Signs of the Times

Joel Osteen is an interesting pastor with a new age, name it and claim it, prosperity gospel. I took his Master Class. I’ve read some of his books. I’ve never once thought of him as a follower of Jesus Christ. You will know them by their what? Love? Fruits? Mansions? Expensive suits?

Jesus, the Gospels, the Old Testament is pretty clear about greed and keeping up with the Jones’. Your reward is in heaven not on earth. What is the root of all evil? MONEY.

Here is my “woo” for you this morning. Here is my “everything happens for a reason”. Here is my Jesus moment for you.

Are you ready to receive this message? Are you prepared to face the splinter in your own eye?

American Christians do not worship Jesus Christ they worship money, power, and otherness. They believe they are special. They adopted the ways of the world in their churches and then claim that their Rock N Roll culture is to reach the masses of the lost. They change the names of their churches to no longer reflect their denominations as to deceive and rebrand and soften their theology instead of changing their hearts or getting their hands dirty when it comes to the poor, down trodden, and who they deem unacceptable. American Evangelicals are so far removed from the teachings of Jesus Christ at this point that they voted for a man who shit upon a gold toilet and is the opposite of every value that Jesus tells us to embrace.

Now, one of the leading evangelical pastors of a Mega Church, who is secure in his mansion as the flood waters rise, refuses to open his millions of dollar church up to the poor, the displaced during a national disaster. Why? To protect the expensive pews? To not soil the bathrooms? For fear of theft and human stink? And not only do these “Christians” refuse to give people refuge, they then lie and say it is flooded at the church.

If our current political situation in this country, our denial of science and sanity, and our failure to take care of the least of these in times of national crisis has not awaken you to the REAL and pervasive problem inside of the church I am not sure what will. The Truth Teller has literally exposed it for all the world to see like an open scourge on Jesus’ back.

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Let Them Fall

In 2002, I had my second son, Jack, who was deemed my miracle baby. We already had two children, one which we adopted because we were told having more biological children would be slim to none. Jack was a dream. He was happy, laid back, an excellent sleeper, and nursed on schedule. I could have not asked for a more pleasant babyhood but shortly after he turned one we discovered he had a host of developmental delays. He could not sit up unassisted. He could not crawl. He did not eat solid foods and he said no words. I was so enthralled with having a good baby and living with the illusion he would eventually catch up that I sorta ignored those milestones he should have been meeting.

At around 15 months old Jack began early intervention. He had physical and occupational therapy twice a week and speech therapy once a week. I remember feeling insecure and embarrassed that some how his delays were a reflection on me. My confidence was under-minded as a parent. I questioned what I could have done differently to have prevented this. While I had missed cues of Jack’s developmental delays his delays were the result of other problems that were not caused by me or any one thing. They just were.

This is not a story about Jack. Well, it sorta is, but it’s more about me and Mr. K and how we had to let go and let things move in a direction that made us uncomfortable and that caused Jack pain. Yes, you read that right, pain.

In the months that followed after Jack’s diagnosis I got to watch my happy and laid back son cry and scream in frustration and physical pain nearly every day. It was gut wrenching. Physical therapy at times was grueling and we did his exercises three times a day like clock work. Occupational and speech therapy some days left me crying in the closet and bumming cigarettes off my neighbor. My sweet baby would cut me sad eyes and sometimes fight through the exercises we had to do.

And people were assholes. How could I? Didn’t Mr. K and I see how painful it was? Could we not see his suffering? Poor Jack. Surely there was another way. A better way. A less painful way.

And then Jack crawled. He crawled on our hard wood floors. He sat up unassisted. He learned to stack blocks and babble sounds and eat baby food. The hard work was paying off. The tears and the screaming were worth it (on both our accounts).

Then it came time for him to learn to walk. The physical therapy was harder. More pain. Harder exercises. More screaming and crying and frustration. And a long with this came more judgment. I had to get tougher. I had to learn to withstand the crying and the screaming and the begging to be picked up rather than learning to pull up on his own or move from place to place by himself.

Scuffed knees, bruises, and one angry toddler who could not toddle. I was called cold and insensitive. One mother said I was ignoring my child’s emotional needs by forcing him. My terse response was that I wanted my son to walk.

And one day, and I remember it like it was yesterday, Jack stood up on his own in the middle of our living room. The look of amazement on his face was a bit of heaven and our best reward after months and months of hard work. We were so happy and he was so happy.

Then he fell.

On his face.

And chipped his front tooth which had gone through his lip.

