Thursday, December 9, 2010

You DON'T Know What You've Got till It's Gone

Okay, some of you had heard some of this already... I haven't always been a vocalist. I specifically joined band as a kid because I wanted to learn music and my parents told me I had a terrible voice. Fast forward to college - turns out parents don't know everything (shhh... don't tell my kids), and voice lessons launched a hot new pursuit, one that would turn out to be somewhat lucrative a times.

But this isn't a post about bad parenting. Through all the years that I studied and performed, I never once truly felt satisfied with my voice. There was always someone who could sing higher or some aria that eluded my skill level. There was always that brass ring, mocking and taunting. For the greater part of 25 years, I simply couldn't accept that I really could sing. And sing well. At times that pursuit of excellence drove me harder and helped me achieve more. Most of the time, though, it manifested into a fear of failure, keeping me from putting myself out there.

And now those years seem wasted.

A few years ago I began to experience some very real hormonal changes. Not in that wanna-rip-off-someone's-head way. Instead, my body took aim at my voice. The upper end of my range has dropped significantly, while the lower end has expanded. The texture or "color" of my voice has become somewhat unrecognizable to me. I was once a lyric coloratura soprano. That is no longer the case. For the first time in my life, I have to care about the how high a piece goes.

Those years seem wasted because I never realized that what I was able to do was special. To me it was always "not enough." Now that I no longer have it, I have learned to accept that I had a gift. A gift in the very real sense - I did not earn it, it was given to me. And it was taken away for some reason, perhaps because I did not have the right appreciation for it.

I'm in the throes of a grieving process, and when I work through it, I will have to learn how to make what I have left into something good. Somehow I will have to find beauty in a thing that was never beautiful to me before. If I manage to learn anything from this experience, I hope it is how to redefine myself, change the way I view my gifts. I hope that as my new vocal skills grow, my self-acceptance grows as well . I hope that, this time, when someone tells me I have touched them with my voice, I will actually hear them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jubilate Deo Is Not a Football Cheer

I attended my daughter's choir concert last evening. She is in the school honor choir (an audition choir) and the sixth grade choir. They sang so sweetly - at least what I was able to hear.

Although I had a primo seat - third row near the center - and the choir was sufficiently large, I had a hard time hearing the music over the incessant talking. There were two young girls zipping back and forth in front of us, giggling and talking throughout the performance. I never saw a parent ask them to sit quietly. That does not surprise me, because the adults were louder than the children.

If the grown ups had been overcome with pride and unable to contain their praise for their children, I would have understood that completely. But that was not the case at all. The woman behind me was asking a family member about their next get together. Another woman was scoffing at the PTA, wondering what on earth they spend their money on. And of course there were the scores of fussy toddlers whose parents failed to take out into the hallway.

I was so disappointed. Again.

My daughters are quite active in the arts, and we attend lots of choir, band, and dance performances. This is not the first time I've experienced this. Okay, so maybe you don't really care about music or dancing. Maybe you only showed up so that your child would feel supported. But you know what? Your child worked really hard, for many, many hours, preparing for his performance. Your child memorized lyrics in a foreign language and behaved impeccably on stage. Do you not have enough respect for your child to sit and listen quietly? Will you honestly be able to tell your kid that you heard how well she sang? Do you turn away from your ball game when your child brings you his report card?

Make no mistake - I LOVE sports. My college alma mater enters the play offs this Saturday, and I'm trying to figure out how to teleport myself to Nacogdoches and be back in time for a dance performance. You know what else? Fine arts performances are not sporting events. It is poor etiquette to "shout out" in the middle of a sacred composition. It seems as a society we've forgotten how to sit still and be quiet and absorb the good stuff that is all around us. We seem to need to be stimulated every minute of every day. We need to feel a part of the action, I guess. This is not balanced.

