tapes.  At the time I had thought it was a good exercise, one that hadn't bothered me too much, although I had silently cried myself to sleep that night in the wee hours of the morning after listening to them with headphones and the files uploaded onto Google Drive.  It was like the wreck on the highway that you just can't not look at.  I couldn't stop listening.  My own voice was there.  Young, naive, sometimes happy sounding, and sometimes sad.  I could hear in my voice how much I missed my grandmother.  I really loved her and it was hard for me when she went to stay with my aunt in another state.  I talked on the tape about wanting to get $80 dollars so I could go and see her.  It never happened.  

The second tape made me cry when I realized it was my last Christmas with my family before I got married and that only two Christmases later my parents were separated and would later divorce.  There would be no more Christmases for me with my family, at least all together.  The wheels came off the cart after that, the horse tripped and died, and every one of us in some way or other has the bloody scars and missing limbs to prove it.  

In my family, I am the cup of walnuts.  For some recipes it will say that the nuts are "optional."  What does that even mean?  Optional?  Not needed?  Not wanted?  Put them in if you feel like it today, but not if you don't feel like it next time?  The Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe doesn't say "optional."  It assumes that you're going to put the nuts in along with the vanilla and the eggs.  They're supposed to be in the dough.  Nuts are required to make the cookie taste like a Toll House cookie.  There are supposed to be large mounts of crunchy nuts to offset the sweetness of the chocolate and brown sugar.  Nuts are supposed to balance out the rest of the flavors.  They're not an optional ingredient.  But in my family, I'm optional.  Actually, more like permanently crossed off the recipe.

 Divorce should be illegal unless your parent goes to jail for murder or commits incest.  Parents ought to try a whole lot harder to love each other and protect their children.  And asking children to testify against their parents in court should be illegal.  Especially in a stupid custody battle where it's clearly a power struggle and not really about who loves or wants the children most.  Children should not be asked or forced to take sides between parents.  That should be illegal.  And it should be against the law for grandmothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and dogs and cats to turn into spies, trying to catch children in the act of taking sides, only to result in one child getting sentenced for eternity as the cup of walnuts not wanted in the Toll House cookies.   

It's key to remember who chooses whether or not the walnuts go in or not.  The one making the cookies.  In my family, one parent made all the cookies and decided one day to just stop putting in the walnuts.  

When you listen to a tape with your parents' voices and the voices of your siblings, knowing what was all about to go down later on and that as the oldest child you would pay the ultimate price for your parents' mistakes, it makes your heart hurt.  It causes the rashes to come back, the palpitations to start again, the headaches to rebound.  It puts you in a time warp when you hear your innocent voice and wonder how anyone could choose to exclude you from the recipe.  When you hear how young you were when you made the choice to testify in court, you know it wasn't fair to have been asked to do it.  You know now what the price was.  Too expensive.  Always too expensive.  But time is time and you can't get it back.  You can't have those years again with your sisters and brother that you were robbed of, just so your parents could prove a point.  And the water keeps traveling down the river.  It's not the same water it was when it started out from the high mountain slopes, melting as new spring run-off.  You can't retrace your steps.  Yes, with God you always get a second chance or a 20th or a 100th, but not in your family.  There are limited chances and terminal results.  

To my family, if you read this, I get that I'm expendable, optional, less worthy.  We see things differently.  I don't believe in brushing things under the rug and you do.  I believe in redemption and you don't.  I don't like family secrets and you won't admit we have them.  I take responsibility for being a 20-something naive girl but you expect me to have behaved like a 90-year-old with 14 PhDs in Human Behavior and Actual Consequences of Going Against Your Mother.  I'm stronger because of what I went through, but I have scars that never quite seem to heal.  I'd do it all again the exact same way because I believe I was doing what was best for me and what was right at the time.  I miss you, the way I remember you at your best and brightest, and I'll always love you for the good things you brought into my life, even if was for a short time.  

To my dad.  I love your sense of wonder and science-y brain.  How you can make beautiful things with your hands and work out just about any problem.  You know this state like the back of your hand with your eyes closed and you love nature.  I always thought your jokes were funny and I loved when you played the piano---"Diana" was my favorite.  The old white truck and hikes in the mountains, drinking out of springs and identifying plants. You always told me I was smart--thank you for encouraging me to learn. 

