Tuesday, September 20, 2011

False Advertising

A few weeks ago I was in a grocery store and saw a harried mom with her out of control kids. I have four kids, I have learned to not assume things based on the moments of behavior I happen to witness. I don't know if the children are ill, or have unseen disabilities, or are simply having a bad day.  I've been there, done that, and know that reproachful looks and not-so-veiled comments really don't help.  I try to offer an understanding smile and not stare.
But this... this was different.  The kids were running CRAZY, the mom was yelling, I mean YELLING at them, and in the few short encounters I witnessed, she gave at least 4 empty threats.  The worst part?  the whole family was wearing matching T-shirts that proclaimed "I love my church" on the front and had a religious message on the back. Ugh. Poor mom, poor kids, poor church!

My pastor recently shared that he was driving in heavy traffic (the only kind we have around here) and a fellow driver grew rather irritated with him and shared those feelings via various gestures. Only thing, the car was plastered with stickers for one of the very large local churches. Again, ouch, slightly embarrassing.

Today I went to Walmart with the intention of using their price match policy to score a great deal on some Christmas gifts. While I was in the store shopping, I heard over the store sound system, in between the canned music, advertisements for Walmart, including those touting the "easy price match policy, available at every register."  Guess what? I got to the register and they refused to honor their own policy.  Asking management to intervene did not resolve the issue and I ended up leaving without making a single purchase. I have to be honest, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not a fan of this particular mass merchandiser anyway, but I made a special trip specifically because of their price-match policy.

My husband got a postcard in the mail promising him that he had won a "free" Bahama Vacation for 2, simply call this number.  It went so far to assure him that it was not a land-sale or time-share deal.  

I think we all know better than to believe the post card; I threw it away without even calling.  I'm sure they somehow skirt the legal boundaries of false advertisement, but I didn't even bother to find out what all the clauses were.
 However, what about the other examples?  Should we expect different  behavior from people who advertise that they are Christians?  I certainly expected the store in my example to follow their own printed policy, but they didn't.  

As for the mom in the store and the driver in the car... I know that in stressful times we all cling to that saying, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven," (although, try as I might, I have never been able to find what scripture that is supposed to be based on...)  but really, shouldn't we try to live up to our advertising? 

I claim to be a Christian, I am open with this, as I believe we are supposed to be.  What I need to examine is whether or not my life and my reactions and my relationships are living up to my advertisement.
How sobering to know that my children's ideas of what a Christian family looks like is based on how I behave towards them.
For the people I interact with, even in passing, is my "written policy" one thing but my follow-through something else?
Am I leaving people disillusioned?  do they have a bad taste in their mouth about Christians when they have walked away from me?

I ended up taking my coupons and my competitor's advertisement to a different store (Target) and getting my extreme deal. They didn't even hiccup at doing the price-match. I know it was not convenient for them, and they didn't make any money, but they followed their advertised policy.  I left happy and with the decision to frequent their establishment again and to tell others about it.
I want to do that. I want to live up to my Christian "advertising" even when it's not convenient.
I want people to walk away from me wanting to know more, wanting to find out more about my Christianity.
I want my life to be good advertising for the Lord.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I understand that the following post is completely political. I understand that my opinions are mine alone and as such should not be regarded as the opinion or position of any other person or entity. I say the things that I say not to be popular but to be truthful and honest about what is in my own heart. I love the United States of America. I am a patriot; I am not blind. Our nation has always had flaws and always will, but I believe that we should purpose to improve every time we have the opportunity.

I suppose it is de rigueur to write about 9/11/01 today. To be honest, I was going go against the flow and write about Grandparents Day instead, but, obviously, I changed my mind.

First, like everyone else, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day.  I was active duty military on 9-11. 
I remember. 
I remember rushing home to grab my deployment bag, not to deploy but because we were told that we may not get to leave base for days. Almost my whole shop deployed immediately. The attacks were in the morning, by 2 pm my hospital was a ghost town. I didn’t deploy because I was 6 months pregnant with our first child. I did however get to work 16 hour days for the duration in order  to keep the place running. The teams we sent weren’t gone long. They were set up for rescue and recovery and medical care. There wasn’t much rescue to be done. Our pathologists did stay a bit long for the recovery and ID, but not very long because there was not enough recoverable remains. 
I remember calling my mom and telling her I was ok. I remember hugging my husband before heading back to base with my bag.
 I remember knowing that my base was a prime target and knowing that we were under a very real threat. 
I remember being finally being released from duty and getting home about 2 am and us holding each other more tightly than ever before.
I remember feeling the baby kick in between us, protesting being squashed, and wondering what world he would be born into. 
There are moments that are burned into my memory and then so much blur.
I remember driving home past flag-wavers in the weeks after the attacks.
I remember driving home past protesters the following month when Operation Enduring Freedom began. 
I remember the promises that "we will not let them win!"
I have been hearing similar promises for 10 years. 