I learned at a young age that if you are still and allow music (or visual arts) to envelope you, you can indeed become "part of the action." That the vibrations in musical tones can permeate your very body cells and stimulate you in a way you never imagined. That gazing upon color or motion can stir something inside.

I work with kids on occasion. I understand that they need to blow off steam and find outlets for their energy. And they also need to learn to sit still when the situation calls for it. They need to experience the beauty in things that are not flashing or ringing or banging. They need adults to show them how. This is balanced.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Size of Sin

I remember a Sunday School lesson on sin when I was about 12 years old. The teacher told us that there are no "little" sins or "big" sins. He said that sin is sin, and in God's eyes it is all weighed equally. That lesson was nearly as confusing to me as the one about the prodigal son. (I still struggle with that one sometimes...)

Back then I simply couldn't comprehend that telling a little white lie was as bad as killing someone. Impossible. And what about those sins that a person commits unknowingly? How can someone be held responsible for those? Mind-boggling stuff to a kid.

Mind-boggling stuff to anyone, like me, who measures sin according to overt collateral. When measured in this way, a little white lie doesn't even compare to something as awful as murder. If you tell a lie, someone's feelings might be hurt. And if you are good at lying, no one will ever find out, and feelings might even be spared. Besides, there is a chance of fixing things if the lie goes awry, right? Just apologize and everything will be okay. Nothing compared to murder. Not nearly as awful as taking someone's life. A dead person is gone forever. There's no fixing that. Right?

When scrutinized under such a microscope, my reasoning seems accurate. My logic holds up nicely under these parameters. The flaw doesn't lie in the reasoning. The flaw lies in the choice of tools.

If you reevaluate sin based upon the damage it does to a relationship, it looks quite different. Since I began counseling, I've realized that it is quite possible for a small mistake to cause huge pain, even when there is no malicious intent. The emotional lacerations leave scar tissue that accumulates over time, resulting in a small and impenetrable heart.

If God's heart is hurt every time I sin, I risk damaging our relationship. The Bible promises that God will never leave me, that He is bigger than humans in that way, but my choices still cause pain. Pain that is neither necessary nor deserved. And this kind of pain is not something that can be "fixed" with an apology or yet another little lie.

I'm only now beginning to consider the pain I cause my own heart with every sin I commit. The way I cheat myself or belittle myself when I knowingly do wrong. The lessons I fail to learn when I don't acknowledge my errors. The feeling of accomplishment I deny myself when I take a shortcut.

In God's eyes, size of sin doesn't matter. Maybe that's because as scars grow and hearts shrink, sin lessens the relationships we have with Him and with one another.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just a Game

When I was about 10 years old, I loved going to the local park to hit and throw a ball around the little diamond. There were never quite enough of us to play a proper game, just a handful of kids looking for cheap entertainment in a small town. One hot, still afternoon, I sauntered up to the plate, hefted the bat over my left shoulder, and waited patiently for the first pitch. The throw was slow coming because my little brother was standing on the mound next to the neighbor boy, arguing that it was his turn to pitch. Just as my brother tried to snatch the ball out of the boy's hand, he released it. It was nothing spectacular, except that it scooted directly over the plate.

Admittedly, I was paying more attention to the ball than to my brother, and I swung hard, sending a line drive square into, you guessed it, my brother's nose. I'm not entirely sure if the crack I hard was the bat or his cartilage, but I can still hear it. It was in the ensuing moments that I learned how badly noses bleed and how badly little brothers can embarrass big sisters. We got him home, and I eventually got over him stealing my thunder.

I never developed into a good ball player. Never amounted to much of anything as an athlete, as a matter of fact. But I still love the game of baseball. It is one of the few sports that still resembles its beginnings. There is a certain nostalgia when you enter some parks. Live organists still play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," vendors still hawk peanuts in the stands, and umpires still get boo'd. I have a list of ballparks at which I hope to experience all of those again and again.