To my mom.  You taught me how to sew and cook and bake and how to care for babies.  I talked too much and drove you crazy--I could see it in your eyes--the impatience and disapproval you could never hide .  I always wanted to know the answers to all the questions and I was probably a handful.  Going shopping downtown to ZCMI and Castleton's were good times, especially when we'd get chocolate eclairs at the bakery. Believe it or not, I liked to help with the canning, especially the peaches.  You taught me how to get a job and never stop hustling until I had one and how to write a winning public speech. 

To my sister, L.  You put up with a lot from me.  We fought a lot and also were good friends a lot of the time.  We shared a room and clothes and chores.  Scaring each other with the old rocking chair and the ghosts in the basement.  You always could make me laugh.  

To my sister, G.  You were also really good at making me laugh.  You always got so excited about so many things and it was fun to have you tell your stories.  It was nice after you were married to get to know you on a new level.  We have some fun memories.  

To my only brother.  You were always special, the only brother.  You always made me smile.  You loved to be outside or building something all the time, always so smart.  You do beautiful handiwork, and my home showcases your talents.  Running the river with you will always be a highlight.  

To my sister, A.  You were so small when I left home.  I'll always remember singing with you at bedtime and tucking you in at night.  You loved being a little farm girl and wearing your overalls, playing outside all the time.  You always were being a comedian and smiling.  

To my sister, J.  The littlest one of all.  Maybe your voice on the tape made me cry the most, you were so very small.  Always precocious and talking 100 mph with perfect diction.  Always happy and trying to help everyone get along.  

To all of you, I love you.  We're all where we are now for reasons personal to us.  And it's alright.  At least I hope so.  I hope you're all well.  That you all are happy and healthy.  I pray for you each every day, that you'll know I love you, even from far away.  

Does the cup of walnuts know it's being left out of the Toll House recipe?  Of course, it does. It needs to find a new recipe and make its own sweetness.  I think I've done that.  In fact, I know I have.  Maybe the blessing for all the pain is that I've been blessed with a close and loving family in my husband and children.  I don't believe God wants us to suffer forever or even at all.  I do know He cares about each of us and the burdens we carry.  God forgives us when we seek it from Him.  Because of God's Son, Jesus Christ, all our pain can be taken away and beautiful blessings can be given to us to make up the difference.  Jesus is the Difference.  He walked with me in those rough years and even this week when I realized I'm the cup of walnuts.  He walks with my parents as they get older and face health challenges.  He walks with my sister and her sick son.  He walks with us all and sometimes we're lucky enough to be aware of Him by our side, but He is always there.  

I'm okay with being the optional ingredient, the cup of walnuts left on the counter or maybe still on the pantry shelf.  I'll go and make banana nut bread or steamed pudding and put all my walnuts in the recipe and I'll be the best cup of walnuts I can be, for the sake of my husband, my children, and my God.  And I'll forgive and seek forgiveness, remembering that forgiveness is always between me and my Savior.  I'll seek and receive solace from my Creator who knows the whole story, who doesn't see my side or someone else's side, but who sees the whole view, the panoramic view, and because He sees the eternal view and me as an eternal soul---He understands me and He loves me.  I'm not just an optional cup of walnuts in His eyes.  For that I'm eternally grateful.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Exclusion? Inclusion? Friends or "Friends?"

You know the kind.  The people (usually women) who want the world to think they're cooler than they really are.  The ones who seem to flit and float above every flower, bestowing the gift of themselves upon every blossom.  It seems they have never-ending energy, taking meals to all the neighbors, hosting backyard parties all the time, liking and commenting on every single Instagram post and Facebook status update.  They're always posting selfies and kiddies and us-ies.  Are they really that important?  Are they truly as happy as their IG account suggests?  Who flew over from England and knighted them expert over all things they profess to be experts in?  Does the world really revolve around their hearting the crap out of Instagram?  Do their friends' lives really depend upon their support?  Admit it.  In your heart, these friends of yours really make you feel quite badly about yourself.  How can you keep up with constant posts of perfect cupcakes and home decor, leisurely days at the pool, book suggestions a mile long, and recipes from Pinterest that we all know nobody really makes.