I'm afraid I disagree. 

It is difficult to obtain a stated goal of terrorism, but poking around a bit I've found that terrorism is generally agreed to be acts of crime and violence intended to invoke  and provoke a state of terror or fear.  The goals of terrorists are varied, but include, the intent to force a change in government policy and create both instability, shame (government can't keep citizens safe), and create tension between government and citizens by forcing the government to infringe on civil liberties. 

If these goals are even partly accurate, the terrorists have won. 

The lengths to which our country has gone since 9/11 to bring about security are astounding.  I don't have time to go into it here, but take some time  to read about the interment camps for Americans of Japanese ancestry after Pearl Harbor.  For two full years, our government kept free citizens in detention camps based solely on their ethnic heritage. It was not only Japanese blood that was targeted, but they bore the brunt.  One thing that strikes me about this is that in many cases the camps were set up on Native American Reservations and the Native Americans were paid by the government for having the camps.  To rank below Native Americans on the government's hierarchy?  that is pretty low.    
My point is, you would think we would have learned from that.  Obviously not.  As terrible as the detention camps were, at "least" they were only taking away the freedoms of a targeted population. 
 Post 9/11, we have signed away our freedoms as a whole. The scary thing is that because we haven't been rounded up and made to live in tar-paper shacks, we really don't find that it matters in our day to  day lives; it is very easy to ignore. 

Our population living in fear?  check.
Our government unstable? check. 
Tension between citizens and government? check.
Loss of civil liberties imposed on us by our own government? check.

We have stooped to policies and behaviors that are a shame to our National pride. 
 We have attacked and invaded independent countries when those countries did not first make war with us.  
We have captured and imprisoned 1000's of foreign citizens who we have no jurisdiction over, to the point where we will not even  imprison them on our own soil lest we then have to extend the protection of our constitution to them.  
We say, "we are doing nothing compared to what was done to us."  Since when do we hold ourselves to a standard of, anything better than terrorism is ok?
We have squandered lives and resources of our own military. 
We have contributed to the spilling of the blood of thousands of foreign civilians. 

Almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks. The number of US military deaths in the "war on terror" passed that 5 years ago. The number of Iraqi, Afghan , and Pakistani civilians has passed that number over, and over, and over.  If we are trying to match blood for blood, surely the debt has been paid?

What happened on 9/11/01 changed our lives and our nation forever.  I hear much rhetoric about not letting those deaths be in vain. 
No normal person would tell their loved ones, "Keep my memory by living in grief and hiding from reality." and yet, that is the burden that we are placing on those who died if we insist on living a fear driven life. 
Fear, anger, and revenge have been hallmarks of our nation's existence over the past few years
I cannot speak for those who died and conjecture whether or not they would say that the price we are paying for our guise of security is worthwhile.  
No one can. 
What we can do is say that the America that they died knowing, has not also died.  
We can  continue to live and live freely.  
We can begin to act, as a nation, in ways that will let us hold our heads high. 
We can reclaim our freedoms and tell the terrorists who hate our way of life that we have always paid for our freedom with blood and we will continue to do so, but we will NOT sign away our liberty for the guise of security!   . 
I think it is time to be done. 
It is time to not only remember, but rebuild. Not only the physical structures, but the heart of our nation.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life on Hold

I'm not trying to go all "woe is me" on you, nor am I trying to play, "my life is harder than your life."  Because really, my life is not bad, it's just...difficult right now.  My real purpose here is simply to show you that when I say, "Girlfriend, I feel you!"  You know that I really do feel you!

Our house has been up for sale for over a year now. Literally half of our belongings are in a storage unit--you know, all that, "a cleared out house shows better" stuff.  I'm not the greatest housekeeper on a good day, so trying to keep the house show-ready for a YEAR?!?!  I'm about to lose my mind. Add to that the house in question is also under construction, (umm, sure you can see the house, please understand that there is no wall on the kitchen right now though). And now, just to add to the fun, my wonderful mom has come to live with us. So, seven people in a one bathroom house.