I jokingly tell my friends that baseball is God's favorite sport. After all, why else would he have begun His book with, "In the big inning...?" I also relentlessly refer to Texas as "God's Country." Now, I'm no Mensa candidate, but it doesn't take too much deductive reasoning to figure out that the Texas Rangers must be favored by God.

There is a woman who is dear to my heart that loves baseball more than I. She has been known to plan her activities around baseball schedules. She has two television sets in her house, one in the kitchen and one in the living room, so that she doesn't miss any plays while she is preparing a meal. Some of her prize possessions are Rangers paraphernalia. She is so excited about the Rangers making it to the pennant race that she plans to take her transistor radio with her to a function Friday night so that she can tune in.

She is a simple woman, the only daughter of a preacher, one who did not succomb to the antics of most preacher's kids. She has spent her 81 years in prayer and service to others. She's a force of nature - she talks fast and walks fast. She has a sharp tongue at times, and is quick to apologize at others. To say that I admire her would be like saying Alison Krauss can carry a tune. I love her in ways she'll never know, because she's not the type to talk of such things.

One thing she hopes to see before she dies is the Texas Ranger Baseball Club in a world series. I hope it happens while she still has the capacity to really enjoy it. It may be just a game to some, but to her it is a source of simple, unadulterated joy. When you think of it that way, it doesn't seem like that much to ask for. I happen to think she deserves it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bridges Instead of Walls

A week ago the Not-So-Little One and I had a fight. A loud one. Tempers were flaring, voices were rising, tears were flowing, words were flying... a lot of what I know to be effective parenting went out the window. At times we were both wrong. At other times we were both right. We both said some things that needed saying. And I'm sure we both wish we could take some things back.

After we went to our corners and the dust settled, we apologized. She told me she doesn't like getting mad at me. I explained that it was normal for her to get angry with her mother, and that it was normal for me to get angry with my daughters. I told her I was always on her side, even when it doesn't seem like it to her. She asked for a hug, and we hugged for a long, long time. Started crying all over again.

I had a little time to think about all of it while I was licking my wounds. I decided that this is the way it is supposed to be. If she never argued with me, I would never know when I was being unreasonable. If she never voiced her opinion, I would never know who she really is inside, what matters to her, what makes her her.

These occasional arguments serve to bring us closer because we both refuse to turn our backs on each other. As long as we choose to use what we've learned about one another during the encounter to build bridges instead of walls, we will have a relationship.

It hurts to fight. I like to avoid conflict whenever possible. But it's not the end of the world. It is part of growing in a relationship - every now and then someone has to take the lead, and that brings about resistance. The aches my heart feels are the result of my own growth as a parent and an individual.

Sunday she sat close to me at church and held my hand. I chose not to remind her that church is a public place in which people can actually SEE a teenager being nice to her mother.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Next Chapter

I am officially back in the work force. I just finished my first week flying solo as the office manager of my church. The building is still standing, so there is real hope for the future! It is a part time gig, won't make me rich, and is not exactly what I'm trained to do, but it is a blessing.

It is a blessing to be able to pick my daughters up from school on early dance days. It is a blessing to have evenings and Fridays free to schedule counseling clients. It is a blessing to do work that matters to someone. Okay... some things matter to some folks a little more than they should, perhaps... (smile)

It is a blessing to be in a safe place. It took me a long time to feel good about myself and to trust again after losing my last job. I was beginning to believe there just wasn't any place for me. That I would never fit in. That I was fatally flawed in some way. I feel safe here.

It is also a blessing to spoil others and to be spoiled a little. I found a container marked with my name on it in the fridge. It was leftovers from the weekly fellowship meal, and it was just for me. The Pastor calls me No. 1, and I call him Captain. (His head does resemble that of Captain Picard, come to think of it...) We're in the process of giving the rest of the staff Trek-esque nicknames. It is good to laugh again.