I rushed to my crying baby and Mr. K grabbed a wet rag but one of the things I said was how proud I was of him. We continued to say how proud we were with beaming smiles. That is right. I wasn’t going to let a busted lip and some blood ruin this profound and monumental moment because I wanted Jack to do it again. I wanted him to stand again. I wanted my soon to be two year old to walk. I didn’t want his or our hard work to stop because of a fall.

We decided to let our son fall and fall often. I pushed the furniture up against walls and I made it harder for him to hang on to things to guide him through the house as he learned to take his first steps. On hardwood and concrete floors. I carried him less and less.

Eventually Jack let go. He walked without falling. He learned to pick himself up over and over again. There was less crying and complaining. Eventually there was no more need for a physical therapist.

Jack remembers none of this. All he has is mine and his father recollection and the chipped tooth that I saved in a small glass jar. Jack went through three more years of speech therapy before he could clearly talk. Today you would never know that he was developmentally delayed or couldn’t string a sentence together well until age 5.

I tell this story to encourage other parents not to shelter their children so much that they hinder them from growing and achieving their full potential. Yes, they are only little once, but with that same token they deserve to have the fullest life possible. And sometimes that means making the tough choices that might involve discomfort and tears.

Parenting is not about taking the easiest route possible. You do your children a disservice when you don’t make them do the hard things, when you shelter them from the bumps, bruises and falls, and create a safety net to fully living.

So, let them fall so that they may rise to their full potential.

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Read the Comments

I am not a big fan of reading the comments on local news because of the vitriol spilled but I have revised my feelings on this. See, it is in the comments that people expose who they really are. It is where somewhat normal people in our lives and in our community expose themselves.

Many conservatives have expressed over the last few days that they are not racists and want no part of these groups that do. Yet they continue to support media – Fox News and Breitbart – that have an alt right, racist agenda. They also say that white supremacy is a small portion of their base which I beg to differ. They have just been quiet, hidden in fear of the moral and social implications of their views being discovered but now they are embolden by the President who espouses not only their views but gives them a platform like Charlottesville. They are feeling Brave in their new found freedom and comment frequently on news articles about politics, local crime stories, and social issues.

The time for us to just pass them off as ignorant or a small fraction of our society is no more. I say now – read the comments, click on their names, look at their Facebook profiles, see if you have mutual friends with them, and see where they work. See what they are saying on Twitter.

Know the enemy in your mist. Know if you are going to church with white supremacists. Avoid patronizing their businesses and inform their employers that you cannot do business with them because they are employing Nazis. This fight against hate and fascism doesn’t have to be fought in the streets. It can be shut down and made to crawl back to which it came through social media and quiet opposition.

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Anchor Me

The last few months I have been unsettled. I've drifted from my goals, my art, and my writing. I just let things go. I've been lazy with my life and I am now sowing weeds so to speak. As much as I would like to be a person who is carefree I am a better person when I am grounded and have purpose.

An empty plate leads me to distraction and laziness and this seems to apply to every area of my life. I can see this trait in my own children as well. They seem to function better when their is organization and purpose to the chaos.

I have started tending to my "house". I have written a list of goals and I am slowly crossing them off. One of them has been seeing to my physical health, something I am bad about neglecting until I can't anymore. By the end of August I will have seen four specialist and had a brain MRI as I try to get to the root of my pain and exhaustion.

And as I get my health on the right path I have been pulling and dragging the children with me. They have become accustomed to their quick fix meals and junk food. I recognized I created this problem.

I've declared Autumn mine. To travel, to challenge myself emotionally and spiritually, to strengthen my faith, and to love those close to me deeply. The last three years of my marriage has been hard on my soul and I need to move forward clear headed and with intent. I want to return to a place where I can say that I am in love and if I can't to move in a different direction.

I am craving to be in the woods. I need the covering of trees and the whispers of the wind. It is my sanctuary. A church in and of itself. A time to soak in through all your senses the Truth Teller.

Grounding does the soul good.

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Silence On Charlottesville Encourages The Alt Right

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ~ Elie Wiesel

The silence of so many Trump supporters is deafening. Others I hear loudly. Today I have seen repeated claims that Charlottesville was a false flag. I have seen Trump Supporters claim that the white supremacists that were there were paid to be there to make him look bad. (here is proof that they were not paid) I have read that the students, clergy, and multitude of people who counter protested were also paid to be there, that they were carrying clubs, and had guns. Of course this is false.

I watched a You Tube video that claims that Heather Heyer purposely stepped in front of the car that killed her and that the driver was being attacked. More distortions of the truth. More distractions. More conspiracy theories. To believe this shit is a choice. It is not an alternative fact, it is a damn lie.

