We’re dying to hear from you

If you are one of those good Muslims among the faithful who is angry, hurt, resentful, disgusted, or otherwise offended by the anti-Muslim rhetoric you are hearing, why don’t you speak up?

Most of the stupidity that has left Donald Trump’s pouty potty mouth in the months since he’s decided to run for king of the world president has truthfully gone in one ear and out the other.  I’ve never regarded him as a serious candidate; in fact, I once opined that his candidacy was a ruse—once he’s gained enough momentum, he’ll drop out just so he can sit back and laugh hysterically while he watches the next guy in line get his balls busted by Ursula the She-Monster.  So I guess I haven’t been too worried about ol’ Donald.

Until yesterday.

Yes, he went there.  Donald Trump made a statement to the effect that the U.S. should immediately close its borders to all Muslims, regardless of their status.  He not only went there, he doubled down when asked again if he wanted to retract anything about his most provocative statement to date.  Trump has no finesse; his sledgehammer bull-in-a-china-shop rhetoric makes me question his sanity.  Here’s a tip:  Simple solutions to complex problems make people very nervous.  Just ask the average Jew living in Germany in 1933.  Ahem.

It’s not that I completely disagree with Trump.  I think it’s only prudent to be ever-so-vigilant about who’s coming and going through the revolving door of our ports of entry, but to say that all Muslims should be locked out is going a bit too far.  Because there are good Muslims out there, right?

Before I join the millions of Donald-shamers, I think an important question needs to be asked:  If our citizenry, made up of a veritable kaleidoscope of cultures, races, religions, and ethnicities, is so concerned about those who label all Muslims as a collection of like-minded individuals out to commit jihad against the West, then help us out, good Muslims.  Tell us about your religion.  Share with us who you are, what you believe, and why your faith is being maligned all over the world.

Most importantly, state, in no uncertain terms, just us how angry it makes you that radical Islamists are ruining it for the rest of you.

I follow news; that is, I read, listen, and react, hopefully with an open mind.  But just as everybody’s baby is the prettiest, every news outlet and every talking and typing head has an agenda.  Every blogger, every columnist, every pundit is out to market their brand—themselves.  Using provocative rhetoric is how you get folks to pay attention, I get that.  But isn’t there someone out there who is in this for the greater good and can tell us the truth?

Likewise, isn’t there someone in the Muslim community who can share with us the virtues of their religion?

Allow me to put this in terms that may help you understand where I’m going with this:  I am first a Christian by faith, Catholic by denomination.  Michelle Duggar, mother extraordinaire, is first a Christian by faith, and an Independent Baptist by denomination.  We have very little in common lifestyle-wise (probably to her everlasting relief).  What we do have in common is that we have both accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.

It is ridiculously naïve to lump all people of a set religion into the same group.  I’m sure Michelle would agree.  If such benign differences exist among Christians like Michelle and me, isn’t it reasonable, then, to assume that the of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, there are some good people among the faithful who may practice their religion in different ways and in varying degrees?

In contrast, whereas the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church would like to call themselves Christians, their principles and actions, their rhetoric and practices are anything but Christ-like; ergo, they are not Christians, no matter what they’d like you to believe.  They pull scripture out of context from the Bible and twist it into evil sound bites in order to justify their sins.  In many ways, they are just as bad as radical Islamists, and their actions are reprehensible, especially when committed in the name of their warped brand of pseudo-Christianity.  True Christians would never stand up for them.  Ever.

And like the pseudo-Christians out there, isn’t it also reasonable to assume that among that 1.6 billion Muslims in the world there exist Islamic jihadists whose sole purpose in life is to destroy western civilization—radical Islamists committing terror in the name of Allah?

If you are one of those good Muslims among the faithful who is angry, hurt, resentful, disgusted, or otherwise offended by the anti-Muslim rhetoric you are hearing, why don’t you speak up?  Why don’t you tell us why you and people of your kind do not want to bring terror, death, and destruction upon the United States of America.

To stay silent will guarantee that all we’ll ever hear, see, or—worst of all—experience are the voices of the jihadists who want us all dead.

