Monday, August 25, 2008

One Love

I dare you not to smile...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rock and Roll Heart

It's not a very sophisticated song, not one of Clapton's best, but I like it nonetheless. Sometimes I joke around and say that I have a rock and roll heart. It's only half-joke, though.

Sometimes I look around me and I think I can, fairly accurately, put folks into musical categories. Pop music - fashionable, trendy, fun, shallow. Country music - dusty, rode hard and put up wet, but clever and industrious. Rap - persecuted, angry, attention-seeking. Classical - uppity, pretentious, serious. Blues - lonely, betrayed, vengeful.

I'm overgeneralizing, sure. But I think you get my point.

I love all of these genres of music, but I've walked to a rock and roll beat most of my life. Speaking my mind. Expressing myself in unique ways. A little too loud and a little too colorful at times. Sometimes forgetting where I am and having to be reminded to tone it down a bit. A little rough around the edges, but doing my best to be honest and fair. Not taking life too seriously. Not worrying too much what others think and, more importantly, not expecting others to worry too much about what I think. Knowing, deep down, that my God loves me no matter what.

And I find myself in a phase of life in which I need to care what other people think. I am employed as a manager at a faith-based organization. I am a church choir director. I am a wife. I am a mother. Suddenly, my reputation matters. When did this happen? When did I go from young and free to mature and responsible?

Maybe maturing means that I can no longer have a rock and roll heart. Or maybe it means that I need to be more rounded in all the categories. Probably it means I need to open my eyes and ears and heart and pay closer attention to how I fit into the world around me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Last night a handful of folks from my church assembled for a FW Cats baseball game. We had really great seats, and the weather was just perfect. We ate Kincaid's hamburgers and made lots of noise.

Being pseudo-poor, we rarely end up in decent seats, and last night we were surrounded by season tickets holders and die hard fans. It was hilarious! See, I like the Cats. We've been going to games for years, but we don't know all the players' stats and all that. We want to see them win, but it's not like when the Rangers play the Yankees. We go to these games to have fun.

So this septuagenarian behind us yells at the umpire after a questionable call, "Why don't you clean off the plate?" To which the woman in front of us responds, "What for? He's not looking at it anyway!" I cracked up right out loud.

It went like that most of the game. I even got into it, booing when the ump called a strike that was clearly high and outside. Well, it was if you could see the plate - if it weren't for the players scooting the dirt off the center of the plate with their shoes, it would have been buried by the end of the game.

There were these two really young bat boys. They couldn't have been more than 5 years old. I called them the itty bitty bat boys. The bats were nearly as long as they were tall. Let me tell you, these little guys were serious about the game. We were close enough to the dugout to see them as they stood patiently on the steps, never taking their eyes off the game so they could do their jobs. And they did their jobs extremely well. I didn't know there was such a thing as a 5 year old boy that could pay attention that long. It was cool to see the players and officials treating them respectfully, too.

I'm trying to teach the girls to like baseball as much as I do. The Not-So-Little One watches the plays. She asks lots of good questions. She's trying to learn. The Little One, however, spent the first two innings pouting that she didn't want to be there. I gently explained that we parents do lots and lots of things to entertain our children that we don't enjoy (can anyone say Chuck E Cheese's?) and that this time it was our turn to have fun. She found a cricket hanging on the wire above us to watch and settled down. She even asked a few questions about the game.

I teased her a bit by telling her that next year we are buying season's tickets so we can go to all of the games. I don't have words to describe the look she gave me as she sarcastically asked if the game was over yet.

We're actually hoping the Little One will play ball one day. She has a terrific arm (dunked the kindergarten teacher that was mean to her older sister at the school carnival not once, not twice, but three times in a row when she was seven) and can outrun every boy in her class. Loves to run the bases after the Cats games, blowing by the boys as she leaves them in her dust, waist-long hair flying in the wind. She's a vision, I tell you. Maybe it would be more appealing to her if she could wear tights and a ballet bun while she played.

