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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Sources of Pride

WordPress offers its members a daily suggestion for writing.  Yesterday’s suggestion was to “tell someone you’re proud of just how proud you are.”

Well, that’s easy.  I’m proud of my kids.

KB helping outThis is my daughter helping one of her friends get her classroom ready for fall.  She currently works as a para-educator at a local middle school, working with kids who have emotional and behavioral issues.  These kids love her to pieces, even when they are screaming at her or spitting on her clothes or punching her.  She loves them, too.  For a while, we got to work at the same school, and that was really, really cool.  Evenings and weekends, she is the Young Life leader for women at the University of Washington.  And in her spare time, she’s actively involved with her church.  I love her, and I’m pretty proud of her.

(Irrelevant but interesting detail:  that tee-shirt is one I bought in New York City in 1986.)

GB and DTIn this photo, my kid is the tall one in the back.  When he’s not eating ice cream or taking selfies with his pretty girlfriend, he’s working as an Engineer at a company that makes cranes, or playing with his cat or watching sports or playing X-Box.  He has a fantastic relationship with his sister, above, and can cook as well as any mom in town.  Although there’s little physical resemblance, he’s a duplicate of his dad in many ways.  He has the same kind heart, the same gentle sense of humor, and the same ability to fix things.  I love him, and I’m proud of him, too.

Something that makes me proud of the both of them is the way they responded to the great family financial crisis of 2008.  Dave and I could handle how our diminished finances would affect us.  We were both raised without a lot of extras and knew how to cut back.  But we felt absolute terror about sharing the news with our children.  We needn’t have worried.  They reacted with maturity and grace.  Both of them found jobs in a matter of weeks.  Our daughter chose to postpone attending grad school, and our son made sure to complete college in four years and without any debt.  Not once have I heard either of them remark–either positively or negatively–on the lost money.  Their behavior often inspires me to carry on myself.

What makes you proud?

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Twenty Nine Years

When my husband and I travel to Palm Desert, we do something that reminds me of those early days when we were first dating.  And it’s not what you think.

We buy groceries.  Our first stop after landing is the Costco at Monterey and Dinah Shore.  We eat most of our meals in the condo nowadays.  If we eat out, we do it at lunchtime, to save money.

This means we’ve got to buy groceries. (more…)

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The girls wanted to know what to look for in a boyfriend.  The boys wanted to know when the time is right to ask a girl out.  But one dad at my lunch table told us that the gender-specific classes weren’t reaching every attendee.  Because they weren’t reaching the gay kids.

I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Washington Family Ranch, a Young Life camp in central Oregon.  As an “adult guest,” I had no duties and treated the opportunity as a private getaway.  I attended a few of the scheduled sessions.  I listened to my daughter speak about repentance.  I attended worship.  I wish I’d gone to more.  Specifically, I wish I’d gone to the sessions for “girls” and “boys.”

Instead, I sat in the sunshine writing and reading.  I heard about the sessions later, at lunch with the other adult guests, and regretted missing it.  I could tell those girls a few things.  They had questions about topics other than dating and boys—you know they spent some time asking where a girl can find a prom dress that doesn’t reveal half an acre of breast flesh—but dating was definitely the main subject.

The words of that dad got my attention.

He knew something was different about his daughter.  But he didn’t know anything about homosexuality, and had no idea how to give her guidance.  Now that she’s out and in a long-term relationship, he knows that she got most of her advice and support during her teen years from a high school teacher who may or may not have also initiated his daughter’s first sexual relationship.

Half of the people at our lunch table fell silent and stared at their plates, suddenly fascinated with the appearance of their lunch.  Two of us engaged with him to ask about his daughter and her journey.  I knew I wouldn’t like it if one of my children got advice about dating and his or her innermost feelings from a teacher at school.

We asked him how he felt the camp could reach out to gay teens.  He didn’t have an answer for that.  We didn’t either.  But I can understand that a Christian parent would appreciate it if kids like his daughter had the opportunity to be able to ask their questions, too.  He’d like it if kids like his daughter were told they are God’s masterpiece, and that they deserve respect, affection, and care regardless of their sexuality.

This is a topic I explored when I wrote Steadfast.  What was it like for a young Catholic man to come out to his family?  How would they respond to the news?  What about the young man’s friends?  Would they stick around or abandon him?  And what if he was also dying of the AIDS virus?

At no time did this dad talk about whether he approved or didn’t approve of his daughter’s sexuality.  That wasn’t his point.  He just wanted kids like his daughter to have a place to ask those embarrassing questions, preferably in a setting that honored their faith in God.

It’s hard to argue with that.

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In honor of the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Day of Silence on April 14, I’m uploading the middle chapters of my book Steadfast, which cover Chris’s return to Spokane and his ordeal with AIDS.

