FTW!

Sweet! A sicko ultra conservative kicked me off his FB page and removed my comments because I 

  1. Supported a comment of which he disapproved, made by an actual friend of mine,
  2. Pointed out a truth regarding the institution he was touting, and
  3. Called him out for being passive aggressive, after he had accused my comment of being passive aggressive.

I can sleep peacefully tonight. My work here is done. 

Huge risk…fingers crossed

Yesterday I did a thing. A big thing.

I auditioned for a conservatory choir at a city university. Haven’t sung in a choir for 25 years. Wasn’t exactly a pro even then.

But I did it. With the support of our Middle and her cousin, who came along to cheer me on, I auditioned in front of two grad student conductors and an accompanist. Solo on “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” vocal excercise, and pitch matching.

How did it go? Well, I didn’t embarrass myself, so I’ll call it a win. First rehearsal is Thursday evening.

Middle begged me all summer to join the choir with her. It’s the only local choir that fits into her schedule and will also take a newb like me.

I’m excited to go back to singing excellent classical music with real musicians, after all these years.  But…oh, so many worries…

What if I can’t keep up? What if I’ve forgotten everything? What if I bring down the whole choir? How will I drag myself out of our warm, cozy house for rehearsals on cold, dark, winter nights? How will I find a black, floor length gown for concerts that won’t make me look so huge I’ll be confused for the grand piano?

Then again, it will be a special project together with our darling Middle. With her 11 years of classical voice training she can coach me though the rough spots. And…oh, the exquisite joy of making beautiful music with a chorus of transported voices!

I’m scared to death. And I can’t wait.



What a difference seven years makes.

I’ve hit an enormous milestone. My baby is moving back to his college town for his final year. And I’m not along to help him move in.

This one’s up to him and his father. They left at 5:00 this morning, to beat the crowd of nearly 1000 college students all trying to move a year’s worth of stuff into the same building. Yes, he’s a senior still living in the dorms – this kid has too much sense to not take advantage of the four-year full ride he was offered, even though it means his roommates this year are – gasp! – freshmen. It wasn’t until yesterday that I discovered he also had enough sense to spring for the extra money to cover a large private room that shares only  living space and bathroom with those two freshmen. Dissemination of important information is not exactly his forte.

In the fall of 2009 we moved our Oldest 10 hours away for her first college experience. Back then, at the beginning of this long-ass college journey, the whole thing was fresh and new; exciting and terrifying; joyful and tear-filled. Her father and I and her two siblings were part of the adventure. It was a BIG DEAL.

Why is it different now?

  • Of our three, this one is the most self-sufficient and perfectly happy doing his own thing.
  • Been there, done that. Hate the move-in.
  • Five hours in the car, with heavy lifting in the late summer heat sandwiched between the two halves of the drive, simply doesn’t appeal. Especially when I’ve got to lead two make-or-break meetings tomorrow morning and need to be at work by 8:00 am.
  • I spent an awesome day with my boy yesterday. Lunch, shopping, helping him pack up, and excellent conversation, which made good fodder for a forthcoming post (Topic: more disgust over the Bible Belt mentality, which he encountered earlier this week). That time together was satisfying enough that I don’t need that move-in time. Miracle of miracles, The Boy was even sensitive enough to come into the bedroom at 4:58 this morning to give me a good-bye hug. We’re good.
  • Our Middle just finished her first week of teaching, and I feel the need to spend the day with her. She came home late yesterday afternoon with the traditional first-week-of-school virus (I had the same malady every year I taught, brought on by physical and mental exhaustion coupled with kids teeming with germs). I suspect she’ll need some TLC today.

Nine months from now, we’ll be watching the commencement ceremony of our third grad. We’ll be starting to make plans for the doctoral defense and hooding ceremony for our Oldest.

We’ve rocked this college thing. I don’t need to be there for the move-in.

Just a word of warning: Don’t check in with me later in the day, while I’m cleaning The Boy’s room to rescue it from 2 1/2 months of hard use. The tears are likely to be falling by then, and all this bravado will have gone out the window.

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One of yesterday’s activities together: The annual back-to-school car wash.

That’s life in the Bible Belt.

Dwellers therein, prepare to be offended.

Last week I spent a full day at the Kansas Leadership Center (one of the very few things Kansas gets right, mainly because it has absolutely no ties to the state government) for professional development. The topic of the day was “use of storytelling to motivate people in order to make progress on daunting challenges.” KLC is a non-profit organization, and works with people in all types of businesses, local governments, other non-profits, and faith-based institutions.