I'm a flexible, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal, so really, living life in upheaval like this is probably much less stressful on me than it would be on some of my uber-organized sisters. Or, (here's a thought!) if I were  a tad more organized, perhaps my heaved-up* life wouldn't be quite so chaotic?

Truthfully, the worst part of  all of this is feeling like we are living life on hold.  Months and months of telling the kids, "You can have that toy back when we move."  or "We will do this after we move."  "Sorry honey, that <insert child's favorite item here> is in storage."  Even the baby has picked up on this.  I asked him the other day to bring me his shoes so I could finish dressing him and he replied, "I got no shoes, they are in storage."

As you would imagine, we did a bit of painting and wallpapering to freshen up the house for sale. Now I look around and my "freshly" painted walls are dingy with the stray mark here and there.  My "new" wallpaper has the lovely addition of blue marks ALL over it, courtesy of the 2 year old.  The truth is, in a house this busy, paint and wallpaper that is a year old is not in any way, shape, or form, new.  I did try, for the first few months, to keep the walls clean by removing  access to writing instruments.  That was an exercise in folly.  Four children and we home-school; life without crayons is just not worth it.

I suppose in the grand scheme of life, being without toys or crayons for a while isn't cataclysmic, but when you are a child, a year+ is actually a long time.  And due to other circumstances and decisions that I've had to make during the past year, they have actually missed out on more than just a season without crayons.  Soccer seasons, dance classes, joining community theatre, signing up for various other lessons...always with the, "but what if we sell the house..."

Seriously, I am so OVER waiting!  I am tired of not living today but always thinking, "when we sell the house; when we move; in a new house we can..."

 Life is short, my children's childhoods are even shorter. Walls be hanged, the kids need to be able to color!
My goal right now is trying to prioritize,  what are the most important things to work into our "life on hold" and what can go on waiting?

-I've made the last few birthday cakes for the kids, even though my decorating supplies are, you guessed it, in storage. I've had to get creative and do what I can with a $9 beginner kit I picked up, but really, they only care that mommy made them a cake.

-I've let the girl's start scrapbooking again. Our bin of "nice" supplies is...not currently accessible. But we have discovered that with a little creativity, they can still have a lot of fun and make meaningful memories of their friends.

-I've broken out of my , "I'm not a good enough housekeeper/hostess," and we've had more people over during the past few months than we have in the previous 6 years all together.  You know what?  Either it's not as horrible as I see it, or I just pick really kind friends who are too polite to tell me about it.

-We filled the pool this summer.  We weren't going to, I mean, what if we sell the house?  But the kids were beside themselves with excitement and watching them swim like little otters all summer has been worth it.

-I've accepted that I might need to loosen my death-grip on unschooling and I've, gasp, ordered curriculum for the two older kids. Who knows, maybe they will not only survive the structure, it might even do them some good.

These things are just baby steps, I know that, but I do not want to realize a few years from now that I have wasted my kids' childhood days waiting for a better time to do things.

What is in your way?
What is causing you to look at someday instead of today?  
Do you need to re-prioritize things in your life?
Are you going through the motions and living life on hold?
Yes, we do need an eye toward the future, but not at the expense of the present.  God wants us to live an abundant life today.

*I was trying to work off of "upheaval" in the previous sentence. Instead it sounds rather Jonah-ish.  Words are funny sometimes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Course Adjustment

I've been thinking a lot the past few weeks and realize that my blog needs a course adjustment.  I began thisone so that I could have a place to keep my articles separate from all my personal stuff, kids pictures, and potty-training stories. Since this is also ostensibly a place to point potential publishers (see, people DO read my ramblings!), this separation is important. However, I really feel like I've lost my voice and instead of my postings being real, from my heart, what I'm really living, they are becoming boring and decidedly didactic. I have 3-4 drafts saved that I haven't posted for this very reason... they are just not me being real.
I believe they are accurate and that I did appropriate study, but to put it bluntly, they simply aren't from the heart.

So, that being said, brace yourselves because when I write from the gut, sometimes it isn't pretty, I will present problems that don't have answers, and I might even cry; but it will be real, it will be life as I'm living it, and most of all, I desire that it will glorify God as he walks me through it.