I beg you to look more closely.  Are these people really happy?  Do they have what really matters?  What are their relationships with their husbands and children really like?  Are they secretly feeding addictions they want no one to know about?  Are their marriages healthy?  Do their husbands secretly celebrate when they leave town for business each week because they can escape their wife and kids Sunday through Thursday?  Are their financial houses really in order?  Do they really only eat Pinterest salads?  Are they as nice to the people not in their circles or who don't follow them on IG as they are to all the people they play to 24/7?  Are they using or manipulating you in some way? Trying to make you feel less-than because you don't subscribe to their mantra or shop where they shop or exercise at their gym?  Are they trying to sell you something?  Anything?  Even if it's just their friendship?  

I've been around a while.  I've seen a lot of trends come and go.  I've been a student of human behavior since college and I'm told I have an uncanny ability to size people up.  I watch and I observe.  I know more than I say.   I've noticed a change in people since social media exploded and became our culture's crutch.  While it has its merits of which I enjoy ease of communication and tools to do my work at a more rapid pace, it has its warts.  Inclusion and exclusion have whole new rule sets, which creep over into real life.

Before Facebook, a person's circle of honest and real friendships was a lot smaller.  Sociologists will tell you that you can't really have hundreds and hundreds of friends.  No person on the planet has the time and talent to BE friends with that many people.  Friendship requires work, sacrifice, empathy, respect, thought, connection, and time--both time spent together and time growing the friendship.  In human relationships, we have circles that work outward like the ripples in a pond.  The circle gets larger as we work outward.  The people in the outer circles are less close to us than the ones in the inner circle.  These people used to be called associates, not friends.

With Facebook and friending, we've crossed a horizon that I'm not sure was meant to be crossed. Are the people on social media following us really our friends or are they merely voyeurs?  Likewise, why are we following all the people we're following or friending?  Just to see what they're up to, not because we really care, but because we simply want to know?  Before social media, we had no access to this type of open and unashamed peeping-tom behavior.  If you wanted to know how someone was doing, you had to look them up in the phone book and give them a ring---talk to them in person.  Now people Facebook stalk each other, spend hours poring over photos and posts, maybe giving a generous like, but usually just looking, peeping, trolling.  

When this crosses over into real life, it messes up all the rules of etiquette.  Are you supposed to invite every Facebook friend to your child's wedding reception?  Do you think that just because you're friends with someone on FB that entitles you to said invitation?  Can you see how it helps to warp and contaminate honest relationships?  If you're friends on FB with one person in your neighborhood, do you have to be friends with everyone?  Newsflash:  You're not supposed to be friends with nor are you required to like everyone in your neighborhood.  While we should be kind, civil, respectful, and loving in our attitudes to all people, FRIENDSHIP is something that takes years and years to grow, bloom, and thrive.  It doesn't happen with the friend or follow button on social media. 

What about inclusion versus exclusion?  Does it have to be all or nothing?  Can't we, or rather aren't we supposed to be choosy about whom our associates are?  We tend to become like the people we affiliate with (birds of a feather....), hence the need to be vigilant in choosing our friends wisely.  I don't care if it's on Facebook or in the backyard.  The people we associate with have powerful influence over our attitudes, goals, and behavior.  I believe in inclusion in the way that we are all children of God and we should be kind, loving, and generous in our attitudes toward all people.  But I believe in exclusion because we will not agree with everyone on the big things, the messy things, and not everyone should be welcome in the inner sanctums of our lives.  Some things are just private, right? And many more things are for only very trusted friends.  

Many years ago, my husband wrote a song called "Merry-Go-Man."  I love it because of its power chords, raging base guitar, and for its message.  It talks about a man who is all things to everyone.  He's supportive of things he doesn't believe in because he wants to be popular.  He says whatever the people want to hear.  He just wants to be loved.  It's a powerful parable about people who speak smooth words in order to gain power, but in the end they have none because they have no integrity---they don't know who they really are.  People like these spend so much time looking for approval, feigning support for others in the hope of a big return, only to find themselves eventually discovered as untrustworthy, disingenuous, and phony. If anyone ever decides to call them out, they haven't anything to stand on.  Their own personal relationships are often in shambles, though they might be in total denial.  Generally, there is proof in the pudding, so to speak.  