But the last two years have been one lie right after another. When I attended the Trump Rally in Mobile, AL, and later went on the news with the white supremacist paper handed to me as we parked our car I was called a liar. That I had made it up. I was threatened. I was called a liar and a bitch and a nigger lover. People claimed I was not even there even though there was plenty of photographic evidence of me there (including my picture at the rally on al.com).

We have a group of people who are choosing to believe “alternative facts” because to acknowledge the truth would expose flaws in their ego, their moral compass, and their choices. We have tainted free speech with acts of violence and domestic terrorism. And the deflection has already started, pointing fingers at Black Lives Matters and the Women’s March. I have seen conservatives ask why this is considered racism and I cannot even justify that with an answer.

This is Trump’s America. This is the America my children are growing up in.

I can’t even anymore with the denial of white privilege. I don’t want to try and understand your views on why it is okay to shoot black people and not white people who commit the same crimes. I can’t support militarized police officers who are daily beating and killing black people in the streets for petty crimes, planting drugs on Latinos, or tazing pregnant women.

I can no longer excuse your wanton ignorance. There are no more passes. There are no more excuses.

There is only one clear choice to make. Silence is a choice and if you are silent I am going to believe that you have taken the side of the oppressors. I am going to believe that you have chosen hate over love. It is time to speak out against the hate, to take action, and to stomp out these false narratives.

For moral and ethical people there is only one side. One.

 

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On Homeschooling: You Are Not A Prisoner of the World

Dear Homeschool Mom,

Slow Down. Don’t be in such a hurry.

Repeat after me “They are only little once”.

And this is so true. Our children will soon be out on their own and it will seem like they were just eight yesterday. Enjoy them, soak in that energy, live this one day.

Don’t be pressuring them to know all the things before it is time. The world moves fast but you do not have to. And neither does your child. They don’t have to read by 5 and know Algebra by fifth grade.

While it is always a wonder to see homeschooling families that send their children off to college at 12 I have to ask myself how emotionally and spiritually healthy that is. I have a 12 year old and even if she had a MENSA level IQ and could do Differential Equations in her sleep I would not want her on the same campus as my 20 year old. The simple fact is she is not ready and nor is any other 12 year old.

We have to stop rushing childhood. We have to quit rushing towards each milestone, accomplishment, or grade.

Ask yourself why you are in a hurry? Who are you competing with? Whose standards are you living by?

You don’t have to know what you are doing every step of the way. When homeschooling you do not have to have every subject done according to a traditional school schedule. You don’t have to use any particular curriculum. You do not have to follow one specific philosophy.

Let them play. Eat the cake. Go to the playground. Sip the wine. Savor each bite. Do just one more field trip. Take just one more day off.

Because the world will be waiting.

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Guilty By Association In the Age of Trumpism

Over the last 24 hours I have watched in horror what has taken place in Charlottesville, VA, and it is just another page torn from the past that we have not learned from. Mostly white men,  some wearing white hoods, carrying torches while chanting white pride slogans and “white lives matter” all over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

I believe in free speech. I believe in the right to protest. The First Amendment is something sacred to all Americans but when does hate speech and a call for violence turn into domestic terrorism? How long are decent and moral people going to allow this to continue in the era of Trump’s America?

A vote for Donald Trump was a vote for this kind of behavior and acts of violence. People died in Virginia today. DIED. Civilians. Police Officers. Numerous people went to the hospital with injuries. The people responsible are the people who voted for Donald Trump. They believe that Making America Great Again is to Make America White Again. They cloak themselves as the moral majority while pepper spraying their opponents, that included young people to pastors, all while holding lit torches towards their faces.

Your vote for Donald Trump has fueled racism and bigotry and violence. If you voted for Donald Trump you are part of the problem. You are guilty by association. I don’t give a shit any more what your reasoning is. You cannot cloak your vote in Christian Conservatism or that he was the lesser of two evils or any other justification.

This is not about her emails or about Obama. What this really boils down to is who are you. If you cannot see the epic failure we have watched unfold the last six months I have to wonder what has happened to good sense and morals. The time is now for you to denounce Donald Trump and everything he and his followers stand for, and stand with the Resistance. This is not the America I want for my children. Or for yours. Or for any of us.

 

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July Has Been Shitastic

I tend to be optimistic and positive. I have faith that everything works together for good. Even if we can't see it. Even if we never experience it. I imagine all the moments in our life like a rock hitting still waters and creating ripples. But I won't lie I am feeling weary.

