NPR Interview with Trump Staffer Larry Stewart Whereby He Simply Quotes Musical Lyrics

 

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NPR:  Today we have with us the head of environmental policy under President Trump, Larry Stewart.

Larry: That’s me!

NPR:  Yes, we know it’s you.  We invited you.  We see you here in the studio. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to speak with us about climate change.

Larry:  I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

NPR:  With regard to climate change?  Do you not understand what that phrase means or are you just confused as to what’s going on generally?  It’s Studio 11B.  You’re at NPR.  Your name is Larry.   You used to be the lead singer of Restless Heart, a country band, but now you apparently run the nation’s top environmental agency.

Larry: Look, I’ll make this brief. The President has informed us to open up land and fields to oil companies for drilling.  It’s that simple. We are opening up our hearts and minds and welcoming in the money. Don’t try to stop me, the boy’s on a roll.

NPR:  This is a drastic shift in policy translating into a bill in Congress or is it just the whim of – wait what?  Who’s trying to stop who?  What boy?

Larry:  Just trying to make American great again.

NPR: Look. I realize this is tough but let’s try to focus on the fact that references to climate change appear to be scrubbed from government websites.  Can you comment on this?

Larry (laughing): Nobody scrubbed anything about this thing you reference that we should not talk about.

NPR: We know that minds may differ, Larry, but can we not all agree there is at least the existence of an environment on our planet?  That we have in the past had some studies in regard to this issue? Can you comment on this at all, Larry?

Larry:  I find that you are using my name quite a bit in your questions.  I’m not sure if this is meant to throw me off.  But I’m a hard-hitter and believe that big dreams can exist in a small town and I’m not sure why everything has to be right or wrong.

NPR:  Those are Restless Heart lyrics, Larry. Why are you quoting us music lyrics when we asked you why the government is eliminating any reference to climate change?

Larry: That rock won’t roll.

NPR: Is that some reference to our earth?  As in the earth is a rock and it won’t roll?  Because it does roll in the sense that it’s spinning.  You do know about this, right Larry? That the earth spins?

Larry: It’s a freedom that we all wanna know.  It’s an obsession to some, to keep the world in your rearview mirror while you try to run down the sun.

NPR: THAT IS ANOTHER SONG LYRIC.  We have google, Larry.  Did the President just pluck you from Kentucky and put you in the government overseeing all of our environmental policy when you know zero about the environment?

Larry:  I don’t like your tone.  We are defunding you.

NPR:  I apologize.  I let the sheer absurdity of the situation at hand get the better of me.  But the EPA doesn’t have any authority or jurisdiction over funding for public radio.  Why would you even say that?

Larry: We owned this town.

NPR:  WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO QUOTE COUNTRY SONGS TO ME. YOUR GLORY DAYS ARE OVER.

Larry:  I run the EBA and I can do what I want. I’ll have you know I was a very big deal in 1986 and the mullet was a stylish haircut.

NPR:  It’s the Environmental Protection Agency, Larry. Not sure what the “B” is for.

Larry:  Say what’s in your heart.

NPR: Okay we’re done.

Recorded on January 11, 2018

photo:

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New & Improved Slow Cooker User Guide

Click HERE to go to Belladonna Comedy and read my new humor post on how to properly use a slow cooker.  This is a very funny humor website written exclusively by women and it has some really funny stuff on there.  Check it out! And keep on being slow!

Embracing the not-so-perfect life

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An example of a cookie that no one should strive for. Who spends 20 minutes on one freaking cookie that looks like your grandmother’s quilt?

Seriously it’s insane.

Stop it.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter or something. Watch a movie.  Stare aimlessly into space dreaming up new ice cream flavors. Anything.

Expectations.  I look at them.  I manage my life against them.  They are the bane of me.  The ruiner of things.  A destroyer of hope.  When we plan out our lives in accordance to some lofty expectations, we will not only likely be disappointed and regretful, it’s almost guaranteed to be so.  We will constantly look back and think what if and why me and the dreaded “but this is not the way I had it planned.”  Of course it’s not the way you had it planned.  Who plans disaster and divorce and cancer and death?  Who plans to make ugly sugar cookies or burn toast?

Maybe it starts in childhood.  If you have a good one, you want to repeat it.  If you have a bad one, you want to replace it.  You have a certain map in your mind that lays out the future of your life, and when it goes off course you can either learn to correct it or just sit and cry. Many times you course correct.  You think of yourself as brave and clever and keep going new directions.  Until one day you hit your limit of turns. So you sit and cry, for no other reason except you are so damn tired.  Changing things takes a lot of work, especially with a brain like mine that sees things in predictable chapters.

I was practically born in church. The comfort of hymns and carols and preachers saying things is strangely calming to me.  It brings back memories of my mother stroking my hair in the church pew.  It brings back nights of my youth running around the halls and playing games.  And it brings back the peace of Christ when all else failed. Some people don’t see this.  To them, God is the keeper of a far-away and elitist circle that has power and influence, and if you aren’t inside of it, you’re out of it. I suppose I am inside of this circle and can’t see it, how the collective people of believers may come across to those on the outside.  But when people close to me see my faith as foreign, it’s hard.