It is a humble job. Just the place for a person who has been humbled. It is evidently where God wishes for me to be, and I wish to please Him by doing the best I can every single day. Thanks, God. And thanks, CUMC, for helping me to lay the past year to rest.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I am a Christian. I believe that God is the Creator of the Universe. I believe that Jesus Christ died in my place so that I can rise above my own human failures. I believe the Holy Spirit enters a willing heart, bringing about change and lending hope to a seemingly hopeless world. I don't always understand grace, but I am thankful for it.

I am also thankful that I am free to believe what I believe and to worship in the manner I choose to worship. I have the forefathers to thank for that. They knew firsthand what it was like to be told what to believe and how to worship, and they were determined to keep this from happening in their new home.

I know that I take a great risk as a Christian when I stand up for the separation of Church and State. I agree that it is unfair that this constitutional principle has been applied to the extent that prayer has been removed from school tradition. I wish the kids could pray in school - ALL of the kids - the Christians, the Muslims, the Jews, the Buddhists. All of them. How beautiful it would be for young people to call on their God(s) to bless them with love and peace. But I am thankful that no single religion in this country will become the lawmaking body.

You may think it odd that a Christian would be glad that her own faith not be the prevailing power in her own land. Why wouldn't I want Christians to be in charge if I believe that Jesus is the Way and the Light? I'll tell you why. Because I paid attention in history class, and I've experienced personally the cruel ways in which some Christian believers try to convince others that their "truths" are the only ones that count. I still recall the shame I felt as my Sunday School teacher told me that my parents sinned against God for marrying interracially.

Seems half the country is terrified that allowing more Muslim immigrants to enter our country would mean public beatings and exploding subways. I'm not so sure we can blame Muslims, radical or otherwise, for all the violence in our society. Wasn't all that long ago that many state laws made wives and children the property of male heads of household, and protected those men when they crossed the line and harmed or killed them. I don't have the statistics handy, but I'd bet big money most of those marriages were sealed in Christian ceremonies. There's simply not enough space here to cite all of the instances in which some zealous Christian succumbed to his or her religious passion and caused another harm. (Read Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B Tyson for an eye-opening account of the Church's role in segregation.)

Yes, I take a great risk. I expect many of my friends will disagree/disapprove. And that is okay, because the laws of this country make it okay. I get to believe what I believe, and they get to believe what they believe. And we can express our opinions openly, as long as we respect one another and the law.

The point is, our governing bodies strive to protect all of us, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, from ourselves. The job is nearly impossible because of our God-given free will. It's not a perfect system, but I believe in it. I trust in it. And I am thankful for it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Pageant

The Not-So-Little One competed for the first time in a pageant. She was a state finalist in the National American Miss Texas Pre-Teen pageant. She was originally invited to compete because of her academic standing. And she had to pass a photo screening and personal interview to be chosen as a finalist.

My daughter did not bring home the title, but she (and I) got a glimpse of a world few girls get to see. Why? I'll tell you why. Not because there aren't plenty of beautiful, poised, ambitious girls out there. Not because there aren't plenty of moms trying to relive their glory days through their daughters out there. Few girls get to compete in pageants because it is EXPENSIVE.

My girl would not have been able to compete without the help of numerous sponsors. And if she wants to compete next year, she will need to hustle and get even more financial help. Because one of the things we learned is that if you want to run with the big dogs, you need more rhinestones on your collar.

Some of what we saw fit the cliche' depicted in the media. There were girls that have competed since they were toddlers. There were moms who obviously wanted their daughters to follow in their footsteps. There were girls who were not necessarily there by choice. There were lots of girls who want to be veterinarians when they grow up. There was a lot of hairspray in the air. There was even a baton twirler.

It was questionable, sometimes downright obvious, whether some girls were born with the hair color they sported on stage. And some had baked a little too long at the tanning salon. There was a hard and fast rule that girls with makeup on stage would lose points. I suspect some girls lost some points.