I was originally inspired to write this when I learned that while AIDS is no longer a death sentence, it is still an unpleasant disease.  And the fastest-growing segment of new patients are young gay men.  These young men missed the whole AIDS awareness campaign (remember the red ribbons?) and don’t perceive the disease as dangerous.  They haven’t heard–as we oldsters did–the call for safe sex.  (Or they learned about it in Health class, where teachers share all sorts of ideas about smoking, nutrition, adequate sleep, avoiding drugs, and other things kids tend to tune out.)

I was somewhat frightened about writing this.  My knowledge of gay men is limited to the sweet boyfriends who broke up with me for no apparent reason.  That’s why the story is told in first-person from the perspective of the girl who loves him.

So I’m concerned I’ve gotten any number of details wrong.  Details about young gay men, details about the Catholic Church, details about death and dying.  My research included reading And the Band Played On, one reporter’s chronology of the crisis, the memoir Borrowed Time, and endless amounts of Googling.  Obviously, that’s not scholarly research.   I know that many of you will give me feedback about how to fix my errors.

To end this on a positive note, I was astonished and pleased a few weeks ago by a remark our pastor made in church.  In the years since we’ve attended this church, he’s made very few remarks about homosexuality, and the few he made were anti-gay.  But on this night, he said–quite energetically–that we Christians were wrong in the Eighties.  We were wrong for not immediately stepping in to care for AIDS patients.  I think he’s right about that.

You can learn more about the Day of Silence at http://www.dayofsilence.org/

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Sometimes a book on Authonomy tickles my fancy and I want to share it with as many people as possible.  Losers, Creeps, Jerks, and Weirdos is such a book.  Author Cynthia Cerny offers up tales from her thirteen years in the dating scene, where she has learned there are worse things than going dateless on a Friday night.

Something I really liked about Cynthia’s book is that she never loses sight of who and what is important on these dates.  During a date with a professional basketball player, he insists that she should be more willing to, er, do what he wants to do.  Cynthia throws him out of the house.  She demonstrates the positive self image all moms hope to see in their daughters over and over again.

The truth is, not all of Cynthia’s dates are losers, creeps, jerks, or weirdos.  But they fail to respect her or treat her as an equal, and that’s reason enough to show any guy the door.

 

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Every now and then I have to remind myself that the purpose of this blog is to promote my writing.  I want to get myself a little supplemental income, pay off some nasty debts, and maybe go to Palm Desert more often.

With that in mind, I’ve been revising the first third of Forgiveness Fits.  Too many reviewers thought Caroline was whiny and annoying and several–men, especially–didn’t like reading a first person story about this whiny girl.  Reviews that identify problems are great, but the ones that suggest solutions are pure gold.  One reviewer suggested switching to third person, and I agree it solves many problems.

Below, you’ll find the new beginning.  The rest, as always, can be found at http://www.authonomy.com/books/36529/forgiveness-fits/

-1-

Caroline MacDougall eased the Monahan’s Suburban into a parking space near the Ferris High School gym and put it in park.  “Got everything?” she asked the eager football camper at her side.

“Duh, Caroline.  You sound like Mom when you do that.”

Caroline smiled.  John hated thinking of her as the family’s nanny.  He’d much rather think of Caroline as something else.

“I’ll be back at four,” she said, as she noticed the player coming toward the car from John’s side.

Caroline’s smile disappeared.  “You better go.”

John looked toward the player and made a disgusted noise.  “Chase Gillespie.  I forgot he’d be here.”  But he opened the door and hopped out.

While the door was open, Chase shouted.  “Monahan!  That your babysitter?”

John slammed the door.

Caroline contemplated Chase from behind her sunglasses, grateful for the tinted windows and air conditioning, as John jogged to the back of the Suburban and jerked out his equipment bag.  Tall and slender, Chase appeared better suited for basketball than football, but she knew him enough to know he probably liked the contact.  That, and trash talking his opponents.  John turned and waved as he trotted past Chase without another look.  Atta boy, thought Caroline.

She pulled in to the lot again just before four, and waited along with the moms there to retrieve their sons.  Michael gurgled in his safety seat and Aiden escaped from his seat to stand at the window, watching for John.  Just as she’d expected, they erupted with joy at the sight of their oldest brother, filthy from sweating all day on the football field in the sun.  Michael kicked his fat legs and Aiden jumped up and down on his seat, pudgy hands pressed on the window.

“How was it?” she asked, as she handed him a cold bottle of Gatorade.

“Good.”  He tilted his head back and swallowed half the bottle in one gulp.  “Thanks.”

“Chase give you a hard time?”

John shot her a curious look.  “You know him?”

“I know of him.  I know he’s not very nice.”  Caroline knew more than that, but wasn’t about to unload her sob stories on an eighth-grader.