I was practically born a lawyer.  I knew from a young age I would plow forward to law school, form arguments, write things.  When I was in college people sometimes asked if I thought of music as a career and I’d say “oh no, not me.  I’m going to be a litigator and go to trial and #winthings and #beatpeople and #stealtheshow.”  Although I didn’t say it that way.  But power and winning is intoxicating.  Today, I’m a transactional lawyer and my goal now is not to win but to simply solve my client’s problems.  I’ve learned after all these years that stealing the show is simply living in the background sometimes, doing the right thing, consistently. A win for the client can be at your expense if necessary, and compromise really is the way life works.  If I could only see how the real world worked back then in law school, the way honor and ethics and being true to your word is the only win that matters.

And I was born a control freak.  As a child, I’d tell my sister what to do.  I’d tell my mother how I thought things should go. I actually told my piano teacher enough already with Beethoven and perhaps we could work on composition rather than just playing things other people composed.  That was the day my mother quit spending her hard-earned teacher salary on piano lessons. But the fact is, I do know the way to line a sugar cookie and flood the icing.  I do know how to write a brief to make it compelling and persuasive. I do know how to make a wonderful crock of split pea soup with ham.  And I know what is best for all the children of the world that belong to all people all of the time.  Or I don’t.  After living these years, I can say with certainty that my way isn’t the only valid way.  I can see how my controlling tendencies can be misunderstood and misinterpreted, and just flat-out wrong sometimes.  And for someone into #winning and #nailingit and #lawyering and #prettysugarcookies, it is hard to be wrong and to be flexible and to admit that I don’t have all the answers.  It’s not just hard, it’s exhausting.

So today I look at expectations and say to them, “I give in.”  I cannot keep up with you.  I don’t have the perfect situation and the perfect life and the perfect body and the perfect image of what I expected.  Because expectations mean that we feel we are in charge.  We are not.  We are one hundred percent without a shred of doubt not in charge of what happens around us in this crazy life. Thank heavens.  We’d probably screw it up even worse.

I have a very good life with so many wonderful things.  And so do you.  What I have learned is that out of the most barren fields, sprouts can grow. Out of the most unexpected of places, a child was born to save the world.  Out of the most confusing of pathways, Jesus came.  Out of a family that is different than I expected, a career that looks different now than it did back then, a life more adjustable than I ever imagined, and more life twists than a pretzel, here I am. Standing up.  Moving forward.  Living.

Sometimes you just have to let it all go, the image of things, and look at what’s in front of you.  Maybe it’s a huge turd or a diagnosis or crying that never seems to end.  Step over the turd.  Acknowledge that you have this sickness and get the best help you can.  Let go of the anger.  Tell people you are trying out for a new play and you are trying to get the crying scene down. You are #noquitter.  Embrace the turns, because it’s the only life you get.  If you don’t keep moving with the pathways, you run face-first into a tree.  And then, no one will be eating your beautiful sugar cookies because you’ll have oak-print on your face spitting acorns out of your mouth and can’t make it to the kitchen.

So cry until you’re done and then stop it already.  Get up, wipe your face, and stick a smile on it.  After all, ugly cookies are still cookies. They are from the heart.  Your kids gleefully dump sprinkles on them.  Nobody I know hates cookies.  Whether it’s grief or Lyme’s or cancer or divorce, you can do this.  One step, one left turn, one day at a time. Let go of your bullshit expectations.  To me, that’s really the definition of #nailingit. One cookie, one foot, one turn at a time.

photo:

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From Shootings to Starbucks: Overcoming Evil Starts with Us

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Do not tell me it’s only a mental health problem when people shoot up churches and country music crowds like it is a video game series.

Do not tell me you’re shocked at our current headlines when you see movies where people’s heads explode like fireworks and all the television on all the stations glorify crime and violence and anger and greed and revenge. It’s funny when, in The Kingsman, all the people die. I mean, after all, it’s a cute guy who happens to be in the secret service, avoids the bullets, and has sex in the end.  Pass the popcorn.

But we are what we consume and what we eat and what we soak up like sponges.  We are not driven to madness, as these shooters are, but we are part of the problem.  To distance yourself, to put up a shield and do nothing about it, only exacerbates it.

We cannot continue to wring our hands and simply hope that love prevails. The fact is, we have to live out that love.  We have to be extravagant and diligent and roll up our sleeves and do the hard work to change our world.  After all, love is not just a feeling, but a verb. Even in the Biblical narrative, Jesus walked and healed and did actual things.  We have to stop just talking about it.

Yes, the Texas shooter was crazy.  The Vegas shooter was crazy.  They are crazy in that sane, normal people do not just shoot and kill innocent people. Insanity, after all, is when your illness is so severe that one cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, when someone can’t conduct themselves in accordance with their own will, when one lacks all impulse control or does not understand the consequences of their actions.

But if asked, I’m sure these two shooters actually were aware that the bullets they fired would, in fact, result in death.  They knew the year, and the name of the President, and the fact that they had breakfast, their birthday.  They were not the typical definition of crazy in that they were unaware of their surroundings.

More than crazy is the concept of evil, a sinister urge that runs through all of us.  Evil causes a man to beat his wife, beat a dog, hurt a child, rape a woman. Evil is the snake the slithers in the grass, that whispers to us in our darkest hours.  Go ahead and hit her.  Give in to the rage.  Show him who’s boss.  Get your guns and blow their fucking brains off. You know you want to.

