Dec 4, 2016

Christmas Palindrome

12/04/2016 — cori

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care....
because of the way Gavin put them there
He taped and taped so they wouldn't fall down,
secure in their spot so the parents wouldn't frown.
When asked why they spelled JOYOJ, Gavin replied,
"It's a Christmas palindrome" with a sparkle in his eye.


Caroling in the Bathroom

12/04/2016 — cori
Chloe had a friend spend the night this weekend. After spending their evening making chocolate covered pretzels and chicken tacos to serve to the fam (and in the process making the largest mess possible!) these two got all dolled up. They spent hours doing each other's hair and make-up. My bathroom shares a wall with Chloe's bathroom. As I'm in the tub last night, I hear the faint sound of Christmas carols coming through the wall. Hmmm, that's odd, I think to myself. Why would the girls be singing Christmas carols? I go check on them and this is what I see:


Chloe is actually looking up the lyrics to different songs so they can sing them in their entirety. Never mind that it's 10:30 at night. Never mind that they are doing their hair only to go to bed in a matter of minutes. 


They are 12 year old girls and blissfully happy. This is what 12 year old girls do - they sing Christmas carols in the bathroom late at night while doing hair and make-up. Oh to be 12 again.

Nov 28, 2016

A Colorado Thanksgiving

11/28/2016 — cori



Thanksgiving is usually the one time of year we get to visit Chuck's brother, John and his sweet family. Their family increased by one this year. Mason was born just 5 weeks ago, thus giving us a great reason to traverse across the country to spend Thanksgiving at their house. We had a wonderful time doing some family photo shoots during our time there. This was one of my favorites. However, before we arrived in Parker, we spent a few days in northern Colorado hiking, exploring, and college shopping.


Believe it or not, we accidentally found this amazing hike. We were up in Estes Park. It was a cold day with the forecast predicting snow. We didn't want to get stuck up at Rocky Mountain National Park, so we just found ourselves meandering through the town of Estes. We were on Devil's Gulch Road when all of the sudden we found ourselves right next to a park sign. We apparently took a back entrance into RMNP unknowingly and ended up at Lumpy Ridge - I kid you not. I couldn't make up a trail name that great if I had ample time to think. It was so amazing and so cool and so empty. We only passed 2 other people the entire time. 


It was our kind of hike: a little chilly, tons of rocks to climb, a little off the beaten-path, a little dangerous, quiet and full of serene views. So many of our favorite times have happened on accident or because we got lost. I'm so thankful for these special, unplanned times.


We even found cool photo op spots. How can you not on these gorgeous mountains?


I think this rock formation inspired the name Lumpy Ridge


Of course, what kind of hike would this be without a little daring and adventure? It doesn't look that far across in the picture, but Chuck would tell you otherwise. He was kind of stuck that way for a while. He risked life and limb trying to get one side of his body to the other, he just wasn't sure which side it was going to be until it happened.


As we were leaving Estes we caught a glimpse of a bunch of elk in the Estes Lake. We were speechless. We quickly pulled into the parking lot and got out to stare in awe at these gorgeous creatures as they were embarking on their fall migration. 


How lucky were we? The atmosphere was one of awe and wonderment. We felt as if we were witnessing something we shouldn't be allowed to see. These animals were mostly peaceful (a few bulls were wrestling with their horns but it ended as quickly as it started). The sounds they make don't seem big enough for their massive bodies.


Bennett has shown a lot of interest in Colorado State University. Since we were in Fort Collins, we took a morning and walked around the campus. Being there only made him more excited for college.


We visited Devil's Backbone in Loveland. We'd been there once before, but this time we saw a whole other part that we hadn't yet explored.


Yes, we walked much of the length of that.


As we were leaving Loveland, we spotted this gorgeous lake. Come to find out is was Lake Loveland. The water was like glass. The view was that gorgeous. It took my breath away. I just stood there staring in amazement. 


We got the chance to tour CU Boulder. It is a beautiful campus. Gavin really liked it.


