general musings of a liberal Texan

Why Indeed

Last weekend I was driving around town with two of my daughters looking for a Christmas tree.The last few years we’ve bought our tree at a lot sponsored by the Optimist Club.  The trees cost a little more but the money is for a good cause.  The last couple of years I’ve been financially stable enough that, even though I probably couldn’t really afford it, I didn’t pay much attention to the price and felt good about giving money while buying a tree.  This year we absolutely can’t afford the extra money and so drove away from the tree lot without even getting out of the car once we saw the prices.

Driving to a local hardware store to buy a tree for $30 rather than $100, we stopped at a light where a homeless man had a sign asking for food and blessings.  We usually carry food in our cars for just such occasions, but this time were caught short (which reminds me – note to self:  put fruit and crackers in car again).  The man saw we were looking for something and when I shrugged apologetically he came toward our car to wish us a happy holiday.  I asked him if he knew where the nearest shelter was and he proceeded to tell us he’d lived here his whole life. He was born 63 years ago at a hospital nearby that is now a park.  He showed us a windbreaker he had under his jacket which a “nice woman” had recently given him and which he boasted keeps the wind from getting to him and keeps him dry.  He smiled his toothless grin when we asked him if he was ok and did he need anything specifically and wished him a happy holiday.  It was a genuinely nice and affirming conversation.

As we pulled away, my girls both commented on how nice he was.  Then my 13 year old asked, “Why are there so many people who are homeless?  Why doesn’t the government help them get houses?”  Why indeed.

My 17 year old replied “because people are stupid” with all the disgust of a teenager with a huge heart.  I started to explain that there are organizations that do help but there are a lot of people in this country who don’t feel the government should help people in need.  That everyone should be able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and if they are not successful it is somehow their fault.  “That’s silly,” said my 13-year-old, “everyone needs help sometimes.” Indeed.

The fact is, there is enough housing available in the United States to  house every person.  There is enough food and clean water to nourish every person.  Why we as a society continue to blame the poor for being poor and refuse help when help can be given is beyond my ability to explain to my 13 year old.  And so I try to teach her that all we can do is what we can personally do to help those we see in need.  We can advocate, we can vote for people who feel the way we do, we can give time and treasure to organizations who do loads of good.  But mostly when we see, hear about, or catch a rumor of people in need, we can offer our hand to help in whatever way we are able.

Even with the trials and tribulations of this difficult year, we have so much to be thankful for.  I’ve never had to ask for more help than I have this year, and without friends and family willing to do just that, well…I shudder to think.  But asking for help is also more difficult than I ever imagined.

“That’s silly” I hear my wise child tell me.  “We all need help sometimes.”  From her mouth to the world’s ears.

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Call Your Mother!

Just so you know, I’m plagued by self doubt at times, especially concerning my parenting.  I’m sure none of you ever have to deal with this phenomenon, so I’ll tell you what it’s like…

Most days I feel like I’m a pretty good mom.  Not the best in the world, but not too terrible either. Occasionally, I’m sure I’ll be paying for my kids’ therapy as adults until I die due to all the trauma I’ve caused them just by being their parent.

Being the mom of three girls has mostly been the very best thing I’ve ever experienced.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming, especially now that we are entrenched in the teenage years.  One kid has made it past her teenage years and yesterday she called me up to tell me how much she appreciates me loving and accepting her no matter what.  You see, she’s taking a gender studies course at college (this is funny in and of itself, a story for another post) and they watched a movie about some kids who were not accepted by their mom.  (I think one was gay and one was transgender.)  And she just wanted to let me know that she now understands that other kids aren’t as lucky as her, with parents who accept and love her no matter who or what she is.  Wow.

This from the kid who spent much of the last decade telling me I knew nothing of her or her life.  That I could never understand her because I am not her.  She had a point…I am not her.  She is unique, as am I.  But suffering, delight, sorrow and joy are experienced by all humans.  To differing degrees and lengths of time for sure, but this is how we are able to empathize with one another.  But her teenage self was positive I was the enemy with no idea how she was feeling.

Her call reminds me of the day we were standing in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon when she was in 8th grade.  I was cooking dinner and she had just come home from her sexuality class at church (yes we teach comprehensive sexuality at our church, check it out here http://www.uua.org/re/owl/).  In the midst of a conversation she tells me she is bisexual and I said, “Ok”, continuing to chop the vegetables.

I worry now that my nonchalant acceptance of this information was not the best way to go.  Looking back I wish I’d said more. “Wow, that’s an exciting discovery or recognition about yourself”, “How brave of you to tell me”, “I’m honored that you trust me with this information”, “I think it’s great you know this about yourself at such a young age”, even “Great!  I love you.  Pass the asparagus, please.”

But instead I just said “ok”, as if it were no big deal.  And it wasn’t – to me.  But that admission wasn’t about me.  It was about my child who took a risk (not a big one mind you, but a risk nonetheless) to tell me something personal, maybe frightening about herself.  Understanding one’s own sexual orientation is a BIG deal, and I feel I perhaps minimized it too much.

I was pretty sure I knew what kind of response my drama queen was wanting if not expecting…her coming out would have been much more fulfilling to her if I’d cried out in despair, threatened to disown her or throw her out of the house.  At least that was my impression of her highly dramatic teenager needs (I’m sure she’d disagree), but I gave her none of that.  I’ve wondered since then if I did the right thing.

It may not have been the perfect response, but in spite of that and so many other parenting missteps, my highly dramatic, emotional, beautiful, strong, independent young woman of a daughter called to thank me last night for loving her for who she is, no matter what.  I honestly don’t know how it could be any other way for any parent and my heart breaks for those who do not experience parental unconditional love. But loving my children no matter what doesn’t mean I always say and do the right things to make them feel that way. Amidst all my blunders and mistakes as a parent, at least she got that message loud and clear. Two more to go…

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What to say?

Occasionally I get a hankerin’ to tell a story.  Sometimes I even think “I should write about that”.  Not so much because I have something to say as I need to say it.  Perhaps writing into the ether will help – so here’s my blog.  Tain’t much, but it’ll have to do.

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