And just perhaps, if we’re honest, to a lesser degree, we’ve all been there.  Perhaps it provides a moment of satisfaction when the act is done.  It’s the revenge that gives Clint Eastwood all the good lines.  Puts the high school cheerleader in her place.  But it is the classic double-edged sword, because when you make a deal with the devil you’re the one who loses.  It’s not Hollywood.  It’s someone’s grandmother that got shot, blood seeping out like tears.

This is not an urge that manifests overnight.  It’s a slow burn from off-white to grey to pitch black, born over years of abuse and torment and the feeling that one is utterly and hopelessly alone.

Enough.

This country has more gun violence than any other country.  And yet we are the richest, the most advanced, the most prosperous, dare I say the most beautiful.  And yet we’ve allowed this pulse of evil to grow stronger, richer, more desirable.  We underfund mental health care, and we make people feel stupid or weak if they need to be on medication or go to therapy.  We glorify violence, we endure molestation in the church, and men simply aren’t allowed to cry. We have grown to a place where our women must stand up stronger, bolder, fiercer.  We are no longer protected and we must learn to protect ourselves.

So do we have a mental health crisis in this country? Yes. Can angry fellows can simply obtain a semi-automatic rifle and shoot people if they get mad enough, which unnecessarily magnifies the damage from their rage? Apparently.  But make no mistake – we also have a crisis of evil.

We have to be the change. It’s not going to happen from the top down.  We can’t rely on our current administration or government or church hierarchy. It starts with us. We vote. We can be kind. We can ensure better lives for our children.  We can reach out to someone who is struggling and simply be extravagant with our kindness.  Love the unlovable.  The invisible. The untouchable. Be absolutely fearless in our generosity of heart.  And yes, we can take tangible steps to limit the access to weapons that can fire on multiple people simultaneously.  We can do this with our collective voices.

Would that help change the heart of an angry white guy in Texas? Would that reverse what happened? No.  Those lives are gone.  But future men and women, mothers and fathers, janitors and presidents and teachers and lawyers – they are just toddlers, full of heart and hope, full of smiles and jars of smashed peas.  We owe it to them to take the lever, the big one that is life that we have to hold with both hands that measures good and evil, and pull with all our might toward good.

Sit with your family and think of how you can send an anonymous package to someone in your neighborhood.  How you can help someone who is feeling lost.  Invite someone to eat with you that you wouldn’t normally talk to. Look around and think of how to be active in love.  Can you afford Starbucks? Then pay for the person behind you in line.  Can you carve out an hour of your week? Volunteer.

It starts with us.  All of our lives depend on it.  We as a nation, as a people, should accept nothing less.

 

photo:

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An Open Letter to Humanity {about humor and prayer}

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Dear Humanity,

Have you heard the stories about how good friends or spouses can sit in silence and never say a word?  I say it’s because they are boring stiffs, but others say it’s because their peace and love for each other is so vast and their comfort with being still is so strong there is no need for words.

I’m not one of those people. 

I’m a person who fills up empty spaces.  I talk about the wild feelings of middle age and I comment on the way cars look as they whiz by on the highway.  I ask questions and I’m not one to just sit silently with my hands folded.  Being a writer means being a storyteller and one who notices little things.  And being a lawyer means you think of alternate arguments and put together thoughts in your mind in logical patterns.  My best friends may even motion to their spouse when they are on the phone with me something like “here she goes again” or write on a sticky note “it’s Amanda on the line so I’ll see you at Christmas.” There may be some eye rolling and “oh no! I’m late for the dentist!” when in fact they are just tired of hearing me talk.  I get this.  When I start, I really get going. But being creative means that I paint with words and phrases and sound. Basically, I’m not built for silence.

So it’s odd that lately, I’ve been silent.  Silent in this house, thinking. Silent about some true thoughts and silent about some opinions on things.  I’ve been drinking coffee and drinking wine and drinking in all the silence.  I use humor to mask things, to play with things, to connect with people while I’m doing the hard work of silence.  Sometimes, humor is the only thing that works to relieve the pressure, to laugh with each other, to find common ground.  It’s the only words that come out.  Please understand that it’s a lifeline for me, and an important part of who I am.

We desperately need common ground on which we can walk forward.  We are growing so polarized that I can only seem to find humor as a talking point.  It’s the light that seems to shine through the rubble, a brightness through the fog.  This is why humor, to me, is so powerful, and why I use it as a means to survive.  It’s why as the world grows dimmer the humor grows darker, but it still works.

I haven’t talked to God in a while.  I have assumed he’s cool with it, giving me space as one does with an unruly teenager.  I’ve been overwhelmed with all the tragedy and loss and sadness in our world.  Honestly, I don’t know what to say.  It feels so disingenuous to say “I’ll pray for you,” when what I really am thinking is simply “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry you are facing this death, this fire, this flood, this loss.  I am so terribly sorry you have cancer. Sometimes I get the reference in the Bible, about how people fell to their knees and tore their clothes, a sign of being overwhelmed by all the sadness.  Although I am not going to tear at my Burberry coat, no matter how much you throw at me.  Even I have limits.  And yet despite this, I am concurrently very happy with my life.  I am married to an amazing man, I have strong and healthy children, I live in a wonderful community. It’s an odd dichotomy.

I’m in a few prayer groups.  I say the prayers that I have committed to saying, but my heart hasn’t been in it.  I care about people.  It’s just that I haven’t felt that these prayers are making any difference.   I’ve just been looking down onto my own world, doing my own thing, hiding. I think part of it is simply guilt.  Guilt that I have so much, have been blessed with abundance, guilt that I am happy while others are not. I don’t deserve this husband or these children or this home or this life.  And yet that is not what God wants for us, to throw away the blessings we have been given.  To feel guilty about happiness.