And then finally, we made it to John and Karen's house. I got to spend a lot time with this sweet boy. Oh how I love babies! I was in heaven.


Chloe was amazing with Logan. They spent tons of time together. She was even able to put him down for his nap twice - no small feat for a 2 year old.


The brothers got to spend lots of quality time together, usually with a little one on or around them.


Even Bennett got in on the baby holding action. As long as Mason wasn't crying, he was happy to hold him.


We got to watch a lot of "Paw Patrol" before bed time. As you can tell, Gavin and Bennett are enthralled.


And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without our annual game of Guesstures. 


There are just too  many opportunities for crazy pictures. We like to call this one, "I don't!", Logan's current favorite saying.


We discovered the hilarity of the Dictionary Game. Try to keep a straight face reading Bennett and Chloe's definitions. It doesn't happen. The giggles are so much fun. Believe it or not, we didn't get one picture on Thanksgiving day. We were so caught up in getting everything done. John invited a second cousin and his family who were in town to join us. So we had a nice sized group. They had a little 1 year old named, Lilly. For whatever reason, Lilly really liked Gavin. Gavin managed to go most of the visit without touching a small child (his preference). But not Lilly. She would march right up to Gavin and put out her hand so he would have to take it and she would lead him somewhere or she would put her arms out and he had no choice but to pick her up. He was sweet and gentle with her ,albeit out of his element. I think he was secretly honored to be chosen by this sweet little girl.

I'm kind of thankful we didn't get any pictures of the actual Thanksgiving day because I kind of made a little mess. I was trying to be helpful, honestly. I was doing my assigned task (John made a list of each task and who was to do what at what time). I was mashing the acorn squash. I went to get the salt that was in a small bowl with a lid. As I opened the lid, something went terribly wrong and salt went everywhere. It looked like I took the bowl and just dumped it upside down. John had a mini heart attack. Of course this would happen when you least want it to. It took several of us to get the salt off me and vacuumed up off the floor. Thankfully, I didn't spill it in any food, right? That could have been disastrous. I've learned that you never know when I'm going to mess up big time. It usually happens at the most inopportune time, however. 

So, that was Thanksgiving in a nutshell. Already looking forward to next year.



I Wonder What He's Thinking?

11/28/2016 — cori


How many more ways can I say I love this kid?! There is NEVER a dull moment with Bennett around. Here we are taking selfies on the sofa bed at the hotel during our latest road trip. I know, I was dangerously close to his pit (I was holding my breath).


Seriously, all he has to do is turn and wink at me and I crack up like a middle-school girl.  See what I mean? He can cut any mood with his humor. He is a perpetual optimist, just like his father. He's always looking for the bright side.

But that doesn't mean he's always focused. That takes a little more effort. He zones out a lot and we don't know where he goes during those times. However, I think we found out. During our last road trip he was sitting in the very back seat in the third row (it's about as comfortable as sitting in lotus position for 5 hours straight). I turned around to check on him. I asked, "How are you doing honey?" He looked up with a blank look on his face and responded, "Basketball."

I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Of course that's what he's thinking. That's all he's ever thinking about. He's like a dog, or at least our dog. All Ninja ever thinks about is food. She thinks everything we say to her is about food or how we're going to get her food. The same is true for our sweet Bennett boy. One big basketball covers that brain of his. One more reason to love him so.

Nov 18, 2016

Before and After

11/18/2016 — cori


I am infamous for doing a renovation and only showing "after" pictures because I never remember to take "before" pictures. But not this time, my friend. I am a winner now. For the record, this before picture was taken 51/2 years ago when we first moved here. So, technically, it is a before picture. Just not right before.


Here is the "after" shot. We finally were able to install granite and update our kitchen. It is also nice to have all matching stainless steel appliances as well. Those came periodically over the years as the old white ones would slowly and randomly die. 