“Well, then, you know him.”  John shrugged.  “He’s a creep.”

Caroline smiled to herself.  She’d been worried John would spend a day with the football players and come home indoctrinated with their beliefs about Caroline MacDougall.  She should have known better.  John adored her.

A loud “ga” from the back seat drew John’s attention.  “Hey, Mikey.”  He reached back to grab Michael’s toes.  “Didja go for a ride with Caroline?”

He smiled and repeated his catch-phrase.  “Ga!”

Aiden still stood on the seat next to Michael, sucking his thumb.  He opened his mouth enough to say, “Ca-ine said.”

“I know Caroline invited you,” John reassured him.  “Hey!” he added.  “When you come to this camp, you’ll have Matt and Mark as coaches!”  Matt and Mark were the seven-year-old twins.  “You’re so lucky.”

“ManMark!” agreed Aiden, nodding.  “ManMark,” he said once more before returning his attention to his thumb.

When they arrived back at the Monahan’s house, just across the street from Caroline’s, John carried Michael in and deposited him in his playpen before returning to the car for his bag.  He disappeared down the hall to shower while Caroline added Aidan to the playpen and helped Barb get ready for dinner.

While Caroline extracted loaves of French bread from the oven, she watched in wonder as the kids tended to their assigned chores.  Frankie, age nine, sprayed the picnic table with cleaner and wiped it down before his siblings prepared it for the meal.  Next, Reagan, the only girl, set out the eight placemats and pointed out any the spots Frankie had missed.  The twins were allowed to set out the silverware and napkins, though seldom did Barb allow them to touch the knives.  John and the next oldest brother, Chris, brought out the glasses, filled with ice and homebrewed iced tea.  John and Chris then carried the two high chairs outside, one for Michael and one for Aidan, setting them both across from the chair Caroline would perch on while feeding them.  Once everyone was served and seated, Bill said grace and when he finished, asked John about camp.

John sat up straighter when his father addressed him.  “I liked it.  They worked us hard.”

“I hope so,” mused Bill.  “What did you learn today?”

“We did some handoffs and agility drills.  We ran a lot.  They timed us.  I’m faster than some of the sophomores.”  John waited for his dad’s reply.

“Don’t brag, son.”  Bill peered over his glasses at John.  “Did you talk with the coach?”

“No, sir.  He sort of had the Varsity players doing everything.”

“Hmpf,” said Bill.

John’s face signaled his disappointment.  Then he brightened.  “Paul Corbin was there.”

“Was he?” asked Barb, suddenly interested in the conversation.

John nodded, glad to have said something at least one of his parents liked.  “He said to tell you hello.”

“We’ll have to have them over,” Barb said to Bill.  She leaned closer to Caroline in her seat at the end of the table.  “Have you met our friends Greg and Nancy?”  As Caroline shook her head, Barb continued.  “You’ll love Paul.  Everyone loves Paul.”

Caroline wanted to answer but knew her remarks would sound like self-pity.  She liked many of her classmates.  But they didn’t much like her.

After she’d spooned the entire jar of baby spaghetti and half a jar of apricots into Michael’s mouth, Caroline excused herself to take him inside and clean him up.  Wiping his face and hands, she repeated her mantra about starting school in three weeks.

Smile, she instructed herself.  Say hello more often.  Reach out in kindness and friendship.  No sarcasm, no matter how funny you think you are.  You’re good at this, Caroline MacDougall.  You can do it.

Caroline knew life in the military.  She knew a dozen schools, people of all races and backgrounds, and cities across the country.  She recognized change, disruption, and friendships based on little more than a momentary need.  Hey, let’s go play on the swings!  Because they giggled together as they pumped their legs and swung high enough for the chains to go slack, they became inseparable.  Wanna come over and watch television?  They stayed up until after midnight watching an old movie and quoted the lines the following week at school, best friends.  You!  Over there!  We need someone to play outfield.  Caroline missed every ball hit in her direction but made five new friends that one afternoon.

And then her dad retired from the Air Force, and the family moved to Spokane to be near her mom’s sister.  Caroline recognized nothing.

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Because of the shooting July 20 in Colorado and the recent flurry of activity regarding the views of the owner of Chick-fil-a, not to mention the survivor’s benefits that won’t be paid to the partner of astronaut Sally Ride, I’ve been opening my Facebook news feed each day to a louder than usual cacophony of opinion.

One friend’s recent post has me thinking.  “Let me know,” she wrote, “if you agree with this guy so I can unfriend you.”  This post included a sound bite of an elected official stating an opinion that he probably now wishes he’d kept private.  He essentially blamed the Colorado shooting on a decline of Christianity among Americans and said something about wishing an armed person had been present. (more…)

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