It's the arbitrary rules that are so dangerous.  We're all supposed to know and comply with everyone else's made-up personal rules.  I guess we're supposed to be mind readers.  Well, read my mind then. I'm sick of all the new rules, the lack of propriety and etiquette, and basic good manners.  It seems people don't really care about each other in real life, but on social media they sure as heck do. Liking someone's 40034 pictures from their trip or tournament or party is better than being a valiant visiting teacher, right? And if you can't get over to give your sisters a spiritual message and check to see how they really are, because you're so busy hearting everything on IG, just do a drive-by cupcake dropoff--that always works!  (Not really.)  

Solution?  You can do what suits you, but I would suggest you sharpen your discernment skills and tune into what your soul is really telling you.  If social media causes you stress, depression, anxiety, and lack of confidence, then reconsider how you should be using it in your life, if at all.  If you're the one who is a FB stalker, then stop it now and show real compassion instead of just trolling people's accounts.  If you're confused about who your friends really are, then do an assessment.  Who do you trust?  Who are you confident in?  Who loves you no matter what and has never betrayed you?  Who do you actually talk to or spend time with face to face?  You might be surprised.  For me, the people on this list are not avid social media people and that is not where my relationships are with them.  Some of my best friends are so busy and know I'm busy and so we don't talk every day or even every week, but when we get together, we are together, and it's honest, real, and tangible.  I recently purchased a new smartphone and I didn't install social media on it---intentionally.  I'm going to force myself to only look at social media once a day from my computer or tablet, and then be done with it.  My family and real friends communicate with me via text, phone, and email, so I'm not missing anything and even when they do post, it's not often so my once-a-day check-in will suffice.  

As for the whole inclusion/exclusion thing, we shouldn't be made to feel guilty because we don't want to be friends or FB friends with everyone.  It's how God made us.  We're not supposed to have 4000 friends or even 400 friends.  It's not humanly possible.  We are commanded to love all people as our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, but that doesn't mean we have to be friends with them all.  It's entirely different.  When people wake up and see that it's okay to have separate groups and not be invited to everything or know about everything, or even have the desire to be invited to or know all, I know it would make us a happier culture.  It's okay to go back to the way it was before Facebook, you know.   And for those who are the Merry-Go-Men-and-Women, please just stop and ask for help for your narcissism and insecurities.  That alone will make the world a better place.  

For the record, I'm not offended if I'm not included in other people's circles, but what does annoy me is the smugness with which some people seem to flaunt the fact that I'm not included, all the while crying foul because they weren't included in mine.  You can't have your cake and eat it, so you've got to choose.  For me, inclusion is for all of God's children in an eternal plan as brothers and sisters.  Exclusion is where I get to choose who's circles I want to accept invitations to and whom I want to invite into mine.  It's how it worked before Facebook!  Give that a good think this weekend and see then if you just might agree.    

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It's a Slippery Slope When Women Stop Wearing Slips

Could anyone please explain to me how I'm supposed to know what all the new social rules are these days?  Hasn't anyone younger than me heard of Emily Post or Abigail Van Buren?  Are there any hard and fast etiquette rules anymore or is everything just made up as people go along?  Maybe I can share a few things that really bother me and I really don't understand.  I earned a minor in Sociology and these human-nature things have always intrigued me.  This will have to be the first in a series.

First, when did proper undergarments become optional for women and girls in our culture? Seriously, hasn't anyone younger than me heard of ladies wearing slips?  You can't even find them in the store anymore.  Case in point.  I have several slips of varying lengths, types, and colors.  I've had them for many years and the ones I wear the most are getting a little worn out.  While bra shopping with my daughter a month or so ago, I thought I'd get myself a new slip to wear with dresses, but there were no slips to be found in any store we looked at.  Sure, there were Spanx and other types of bodysuit-kind-of-girdle articles, but no slips.  I asked a few store clerks about where to find a slip.  I was always directed to something that looked like a sausage casing about 3 feet too short.  That's not a slip!  Some sales people even laughed at me, saying, "nobody wears those old-fashioned things anymore," and the young sales people didn't even know what a slip was.

For those of you who are slip lovers like myself, you know what a real lady's slip is like.  It's usually white, beige or black and has adjustable straps and a nice-looking bodice with pretty lace and a nice straight or A-line shape made out of pretty tricot or silk.  You feel like a woman when you put it on top of your bra and hose, lounging in it even as you do your hair and makeup and ready yourself for the day.  It makes your dresses and skirts look better because their fabric seems to "slip" over the undergarment nicely, avoiding the sticking and the riding up that happens when no slip is worn.

