Posted in Uncategorized

You be You

My great-grandmother was described to me as “a handsome, fierce woman who ran the family farm” and who struck fear in the eyes of many. Combine her strength with that of my maternal grandmother who encouraged my late mother to be the very best, and you get a glimpse of my history and genetics. Toss in my upbringing on the farm with my father telling me to get an education, stand up for what’s right, stand up for myself, to use the brains I was given, and the varnish of me can be explained (just a little). At the same time, I was told to act like a lady, stand up straight, and don’t take any crap. 

In 1989, I was in Washington, DC at a national youth conference during a women’s march. It was a culture shock to a rural farm girl. I knew hard work, and I butted-heads with those who opposed my often independently bold ideas. Twenty-nine years later, I watched streaming world-wide women’s marches online. I raised my pitchfork and tossed 40-pound bales of hay to my herd of goats and donkeys. I was not there among the crowds, but I encouraged many to go. 

For those who know me personally, you know that I encourage you to be bold. I encourage you to help. I encourage you to be the best you can be. I stand for equality among women AND men. 

The culture shocks and experiences that changed my views on the world are mine. I defend my family, my faith and my friends. We do not agree on everything. Yet our ability to stand up for human rights and how we help one another is at the very core of what makes us human. 

I volunteer with the United Methodist Women and serve as a district president. I served as a short term missionary to the Philippines in 2012, Cambodia in 2015, and visited South Korea both times. Connecting with women of villages in two of these countries, where advanced medical technologies of maternal health may never be available, reminded me of the first-world issues that we take for granted. Standing in the killing fields of Cambodia, where only 40 years ago a tyrant leader killed millions of his own people (educated, intelligent souls), shines a light on the blessings we have and the atrocities we never saw. They drained the swamps, and they found skeletal remains of people whose lives were cut short. When swamps are drained, the monsters remain; the water no longer hides the mystery. 

In 1984, my mother went to Saudi Arabia on a medical team to teach CPR and first aid to the men and boys. During her two months there, she taught while covered in the traditional burkas and had male translators. As an American nursing instructor, she had been told that she would not have to cover her head. However, during a trip through the market, police tapped her on the head with clubs. The translator explained that the police were forcing them to cover their heads, or they faced arrest and beatings. 

When a male student asked the translator why he should listen to a woman, my mother explained, “so that if your son chokes on a grape, you can save his life.” She first shined the light on the fact that not all countries allow women to have the same freedoms that we have. She first taught me that we were created as help-mates, but that being created in God’s image means that the Sovereign created us to be whole persons. And it is a well-known fact that our hearts all look the same on an operating table. 

I can only be the very best I can be. I can only encourage you to offer a kind word. I can only ask that you be you and Ill be me…and together, we build relationships of understanding, appreciation and compassion. 

Oh, and here’s a random goat picture of the herd impatiently nibbling while I tried to store the new bales. 

Posted in Raised by a village

January 2017 – Wear Fun Socks

Happy January 2017! The New Year is upon us. The trees from Christmas have gone dark. Lights from neighborhoods shine only from living room windows, street lamps and front porches. Stores offer cheerful red and green clearance items and make way for Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day and Easter decor. Gym memberships, health clubs, and nutritional clubs offer half price and lowered fees for the next few weeks.
For me, the holidays are filled with family gatherings, reunions, Christmas plays, year-end reports, month-end processes, goat deworming protocols and bonfires. There are speaking engagements, piñatas, compiling family calendars and knitting. And fun socks…did you expect any less?

Now in my 10th year of making a calendar, I track over 90 birthdays and anniversaries. Thanks to Shutterfly.com, this calendar will continue (as long as my cousins submit photos before November, I’ll keep doing the calendars). 

I didn’t make this year’s piñata. I cheated and bought a ready-made one that looked like a cupcake. Between work and the above list, I ran out of time (see the above list plus add-in travel to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving). I think it was alright. That cupcake would not break! The youngest child always gets to hit the piñata first,  then others get to swing at it based on their ages. This year, both baby M and her mother had opportunities to swing blindfolded at the blasted toy-and-candy-filled-cardboard vault-on-a-rope.  Who knew that this piñata tradition, started by my late Aunt Allene in the 1960s would continue now? She handed the piñata bat to me a decade ago, and I continue it with pride  (even if I did have to buy one). 

After helping to clean-up the fellowship hall, Jim, Kelly and I burned more brush from the  goat pasture. We provided pyrotechnics for a group nearby and then, I was up until after midnight polishing a sermon for New Year’s Day service. 

Over the past few years, my resolution has been, “I resolve to make no resolutions.” I was quite successful at keeping it too. Yet this year, I realized that a resolution resolving to do nothing leaves me vulnerable to accepting the decisions made by someone else. So, I challenged others to be bold and courageous in their 2017 resolutions, make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound). Use the buddy system and  have someone hold you accountable for your resolution. My resolution for 2017 is to read at least 4 books on positive mental health (like “The Happiness Advantage”) so that I can share with others and connect with them during times of their loneliness. Connecting with others in our communities helps to nourish the soul by providing love and understanding. 

To many, 2016 was filled with hate, violence, loss, despair, and division.  There’s no doubt that life is full of challenges. Jim and I often face disappointments that we simply do not share on social media because they are not social. We strive to be the best people we can be for each other and for our family and friends. Sure, we fall short and are far from perfect, but we keep striving. In graduate school, I had a professor who taught that we strive to overcome obstacles 80% of the time so that we can thrive 20% of the time. Those 20% “YAY” moments mean so much more when the obstacles we overcome are seemingly insurmountable.  

I challenge each of you to find joy, peace and love in 2017. Make SMART resolutions…start small and do your part. If you make promissory notes, pay your bills. If you agree to be part of an organization, show up and be present. If you join a health club, be active.

Live up to your obligations, be good to your families and friends… And wear fun socks.