Last weekend Chuck and I spent every waking moment tiling our backsplash. We were up against the clock. Winter is about to set in and nobody wants to be out in their garage with the messy tile cutter in 10 -15 degree weather cutting tile with a wet saw that keeps getting frozen. Thankfully, the weather was perfect and we popped this baby out in one day and finished grouting the following morning. I am so very thankful for my beautiful kitchen.

Nov 16, 2016

The Powerless

11/16/2016 — cori

Once a week I volunteer at the English Learning Center in downtown Minneapolis. It is a community-based program housed in the basement of a church. This church has accepted it's Muslim neighbors with open arms and no strings attached. I teach English 1 to the immigrant and refugee students. Most of the students are Somali. My entire class is Somali. They are the sweetest people, always smiling, always singing, always happy, very gracious. 

The above words greeted me as I walked into school this morning. I was blown away by the kindness and love this school shows the students. Every chance they get the school tries to build them up, encourage them, tell them how appreciated they are and assure them that they are not alone. This school advocates for their students. This school is a safe place for these students.

Come to find out, this comes on the heels of one of the students getting attacked earlier this week on her way home from school. The school is in a Somali neighborhood, so most of the people walk. This attack was a hate crime and really shook up the community. Ever since the election last week, hate crimes in our city have been increasing, as they have around the country. 

We shouldn't be surprised since people are just reflecting what their president-elect does. After campaigning on a platform of fear, hate and disrespect, these immature out-bursts are to (sadly) be expected. But we won't sit down and take it. We won't watch our friends, neighbors, or even strangers be treated this way. Love stands up for those pushed down, aside, and away. I'm so thankful to volunteer at a place whose actions speak as loud as their words in a positive, affirming, gracious, life-giving way.

I could go on a huge rant about the election, but I'll refrain. Suffice it to say I was devastated. My immediate thought was for the safety of all my friends and students who I know are so afraid. My heart continues to break for the constant fear they now live under. Yet even in that, my students cheered me up. 

Last week, after the election, I asked the students if they wanted to talk about the results. Since it's a very beginning class, I'm quite limited in the language I can use. I asked them if they were happy or sad. They all looked around at each other and confirmed out loud, "We're happy." I was a quite surprised. Their entire community was just belittled and scoffed at by the president-elect just two days prior as he spread lies and fear about them in their own home city. That was not the reaction I was expecting.

After several minutes of digging I found out that they weren't necessarily happy about the results. They know exactly who Trump is, what he stands for, and how much he hates them as well as Mexicans. However, they choose to not let it affect them. They choose happiness. They choose to go on and not dwell on it. In the words of one of my students, "What choice to we have? We can't do anything about it." The only power the powerless have is to ignore him and his threats. They will not allow him or his fear or hate to control their thoughts. So. Proud. Of. Them. I choose to stand with the powerless.

Nov 15, 2016

The Booksigning

11/15/2016 — cori


Chloe and I got to enjoy our very first book signing event this past Friday. This is Chloe with her favorite author, Shannon Messenger. This author is just as personable and as bubbly as she looks. She was so gracious to the room full of tweens who adore her books and had 4,397 questions to ask her. 


Since we got there about an hour early (but we got fantastic seats), we had a lot of time to talk. This was the signing for the 5th book in the series. Chloe has been on pins and needles for weeks awaiting its release. I asked her how many times she read the previous 4 books. You will not believe her answers. Book 1: 20 times; Book 2: 7 times; Book 3: 25 times; Book 4: 26 times; Book 5: 5 times. She just got book 5 less than 5 days ago. These books are upwards of 500-600 pages! People - Chloe has a huge problem! Can you not see it?! The poor girl is addicted to reading - especially books she loves and especially this series. I had no idea. Apparently, I'm failing in the 'keeping-up-with-Chloe's-books' part of parenting.