Allow me to be very clear - I was never the pageant type. I was neither pretty enough nor bold enough to put myself on display in such a manner. My daughter begged me to allow her to do this, and I had my reservations. Did she have any idea what she was getting herself into? Would she crack under pressure? She showed me... that I need to have as much faith in her as she has in herself.

I agreed to this because National American Miss is indeed what they claim to be - a different kind of pageant. No swimsuit category. No makeup for the younger age groups. Talent was optional and judged separately. Formal wear was judged on age-appropriateness. Contestants had to participate in a community service project, speak in front of a large audience, and meet one-on-one with judges in interviews. The contestants were very diverse, a fair representation of the peoples of our state.

This was not just a beauty pageant. If it were, my girl would have won. After all, she is quite stunning. And it was not a talent contest. Again, she could have won that. She tapped her little heart out. It was a growth experience. For both of us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Same, but Different

There are several expressions Mikel uses that make me giggle. One of my favorites is, "You know... they're the same, but different." I smile just thinking about it, and I've rarely spent any measurable amount of time contemplating it. Until now.

I just finished reading Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B Tyson. The book is mostly an expansion of Tyson's master's thesis on racism in North Carolina in the 70s. I highly recommend the book, but beware - reading it will likely lead to self-examination.

Tyson, son of a white Methodist preacher who longed to impact race relations, has the gall to suggest that even well-meaning, liberal whites like his daddy are plagued with racism rooted deep in their being. He doesn't pretend to know how it got there. He challenges white paternalism - a practice he places only slightly above white supremacy in fairness and effectiveness.

Am I the only person who wonders if our forefathers' practices of colonization and slavery are at the root of our distaste for immigrants? We arrived uninvited on New World beaches, proving that visitors with better weapons can indeed take what they want. We brought African captives to this soil to use them, expecting them to accept their fate and expressing disbelief when they didn't.

If strangers come uninvited, they might take something from us that is ours. And if we bring them here, they might rise up and expect to be treated equally. History might repeat itself, an ugly history that we don't really want to talk about, thank you very much.

Racism and immigration are touchy subjects. Political correctness aside, most of us worry about offending someone. I can't speak for everyone, but I stay confused about which are the acceptable terms to use describing people of different ethnicities. I certainly know which words NOT to use. But the rules change. Do we use "Native American" or "American Indian?" We don't say "colored people" anymore, although the NAACP never dropped it from their name. I once heard a Mexican man say that he, too, is American because Mexico is part of the Americas.

I haven't even always known how to view myself. One would think that growing up in a military town, with brides and children from around the world in one big melting pot community, would have been easy for this half-breed Asian. Think again. There was a definite pecking order, and many of my Asian friends were at the bottom. I managed to get by because I had a blended appearance and carried a white surname. And... I downplayed my Asian heritage. I acted as white as possible. And I begged my mom not to come to my school.


I realized as I gazed upon our new pastor yesterday that Mikel is right. The preacher and I share many views. We love Jesus. We struggle with human frailty. We care about the world around us. And we differ in as many ways. We are not the same gender. We emerged from different home environments. We are a different color from one another AND from the majority of our congregation. We are the same, but different.

Different is good. I'm glad there are preachers and plumbers and mathematicians in the world. I can't do that stuff. Someone needs to. God created humans as EQUALS. He didn't create us the SAME. God seems to be okay with that. We can't be the same, and we shouldn't try. Whose traits would we adopt? The majority's? Who's the majority? Who says they're right?

I don't know how to overcome racism. I'm not sure we can. We share with every other animal species an instinctive wariness of those among us who look different. Maybe the best we can do is accept that we are threatened on some level by that differentness and address the distorted cognitions that accompany that threat. Identify the sameness and start there. And remember the things our mothers taught us: Think before you speak. When in doubt, close your mouth. Apologize when you screw up. If you aren't sure about something, ask. And, for God's sake, be nice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Little Things

In a competitive world, there seems to be plenty to make a parent proud. Beauty, good grades, trophies, ribbons, and other special recognitions are the stuff the world sees. I love those things, for sure. But what makes my chest swell are the little things that no one (including my children) sees but me.