I could do a whole research project on why women wear/wore slips, where petticoats and dressing gowns originated from and why, but I think it's pretty simple to understand.  It comes down to modesty and cleanliness, both ladylike characteristics I think all of us women might want to have a little refresher course in.  One of the reasons women, especially those in earlier generations, wore petticoats was to keep their dresses clean.  They wore slips underneath the dress to keep it free of sweat and body oils and aprons on top of the dress to keep it clean of dirt and spills.  It wasn't easy or convenient to do laundry, so they protected and took care of their clothing.  Another reason was to enhance the look and shape of the dress. Poodle skirts required really big slips to help the skirt have a shape.  Study the history of fashion and you'll see just how important slips and petticoats really were.  Without a hoop slip, Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind was just wearing a droopy gown.  Then there was the modesty quotient.  Slips and petticoats prevented others from seeing through a gown's fabric, sheltering the shape of a lady's body from curious eyes.  

Why then, don't so many women and girls wear slips anymore?  I know that if they did, more stores would stock them.  Many stores don't sell them because people don't buy them and people don't buy them because they don't wear them.  I think it's a symptom of society's general lack of propriety.  Men don't wear jackets and ties like they used to and women hardly ever wear nice, pretty dresses.  If they don't wear pretty dresses in the first place, why the need for a slip?  So many women of today have become casual in their dress and have given up the notion of being feminine and classy.  When they do need to wear a dress or skirt, they throw on a piece of wash-and-wear knit that clings to their hips, thighs and buttocks in the most unbecoming way.  They add a pair of flip-flops and they're "dressed up."  Even if they wanted to wear the knit maxi skirts that are so entirely and hideously popular these days, they still need to wear a slip.  Why?  Because we can all see through their skirt.

Somewhere someone had a terrible idea of making floor-length, bottom-hugging, unattractive skirts out of T-shirt fabric with all manner of nauseating designs like Chevron stripes, horizontal stripes, vertical stripes, to name a few.  These skirts are so ugly, my daughter and I actually pinky-promised each other we would never, ever buy, wear, or consider wearing one of these "skirts."

Do you know what a real skirt is?  It's got a waistband, a zipper, a button or a hook and eye, and is lined.  The fabric is twill, wool, gabardine, corduroy, silk, tweed, or taffeta.  It has a shape that makes you look better, not worse.  It hides your flaws, instead of accentuating them.  It's a solid color like navy, gray, black, camel, or red.  It's timeless and of excellent quality.  It stands the test of time and can be worn with heels or flats.  It looks good with a blouse and jacket or a sweater.  It can last a lifetime if it's cared for properly.  It falls just above or below the knee.  It needs to be dry-cleaned and pressed.  It's a lady's skirt.  And it requires a slip and hose.

Now that I think about it, the slip isn't the only element that's missing.  It's all missing.  Women don't wear blouses anymore, or even jackets.  And most women don't wear pretty shoes and hose anymore either.  The popular choices range between flip-flops for the beach or locker room, all the way to 5-inch, cheap-looking stiletto heels.  Pretty Georgette blouses have been traded for body-hugging, immodestly tight t-shirts, again made out of knit.  If a jacket is worn at all, it's usually a denim jacket or even a hoodie and yes, I've seen my share of zipped hoodies with skirts.  Denim jackets are good, and I even own one, but it shouldn't be your only jacket.

Who or what is to blame for this shift in culture and lack of ladylike-ness?  We could blame the person who first sported the Chevron-striped yardage in screaming yellow and blue, but it's not really their fault.  The problem lies in all the droves of females that decided they too wanted to look like they were wearing butt-hugging flags.  Another reason is the "skirts" are so darn cheap that a person who likes such unsophisticated clothing can own 2,400 of them for the price of one really good and nice, womanly skirt.  Some might blame it on the desire to be "comfy all the time."  You don't want to hear what I have to say about that.  Being ladylike was never supposed to be about being comfortable.  As soon as we get too comfortable, we lose our manners, our dignity, and our femininity.

