A Letter to My Son on His Graduation Day: On Being a Good Man


Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”

Dear Son,

Didn’t we both think this day was never going to come? But here it is, and I am entirely unprepared for all the feelings.

Of course, we both know your graduation means the end of an era.

It’s the end of sack lunches and marching band.

It’s the end of school dances and football games.

It’s the end of me signing your report cards.

It’s the end of my making you eat your vegetables.

(Side note: it’s also the end of my paying for your car insurance. I’ve been meaning to tell you).

It’s also a marvelous beginning.

I am so very proud of you, not just because of your academic accomplishments, but your character. You are kind, sometimes to a fault, and you’re always the first to ask how you can help someone.

This is rare, not just for your generation, but for the world we live in.

We live in a world that says:

“Me first.”

“How can I get what’s coming to me?”

“I deserve the best.”

“Look at me! Here I am, being awesome again!”

It’s difficult to rise above these urges.

As you leave high school behind and move to greater things, don’t for a second underestimate your power in this world.

Power begins with choices.

You’ll be making your own decisions about your career, your love life, and what kind of person you want to become. Yes, I know you think you’re all finished growing up, but believe me when I tell you, this is only the beginning.

Because you’ve managed to overcome much of this “me first” mentality, many will try to take advantage. Please don’t let them. It’s difficult to balance kindness and self-respect, but it must be mastered. It is part of loving yourself and embracing maturity.

Another part of maturity is responsibility. We hear so much about what it means to “be a man.” Many inflate masculinity to the point it becomes vulgar: a caricature of itself. They point to their conquests as a mark of manhood. They brag about pushups and athletic prowess over intelligence and sensitivity.

I’ve known many weak men, many selfish men, many corrupt and vulgar men, and a few truly good men.

Do your best to fall into that last category.

I know your dad has been a positive role model to you, and you are fortunate to have him. You were also lucky enough to have known your Papa, my daddy, for a few short years (not nearly, nearly enough). You’ve also been fortunate to have met good men in the form of family, teachers, coaches, and pastors. But, before you leave my nest, I want to make sure you hear this from a woman’s perspective.

On Being a Good Man

A good man knows when to apologize. He knows when to own up to his mistakes. He knows when to dig in, and when to let go.

A good man also knows how to treat a lady. It’s not just opening doors, although that is a good start. He is a good listener, even when the topic is not personally interesting. He knows how to be authentic, true. He loves when she is unlovable. He takes up for her even when she doesn’t deserve it. He is on her side.

He is intelligent enough to listen to other’s opinions, understanding how and when  to disagree respectfully and without insult, but he is also able to not internalize the negativity.

A good man knows how to help others, not just when he will receive accolades, but even when he knows helping will not benefit his own agenda. He helps others when they are too proud to ask. He helps others who don’t know how to ask. He does not expect or demand to be “paid back.”

A good man lets his moral code guide him. He listens to his conscience. He doesn’t cheat others or himself. He doesn’t lie to others or himself. He never steals from others; he only takes what he earns or is given freely. This goes for money, time, or love.

Speaking of love: a good man doesn’t force his intentions, agenda, or affections on anyone else. A good man doesn’t have to try too hard to be loved. He knows what “no” means, and he respects the word and the connotations behind it. He never pushes his advantage. In this way, he earns love and loyalty. When you become a husband, your heart becomes one with another. If you treat your wife as if she is part of you, most of the time you will do the right thing, though nobody is perfect.

When you are on your own in this world, you will be tempted in every way. A good man knows when he is in over his head, and when to look away or walk away. He knows when he’s crossed the line and when to ask for forgiveness. He’s not too proud to admit he’s failed, and he’s not afraid to dust himself off after falling.

A good man is not afraid to love with his whole heart. He understands to love this way is to open his heart for potential pain. He will almost certainly suffer, because it’s difficult to go against the grain of this world. He doesn’t let the hurt scar him, because he sees the good in others and gravitates toward this goodness. To display courage doesn’t mean you haven’t been wounded. It just means you have determined to not allow these wounds to  be fatal.

Not all good men will be fathers. Although I hope this gift comes to you when you are ready; it might not. Nature makes no sense regarding who she lets father a child.