So my prayer life has also been silent.  Because I haven’t had the right words to say.  When our President says “my prayers are with you” my blood boils.  What do these words mean, from an unrighteous man? Go back to the tanning bed, 45.  Your prayers are empty and meaningless.

It’s not the words we say that make some great difference in the world. Whether it’s a set of lyrics or a Dr. Seuss poem or a Shakespeare play, they are all just letters strewn together. They can all be typed and burned with a match and tossed in the garbage. This very blog will be forgotten, lost in internet space, years from now failed to be maintained.  No one will read these words a generation from now.

Words themselves have little power. What is powerful is the interaction between us and God, the portal to God himself, whereby you can humbly submit yourself before God and boldly, bravely, confidently ask for direction, healing, hope, strength.  Using words is the means to this end, and is what we refer to as prayer. It’s really just about talking to God.  The Bible instructs us that God listens to our hearts, our words, our guttural cries.  He hears even the smallest, throatiest, dumbest sounding words.  As you hear the words of your children when they say “I love you” or “you’re the best” or “I farted.” Thanks a lot, kiddo.  At least you could have given me some advance warning.

This Weinstein story has made me abundantly sad. There are stories like this every day that should no longer surprise us. But for some reason this particular story of yet another predator against young girls broke my heart.  Because it brings up images of young women, my own daughters, injured and broken, scrubbing their skin until it’s raw in order to feel clean.  Images of girls feeling used and dirty, when they are instead wonderful and pure, filled my head.  You women are beautiful in all ways.  Can’t you see?  It’s a world of broken things, and I am standing in the rubble.  Mostly pissed off because no one seems to be cleaning it up.

But last night in the shower I allowed myself to form words to God.  To ask God to forgive me, to forgive our nation, to forgive all the terrible things.  Also, despite me being in the shower for a very long time, I didn’t shave, because I feel that being filled with the awesomeness of God is a solid excuse for the new husband so I should get a pass.

I did feel a bit strange praying for women en masse, without each of them being named, but I did it anyway.  I figured God could sort it out.  So I prayed for all the women who were violated, hurt, felt less than.  I prayed that they would rise up today and feel whole, healed, loved.  I prayed for our nation and its people.  I am just one person, talking to God about an entire group of other women.  How does this help?  And yet are these women, every single one of them, not worth fighting for? They are.  That is what I felt as I prayed.  That God holds them all in his precious hands.  As if he was saying “I hear you, girl.  I hear every word that you speak. Even the sarcastic ones.”

Humor as a connection between people is powerful.  Prayer as a means of connection to God is even more powerful.  Prayer allows us to put others ahead of ourselves and see ourselves as we are –  broken, dependent, and sinful.  People who need grace and forgiveness.  People who need to stop using social media to cut each other down, but find a way to building bridges between each other, in order to find peace.  If you need a release, find humor.  If you need a lifeline, find God.

Will you pray? For our nation, our women, our hearts?  And will you please stop saying “I’ll pray for you” as an empty platitude?  Because, like crop tops and hashtags and everything Taylor Swift, I’m kinda over it.

Most sincerely yours,

Amanda

 

photo:

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Battle of the Sexes: A movie review

You guys know that I like to write funny things.  I like to write heartfelt things about love and God and butterflies. Okay maybe butterflies are a bit dull.  I rarely get on a soapbox.  But today, I feel like delving into something that I just can’t shake.

Last night I watched “Battle of the Sexes.”  I took my 14-year-old bonus daughter.  I am all about women’s empowerment, showcasing how a woman in a man’s world broke barriers and succeeded. I am a lawyer, and have had to face my own gender barriers working my way up the ladder.  I understand the frustration of being paid less, considered less, working harder and under-appreciated.  And I love tennis.  I was prepared to watch Billy Jean kick ass and take names.

And as an aside, although I am a heterosexual woman, I do understand that people are attracted to different people than I am, and in the era of the 1970’s it was not as understood or accepted to be gay.  I can understand and have sympathy for how hard it would be to live in an era where you feel misunderstood and unaccepted, ridiculed for being who you are.

But what I saw in this movie was not just a lesson in women’s empowerment, or how hard women before us worked for equal rights.  What I saw was an attempt by screenwriters/directors/producers to show that infidelity is sometimes, under the right circumstances, when someone is “living their truth,” – okay.  If it’s following your heart and if it’s simply because society won’t accept the person you truly love, we can all just wink and say that it’s fine.  Because love wins.  Our hearts want what they want.  It’s sexy to see illicit and almost irresistible love scenes.

I refuse to accept this narrative. 

The fact is, infidelity is never okay. Despite the excuses and circumstances. Despite the fluttering of the heart. The commitment of marriage is more than just paper. It means something.  There are times marriages end, and new relationships can blossom after that first joining of the flesh has healed.  They can start on solid footing, rooted in shared experience and commitment to each other.  But when a relationship starts in secrecy and lies, usually no good will come about as a result. Why is this lesson not revealed? Are people to experience the hard truth in real life but watch how different it turns out in an imaginary screenplay?