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnificent Aschenbachs

Lately, many people have been asking me if I’m writing a sequel to The Gym Show.  While I think a sequel would be an excellent complement to what will always be (maybe) my favorite novel, I had already begun my second novel before The Gym Show became so popular.  So will I write a sequel?  Yes.  But first, my compulsive personality insists that I finish my second novel, The Magnificent Aschenbachs.

Would you like a peek?  Thought so.  Here is an excerpt from The Magnificent Aschenbachs.

   After that rather strange greeting, January’s initial reaction to Richard’s home was one of awe, but she fought the urge to appear wide-eyed and naïve, and tried desperately to appear as if it were an everyday thing to walk into a spectacularly furnished and appointed mansion like the main character in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.  And, like the nameless protagonist, January felt childishly out-of-place and wished she had worn something a little less showy (Gold lame, January, really?) and a little more conservative.

    Sadly, she didn’t have clothes in her wardrobe to match the splendor of the home, and she certainly was not dressed in the same manner as Richard’s mother, the formidable looking Angelika.  What did Angelika say to Richard when he had introduced her?  She knew it was German by the accent, but she had no idea what she said.  Richard had seemed rather taken aback, and even now, he was still somewhat quiet as if Angelika’s words had generated in him some meaningful response that he was still trying to piece together in his perplexed state.  January felt as if he was going through the motions of shepherding her through the house without really considering her at all.  This was turning out to be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable experiences she had ever remembered and wondered if all first dates were this excruciating.

The story is set in the mid-80’s in Indianapolis, and if you’re a Booth Tarkington fan, you might recognize that the title is a play off his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons.  Think of my interpretation, though, as another slice of life in Indianapolis, told mainly through the eyes of a young inner-city teacher who faces daunting challenges both in her professional and her personal life.

It’s going to be spectacular, I promise!  Estimated time of completion?  I’ll keep you posted.

Ben Carson should never be president

Ben Carson should never be president

Is it because he’s a political infant? Never held a public office?  Ignorant of the delicate chess game of foreign policy?  No skill at interpreting the geo-political landscape?  Lack of business experience?

Not necessarily.

Ben Carson should never be president because he is too good.  He is elegant and eloquent.  He is stunningly articulate in the sense that he doesn’t point at you with just his thumb like every other politician since Bill Clinton (when he was lying to us about Monica Lewinsky) and tell the American people—in carefully scripted sound bites designed to be repeated, replayed, and rehashed—just why his …um …ideas are bigger and better than the next guy’s.

In short, he does not engage in a political pissing contest.

Instead, he tells you of his love for this country, his hopes for its healing, and the promises of its future just as if he were sitting across from you at the dinner table.  During his brief but powerful turn at Thursday night’s debate, I half expected him to ask someone to pass the butter. His rhetoric was poetic, not political.  Common sense never sounded so lyrical yet so, well … common.

He is a gentleman.  A gentle man.

Ben Carson should never be president because of what the media would do to him.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, the media have this curious knack for taking something that is good and pure and honest and turning it into a twisted circus of lies and suppositions, ignoring the good stuff about a person and instead finding any small rent in the fabric and ripping it to shreds.  No longer is the media about presenting opposing viewpoints; there’s no bank for them in that.  Instead, they only look for the ugly, calling it “good journalism”.  I call it muckraking.

No, Ben Carson should never be president.

Even though Ben Carson is what our country needs to bridge the massive divide between right and left, between those who want to perpetuate this country’s dependence upon our bulging and bloated behemoth of a government and those who would like nothing more than to line up the Washington elite in front of a firing squad, he should never be president.  Even though Ben Carson could heal the wounds of those who live on the fringes of society by drawing out of them the goodness that runs through their souls and the potential that lies within them, he should never be president.  Ben Carson would not bloviate like a lunatic, nor wring his hands in desperation about border security; neither would he look the other way nor look at who to blame or blame a YouTube video for the fact that Isis has come to town.  Instead, he would attack, with surgical precision, the crisis at our borders and eviscerate like a cancer the terrorism at our doorsteps, dealing with it like a man.  In matters of life and death, Ben Carson doesn’t concern himself with who he might offend by calling a spade a spade.

Even though Ben Carson is what we need he would never last long enough to make our country work again before the media would destroy him.