Prior to this, Percy Jackson was her favorite series. That was like 3 months ago. You don't even want to know how many times this series was read. Apparently, my parental warning of "only read new books" was heard but immediately discarded. Who cares about trying to open up their horizons? Who cares about learning other points of view? Who cares that their are other fantastic authors out there? Not my kids. When they find a series or an author they like, they ride it into the ground. They hold on and don't let go. They sleep with their books. They memorize their books. They quote their books. Bibliophile would be an accurate description of this sweet girl. The only reason she even found her new favorite series and this fantastic author was because I happened to pick it up at the library for her to "just try it out to see how you like it." 

One other small piece of information I learned while awaiting the book signing. 12 year old girls do not like it when their mom's sing out loud in public. I was just trying to pass the time. I had a song stuck in my head, so every once in a while, a little diddy would come out. No one heard me - how could they? There were 70 other 12 year olds in the room talking like their existence depended on how loud they could be. Trust me, no one was going to hear a 43 year old mom belting out "Locked Away". Granted, they may have seen my lips move while I mimicked singing into a microphone whilst also closing my eyes and throwing my head back as I was opening my arms wide. But they definitely would not have been able to hear if I was on or off key.

Take this as a lesson kids, if you raise kids in a house with multiple bookshelves in each room, always read to and with them, take them to the library more than once a week and show them just how fun reading is, you may end up with some serious bibliophiles on your hands. I can only hope you are equipped to deal with them.

Nov 10, 2016

Braveheart

11/10/2016 — cori

Bennett's five week pinky inconvenience is now no more. He had the pins removed this past Tuesday. Sounds nicer than it actually was. Leading up to the procedure, he was curious as to how the Doctor was planning on taking these grotesque pins out. Was she just simply going to unscrew them? Sounded too easy and construction like. Yet, that's exactly what she did. Here you can see the tiny screws laying on the white mat next to Bennett's hand. That's the only part that was unscrewed. Those minuscule screws came out of two ball looking things holding the wires/pins in place.


The Doctor originally planned on injecting Bennett with some numbing medication before removing the pins. Looking back, I bet she wishes she had. But for some unknown reason, she decided he didn't need it saying, "It will hurt just as badly to do the injection as it will to take the pins out, so we might as well just take the pins out." What did we know? We said, "Ok."  

She got some wire cutters to cut the wires. Then she got some pliers so she could hold on tightly and wiggle the wires out of HIS BONE. He was more than uncomfortable. This kid has a huge threshold of pain. Yet he was wincing and gasping the entire time. She had to wiggle out pins from 4 different holes. The third hole was a killer. He almost screamed. I felt helpless watching him. I videoed the entire episode so he could watch it later. But it just seemed wrong.

Once the third pin came out, Bennett fell forward in his chair looking like he was resting his head on the desk. I thought he was going to say, "Wow, that was a doozy!" Instead, he started convulsing. His whole body was shaking violently. I stood up and grabbed a hold of him so he wouldn't fall out of his chair. I looked over at the Doctor, "What's happening?" She responded, "I don't know." That's all it took....Mama Bear instincts took over and I was going to take charge of my son's care now! I was about to tell the Doctor what to do (like I knew, but adrenaline takes over and you make quick decisions) when she abruptly stood up and said, "I'll go get some orange juice and crackers for him." Gee thanks. 

As she's going to the door, I ask Bennett, "Honey, are you ok?" He immediately sits straight up and looks blankly around the room and says, "Did I pass out?" To which I nod in affirmation. His next words were, "I'm going to throw up." The Doctor scrambles for a trash can and runs out of the room to get his snack. I'm still standing there holding him for dear life. He is clammy with a cold sweat and dilated eyes. I'm just glad his body stopped convulsing. I seriously thought he was having a seizure and I didn't know what you were supposed to do for those.

This is the point in the story where you can tell the Doctor feels bad for neglecting the numbing medicine. The pain of pulling metal out of bone is excruciating. But Bennett persevered like a champ. The Doctor still had one more pin to go. It took as long to take that one pin out as it took to get all the other 3 out together. She was much slower and gentler. Thank God. 

Bennett was still shaking when we left. Not how we foresaw the end of this broken pinky journey. So proud of his brave heart. Now...let's play basketball!