Here's a list:

* my daughter asking her daddy to take her to the store to buy a frozen casserole because it's the only thing she knows how to cook so that she can prepare dinner on Mother's Day

* realizing the day after shopping for pageant dresses that she probably DID look at the price tags, choosing the less expensive one and insisting that she loves it

* my daughter jumping up and down and shouting, "I prayed about that! God listened!"

* genuinely liking my daughters' friends

* witnessing a child snapping at her mother in the mall and realizing that I cannot remember being spoken to in public in that manner

* hearing other siblings call each other names and noting that although the girls argue, they refrain from name-calling

* hearing my daughter call the boy that broke her sister's heart a "poopie-head"

* hearing the other daughter give her sister a pep talk after a major disappointment

* learning that my daughter has taken to writing letters to a grandmommy that doesn't use email

* reading the words "I love you" on my daughter's facebook page in response to her friends' posts

* discovering a picture one of the girls has drawn for a friend

* waiting for the girls to finish the "get well" cards they insisted upon making just as we were heading out to the hospital

* the girls kissing each other goodnight and saying "I love you" before bed

The reason these things fill me with pride is that I know I didn't teach this stuff directly. I didn't ask for them. I certainly never instructed my daughter to tell the world that she is a prayer warrior, although I probably should have.

Turns out what the experts say is true after all. They learned it through observation. And I can't help but be pleased with their parents for showing them how it's done.

Monday, April 12, 2010


At 12:12 am, Sunday, April 11th, I became the proud mother of a teenager. The Not-So-Little One is 13, an age that strikes terror in the hearts of parents. I have received plenty of condolences and advice from seasoned warriors that survived the battleground known as adolescence. And... I rebuke it all. I should say WE rebuke it, as my daughter has reminded me over and again that she is not the typical teenager. I tend to agree with her. She is my child, and she is a child of God, created by Him and designed with tremendous potential.

I have decided to condemn neither my daughter nor myself to a horrific adolescence. Call it high hopes, call it great expectations, call it famous last words - I call it the better choice. As a human being I have the absolute right to choose to dread the future or to look forward to it. I am in the business of teaching people that there is a powerful relationship between their thoughts and their behaviors, and it is modeling good mental health for me to take a positive attitude.

High hopes and great expectations come with responsibilities, however. I choose those, too. If I expect my child to be successful, I must accept her success. If I expect her to grow, I must provide an environment in which to grow. If I expect her to trust me enough to communicate with me, I must make it safe for her to trust. And if she does not succeed or grow or trust, I must acknowledge the possibility that I did something to thwart her efforts.

Human beings, even the adolescent ones, want to feel as if they have some control over their lives. Children are mostly powerless in this world. They possess neither the experience nor the wisdom to take control, and naturally adults are responsible for their safety and well-being. In their zealousness, adults forget to look for ways in which children can have some power and control. Have I allowed her to have any?

Human beings, even adolescent ones, want to feel as if they are significant, as if they are valued. They are full of ideas and schemes and plans, and often they are reminded that they can't possibly know anything about anything. Their dreams are picked right out of the sky by the practiced marksmanship of the well-meaning adult. (How is that any different from the much-loathed 13-year-old eye roll?) Have I used her musings for target practice?

Human beings, even adolescent ones, want to feel safe. Safe to feel the full range of emotions. Safe to express those emotions. Safe to talk about them. They learn to feel, express, and discuss through experimentation. A researcher conducting a scientific experiment considers a mistake to be a detour, not a dead end. Have I taught her to fear failing?