Now, it's not to say that comfort is a bad thing.  I don't believe in wearing clothes that are painful or shoes that cause blisters.  But I know the reason a lot of females don't wear slips, bras, and hose is because they say it's not comfortable.  The whole point is to not be comfortable.  When you wear feminine undergarments and you're a little uncomfortable, it's a reminder that you should cross your legs or ankles, walk in a graceful manner, and not roll around on the floor because you feel like it.  Dressing like a lady helps us to act like a lady.  I love things that are comfortable, but I also love things that are beautiful.  I believe we can have both.  There are also times that are appropriate for comfort over style.  I own a pair of Birkenstocks that are heaven on my feet and hips, but I don't wear them with a nice skirt and I certainly don't wear them to work or to church.

Maybe the problem is that as a culture we've become so comfortable with ourselves that we don't even care if it's offensive to others.  Part of the joy of dressing well is in showing respect to your fellow men and women while caring enough about the world we live in that we're trying to make it a little more beautiful ourselves.  Young people and even older ones have become comfortable in going to the market in PJs and slippers, dirty and un-showered, with filthy hair and a grimy face.  Other people do it, right?  Kids wear slippers and pajama bottoms to school and teachers teach in front of the classroom in sweat pants.   It's become so commonplace to dress so casually that when a person is dressed up like Cary Grant or Doris Day, they get stares and questions.  That used to be the expectation, do you realize that?  The expectation that a lady didn't leave the house without her hair and makeup done and a pretty skirt and sweater?  A gentleman didn't walk out the front door without a coat and tie, slacks and Oxfords, even a hat.  

It's now June 6, and summer is here.  I hate summer.  I really loathe it, mostly because it flares up my chronic health conditions, but also because I hate seeing everyone suddenly without clothing, in their full-on "comfortable" uniform of skin-tight, bottom-revealing shorts, tank tops with bra straps hanging out or better yet, no bra at all, and flip-flops.  Warmer temperatures don't require nakedness and impropriety.  You can still be cool and even comfortable in linen slacks, a cotton blouse, and pretty sandals.  

It's critical that we as women not become so complacent in our dress and grooming that we allow ourselves to also become lazy in our feminine values, traits, and virtues.  It is my opinion that when women begin dressing like men or wearing clothing that while comfortable is not respectable, we risk damaging the unique womanhood we are blessed with because we are daughters of God.  How would God want His daughters to adorn themselves?  I am sure He would want us to be modest, lovely, virtuous and praiseworthy, showing respect to our fellow men and women on the earth with the way we dress and carry ourselves.  He would want us to embrace our femininity and enhance the beauty He blessed us all with individually.  Our Heavenly Father would want us to honor Him by clothing our bodies reverently and decently.

I think it's time for a revolution, a revolution of ladylike-ness.  If you're a person who loves her Chevron knit skirt, then at least wear it with a slip, cute shoes, and a better shirt.  What if every girl and woman suddenly demanded slips in all sizes, lengths, and colors choices?  The stores would have to stock them.  If every girl started wearing slips with dresses, maybe the selection in dresses while shopping would improve.  If we had better choices and took them, maybe our manners would show an uptick.  Maybe we'd become a little more polite, courteous and forgiving.  Maybe if we wore pretty blouses instead of knit shirts, we'd actually like our bodies more.  If we wore beautiful dresses and heels, maybe we'd decide we love being women and we'd stop feeling oppressed.  Maybe even men would treat us better because we'd think we deserved better.  The list could actually get quite long here, so I'll stop, because you get the point.  

Something as seemingly small as wearing a slip has the power to create change.  At least it has the power to affect change in us individually.  Maybe we won't solve all the world's problems by wearing slips with smart suits and dresses, but we'd definitely feel better about who we are and maybe we'd treat ourselves better.  That might create a domino effect and give our children higher self-esteem.  It could cause some pretty big changes in society if enough women would accept the challenge.

My challenge to you is this:  If you have a slip, start wearing it and if you don't, find one somewhere and start wearing it.  It will change your clothing choices and while that doesn't have to be expensive, it could be very, very effective.  Embrace your womanhood and your femininity.  Decide that no one should see your silhouette through your skirt.  Save the flip-flops for the pool.  Invest in a nice skirt.  Buy some pantyhose.  It might even improve our economy along with our self-esteem.  I know that at the very least, it will give you greater confidence and you might decide to take on that project you've put aside or ask for that promotion at work or get your college degree.  It might even make you confident enough to go on that blind date or accept a new work assignment.  Maybe I'm crazy, but I think wearing a slip could change the world.