Some men want to be dads more than anything, and for whatever cosmic reason cannot.

Some men father children who should not be allowed to take care of a houseplant.

Many men are given charge of children but don’t know (or choose not to) to guide them. It’s really not that difficult to be a good father. You just need to show up and take care of business. You love with your whole heart. You do what it takes to pay the bills and put food on the table. Nobody is perfect; you will make many mistakes, but if you love your kids that is what they will remember. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In a few days, you’ll walk across that stage, and you’ll move the tassel, signifying the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. You’ll leave childhood behind and take on adult responsibilities. You will make mistakes. you’ll fall and get up again. You will encounter great joy and indescribable pain. You will love.  You will lose: sometimes big and sometimes small. Some losses will be devastating–people you love. This, my son, is enough to make us want to give up.

I wish I could protect you from this, but I cannot.

I know you. You will, as Maya Angelou says, rise. You will stumble, and maybe fall again. But when you stand–you will run. You will fly.

You will not just fly–you will soar.

You’ll make your mark on this world.

The world has been changed by many men, both good and evil.

You will strive for the good, the pure, the authentic.

And you will be a good man.





5 Things I Want My Son to Know

dad and bike

I know what you’re thinking.

How could you possibly sum up everything you want to teach your kid into bullet points? That’s crazy. That’s insane. Get this woman a padded room.

Be honest–doesn’t a padded room sound pretty great sometimes? It’s quiet, it’s comfy–nobody’s talking…

Okay, back to reality.

You’re right. Life lessons are complicated and people can and do write obnoxiously long books about them. Here’s the thing, though. We are busy! We have so much going on. Lessons and ball games and concerts, deadlines and grades and buying toilet paper and washing underwear and taking the dog to the vet (somebody has to). The list NEVER gets shorter, it just changes with age (like me).

It’s like the old joke about how to eat an elephant…one bite at a time.

Since I’m not a child psychologist or Oprah or anything, I just have to do this a bite at a time. If I wait for that “perfect moment”, inevitably it will never come. So here’s my best shot–5 things at a time. If you want to see the previous blog about this, click  here.

5 MORE Things I Want My Son to Know:

1.How to be a good dad. This is complicated, for sure, and when I think about things my own dad did that made me love him I think that 90% of it was just being there. He worked a lot (so did my mom) but as he grew older he noticed that sometimes just showing up was support enough. My dad wasn’t perfect, and he made lots of mistakes, but what I remember the most about him was that he never gave up. Not on me, not on himself. I don’t think he knew how.

2.How to be a good husband. Again, this is complicated, and not necessarily something that can be summed up in a few sentences in a blog. But the essence of being a good husband is, I think, in the little things. Like coming home when you say you’ll be home, and turning off the t.v. when you said you would. Like picking up the ice cream I like without being asked, or replacing that light bulb that’s out in the bathroom. Little things add up to love.

3. How to be stubborn about doing the right thing. Again, I’ve done and said the wrong thing MANY, MANY times…we don’t need any specific examples here, that’s not really the point…but I do hope that MOST of the time I’ve modeled the right way to do things. I want to be a good reference for what integrity looks like, and when I’m not, I hope I own up to it and make it right.

4. How to properly wash a dish. Okay, I know this is NOT a “big” item, but it’s important. To be sure he understands this basic principle, I feel he needs lots of practice.

5. How to finish what you’ve started. This is a big one to be sure. Sometimes we start and stop and start and stop again. Sometimes big events are interrupted and that’s okay. The important thing is to keep trying and to stick it out. Sticking it out–in marriage, in life, in work-it’s all important. Sticking it out in the hard places, when you’re scared and blind and you have no clue what’s happening next or even  if this is the right thing. You stick it out, you stay put…you dig your heels in and you scream at the wind “I’m not going anywhere!” And if you’re lucky, somebody’s there holding your hand, sticking it out with you.

That’s what I want my son to know–at least for today.

On Remembrance


There’s so much about that day in my life I remember, or I think I remember.

I was a housewife, living in the country. I was a good person, I guess, and there’s nothing wrong with staying home and raising children. I cleaned the house and baked lasagna–the epitome of white bread south. Looking back now, I realize how naïve I was, like many others– how trusting of the government and our leaders, so willing to be lead as a country into a war I didn’t understand with a cost we could have never calculated.