My kid will make mistakes. She will challenge me. She will likely infuriate me. I will not want to admit that I may have contributed to the problem, but I WILL admit it. I will choose to see her as the wonderful human being that she was designed to be, not as the mere sum of her mistakes. I will embrace the responsibility that accompanies expectation. And I will hope.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

My husband has a funny way of letting you know when he's aggravated. When something irks him, he expresses his frustration in question form. He shouts things like "Who does he think he is?" and "What does she think she's doing?" and "Why do they issue drivers' licenses to idiots?" And then he looks directly at me, as if waiting for an answer.

I usually give the same response - "I don't know." I estimate that I say "I don't know" between 20 and 30 times a day. If I manage to remind myself that I really don't have to provide an answer, I simply remain mute.

I see clients nearly every day. They ask a lot of questions, too. "How could she treat me like that?" and "Why can't I get the respect I deserve?" and "What's wrong with me?" They peer at me through their tears, awaiting some profound solution to their problems.

Sometimes I say "I don't know" to my clients, too. Other times I try to guide them through the process of finding their own truths by responding to their questions with, you got it, more questions. Occasionally I offer direct instruction. That generally elicits an expression of utter disbelief, accompanied by, "I can't do that."

I have two pre-teen daughters. It is a well-known fact that mothers of pre-teen daughters know nothing. The point is driven home with "the look."

Between the impossible questions, the resistance, and the eye-rolling, it has become painfully clear that I am the dumbest person I know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Somebody Please Hold Me Back...

The Not-So-Little One has been the recipient of some hurtful behavior as of late. The worst of it is that the perpetrator is an adult. An educator. Someone that my daughter admires and desperately wants to please.

So far she has had little to no success.

Apparently this instructor does not subscribe to the scientifically proven notion that positive reinforcement is an effective method of shaping behavior. Rather,this intructor seems to believe that the way to get a kid to improve is to belittle her. As a performer, I certainly have experienced this approach to teaching. But as a mother and a trained therapist, I am struggling with this.

The situation came to a head on Saturday after the Not-So-Little One delivered the best public dance performance of her 9-year career. She mentioned on the way home that prior to going on stage aforementioned instructor told her (in front of her peers) that she did not know the routine and had no business dancing with the rest of the company.

There is plenty wrong with this picture, not the least of which is that it is counterproductive to dress down a young dancer moments before a performance. She could have easily paralyzed my daughter with fear, setting her up for failure. I'm an adult, for God's sake, and I'm pretty sure that would not have boosted my confidence.

The most disturbing thing is that I have discussed my daughter's neurosocial disorder with this woman again and again. Every time it is as if we've never talked about it. Individuals with neurosocial disorders have difficulty connecting with others. Hence the "-social" part of the diagnosis. If her peers in the dance company buy into the belief that she is the reason they are not successful, how will she ever be able to bond with them?

(Ironically, the instructor complains that the girls in the company do not seem to be bonding. Hmmm... )

I've learned something valuable through this ordeal. My daughter is resilient. Just as I am about to turn the car around to hunt this instructor down and give her a piece of my mind, the Not-So-Little One says, "I think I did a good job. I did what you and (The Little One) suggested. I proved her wrong." We agreed that my intervention might make matters worse for her.

She went on to say that she does not want to enroll in another dance studio. She says that "she's just one person" and that "the rest are like family to me." I will do my best to let my daughter cope with this situation with the grace she has already shown. I have been humbled into inaction.

I want her to get a quality dance education. I want her to be successful. Mostly I want her to be happy. I'm immeasurably relieved that she has the skills to deal with this difficult person. She's handling it better than I.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad vs Books

I love technology. I think I've seen just about every James Bond movie made, just to see what clever gadgets Q would come up with. I still laugh out loud every time I remember Maxwell Smart talking into his shoe. Mission Impossible, Inspector Gadget, Spy Kids... it's all good.