I am not hopeless. I have not lost my faith. I still believe in the power of love and grace but I. Am. Weary.

My sister has a rare form of lung cancer. She has never done a bad thing in her life. Nothing to merit this or the diagnosis that comes with it. And it pisses me off. And while I believe that disease does not define us and that we can live fully this is not something I want her dealing with. I wanted more, so much more for her. I'll be honest – I wanted her to have it easy.

But that is life. Full of mystery and curve balls and unpredictable chapters.

One of my good friend's son died. And his death has not been the only one this summer. Death has been an ongoing theme for the last few weeks. Even the murder rate is up where I live. It is like a cosmic dumpster fire going on with a murder a day.

And I am off my game. My personal health is not great and there is no quick answers or fixes. I've gained weight, feel like shit, and unmotivated. My body hurts. I am in a totally different place than I was a year ago.

I know what to do. I know how to improve things. I just do not have the energy to do so. I have a list of things I need to do and another I want to do and they both feel insurmountable.

I would love to list all the good things going on in my life but they are marred by black clouds and unknowing. I told one of my best friends I needed a vacation from my life but what I really want to do is escape. Sometimes it is hard to choose joy, hard to be kind, and hard to show grace.

I'm so disappointed in people these days. The bigotry and racism and divisiveness. I trust so little of what people say and I question actions.I was raised with the belief that we would know people by their fruits and lately all I see is rot and immature growth. And that is a judgment. And it is also snobbery.

July cannot end fast enough. Not that I am looking forward to August but I know that the seasons will change and hopefully with it my soul will be renewed.

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The End of a Journey

I watched you grow up through the eyes of your mother.

At first it was just simple messages about your babyhood and milestones. Babies just days a part gave us a lot to compare for the next twenty years. Our ginger haired pale forces of nature.

Your mother, who became my friend, told her journey to motherhood, her journey to you and it gave other women hope. YOU gave them hope.

Everything you did under the sun your mother delighted in. She adored you. You were her miracle. She inhaled every part of who you were and it was unconditional. 

I watched you grow up through pictures. From toddlerhood to manhood. I delighted in my yearly Christmas Card and loved when social media boomed and I could watch you and your sister bloom under the watchful eye of your mother. Sometimes a picture does say a thousand words.

I was a stranger. An onlooker to your life but loved you from a far. I had hopes for you and prayed for you. I always thought that you would make your way down south so I could meet you face to face. To see the boy I had heard so much about, a son and a brother who was trying to find his way in this world.

I remember encouraging your mom to homeschool you and to let you be adventurous  even though it made her nervous. I loved hearing about your studies into alternative medicine and building furniture. I snickered to myself plenty of times when your mom would tell me the latest mischievous trouble you would get into. I loved that you challenged her. 

I will never forget your mother’s due diligence in bringing a sibling home to you. It seems like it was yesterday Lissa was born, and home. The two of you were made for each other as if Destiny willed it into being. I know from personal experience that she on her life journey will wonder what you would say, what you would do, and why did you have to go so soon. 

I regret not having met you or even shared a joint. I would have asked you about your adventures and told you about the Delta. And I would have asked you what led you to become a conservative. I may have harassed you a bit about all the hard times you gave your mom and caused her to worry. 

Your journey is over here . I hate that the world will never get to see the man we all knew you had the capability to become. You will be in my heart remembered as the ginger haired boy who stole his mother’s heart, who enjoyed the outdoors and daring adventure, and who pushed   Boundaries to discover who you were.

On the other side I hope you have found what you were looking for. I hope there is a peace to your restlessness. I hope you feel the love from all those who knew you. 

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Right-Wing Propaganda In A Public School Classroom

On Wednesday a concerned mother posted a picture of her son’s AP Government class summer reading list from Spanish Fort High School in a closed Facebook Group I belong too. The group is made up of the silent minority here on the Gulf Coast – liberals, progressives, and secularists that don’t fit into the southern conservative culture. As I read it it seemed almost like a hoax. Fake news. Surely, in one of the most affluent and educated areas here on the Gulf Coast this type of thing was not going on right under the nose of parents and administrators? How wrong I was.

I quickly verified that the teacher who gave out the list to his students did indeed teach at Spanish Fort High School and not only that the list was up on the schools website dating back to the 2014-2015 school year (it has since been removed). Not only did I find out that this teacher taught with a right-wing slant in his classroom but that he had previously run for public office and failed – mostly due to his extremist views on the federal government and state rights issues. There is also a blog but I will get to that later.