It pained me to see Billy Jean make feeble excuses of “this feels wrong” and “what would my husband think” and then give in to her own desires.  I get that affairs happen, and people make mistakes.  We are all sinful human beings and make some terrible mistakes. But instead of using this narrative, that we are all flawed and have to live with consequences of our own actions, or even showcasing the fallout due to these actions, it was almost glorified.  In real life, kids are hurt.  Hearts are damaged.  Trust is broken.  Baggage is created.  Drinking ensues.  The fact that Billy Jean was having feelings for a woman somehow made this action justified.  It’s not an affair if it’s a woman loving another woman.  Her clothing designer, clearly gay, was basically saying “hang on – someday we will be able to love who we want” and everyone seemed to cover for her as she carried on this extra-marital love affair with the person she was not married to.  And when her lover returned in the end after a short hiatus, it was a romantic gesture.

This is not about gender for me.  It was about how a story is portraying an affair to be acceptable.  How Billy Jean repeated that “her husband was a good man.” And yet she continued to make decisions that hurt him, over and over again. I would be equally as uncomfortable if she had an affair with a man.  Betrayal on any level is simply hard for me to watch.

At one point in the movie, her husband showed up unexpectedly.  The clothing designer gives her a heads up, but her husband discovered what was happening regardless.  This blond, nice-looking, affable man was almost a heroic, angelic figure that didn’t get upset, wasn’t heartbroken, wanted her to still be successful, and at the end smiled at Billy Jean’s lover as if it was all okay.  When Billy Jean was sick, he even offered to call the lover in to make her feel better. He was like an emotionless Ken doll that just smiled through it all as if it were nothing. He continued to stand by Billy’s side, believing in her, standing by her, as if this was just a minor distraction. Not once did he raise his voice, act hurt, scream or yell, act heartbroken.  Despite one scene where he hung his head as he walked out of the room, no major problems resulted.  And at the end of the movie before the credits rolled, it showcased how Billy Jean divorced her husband, married a woman, and everyone was happy. From what it seemed, especially because the movie-goers don’t know that much about Billy Jean in real life, you just assumed she married the woman she had an affair with. It indicated her husband remarried and had a family, Billy Jean was the godmother, and all ended up well.

Billy Jean won the match!  She found true love! Everyone cheered! And the bowl of popcorn was empty.

In real life, away from the allure of Hollywood, affairs rip apart families and marriages.  They tear at people’s egos and self-confidence. They can emasculate and wound.  There is therapy and tears and a complete re-building of the spirit.  This is not an action born from love, but born from selfishness. In real life, the woman that Billy Jean King was with filed a lawsuit over what she considered lost profits, and it publicly outed King as gay, which caused King to lose a massive amount of money in endorsements.  This woman who, in the movie was supportive and “only wanted the best for Billy Jean,” sued King to try and get half her estate, argued she devoted her life to King’s career and got nothing in return.  This was not the beautiful end that the movie displayed.  And the woman that Billy Jean ended up with permanently was not the woman she had an affair with, although that’s the way it appeared in the movie.

I firmly believe that a relationship rooted in secrecy and lies never has the foundation to create a life-giving and stable relationship long term.  It matters not to me if it’s a woman or man, what matters is that the choice was made over and over to ignore vows, eviscerate trust, and continue to disrespect the man she promised to love and honor and obey until death.

Sometimes people make hard decisions, like not walking down a path they might have chosen under different circumstances.  Because making good decisions is not always easy. But it’s necessary to teach our children to stay true to commitments, not believe the lies that Hollywood is telling us about blindly following what we feel at the time to be good.

Despite this, my 14-year-old bonus daughter loved the movie, found it empowering and uplifting, and left with a bounce in her step.

We were quiet as we walked to the car. But I couldn’t sit there and say nothing.  I expressed my pain for the infidelity, the secrets, the allure of what in the movie seems good but in real life can be horrific. I also expressed how being a feminist does not mean men are evil, or that all men are like the men in this movie, and how her father is an amazing feminist and supporter of equal rights and that’s one of many reasons I love him.  And there are times when in fact I defer to him as the head of the family, and this isn’t always wrong in a healthy supportive relationship.  She said nothing in return.  I don’t know if my words had any effect.  I felt like I was just babbling.

There were some good moments in the movie about women being brave and standing up for equality.  Stick it to the man who think’s you’re a pig.  I’m a woman, after all.  But, the infidelity, in my mind, overshadowed this. And for this I was sad.  As a woman, as a professional, as a human being who has seen the pain of this issue.  We have to live in this world, but we don’t have to be hoodwinked by it.  We have an obligation to set the record straight when we see something as clearly off-based and off-kilter as this.

I’m glad women like Billy Jean King fought for equal rights for all of us.  And I think people love who they love, and can have very healthy and strong relationships with anyone they choose if they start off in truth and dignity.  But I’m not glad when films glorify relationships based upon secrecy.  What is in the dark will always at some point find the light, and when it does it can rip apart and ruin lives, souls, and relationships.  This is truth, not a movie script.  In real life, it doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Right now I am on a plane

Right now I am on a plane, headed to the rich crust of scenery that is Northern California, seated next to a handsome middle-aged man who is reading the paper. There is nothing abnormal about a nice-looking man reading the paper on an airplane. But I’m struck by the ring on his left hand, just wrapped around his finger like it’s nothing. He is nonchalantly reading an article about Britain’s gambling problem and there is a large photograph of a woman wearing a leather sport blazer from Saks Fifth Avenue. It is an odd blazer because it looks like it’s a letter jacket from our high school days, but it’s covered in fur and the woman looks like this is all perfectly natural. Like she needs to eat something and if she just casually models this jacket by a famous designer she’ll get thrown a crust of bread, so she does this one last thing to survive.