Maybe now is not his time.  If that’s the case, I’ll try to be patient and just pray that while we wait that we don’t end up like a fallen tree on the bank of a great river, its roots fighting to remain tethered to the earth—still living, still bearing fruit, and still able to reach its potential, but instead becoming unmoored from its tenuous anchor and floating out to sea only to become a mere shadow of its former majesty.

Planned Parenthood, how in the hell do you sleep at night?

There are myriad topics I could write about today—the bird’s nest full of robin eggs I found within my potted geraniums this morning, the group text my daughters sent me that made me laugh so hard I choked on my coffee in a crowded restaurant, the hilarious conversation I had with my son last night on the topic of dog poop, or the pictures on my refrigerator of my niece’s little girl on her first birthday smearing pink frosting all over her Kewpie doll face.

But I can’t.

Because what has been eating away at my insides this entire week are the horrifying images of unborn babies being ripped from their mothers’ wombs and sold to the highest bidder all in the name of scientific research.  That Planned Parenthood—that poor excuse for a women’s health network—was caught on video discussing, in the most detached and cavalier manner possible, the sale of human body parts is not surprising, but the fact that any human being could still support their perfectly legal and taxpayer funded genocide certainly is.

Right after the videos surfaced, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton still defended Planned Parenthood because, to her, it represents womanly empowerment—the right of every woman to own her own body and do with it what she wants.

Oh, is that the same womanly empowerment that “cleans up the mess” when women choose to have unprotected sex?  The same womanly empowerment that dupes teenage girls into engaging in bizarre and dangerous sexual practices?  The same womanly empowerment that prescribes contraceptives to young teens without their parents’ consent?  The same womanly empowerment that sells aborted fetuses—okay, maybe not the entire fetus, because thanks to the videos released this week we now know that livers are in high demand.

Yeah, so maybe not the whole baby, just the important little baby body parts.

Are you disgusted?  Think I’m making this up?  I’m pretty creative, but even I can’t make this shit up.  Even Dystopian fiction writers shy away from storylines that involve dead babies and their tiny body parts.

No woman has the right to decide to end a pregnancy simply because that pregnancy doesn’t fit into her lifestyle.  Why?  Because she lost that right when she decided to have unprotected sex.  You can argue with me from now until the cows come home that there are instances of rape, incest, and imminent danger to the mother’s life that might be cause for some mothers to have an abortion.  Those instances are the exception, not the rule.  The exception.  And while I will always argue for the sanctity of life, however it is conceived and in whatever stage it may be, or for prayer and consideration during a life-threatening pregnancy, statistically, these instances do not make up even a fraction of the roughly one million abortions performed each year.

Why not state an actual number?  Because it depends on who you ask.

Planned Parenthood will say that the number of abortions performed per year is less than half that number; right-to-life groups put the number of abortions performed per year at well over one million.  So even if we went with Planned Parenthood’s proudly proclaimed but rather suspect statistics, 327,166 abortions for fiscal year 2012-2013 is still 327,166 abortions too many.

And have fun trying to find that number—it’s buried deep in the back of their annual report as part of a small slice of a pie graph that is cleverly designed to celebrate Planned Parenthood’s other services, which, frankly, can be found at any general practitioner’s office.  Don’t be fooled by the report’s clever marketing ploy of featuring the happy, smiling faces of women who, without the health care services of Planned Parenthood, would not be able to have any access to health care at all.

Which is puzzling because I thought the Affordable Care Act was supposed to take care of the uninsured.

Here’s what they don’t highlight in their slick marketing brochure disguised as an annual report:  Planned Parenthood performs abortions.  Planned Parenthood is responsible for the deaths of between 327,166 and 1.21 million human lives in the US each year.  There is no ‘Parenthood’ in Planned Parenthood.  They have an agenda built upon the ideology of a woman who advocated the practice of eugenics, but have since then taken that ideology and run with it—taken it one grisly step further— in order to justify their practice of genocide.

Your body, your right to choose?  Wrong.  That baby who is right now tucked safely inside of you has rights, too.  You and your partner made that baby when you decided to have sex without thinking of the consequences.

For God’s sake, grow up, be a real woman, walk into a damn drugstore, and buy yourself a package of condoms.

Child of God, I love you.