Each attendee spent the day creating, practicing, and telling stories of who we are and challenges we’ve faced. It became apparent pretty quickly that the use of story can be very powerful in situations where we want to work for change.

It also became apparent pretty quickly that the Bible Belt mentality makes me throw up in my mouth a little a lot.

In my small group of fifteen, half of the people stood up and told V-E-R-Y religious based stories. How Jesus changed my life. How I learned to trust God. How God saved me from disaster. I was there that day with a couple of my favorite colleagues. The three of us were split into separate small groups, and their experience was the same.

Note: My two colleagues and I have all worked together for the same church for many years. Director of Children’s Ministry (me), Director of Youth Ministry, and Contemporary Worship Coordinator.

When person #7 in my group sat down to applause after what was basically a fundamentalist testimony, I had a hard time joining in on the clapping. It wasn’t just that I was uncomfortable with the message. I was, quite simply, shocked by the way the exercise was being hijacked.

Interestingly, most maps I could find that depicted the. Bible Belt left Kansas out of the region. I beg to differ.

And then, I found a new best friend seated immediately to my left. During the time for comments on that particular speaker’s story, she offered this critique:

“You know, I feel I just have to say something here. I’m pretty uncomfortable with the use of faith stories in this setting. I think it’s important when using story that you consider three things. One, that in most business settings it’s entirely inappropriate to share this type of story. Two, you have no idea how such a story might affect someone in the room – some might be really turned off. Three, you can really get yourself into trouble.”

I wish I’d been brave enough to speak my mind in this way. But I’d been burned earlier in the day. I had mentioned within the small group that I rarely introduce myself to people by telling them what my full-time job is – because in this region of the country, people tend to make some assumptions about churches and church workers that are absolutely the antithesis of who I am and what I believe. When I’d dropped that statement, the chorus of crickets was deafening.

My neighbor’s comment was met with silence and blank faces, as well. At the end of that session, I thanked her for speaking up, and we had an excellent conversation.

My colleagues and I, comparing notes on the 2 1/2 hour drive home, were shocked by the direction taken in so many of the stories we heard that day.

Yes, our three jobs and our callings are all about faith. But our faith tradition comes with a couple of basic truths: #1 – There’s a time and a place for everything. Be sensitive to those around you who might be different from you. And #2 – How we live and behave is a hell of a lot more important than what we say. We choose, quite deliberately, not to sneak up on people with conversations about faith.

It’s no small thing that I work closely with people who share my beliefs and my worldview, here in the scripture-thumping Bible Belt.

And if any churches on the east coast are looking for three experienced, progressive lay employees, we’d be interested.

Good-bye # 329.


Our youngest is about to return to his college town, for his senior year. 

You’d think I’d be good at this by now. That it would be easy. That I’d be following the advice of so many callous and uncaring  empty-nester friends and celebrating. 

Nope. 

I still hate it when they go away. Good-byes after vacations. After whirlwind weekends home. At the end of the summer. It sucks every time. 

This time around it is a bit different, though. For one thing, I haven’t seen much of my dearest boy over the summer. He worked six days of each week. Went out of town repeatedly to spend time with his girlfriend. I recognize and understand that at this point in his life, I’m a whole lot more attached to him than he is to me. Of course I’m thrilled that he’s entirely self sufficient, quite mature, and extremely capable. But…ouch, nonetheless.

Making it worse is the fact that my constant companion for the entire summer, our Middle, is as “off on her own” as she’s ever been. Still living at home, yes, but working V-E-R-Y long hours, finally in her own classroom and absolutely loving her first teaching job. I’m terribly proud of her. And I miss her terribly. 

And the fact that our brilliant, fun, and always funny Oldest is still 17 hours away for the foreseeable future, only to be seen in way-too-short bursts on the big holidays. 

Tomorrow is my last day with my boy for a while. He’ll be home to pack up, but I’ve reserved his time for lunch out and a shopping trip. I’ll savor those couple of hours together. Oh, and I’ve made him promise to play a few games of cards and Bananagrams with me.

It’s true that I’ve got plenty of my own stuff going on. I’m really not as pitiful as I sound. 

But I can’t help thinking today of the whole reason I started this blog originally – trying to deal with a lonely, emptying nest. 