And now you think I’m just staring at the paper and this man’s ring and the advertisements from Saks Fifth Avenue, which may seem strange because that is what I’m doing, but not all at one time but instead in short little bursts. Because I am stealth like a spy or federal agent or a woman in love.

I am also watching a little girl, no more than 3 years old, a few rows ahead. She’s sitting on her father’s lap facing backward with little round puffy cheeks that make you want to squeeze them or nip at them or plant little wet kisses on them. There is something about children and puppies that makes us want to do this. She’s eating pretzels and looking around the cabin, because children have the unique ability to enjoy the moment, and right then she was likely tasting the salt in her mouth and watching things just for the sheer joy of doing it. She wasn’t at all worried about landing or what is for dinner or whether she needs to wash her hair. I love children for this sense of presence about them.

Sitting in a plane is an exercise in patience for me, since I don’t like to sit for long periods and I always wonder what people are thinking.   All these brains wrapped up in all these bodies with thoughts firing off in all directions. If I could only see the thoughts like lasers shooting from their minds, it would be like a spy novel where the hero navigates the maze of it all while descending down toward the coveted diamond. I could dodge the red lines all the way to the bathroom in front of the aircraft, maybe even doing a flip or turn in the process.  And yet it’s all trapped and locked up inside of people so they just sit and read and watch football games on their laptops like they are empty.

But people are not empty. It’s just that they must sit and wait until the ride is over.   They can’t exactly jump out the window or nuisance everyone by dying so we all just sit and wait, noshing on pretzels and sipping on sparkling water with lime.

I steal glances at this man beside me, casually wearing a band on his finger, and I am still caught up in a haze. The type of haze after surgery when they give you pain medication and it just washes through you and you think life is good again and you have a strong urge for chocolate pudding. Except I’ve not just had surgery which makes all things better because I can walk around and buy books in the airport and stretch my legs without searing pain. I still want chocolate pudding sometimes, even though that’s juvenile.

I may someday grow weary and my mind may drift and I will be demented, confused about lifting a spoon to my mouth. So I try and sear certain things into my mind so I will not forget them. Like the moment my daughter looked at me when she was six months old, in her pink pajamas with rabbits on them, and I thought “my God she’s talking to me without using any words.” I cried and cried and thought I could never be more happy. I sewed that fabric into a quilt and I touch it sometimes, because of the power it holds. And there’s the moment when my son chewed up a little book and his face was beaming with pride, his hair thick and blond and curly. And the day I first met Mark and we ate at ABC Kitchen in New York City, amidst the sparkling candles and love bubbles that form in one’s stomach upon meeting the person they will someday marry.

All of these scenes will likely pass by someday before I die in a montage of life moments, the pink pajamas and the chewed-up book and Mark’s face, lost in space and time, trapped in a brain full of lasers, boucing around.

Today is one of those moments, looking at this man on a plane reading the paper with a wedding ring on, the ring I slid onto his finger less than two days ago, clutching my mother’s antique lace handkerchief covered in snot.  And it is commonplace to see now, as if it were always meant to be there. And maybe it is, this love, this life, this everyday moment. It was meant to be like this, as I will remember it, one of many things sewn upon my heart.

Right now I am on a plane, off to my honeymoon, off to new adventures, off to anywhere, really.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m with him, the man reading the paper with a ring on his finger.  The life I joined.  The life that sits beside me and within me.  I am just sitting here with laser beams bouncing around in my brain, noshing on pretzels and sipping on sparkling water with lime.

Bumper Sticker Brilliance

 

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Yesterday I saw a truck emblazoned with the marker “1794 edition.” Since cars were a twinkle in Mr. Benz’ eyes up until the 1880s, this seemed strange to me. In 1794, Frenchmen were being executed in a large-scale revolution.  There was a whiskey tax revolt in America.  Eli Whitney got a patent on the cotton gin.  What does this have to do with a truck that uses 15 miles per gallon? I read something about the manufacturing plant being on land that dated back a long time. But that’s dumb.  I instead imagine this truck comes with a cotton t-shirt, a glove-box full of Jack Daniels, and maybe the navigation screams at you in French.

And then just today I saw a bumper sticker that read “God, Guns, and Guts” followed by “Make America Free!” and “Let’s fight to preserve all three!”

Finally, something I agree with.  I, for one, love guts.  I think our guts are not as celebrated as they should be.  Did you know the length of the small intestine is about twenty feet long? What breathtaking biology!

I mean, I’m no fool.  I get it that they are trying to find a short word that start with a G. Because duh, God and Guns. What adorable alliteration.  But what about Goats? I like me a good cabrito kabob. Or Grapes? A double whammy because they are used to make wine AND chocolate-covered raisins. And let’s not forget Goop.  Without Gwyneth, how would we even know to flush our vaginas with lavender? WE WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW.

But guts is better.  It really is.

Did you know the GI system is the only organ system that can act independently of the brain? Your gut has its own nervous system. And there is the Vagus Nerve located in your gut that carries information straight to your brain, meaning gut symbols can be taken as emotions, so maybe trusting your gut is a thing? The other day our pediatrician told my kids at their back-to-school checks that while the small intestine gets your food all chopped up and stripped of nutrients, the large intestine steals all the last remaining water, squeezes it tight, and turns your food into poop. Ha ha! Poop! My seven-year old laughed.