There was a fireworks show after the game. The lady behind me said, "Oooh, I like those squiggly ones. They look like sperm." She said again a few seconds later, so I am sure that is what I heard. You get to see a different side of your church family when you go out in public with them. And I love that the most.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Toilet Training

If you happen to be eating while you read this, you may want come back later.

I'm getting on a soapbox, ladies. I say "ladies" because you are my target audience today.

Why, oh why, do some women insist on hovering over the toilet seat in public restrooms to urinate? The only thing they accomplish is getting their bodily fluids all over the seat. And apparently their bodily fluids are so distasteful to these same women that they cannot bring themselves to clean up their messes.

If you don't want to touch your urine, I certainly don't want to! And... if I wanted to tiptoe through puddles, I would use the men's room instead (sorry, guys).

Ladies and gentlemen, news flash - you cannot catch anything from a toilet seat! I looked it up. I consulted several different reliable sources. You are more likely to catch something from the sponge in your kitchen sink than from a hard, nonporous toilet seat.

If you are one of those total clean freaks, put some toilet paper on the seat before you sit and flush it when you are through.

And here's a question - how do you manage to hover over the seat, sprinkling your goods all over the place, without getting it on yourself? If it's not taking a direct route to the water below, it's running down your leg and into your socks. I'm just sayin'.

So... sit yo' shiny hiney down, for pete's sake!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Birthday

Some birthdays just drag on forever! We had the good fortune to attend my niece's wedding in Abilene this past weekend. She and Glen had a lovely ceremony that harmoniously blended Japanese culture with other Eastern traditions. It was intimate and serene.

We stayed at the Whining Bull Ranch and were awaken at dawn by the sweetest tortie-point Siamese cat I have ever met. Followed closely by "WAKE UP!" as only my nephew can deliver. My nephew is... dramatic. He has a flair. He will win an Oscar one day, I'm pretty certain.

We visited the Frontier Texas museum, too. It was a really nice new facility with a 360 degree theater. It was tough not to cry when the presentation turned to the slaughter of the buffalo herds and its effect on the Indian tribes.

The Woods gave me two terrific CDs for my birthday - Don't Mess with Texas Music, Volumes I and II. These are compilation CDs featuring (mostly) Texas artists. Proceeds benefit music education programs in Texas public schools.

Apparently, if a Texas public school program doesn't include jock straps, it doesn't merit much funding. So a bunch of interested parties (including the likes of Willie Nelson) have come together and started a foundation to address the lack of funding for music programs in this state.

And the CDs are terrific! Very diverse. It's not everyday that you get Clint Black and Beyonce' side by side on the same disc. I see from the website that there is a Latino compilation, too.

West Texas is crawling with critters, and the Little One got stung by a scorpion. She's fine, but it had to happen at 2:30 am, of course. It's hard to find a scorpion on a beige carpet through squinty eyes.

I think we're going back to the Whining Bull in a couple of weeks so the boys can pour a concrete slab. I will not be pouring concrete. No way. Maybe they will accidentally spill some of that concrete on a scorpion.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I have this theory. I think it holds water, but it is still just a theory. I theorize that all animals have the desire to control some things in their environment. And I think when they perceive that they are not in control of those things that are of importance to them, they experience distress.

Oh, sure, it's a little more complex than that. To have no desire whatsoever to control anything, i.e. to willingly concede all control to another, is unhealthy. And to desire control over everything is unhealthy. Not to mention unrealistic.
Some animals (this includes humans) are satisfied with just a little control, and some demand control of nearly everything they encounter. In some circumstances, the ones who are satisfied with a little control encounter the ones who like to control lots of things. They may be attracted to one another and live harmoniously. In their relationship, their needs are being met, and they feel balanced.

Balance is the key. Even in the most egalitarian relationships, power and control shifts from one side to the other. One partner may be terrific with money; therefore, the responsibility of paying the bills is handed over to that individual. Meanwhile, the other partner takes charge of event planning. The shift is acceptable as long as balance is achieved and negotiation takes place.

When balance is not achieved, one is likely to look elsewhere to find control and restore internal order. The boss yells at the man who goes home and criticizes his wife who then spanks the child who turns and kicks the dog who chases the cat who throws up on the new Oriental rug.