I said it then and I’ll say it again now: Being “Mama” is the best job I ever had. Having it mostly taken away hurts like a bitch. 

My daily newspaper will be the death of me.


Reading the good old-fashioned newspaper every morning is an important part of my daily ritual. But if the recent trend continues, I’m afraid my blood pressure is going to skyrocket to lethal levels.

  1. Leonard Pitts is one of my favorite columnists. He’s an excellent voice against racism, one that’s sorely needed in this country. But for the last couple of weeks I’ve been fuming over a comment he made in his coverage of the Democratic National Convention: “the only thing standing between us and the apocalypse that is Donald Trump is a grandmother in pantsuits.” (If you don’t see the sexism in that comment, probably you should move along to the next blog.) So when I saw his column today that seemed to be apologizing for the earlier words, I was sorely disappointed. His assessment of the many complaints from both male and female readers? “While I appreciate my critics’ sensitivities, I think they’re misplaced. It was a joke, not meant as a serious assessment of Clinton.”  Meaning he TOTALLY MISSED THE POINT. If you can brush off concern by saying “it’s a joke,” you are absolutely guilty of ignoring unconscious bias. There were plenty of hideous trolls in the last eight years who depicted President Obama as a monkey – a clear racial slur. Surely Mr. Pitts would not let them off with the comment, “it’s a joke!”
  2. I recently wrote to a local news writer about another instance of unconscious bias against females in his summary of Mrs. Clinton’s speech at the DNC. Trying to soothe my blood pressure, I explained to him that saying “Clinton has a problem with raising her voice when speaking to large crowds” was entirely sexist. Almost every single speaker, male and female, at both conventions, shouted in to the microphone. Seriously not okay to call out the first female candidate for president by a major party for something almost every male did, as well.
  3. BAD REPORTING!!!! Last week after our state primary elections, in which a significant number of extremist incumbents were voted out, our local paper did a brief rundown of both candidates in every contested race. The reporter mistakenly stated that one of the incumbents was a former police officer. WRONG. I happen to know the candidate in question, and a slimier scumball was never sent to our legislature. For the past six year he advertised himself as having “formerly worked in law enforcement.” Obviously his intent was to make voters believe he’d been a brave police officer. Nope. He was a junior college campus security guard. It’s a perfectly legitimate job. But he consistently tried to mislead the public, and this lame reporter fell for it.

Maybe I should take a break from the morning paper?

Or maybe maybe male journalists should check their privilege and reporters in general should check their facts.

Major OMG moment. 

On Thursday I read an article on Facebook by National Public Radio. It was about Trump and Clinton, specifically about members of their own parties who were breaking party and supporting the other candidate. I’m kicking myself now that I can’t remember the exact title of the article, but it was along the lines of “Democrats Defecting to Trump and Republicans Defecting to Clinton.”

I read the article, and quickly noticed that while there were EIGHT examples of prominent Republicans recently declaring support for Hillary Clinton, the reporter had come up with only ONE example of a Democrat supporting Trump. And that guy is a long-time Obama critic who spoke at the RNC. I can’t imagine why he calls himself a Democrat.

The title of the article (and the content of the article itself) were a perfect example of “false equivalence.” This term refers to a poor reporting tactic in which journalists, in an attempt to appear unbiased, look for a negative about one side of an issue to compare to a negative about the other side. It’s something I’ve been seeing more and more recently, especially in regards to the presidential election coverage. In this case it was glaringly obvious that one side had a huge negative while the negative for the other side had truly been scraped up out of nearly nothing.

So I called it out in the “comments” section.

And a couple of hours later, THERE WAS A REPLY FROM NPR TO MY COMMENT!

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I was kind of ridiculously excited.

In case you’re interested, here’s the link to the article, with its new title:

Honestly, I think the bad reporting in the body of the article was a bigger problem than the title. But I made a little bit of a dent.

Wow. Brush with greatness.

Life lesson in an unlikely place.

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Looming on my to-do list today was “get a haircut.” I r-e-a-l-l-y don’t like getting my hair cut, but my thick, wavy mane was starting to resemble a fat tumbleweed. No choice. Haircut on my day off.

Hair is so low on my list of priorities that I quit going to an expensive salon years ago (finances had a part in that decision, too). Now I just make a quick dash to the nearest Great Clips every three month or so and hope for the best. It’s kind of like the WalMart of hair care. Cheap, and you kind of get what you pay for. Generally a decent cut, but generally given by surly employees with “interesting” life stories.