You are a child of God.  You are precious.  You are mine.

I read again today of the passing of another local teenager who committed suicide. The details of this heartbreaking news are immaterial; instead, what remains incumbent upon us as adults is trying to figure out why a young person on the very cusp of a long and seemingly abundant life would ever choose to end it and, more importantly, how to prevent this from ever happening again.

I can only imagine that parents of teenagers, upon hearing this kind of news, get that sick, I-want-to-throw-up feeling, wondering if their own child could ever conceive of doing something so horribly permanent, so heartbreakingly sad.

And, invariably, we all ask, “Why?”

could jump to all kinds of conclusions about how kids these days are spoiled, and when things don’t go their way, they resort to all kinds of dramatic means to get attention (because some of them do).  I could make asinine assumptions about how today’s kids have no structure at home, no boundaries, always get what they want but it’s never enough, or how drugs and alcohol wreak havoc with a child’s psyche, and that’s what probably caused this tragedy (because sometimes it does).  Or I could foolishly point a finger at these kids’ parents, wondering what kind of home life the children had that would compel them to do this.  Because, truthfully, all of these factors do have merit.  One or all of these instances could be valid reasons why these tragedies have occurred.

But are these instances the cause, or is there an underlying motif playing with our children’s minds? And does sanctimoniously pointing out the faults of other families do anyone any good?  Because whatever heartbreak was happening in these children’s lives has just been multiplied a hundred-fold in the suffering of their parents and families.

No, I believe it’s something more ominous altogether.

Sadly, even a child growing up in a loving, nurturing, and spiritual home can fall prey to suicide because, unfortunately, we live in a society that has devalued human life.  The horrifying images of Americans being beheaded by the insidious evil that is Isis are broadcast on the internet for our kids to witness.  Women and even underage girls can walk into a Planned Parenthood facility, have their babies viciously sucked out of their bodies, then walk out a couple of hours later after the staff has given them a collective high-five, praising them for their “brave” decision to end their babies’ lives.  The violent nature of many of our kids’ video games doesn’t help lend credence to the sanctity of life; instead, it actually glorifies death, making it appear fascinatingly cool to kill and be killed.

These are today’s hardships, the yoke upon this generation’s shoulders.

Instead, what if our society valued every human being—from conception and beyond.  To this end, we have some work to do.  We must look for signs of depression in our kids and take seriously their anxieties, their worries, and their fears.  We must dedicate ourselves to teaching every child that he or she is valuable beyond measure.  Children must know and understand that God has created them in His image and that however insignificant they may perceive their lives to be, their very existence is a priceless treasure—a gift.  We may not like everything they do, but no matter what, we love them.  When they make mistakes, and they will make mistakes—some of them even colossal mistakes—it’s okay to lay down the law.  To do anything less is unforgiving.

But most importantly, we must make sure that our children know that they are loved.

To our children, know this: You are a child of God.  You are precious.  You are mine.  And I love you with every breath I take, with every beat of my heart, and I will continue to love you long after I am gone from this world.

 

A Life Well Lived

Yesterday afternoon, after returning from a perfectly beautiful Easter picnic up at Purdue with my husband and children, I received a rather cryptic group text from some former colleagues that delivered the sad news of the death of a woman with whom I worked at Fall Creek Valley Middle School here in Indianapolis.  As with all news of this type, for me, at least, there’s a period of mental digestion, and then the memories begin to play back in my mind like the retrospective part of a movie that you know is going to make you cry at the end.

And the memories I have of Dottie Doxtator are some of the best memories I have of being a teacher.

Dottie was an instructional assistant for many severely disabled children at Fall Creek Valley, so I really began to know Dottie well when I had one of her former students in my regular English/language arts class.  I say she was Dottie’s student, because quite honestly, had it not been for Dottie, this student—we’ll call her ‘Mary’—would not have been able to do anything.  Mary was so severely disabled that she could not speak, was non-ambulatory, and could only move some of her body parts in reaction to whatever outside stimulus happened to, well, stimulate her.