So when you think of things that we need to preserve and keep free, GUTS does come to mind.  We don’t want any restrictions, limitations, or laws negatively affecting this vital part of us.  Keep it free! Let’s fight to preserve it at all costs! When I think of things important to me, naturally my guns are first. And God.  But then? FOR SURE IT’S GUTS.  [I mean maaaaaybe I’d have chosen grapes, depending on the day?]

I think in 1794, they would probably have said the exact same thing.

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/ajc1/3450471254/in/photolist-6fUyTG-qYhVLq-dVsf7N-dCLNAa-cbWJod-7SdhxH-bVJmzZ-cd6Ddh-9B1tBY-cd6D4W-cd6BA9-6nFPMx-Vs3vCs-dwjJGu-aGuv9B-bVJnBa-bVJmKv-avLggM-bVJkKa-a5PP7T-dVmDG6-b5Prxe-gnHTG-dCz2ph-d6vuAS-6q3ARL-cd6DDY-bVJo7M-HfYE2-bVJjtt-cd6ATj-cd6Ei3-bVJoev-dLuEJV-cd6AFN-cd6DKw-6nj6M2-Vs3vTs-bVJnWX-cd6AvA-dCtAa8-WKAkbC-U9TVxE-cd6Bk5-gcwMHa-cd6BMU-4UXrwr-cgwj3Q-9MLvj5-f592V

Antique Apathy

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I sat in church and was agitated.  I fiddled with my skirt.  I twirled my ring around in circles.  I looked out the window to the outside world, brimming with birds, the slow wave of oak tree branches, cars parked in the Texas sun.  I longed to be there instead of here.  I waited for the next time we stood up as a congregation, and I whispered to Mark, seated next to me.  Let’s get outta here. It was something about the choir robes, the way the scripture was read, the way everyone seemed so homogenous.  It seemed sterile, as if the very grit of life and reality of our very selves was missing, and I was sinking in a whitewashed hole.

Get me outta here, where I can feel the heat prickle my skin and know that I’m fully alive.

And yet in a sudden departure from routine, we were encouraged to sit instead of stand as we sang that week, much to my disappointment.  It was as if God was giving me the stink eye, which my mother used to do when we were kids and made too much racket during the service.  There was never a prime opportunity to leave, so we stayed.

I was bored.  That’s the simple truth.  I’ve heard these hymns.  I know these prayers, these verses, these sermons.  Even the very parables of Jesus are so familiar I’m like “Yes yes let’s grow seeds in the fertile soil. Excellent reminder.  Also, let’s stop by the grocery store and have roast pork for dinner and I wonder if I can find an antique door for our bathroom at a garage sale.” Perhaps I’m the very epitome of the lesson – the one who lets the worries of this world overtake her, and fails to relish in the delights of being fully loved.  I get it.  But I’m still so seriously bored. And an antique door would be nice. Maybe I’ll paint it white and rub it off to look weathered. And if you haven’t made a pork marinade with strong coffee and molasses, we need to talk.

So one thing about my past you may not know is that I’ve been raised on a steady diet of music.  I’ve taken it seriously.  I trained and practiced.  I went to an excellent college with a music department to be rivaled.  We toured and we sang, we hit overtones with our straight tone and kicked ass with our bellowing vibrato.  Every day at noon for four solid years we’d gather, and work hard, and kick ourselves if we made mistakes. It’s been a passion of mine my entire life. I don’t sing much anymore, but I happen to have one of those voices that sounds, well, choral.  It’s large and operatic, and sometimes even bluesy in the right settings.  So oftentimes in church, people turn around and tell me I have a lovely voice.  I’m always appreciative of these comments.

But that day, I felt terribly guilty.  For after my hardened heart made it an entire hour – which is something I can so naturally flit away at home watching mindless television but then seemed like an entire day’s rationing of time, a woman did just this.  She turned, and told me how beautiful my voice was, and I was racked with guilt.

All I wanted to do was leave this place – this house of God, this place of worship.  I wanted to run free from its oppressive air and seemingly stuffy people.  Did they know the hurt of life? Did this crowd live out a daily walk of love, with their own neighbors, or do they come here to say the right things and check off all the boxes? Is anyone here below the poverty line, or know the sting of being the outcast, with a different skin or language or heritage? I’m clearly very sanctimonious and can appropriately make these judgment calls about other people. I got my priest pin the other day in the mail (Amazon Prime! It’s real gold!).

So after my stinging judgment about my church compatriots, who did nothing to deserve my inner lecture, and my derailing thoughts of antique doors, a woman turned around to say something complimentary about my voice.  It made my heart fall.  Not because I thought her comments were necessarily true – she was like 90 and my voice was undoubtedly flat – but it brought to the forefront the darkness of my own heart.

My, how we as a people still resemble the Israelites, who after leaving the horrific slavery of Egypt wandered about in the desert, not knowing when Moses would return from the mountain, and begged Aaron to give them gods.  Something they could touch and feel and see.  Something that would give them hope again, and inspire something inside them.  Something interesting they could carve out of gold. They were bored, for heavens sakes, and tired of the old familiar lessons.

And yet Moses interceded.  God forgave.  The love between a God and his people was not forever interrupted by their lack of appreciation or hardened hearts.  There is always mercy. There is a constant supply of grace for our restless spirits.  There is an awakening, sometimes in the oddest of ways, to remind us of such.