I propose that there are lots of ways people seek control, and not many of them are very functional in the long run. Substance abuse. Violence. Theft. Manipulation. Cruelty. Eating disorders. Dissociation. These seem to provide some immediate relief but can easily spiral, leaving the individual feeling even more helpless.

One problem with theories is that they don't always come with solutions. In other words, I don't have a cure for feeling out of control. I feel it often. But if it is true that the healing is in the telling, then maybe it is helpful to learn to recognize when control is taken from us and to verbalize a need to restore balance.

And... if anyone figures out how to do that, please let me in on your secret.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Thought I Knew

I thought I knew a little something about immigrants and refugees. After all, I work in a building in which immigrants, refugees, and asylees seek help in beginning their new lives in the US. And I am the daughter of an immigrant who followed all the rules, waited the lengthy time frame, took an exam I'm not sure I could pass, and was granted US citizenship.

But I just returned from a migration conference. And I heard stories. People who have arrived in the US from every corner of the world told their stories about fear and abuse and suffering in refugee camps. And they told their stories about fear and abuse and suffering once they arrived here.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about poverty. I was raised in an single income household of six. We subsisted on the salary of an alcoholic non-commissioned officer in the US Army. My mother could stretch a dollar, let me tell you. We went without a lot of the time.

But I have been sitting across the table and listening to the stories of clients who work two minimum wage jobs and still don't know how they will pay for their children's dental work. They worry about the children they leave at home alone while they work their night shifts, because child care is too expensive. These are not lazy bums. These are not broken homes. These are not people having tons of children and living on welfare. These are people like you and me who are doing the best they can to keep up with the rising cost of everyday living.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about abuse. Alcoholics don't make the best parents. And sometimes the violence they model gets replayed by others in the household. And... sometimes the victims get into relationships that mirror the abuse they experienced at home. I've had my nose broken twice. I've had a broken arm. I've had two concussions. I've been harmed in lots of other ways, too.

But I have been sitting across my office listening to clients recount the terror they have survived. I have listened to the stories of survivors of partner abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, homelessness, refugee camps, human trafficking. I'm pretty sure I would have given up a long time ago if I were them.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about despair. I've crawled along the bottom of that abyss, the one in which your existence is of no importance. When you feel as if everything has been taken from you, and you have no say in the matter, it is easy to just give up. To wish for the darkness to swallow you whole and never return you to the light. And when the light makes itself plain before you, it is tempting to pull the covers over your head and resist it.

But I have looked into the vacant eyes of the child who is preparing to return home to the very mother who gave him his first snort of cocaine. I have looked down the barrel of the revolver the staff pulled out of the back pocket of a 12-year-old boy who has been living in the streets. And I have heard their stories of hopelessness.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

I thought I knew a little something about love. More precisely, I thought I knew what love isn't. When you grow up believing that you only exist for one purpose, and you learned that lesson from someone who is supposed to love you, and then you get a glimpse of what "normal" families look like, you form some ideas about love.

But I have listened to the rationale of parents who mistreat their children, all the while truly believing that what they are doing to their children is out of love for them. And here's the most incredible part - those children love their parents no matter how badly they are treated. They love them in the hopes that they'll eventually get it right and the pain will end. And everyone will love happily ever after. This is their story, and they believe it.

I thought I knew. I knew nothing.

But I have heard the stories. And I have listened with my heart. And I have read the meanings with my eyes. And I have felt the stirrings in my soul. Now I know a tiny bit more. And I will never be the same again.

Happy Birthday to Me

At my age, birthdays are really no big deal. Really. Would just as soon forget I have them. My family and friends insist, however, on prolonging the torture of my aging by bringing it to my attention every year about this time.

I got some terrific stuff. A coffee maker from BB; a Jim Shores Tinkerbell from Denija; a DVD of my favorite movie, The Jerk; three cool CDs - Anita Baker, John Fogerty, and Daughtry; and a ton of fun cards, both paper and electronic. And thanks to the Not-So-Little One, the entire congregation serenaded me.

So, despite my distaste for birthdays (mine, that is), I thank all of you for making me feel like I matter. You are terrific.