Surely you have heard by now that Apple has released it's latest and greatest, the iPad. It looks amazing, thin and sleek. It does all kinds of neat stuff. I want to play with one, for sure. I want to stream video and play tunes. I want to make a phone call so I can laugh at how silly I must look holding it up to the side of my face.

I don't, however, want to read a book on it. Books don't belong on electronic screens. Books happen to be just fine the way they are.

When I was a little girl, my mother told me that when she was a little girl paper was scarce after the war. She taught me that the written word, and the bindings and pages that cradle those words, were precious. She taught me to respect books, to cherish them. We weren't to throw them or walk on them or write in them or damage the pages. My daughters will tell you that I learned that lesson very well, as have they.

Books hold a special place in my heart and in my life. My dearest friends will tell you that one of my greatest shames is the rate at which I read. I have worked hard at increasing my reading speed, to no avail. But that has not deterred me from embracing books. Books remind me that I am imperfect.

Books do much more than that, of course. They instruct, they encourage, they elicit, they challenge... they remember. Books can be opened, baring the souls hidden within. They can be closed, allowing time for introspection. Books are vulnerable to the elements and to human carelessness, and yet they endure somehow, carrying forth our history, our stories. We need those stories, and we need the vessels in which they are carried.

And books need us. Books need people to collect and care for them. Books need places to live, too. Libraries, whether small or grand, are the dwelling places of the written word. It is in libraries that books commune with their own in safety and comfort, openly awaiting new friends with whom to share their stories.

Book stores serve a similar purpose, but libraries possess qualities often overlooked. Libraries are more than the sum of their shelves. The orderliness of the rows, the logic of the filing system, the intimacy of the space between the shelves, the enveloping quiet... these are the things that draw me to libraries. And the smell. Libraries have a fragrance all their own.

My youngest daughter tells me that she loves to discover the same books at the public library that she sees on the shelves of her school library. She says that tells her that the books she likes are popular with other kids. She feels connected, bonded to other humans through books and the accessibility of their kin.

Go ahead and tap your iPad screen. Go ahead and scroll down the edge and read the tiny letters typed on the tiny flashing screen. Give me something I can open and feel and smell. Give me books.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

That's What I Like

I've written plenty about things that annoy or confuse me. Today's post is about things I like.

I like that God grants just enough of my wishes to keep me coming back with more requests. And that He overlooks the fact that I am selfish and keep asking for stuff.

I like that He granted me a sense of humor, and the good sense to know when it is most effective to use it. If I am indeed created in His image, that means He has a sense of humor, too. I hope He uses it when He looks down and sees me screwing up. Again.

I like that despite the bickering, my daughters care about one another. When The Not-So-Little One's cell phone battery was going bad and she wasn't too keen on the idea of using the no-frills spare, The Little One offered to take the boring phone and let her sister have hers. "Here... you can use this one, and I'll take the cheap one. You are older and deserve the better one." We found another alternative, but not before making it clear that this was a true example of sacrifice.

I like that once in a while those same daughters remember to say "thank you."

I like that there are people out there with greater intellect and patience than I to figure out the hard stuff. I like that I have the absolute freedom to decide whether I want to believe what they say. Most of all I like that my belief systems are not static. I can change my beliefs as I grow and learn.

I like that when one baby starts to cry iin public, all the others cry,too. It's a sign of solidarity. I still do it myself. Sometimes I want to cry FOR someone who is in distress and can't seem to bring himself or herself to do it. Does that make me empathic, or infantile? Wait... don't answer that.

I like that as an adult I don't have to eat carrots. I eat the dadgum things, but I don't HAVE to if I don't want to. Or brussel sprouts. I don't eat those. Yuck.

I like that someone who reads this post will respond, extolling the virtues of brussel sprouts and spawning a vegetable debate. Recipes will be exchanged and all will be right with the culinary world once more.

I like that dogs don't have an agenda. What you see is what you get. They like what they like, they don't pretend to like things they don't, and they don't hold grudges. I'm not so sure about cats, however...