I have to admit, shamefully, that I had my doubts about having Mary in my class (as if my doubts would have had any bearing on the stipulation in her IEP that mandated that she be educated in regular education classes—that’s P.L. 94142 for all of you unfamiliar with the ‘Least Restrictive Environment’ law.  Mary appeared to me to have very little grasp of the world around her, but, as you will soon learn, I was rather handily schooled about what Mary could do by none other than Mary herself.

It was the time of year when my English/language arts classes were reading the play The Diary of Anne Frank.  Dear Dottie had the idea that she could program the lines of one of the characters into a Dynavox machine (sort of like a tape recorder) that Mary could activate with her hand when it was the character’s turn to speak.

All of this was Dottie’s idea.  I was skeptical.  After all, it would be Dottie’s voice reading the character Margot’s lines, it would be Dottie prompting Mary to hit the big red button on the Dynavox to activate the recorded voice, and it would invariably be Dottie who lifted Mary’s hand to pound the Dynavox’ big red button when it was ‘Margot’s’ turn to speak.  But I had an inkling that Dottie knew what she was doing, and I was curious how this would all turn out, so I agreed.   I now wonder who I thought I was to have demonstrated such hubris.

On the day of Mary’s stage debut, I assigned the speaking parts in that day’s reading of the play to various students, and when I assigned the part of ‘Margot’ to Mary, none of the students reacted to Mary’s imminent participation.  Most of them had come to class either tired or already bored, never appearing curious about how this was all going to happen, but then again, eighth graders have perfected the attitude of blasé-ness, so I wasn’t at all surprised.

Once it was Mary’s turn to “read” her lines, though, all of that changed.  The students in the class and I watched in fascination as Mary’s face began to contort, her mouth twisting into the semblance of a smile as she began wildly gesticulating while Dottie very gently guided her hand toward the big red button.  The pre-programmed lines flowed from the device, and Mary became, in that instance, a participant in the class, a bona fide member of the eighth grade of Fall Creek Valley Middle School and demonstrated her happiness by loudly rendering whatever sounds her once dormant voice had previously held.  The other students in the class had already picked their heads up off their desks, realized what had just happened, and commenced to cheering, clapping loudly, whistling, woo-hoo-ing, then scraped back their chairs and gave their classmate Mary a standing ovation worthy of a rock star.  Some even approached her wheelchair and lifted up her hand to give her a high five.

Mary had amazed and mesmerized them, and she knew it.  In that instant, Mary became the teacher. It was as if she had said to all of us, “See?  See what I can do?”  Her face bore the look of smug satisfaction, and the vision of her smile is an indelible memory forever etched into my mind.

Naturally, I lost it.  To say that I cried is rather an understatement; I sobbed, bawled my eyes out, and to this day, when I remember Dottie’s gentle persistence, her devotion to Mary, and her determination to allow Mary to become a part of that tenuous, contentious, loud-mouthed, hormone-ravaged, beautiful, and hilarious collection of eighth grade kids, I start to cry again.

Dottie left this world yesterday along with her son Scotty, who was also, like many of the students Dottie cared for at Fall Creek Valley, cognitively disabled.  She talked about Scotty often to me and to others, always prefacing her conversation with “My Scotty.”  Her devotion to him was unparalleled, but then again that is not surprising.  When God chose Dottie to be Scotty’s mother, He knew what He was doing.

Sadly, after I left Fall Creek Valley, I lost touch with Dottie, but I will never forget her.  She remains one of the most influential people of my life because she, along with Mary, taught me that everything is possible when kindness, faith, and love are applied to a seemingly impossible situation.

Well done, good and faithful servant.  Heaven’s rewards await you and Scotty.

 

June Bride

I have recently experienced what many would call an awakening—an epiphany. I am willingly and graciously recanting some—er–statements that I posted in an earlier blog. I’ll let you figure out which one. It’s my prerogative, after all, as a woman, to change my mind every once in awhile. And it proves that I am human.

Last evening, while many of my contemporaries were enjoying the finer things in life–like, oh, maybe the aroma of a good cigar, an elegant dinner with dear friends, a quiet moment shared with a lover, or were simply curled up with a good book, I was in a hotel room outside of Cleveland, Ohio (yep, the same one) watching television. I’m not proud, and I’m not–I’m not going to pretend that this time around I wasn’t utterly fascinated with last night’s repeat of the season finale of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo—the wedding—pardon me, the commitment ceremony episode where Mama June, after nine years of shacking up, marries her baby’s daddy Sugar Bear. Nor will I make fun of everything that transpired during the episode, just the highlights.