Nov 5, 2016

The Power of Pain

11/05/2016 — cori



When does the struggle disappear?
When will I have peace instead of fear?
Will it always hurt this bad inside?
How long is the wait till God provides
The answer that will make me free?
Why is there torment inside of me?
Is struggle a normal part of life?
How do I live amidst the strife?
Will people always be unkind?
Where are the infamous ties that bind?
Is there hope inside of me?
Why is life never easy?
Can I skip this painful part?
How do I protect my broken heart?


When pain abounds inside my soul
I look around for what makes me whole.
Many things catch my view
Bountiful as the morning dew.
I could escape this struggle inside
And never learn how to abide
With the pain inside of me
A metamorphosis that will someday be
A heart and character shaped anew
A transformation that pain brought to
My weary, beaten, broken soul
Yet, mysteriously again made whole.
Project the pain, it won’t change you
Transform the pain, and life feels new.
This road of suffering can't be escaped.
The lessons learn can't be erased.
Struggle reveals beauty through pain
Like a diamond borne through strain.


Embracing struggle seems opposite to
What our normal senses want to do.
We yearn to run, hide, make it go away
In earnestness we wish, we beg, we pray
That God would free us from this pain
Yet our burden still remains.
Maybe my prayers are wrong, I fear
Not the right words God wants to hear.
The situation isn’t better yet
My mind and heart begin to fret.
Fear threatens to strangle me
The struggle goes on, sight unseen.
People think I’m doing well
But deep inside, it feels like hell.


Sit with the pain, let it be.
Embrace the struggle and you will see
How stillness, quiet and solitude
Can help your heart change it’s view
And see the struggle as a gift instead
Trust with your heart, not your head.
It doesn’t make sense, that is true
But God’s Holy Spirit inside of you
Is with you always, even in this
Learn to trust and not to miss
That He carried you all along 
How this struggle made you strong.
Peace and joy of life renewed
Only after you walked through
The pain, the struggle, the difficult time
Bearing the burden in your mind.
To continue the circle of life and be
Happy, relieved, peaceful, and free.
Ever grateful for each new day
Whatever experience comes your way.
Because you found that walking through
The struggle is what’s best for you.

Oct 31, 2016

On Turning 15

10/31/2016 — cori

When you first came to Dad and Me
We knew our lives would forever be
Better, brighter and bigger because of you,
Our second born, our son number two.

You brought peace and laughter beyond compare
Opening our world and all who share
In the special joy of knowing you
And all the memorable things you do.

You share your love in little ways
Trying to brighten other people's days.
A smile here, a hug there
Or encouraging words to help me bear
Through the day, the week, the hour
You won't let my attitude stay sour.

Your smile is infectious and your laughter too
As you try to get happiness out of someone who's blue.
We can't stay mad when you're around
You turn our frowns upside down.

You've grown to become a fitness guru
with your love of sports, balls, and exercise too.
Strong in body, soul, and mind
You practice and study all the time.
To be the best that you can be
Even when no one is around to see.

As your voice grows lower and your stature gets higher
We see your passions and what fills you with desire.
You're becoming a young man who's honest and kind
Who listens to wisdom for your heart and mind.

Your journey in life will have struggles and joys
Embrace them both and block out the noise
Of people telling you what you should do
Instead, listen to the truth deep inside of you.

Keep love in your center, your heart, your core
It will guide you and keep you and open your eyes for
Ways to share, sacrifice, and help carry the load 
For those who have been walking a difficult road.

Integrity, courage, humility too,
These are all growing inside of you.
Please stay true to who you are
That's the best you by far!



Oct 26, 2016

For The Love of Food

10/26/2016 — cori

Yesterday I cooked a delicious-smelling Tuscan Bean Soup in the crockpot all day long. The aroma was wafting through the house enticing us all with anticipation of happy, full tummies. It was a dreary, gray, rainy, cold day - perfect for a warm bowl of soup and some naan. As I was waiting for Chuck to get home from work I was perusing through the land of Twitter. And as luck would have it, our very favorite restaurant PUNCH PIZZA tweeted this special little note: $3 Dead Pizzas after 5pm - today only! 