So today, in the silence of my bedroom, I sang.  An old hymn that I love, that I’ve sung so many times before.  But it brought about new life.  My voice was in no way beautiful.  It squeaked out the tune and my voice cracked, because the tears streamed down.  Because I am not worthy of such benevolent and overwhelming forgiveness. And yet it’s offered, every day, the bread and the wine forever ours for the taking.

I am grateful for this type of love. It is ancient as the hills, and yet as new as the morning.

Be Thou my Vision

(an old Irish hymn from the 6th century, translated to English in 1912)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

—-

photo credit:

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Summer Camps for Today’s Youth

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Ah, summer.  The time of year when our kids, depleted from an arduous school term, are ready for some relaxation.  After all, school is hard, with all those crust-less sandwiches, pressed smocks, French horn practices, and engaging philosophical discussions.  I get it how students just need a break from it all.

But summer can lead to boredom and melancholy.  Yes, yes, the Museum of Natural History has a mummy exhibit. There are a variety of summer concert series. But where are the camps that teach real-life skills the youth of today need to survive in this world?  After all, I worry.  There’s the numbness of the screen, unknown genders, the man-bun.  So I’ve scoured the interwebs to find more practical options.

  • All American Sports Camp. This camp is located in the heart of Texas.  The kids can drink as much soda as they can handle and just leave the cans sitting around (because who really believes in recycling, or self control for that matter). They also learn how to cuss out a referee quietly enough so that later they can deny it.  It’s operated by a fellow named Billy, who was a very solid baseball player inside the Dallas Department of Corrections intermural team. Although girls and boys are both welcome, the ladies get all emotional and weird about the robust evening discussions on how to dump a girl after homecoming. But they will learn to spit, so that’s something.
  • The Dawson Drama Camp for Youth. This camp teaches the essence of vocal projection.  Your teenagers will stand on the side of the street and scream at (1) cars driving slowly, (2) old people who waddle; and (3) small children who make screeching sounds just because they want a stupid toy.  There is also a break-out session on how to respond to cat-calling using Elizabethan English, and this year there’s a special course on combat, perfect for football players that attend that rotten sports camp in Texas. There is an add-on class on fake crying, late-night texting, and properly singing to the radio.  The last night everyone is just left to their own devices around the fire, dancing in the moonlight and howling.
  • The Camp for Future Culinary Stars. This camp is located somewhere in Nebraska nobody bothered to name.  It serves hot dogs that sit lukewarm for three days and roll around on little metal bars.  Attendees are tasked with finding and preparing recipes solely with ingredients found in a Mini-mart. There’s a midnight food run whereby all the food must be purchased with wadded-up dollar bills and loose change. Whatever dish is prepared must be void of any fruits or vegetables, which is cool since Mini-mart only has mandarin oranges in a can.  Campers must hold down the food without vomiting for a minimum of 47 minutes and have to store all the leftovers in a dorm fridge. If your child is gluten free no one gives a rat’s ass because that’s just how things work in Nebraska.
  • Nature Camp. This gem of a camp is in the heart of California.  Amidst the beautiful backdrop of orange trees, your youngster will participate in a ropes course, whereby they will probably fall and no one will catch them because that’s how life is.  Also there are long walks in the afternoon through rigorous terrain so your kid can learn how to properly do the walk of shame at 2 am while stumbling over trash cans.  That takes training.  The food is all organic, although the granola is really just crushed up Ritz crackers and raisins that were in the bottom of someone’s purse but are still completely edible and delicious so quit your whining.  There is also archery for the true adventurers, but instead of arrows campers are just encouraged to hurl insults at each other.
  • The Sunshine/Millie Art Camp. Is your little one interested in art? This camp is not located in one place, really, but loosely meets in downtown Los Angeles and is run by a woman named Sunshine, although sometimes she goes by Millie. You can recognize her by her stunning body art, especially the peacock with a bloody dagger.  Your kid will come home looking like she fell into a tackle box with all those new shiny piercings, causing endless fun at airport metal detectors.  Sometimes Sunshine/Millie doesn’t show up at all due to her meth habit so the kids have a “rock your own art day” completely unsupervised. It’s good to encourage a strong sense of independence.

So this summer, resist the urge to have your youngsters sit around and watch dull television re-runs, or complain that “Lauren got to go to Europe.”  Enroll them in a camp that will really expand their hearts and minds. After all, they already know how to play the French horn.

 

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/rotia/2669964145/in/photolist-54Wgjz-rbV9ik-9PcTXd-2HMQZ-o6Bi1M-oQKCbE-4djKY-MUboR-2TtDXw-h7bSH-vQZkD-VmGuhR-8mxtXR-7wrfMS-cuTLN5-W2AMQw-2HeAMJ-2FDMjK-73dnvb-2HV32b-9Yv68z-cwtrqj-4FerPK-8E5GUE-hZwhg3-qh4Zg5-AXVM7v-VTgVFH-VdrFrc-wPStKX-onZYuF-5iythf-jwWAV-6NdtEE-jwS13-oD9Kny-iyKPjk-TXrukH-FL4BPu-VXdp3b-5zVpCc-TMh1s6-8VTwhp-6R6wgZ-ii64MC-aEefJM-p7HJav-on9yzA-5benUk-6Bmm6i