The show truly is like a bad car wreck in terms of voyeuristic affinities. As you’re watching, you know you shouldn’t be—not only should you be doing something more productive with your time, like, well, just about…anything, but the peek through the keyhole of this family’s existence, this intimate snapshot of the day-to-day life involving this family is, well, downright embarrassing at times. However, once the viewer experiences the essence of Mama June and the mischievous charm of her young’uns, it simply can’t be helped. Who does that stuff—the farting, the snorting of snot, the scratching of bellies and bums, the belching, and the cussing? Who but June and her lovely daughters, that’s who.

For the uninitiated, the reality TV series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a spin-off of the network’s (and I’m refusing to name the network because absolutely no learning is going on; its just prurience) makes-you-want-to-bitch-slap-that-mother offering Toddlers and Tiaras. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s principal player is Alana Thompson, a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo, a frequent flyer of the child beauty pageant circuit who sashays her chubby little self across the stage at various pageant venues that take place a half tank of gas and a few hour’s truck drive away from her McIntyre, Georgia home. You know the house—it’s the one next to the railroad track.

To summarize:

Mama June, while working in some factory, got her foot runned over by a forklift so now she has a wonky foot that she calls her ‘forklift foot’. It aint pretty. You can find it in Google images. Ew.

Sugar Bear is Alana’s daddy. He is pure redneck. Nuff said.

One of the girls, Anna, I think, but they call her Chickadee, has a kid—a baby named Kaitlyn (I’m not sure how Anna spells it this week). The baby is passed around the sisters like a little doll.

Punkin (sic) is another one of the sisters, and she’s kinda’ fat. She has masculine tendencies, so don’t be surprised if she up and exchanges her panties for boxers or briefs.

There’s another chubby sister, but at this point they all seem to sound and look the same, so I’m not remembering anything special ‘bout her.

Honey Boo Boo, the show’s namesake, is also kinda fat like Punkin and likes to grab her belly and make it talk. She’s Sugar Bear’s daughter. And June’s.

And now here’s the Hillbilly Highlights of last night’s episode:

• Mama June wore a cammo-themed wedding dress.
• Sugar Bear wore cammo pants and an orange vest.
• The older girls were bridesmaids, and Boo Boo and Baby Kaitlyn were little flower girls.
• Kaitlyn was pulled down the aisle in a wagon.
• The dog was the first one down the aisle, and I kept waiting for it to take a dump.
• Or at least take a leak on Sugar Bear’s pant leg.
• They wrote their own vows.
• Sugar Bear cried.
• I cried.

Yes. I cried.

Now that I have delivered my stuck-up, snotty, snooty, bourgeois assessment of this family, let me share with you the takeaway. Boo Boo’s family, for all of their coarse manners and common language, genuinely love, laugh, and live for one another. Yes, I realize that one of June’s daughters is a teen mom, but for an ardent proponent of life like myself, I am profoundly grateful that the young lady made the choice to bring the child into this world and did not march off to Planned Parenthood in order to “take care of it” (such an oxymoron, don’t you think?). Sorry, folks, but that took guts.

Despite her daughter’s less than pristine virtue, June is a good mother, in her own coupon clipping way. She may not have a nutritionist’s grasp of the benefits of a healthy diet, but she certainly makes sure everyone is fed. The family eats dinner together (albeit on the sofa). Sugar Bear, despite his dearth of visible teeth (they’re in there—I checked, you just can’t see them), loves June. For a man with three stepdaughters, he doesn’t play favorites, treating all of the girls as if they were his own.

Their reality may not be my reality, but it is real. This is verisimilitude in its purest form. So if you tell me that you’ve never farted in front of anyone, you’ve never been spied scratching your itchy butt, you’ve never attempted to burp the alphabet, nor shot a snot rocket out of your nose, go ahead and stick up that oh-so perfect NPR listening, public television watching nose of yours at the Boo Boos of the world.

As for me, I can’t help myself. I think they’re wonderful. Just don’t call it a ‘biscuit’.