Today I got to the Great Clips door about three minutes before they opened (one of my tricks – get in line first so you don’t have to wait and you can get the hell out of there, go home, and recuperate). There were stylists inside getting ready, so I stood outside and glanced at Facebook on my phone. At 9:00 on the dot, one of the women unlocked the door but didn’t open it and greet me, turned on her heel, and walked away.

“Okay,” I thought. “Kind of a crappy business model.”

And I stopped myself right there. It hit me that I had two choices. I could be rude and unpleasant right back. Or I could make the assumption that this was someone with a lot on her mind, have some empathy, and see what happened.

The ugliness of the national discourse over the last few years, and especially in 2016, has been weighing on me. It helped me make up my mind. I was going with empathy.

This same woman directed me to a chair, asked what I was wanting today, and got started without a word. “Go for it,” I told myself. So I took a leap and related a funny story about my husband’s last experience with a hair cut.

Nothing. Silence.

But then…a couple of minutes later. She asked me if I have a job. I told her yes, but I work for a church so I have Fridays off and work on Sundays. I mentioned that it’s really nice to have a weekday off every week.

What happened for the next fifteen minutes was kind of beautiful. I learned that yesterday had been her birthday. That she’d spent the day with her grandchildren. That the month of August is hard for her because her husband killed himself on August 16 two years ago, and her son-in-law also died in August several years ago. We talked about the aftermath of suicide, about what survivors go through, how hard it is to live with a depressed person (I have 25 years of up-close-and personal experience there) and that she’s struggled with depression in herself since her husband died.

A moment. Real life. Two people with seemingly very little in common, connecting in a meaningful way.

I could have (and certainly have, in the past) gone the other way. I could so easily have made a pissy comment, sat there in silence, and fumed over her rude greeting. In truth, one of these days that’s probably what I’ll do. I know that on a bad day I can be just as unpleasant as the next guy.

But the world has enough of that kind of thing going on right now, don’t you think?

I’ll try to remember that.

This is what patriotism looks like.

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Today is our state’s primary election.

It’s absolutely vital for moderates / clear thinkers get out today and cast votes for moderates who will change the direction we’ve been headed for the last six years. Our governor and current legislators are hell-bent on rewarding their rich backers with a zero tax rate, while slashing funds for schools, roads, the poor, children, the arts, the mentally ill – anyone / anything that doesn’t personally benefit them.

Fun Fact: A disproportionately high percentage of Kansas legislators and heads of agencies home school their children/grandchildren. Their efforts to de-fund schools are clearly based on a fundamental dislike / distrust of public education.

So what does this all mean for you, who live half a continent or even half a world away?

Just a reminder that local elections are every bit as important as what’s going on nationally. Local law and policy affect us every day, and we have a responsibility to do all we can to guide it in a direction that helps people rather than harming them.

Wherever you are, get involved.

Little drops of water,
little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean
and the beauteous land.

Creature of habit.

I’ve written before about how pitifully obsessed I am with my weekly trash and recycling pickup. The idea of missing a week strikes terror in my heart.

Recently my obsession has been seriously upped by the shenanigans of our waste disposal service. Our old, local company was bought out several months ago by a national group. Since then our rates have gone up by about $50/year. They’ve missed our pickup three times. The explanation changes each time I call. Last week’s pickup, all up and down our street, was five days late – even though I called and was assured it would be collected the day after our usual day.

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I really can’t imagine that hounding a waste management company is the best use of my time. I’ve already got plans to switch to another, local company once our current pay cycle is complete.

But poor service at a higher price is a mundane problem compared to….

CHANGE OF OUR COLLECTION DAY!!! (cue ominous organ music)

For years our pickup coincided with the last work day of my week, Thursday. Thursday late afternoon meant the end of the work week and the beginning of my blessed, peaceful weekend. Getting the bins to the curb elicited a sort of Pavlov’s dog reaction in me. The rumbling of the wheels down the driveway made me salivate for two days of freedom.

Three weeks ago our pickup day was changed to Wednesday, meaning we had to put the bins out on Tuesday night. These last three weeks have all seemed interminably long. Bins out on Tuesday, and yet the week isn’t nearly over? Torture!

So yes, it is still true I’m obsessed with trash collection. But at least it’s a distraction from the stinky garbage in our political scene.