People, it's hard to appreciate the depth of what this simple little tweet means if you don't know Punch. And yes, I do follow a pizza restaurant on Twitter. I am that loyal! What am I to do with this new, pertinent information? On one hand, there's the soup in the crockpot just waiting for a ladle. On the other, there's Punch. It's impossible to say no to Punch, especially a $3 pizza. The pizza I usually get is $10.95. You can imagine the savings possibilities here. We had the opportunity to save boo-coo bucks, eat our favorite communal food, and support our favorite restaurant. It was a win/win situation as far as I could see.

So I summoned the children from the four corners of the house. Actually, only 2 children were home at the time. I explained my conundrum for them. I then showed them the list of "dead pizzas" (discontinued). I asked them to tell me with all honesty if they could find a pizza they liked on that list and if so, we might just have to ditch this healthy soup and drive 30 minutes away to go eat a $3 pizza. They were up for the sacrifice. I texted Bennett and told him we were going to go do something fun without him. He took it well. He was at his friend's house about to do a fantasy NBA draft - not much could upset him at that point.

As soon as Chuck walked in the door, after a 45 minute bus commute and a 15 minute car ride, we shuffled him right back out into the dismal evening rain once again. He was a good sport. He makes sacrifices daily, but this one was to be admired. He even drove us through rush hour traffic up to Saint Paul to our favorite place to eat. 

Here is where we encounter an unfortunate snag in our plan. Apparently, we didn't anticipate that everyone else in St. Paul also followed Punch Pizza on Twitter and also wanted $3 dead pizzas. As we pull past the restaurant we see a line of people out the door and down the sidewalk. Uh-oh. We had to make a decision - wait or turn around and go home? We decided to wait it out. We've come this far...how bad could the wait be?


Here we are in the early moments of outdoor pizza waiting. We are happy because 1) we're about to get the best pizza for an even better price, 2) we are under a pretty, colorful umbrella and are thus, dry and, 3) we are being spontaneously fun - thus, cool in the eyes of our uber-cool teens.

We waited in that line for about an hour - half of it outside, half of it inside. I think we just proved we would do anything for good food. We proudly wear the title of 'Pizza Snobs'. Long live Punch Pizza!

Oct 23, 2016

Solidarity

10/23/2016 — cori


What affects one of us, affects all of us. When one of us does well, we all do well. When one of us stumble, we all hurt. This is compassion. This is the common good. The common good is not a socialist, left-wing, or liberal cause. It is a human cause. We witness this in our immediate and extended families every day. We experience this phenomenon in our churches. But why is it so hard to extend this concept to fellow human beings we live in and among everyday? Why is it hard to extend solidarity to those who are different from us?

I often wonder why regular people in Germany looked the other way when they saw the emaciated Jewish prisoners on the trains, marching through their towns, and behind barbed wire in the concentration camps. I've read many books about this time period in history. This horrid event has fascinated me since I was an adolescent. I'm amazed how such a large group of people let such a wretched event transpire right under their noses. This quote by Niemoller speaks to that quite well:


But now I can see how so many sat by and said or did nothing. I'm experiencing that same phenomenon in my own country. Sometimes it's apathy. People don't care because it doesn't affect them. Sometimes it's fear. If I say something, I might offend someone, I might lose my job, I might receive negative backlash (think Colin Kapernick). Sometimes it's arrogance. We think we are right and the other (whomever the other is) is wrong and they deserve whatever consequences befall them. Sometimes it's racism. That ugly word that attached itself to our history and affected everything from politics to education to protecting the peace. Sometimes its nationalistic pride blinding our eyes to the need of the other. Sometimes it's selfish greed wanting what we want no matter the cost.