After asking for permission to share, several of us in the Facebook Group began to publicly share the list. I sent the list to other area Progressives, the ACLU, and I also posted it to Facebook but not before I sent it to my aunt whose daughter attends school there. Within hours it was soon discovered that Gene Ponder had been using this list for years without permission and without approval from the Baldwin County School Board or the principal of the school. That his class had been allegedly taught with a far right slant with religious and racist overtones for close to a decade. Keep in mind this is a AP Government High School course that students must take in order to receive their Honors Diploma.

And there in lies part of the problem. The class is required for students on the Honors Diploma track and Gene Ponder is the only AP Government teacher at Spanish Fort High School. It puts parents and students in a bind to complain about the content of his class for fear of retribution or being singled out. This is not a liberal “snowflake” issue, this is an education issue and having a non biased public education paid for by tax payers. The thing is, even conservative, Republican parents would find issue with some of the books and websites used for Mr. Ponder’s class. Yet again, it wasn’t until this ONE parent stepped forward that this problem was revealed.


What I find amusing is that I am constantly reading about how liberalism is taught in our schools and that school text books are liberal propaganda but that is just not the case, especially here in the South. And Gene Ponder is not alone, there are dozens upon dozens of public school teachers like him. Teachers who are manipulating and brainwashing our youth against climate change and with the beliefs of those like Alex Jones. Gene Ponder wasn’t trying to get his students to critically think about the governments role he was manipulating them to think that someone like Michael Savage and Ann Coulter are the great political thinkers of our time and that Global Warming is a liberal conspiracy. He wanted his students to think of Brietbart as an unbiased news source but not only that he surreptitiously included Christian religious beliefs and propaganda into his class as well.

You may be asking why I give two shits because we are homeschoolers. Well, for one my cousin attends this school as do several friends children. Friends, who are both conservative and liberal, who would oppose this reading list and the characterization of Republicans and Democrats put forth by Coach Ponder. I am also a tax payer. My tax dollars fund public education and pay Mr. Ponder’s salary. And trust me, we pay our fair share of state and federal taxes therefor I believe I get a say.

Mr. K was once a public school teacher. He taught Computer Science, Algebra, Geometry, and middle school math. He went in for seven years and taught the classes he was assigned. He taught the students theory and facts and did so without interjecting any political or religious beliefs. The same should go for science and history teachers as well. Discussions and exercises on critical thinking are one thing – manipulation and brainwashing are another. For nearly 165 hours of instruction time Gene Ponder had these students undivided attention, for a grade, and what you see on this list and what you see from the websites he has listed for his class, this is where he derived much of the views espoused in his classroom. These students were not being encouraged to read The Federalist Papers they were being encouraged to read Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder by Michael Savage. And to add icing on the cake one of his students posted two power points that they were shown and taught in class.


First and foremost these two lists presented in Gene Ponders class is not even factual. By 2016 the GOP was the party of less educated whites and lower income whites. While less educated voters leaned towards being Democrats in the 1990s it’s just no longer a fact now and that is evident by our latest election cycle. Even by 2008, education levels were more equal on both sides of the fence. Surprisingly enough one of the biggest complaints I have heard from Michael Savage, Alex Jones, and Laura Ingram is the criticism of educated elitism from Democrats. The truth is the majority of college educated voters voted for Clinton (52% Clinton, 29% Trump) Gene Ponder and his ilk can’t have it both ways. What is true is that over the past 16 years more and more college educated individuals have moved to the Democratic Party and there are a multitude of reasons for that and one is that the Republican base and party leaders are science deniers. It appears by the two power points presented in his class that Mr. Ponder was presenting these to create divisiveness rather than to promote critical thinking as to why certain groups lean toward certain political groups or ideology. He did get something right – it is white, Christian, heterosexual men who make up the GOP base but I doubt there was a critical overview as to why that is the case. After reading some of the comments of some of his former white, male students on Facebook it became clear that their was a air of white male superiority and is that what we want taught in ANY classroom.

I imagine Mr. Ponder is tenured and will retain his position but I think it is abundantly clear that teachers who perform certain duties and teach certain courses need additional vetting. Allowing a known Tea Party political extremist to teach history is probably not a good idea.  I imagine had this been a far left extremist expounding views in the classroom there would have been a huge outcry. There is a reason for separation of church and state and why we do not allow religious proselytizing and prayers in school. The same should go for politics and political beliefs. It is one thing to tell a student that you are a member of a certain party and another to espouse the views of Ann Coulter.

While writing this blog entry Gene Ponder removed his entire blog. Things that make you go hmmmm….

We as parents and citizens need to continue to resist even at personal risk for the betterment of the whole.

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