I am sad, angry, confused, disappointed and deeply concerned with the injustice, negativity, hate, greed, fear, ignorance and arrogance I see all around me. But I cannot only point fingers. I stand and take my part of the blame. I've been silent when I should have spoken up. I've looked the other way when I could have stepped in and helped. I've turned a deaf ear to the cry of the needy, justifying my actions with my own needs. I've judged others as unworthy of my help and deserving of their consequences. I've chosen justification over forgiveness. I've chosen greed over compassion. I've chosen judgement over grace. I've chosen fear over love. For all these choices, my heart breaks. 

I cannot be silent any longer. Even if standing in solidarity means only using my words, saying them out loud, writing them down for others to read. Maybe one day they will turn into action. Maybe my words will let 'the other' know they are not alone. I don't want 'the other' wondering where I was when horrible things were happening to them. It is not okay. How some human beings are being treated by their fellow human beings is just not okay and I can't sit by and be silent any longer.

I KNOW IMMIGRANTS. The ones I know are not abusing the system. They are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. They are fleeing governments and countries marred by death, destruction, corruption and severe poverty. They are seeking to better themselves in our country because they heard it was a land of opportunity. They didn't know that that opportunity was for the wealthy, white people only. They thought it was for all those who worked hard and cared for others along the way. Through a friend, I met a woman who's husband was deported leaving her and their 2 year old son behind with nothing. I've felt the fear. I hugged her and gave her the tiniest gift that was inadequate to her need but that was enough to show she was not alone and that someone cared. We didn't speak the same language, but love doesn't need that. Love is understood by the actions we take. My friend offered to watch her little boy so this woman could go find a job. That is all she had to give yet that was exactly what this poor woman needed. Whatever the circumstances of her husband's deportation, it still separated a loving family. It still hurt. It still brought immediate needs and fears and concerns. My job is to be there and love. Not judge.

I KNOW AFRICAN AMERICANS. My heart breaks for each unarmed African American killed by a police officer and for their devastated families. These are not justified killings. This is not peace-keeping. This is wrong. America needs to admit we have a race problem before we can do anything about it. The problem of racism is so deeply rooted in our country. It pervades everything. It is incredibly divisive. I've worked with an African American man and witnessed first hand the bigotry and prejudice he had to deal with on a daily basis. I was aghast. He was gentle, kind and forgiving about it all. I was angry. We talked about it in depth. He was a bigger person than I. He knew forgiveness enabled him to keep going. Brooding over the unfairness of it all just kept him in a prison of anger and hatred. It broke my heart to witness and experience the sting that racism feels like. It is not okay. What affects my friend affects me. I have another African American friend who lives in a very nice, middle-class neighborhood. She has often been the lone black face among her many white friends. She's a beautiful person, always trying to bring unity and joy to everyone around her. Yet she shared with me how she had to have a talk with her 5 year old daughter about how cruel kids can be and about the names people will call her in school. I was shocked; people are calling 5 year old girls the n-word? I didn't have to have this talk with my 5 year old. This was not my reality. But this is the reality African Americans live with. This is not okay. If this was happening to me, I would want to stand up and yell to the world the injustice of it all and fix it. Why can't we understand that Black Lives Matter too? It's not that they matter above all else, it's that they've been squashed, excluded, ignored, left-out for far too long. All lives are important, but the African Americans need the assurance from us that they matter as well because for far too long they haven't. We might have agreed with our words, but our actions have proven otherwise. 

I KNOW MUSLIMS. There are many beautiful, kind, wonderful, hard-working, peaceful muslims. There are also fundamental, hateful muslims. This is true in Christianity as well. The majority should not be defined by the minority. The Christians who inflict harm and hate on others are not a true reflection of Christianity. Then why can't we believe the same to be true about Islam? We can't paint all Muslims as extremist and terrorist when the majority are not. It's not fair. Every religion has their fundamentalists - the people who take it to an extreme or too far. The Muslims I know are so kind and giving. They genuinely care for their fellow human beings. By accepting Muslims, you are not forced to agree with their theology, you are just accepting a fellow human being who happens to believe in God differently than you do. We need to give each other this respect if we want them to respect the way we believe in God. We can't let fear define how we treat an entire group of people.

I KNOW REFUGEES. These are people who never wanted to leave their native countries. Rather, they have been forced out by wretched governments doing unspeakable evils to their own people. They were forced to flee the country they grew up in and love with only the clothes on their backs. They had to leave everyone they love behind. They are often forced to give up their customs and normalcy just to stay alive. Nobody chooses to be a refugee. Most refugees are women and children. The refugees I know are scared. They are trying to function in a new society where nothing looks familiar, they don't know the language, they can't find the foods they are used to eating, and where people give them strange looks for dressing differently. They are now in a place where people are afraid of them instead of welcoming and accepting. These are people with strong character. Talk about pulling yourself up by the bootstrap. They often work menial jobs for low wages and terrible hours. Yet, they still find time to continue their education. They go to school whenever they're not working. They are trying to better themselves, their lives, their circumstances. Education does that. If you can speak the language of the country you live in, you have a better chance of assimilating faster. But another thing about the refugees that most people don't see....their smiles. They are always smiling, just happy to be alive another day, just happy to be where they are, doing what they're doing. I've learned from my refugee friends to take one day at a time - things could always be worse, but they can also get better.

I KNOW POOR PEOPLE. Nobody deserves poverty, yet people often act as if someone, somehow, someway did something to deserve this punishment of circumstances. There are so many factors to poverty: education, race, neighborhood, vocation, drugs, parental lineage, money, chance, alcohol, death, health, homelessness, greed, governmental systems. It seems like an insurmountable problem. It's not a uniquely American problem, it's worldwide. It can't be easily fixed. It's overwhelming. But we can help one person at a time. When one life steps in and touches one other life, you never know the domino effect it will have. There are beautiful people in every ethnicity, religion and nationality making beautiful strides and impacts in this area every day. Most of these people we'll never hear about. The lady I know was struck with a terminal illness. She can no longer work as a nurse. She's had to find adoptive parents for her son and set all her affairs in order because she doesn't know when that fateful day will come - which seizure will be her last. She can't work. She can only rely on the kindness of strangers. I bring her dinner once a week. I've known her for four years now. Hopelessness and fear are her constant companions. Yet she's so happy to see me every week. It's her one constant. It's not about whether or not she deserves it, it's about love. Everyone wants, needs to be loved. She craves her weekly dose of love. It just happens to come in the form of food and a hug from me. I don't know how else to do it. 

I WISH I KNEW NATIVE AMERICANS. I met a Native American once. It was a fascinating experience. The entire time I was listening to him all I wanted to do was say, "I'm so sorry." I'm sorry for what my ancestors have done to your ancestors (I also want to say this to many African Americans as well). I'm sorry we continue to not honor agreements, that we treat you as the lesser, that we took your sacred land and gave you vast prairies of nothingness in return. I'm sorry we didn't and still don't respect you as human beings just because you do things differently than those of us from European decent. I'm sorry we're once again trying to steal something sacred to you (and to all humans), the water that runs where the Dakota Pipeline is being built. I'm sorry people in my government put money, greed and profit over what's best for the environment and how that affects you and your people. I'm sorry we didn't listen then and we continue to turn a deaf ear to you now. You are truly the "least of these" and I'm sorry I'm complicit in overlooking you. I also want to say, "Thank you." Thank you for being gracious to us, for allowing us to join your pow-wows and memorial day events. Thank you for treating us the way you wish to be treated.

I think Brian McLaren sums it all up perfectly: True faith isn't a deal where we use God to get the inside track or a special advantage or a secret magic formula for success. It isn't a mark of superiority or exclusion. True faith is about joining God in God's love for everyone. It's about seeking goodness with others, not at the expense of others. True faith is seeing a bigger circle in which we are all connected, all included, all loved, all blessed. True faith...brings us into solidarity with others and with all creation.


(Quote from: "We Make the Road by Walking")


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