There was so much I didn’t comprehend–so much of it I probably never will.

I had initially heard the news that the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center by seeing the footage on the small television at the University of Arkansas bookstore. The footage repeated, the confusion of what we were seeing, voices over voices…I didn’t understand at first. Nobody did.

Because, at first, it seemed like an accident, a tragic misfortune. Perhaps, I speculated, the captain on board of that 747 had a stroke or heart attack, and this was the fiery result.

I did not hear about the second plane until after my job interview, on the way home in my car. The radio reflected the pandemonium, the sheer panic of the spectators…for once, it seemed, the journalists covering the story did not sound stoic, speaking each word with a measured accuracy. The people being interviewed were breathless, terrified.

That was the moment when I knew this event was no accident. Two planes had been the unwilling weapons of terrorists, essentially bombs with humans as ammunition. It was too horrific for words.

When I returned home, my husband was plastered in front of the television; my dad had called him a few minutes earlier. On TV, people were screaming, sobbing, running through the streets, covered in white dust as if they were victims of a nuclear holocaust. The old women bleeding, leaning on you women, trying to get away from what was now being called “Ground Zero,” they could have been anyone. Images of fire, chaos and terror played over and over. Police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances were everywhere at once.

I never really knew why they called that place Ground Zero. When I tried to research it, Google comes up with some pretty outrageous stuff. There are so many pages devoted to conspiracy theories–a few of these use “Why do they call it Ground Zero” in their titles. The hypotheses are as numerous as the conspiracies themselves. One guy says that they call it Ground Zero because “they” knew it was an inside demolition job. USA Today has an article about businesses that, before 9/11, were called Ground Zero and the fallout that have occurred since–how they had to change their names, etc. Other articles talk about the workers around the site who helped rescue others from the steaming rubble, and their increased risk of cancer because of it. But as far as anything credible, there’s nothing I could point to.

On that day, my husband and I had not eaten yet, so I went to cook pancakes. Lee worked the night shift at a factory that made diaper wipes, and should have been in bed resting, but of course he couldn’t. My daughters were both at school, and Nathan was playing quietly with some blocks.

On the surface, at least for us, everything seemed eerily normal. At least, for a moment, I could pretend.

I could try to block out what this meant to me personally. There was a comfort there in the center of my kitchen, as I mixed the pancake mix and water with a whisk, as I had done a thousand times before. There was a rhythm to the way I heated the old iron skillet to just the right temperature. The buttery smell of the pancakes filled the kitchen, but it wasn’t enough to work on my worry for long. I began thinking of how, at age 30, the kind of world I was raising my children in. Jordanne was eleven, Sarah was eight, and Nate was two.

I can remember pouring the batter, watching the bubbles build in the center and spread to the edges. Then the panic set in. I pictured my sister’s face, blond and gorgeous, and wondered what pandemonium must have been at play at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where she was stationed. If I’m honest, I knew everything was not “okay.” Not with our country, and not with me.

“A plane just hit the Pentagon!” Lee shouted from the living room.

So America was at war, but with whom? The words Al Qaeda had been mentioned dozens of times, and the blame was being placed there, at least for the moment .

“There are some planes missing! Flight 93 is one of them!”

The pancake turned a golden brown.

“What do you mean, missing?”

“They know because the planes are not on their assigned paths. hey think one of them is headed toward D.C.–maybe the White House.”

“Oh my God…what will we do?” A chill stole across my arms.

“If they find out the pilot has been killed, they will have to shoot it down.”

“Shoot it down?” I repeated numbly, stupidly. I began sobbing. The pancake burned and smoke-filled the kitchen.

“Tina, your pancake…”Lee said, but I stood there, looking at it curiously, as if I had never seen such a thing. When I didn’t move, Lee shoved in front of me and turned off the burner.

“Where is our president?” It seemed he was being very quiet during this whole thing. Later, I would find out that he had been flown to the very Air Force Base my sister was working.

I had a feeling that she would know all about it, and possibly be a part of the planning it took to get him there.

On TV, the broken wreckage of flight 93 carved a cavernous ditch into the Pennsylvania countryside, looking like burning, torn flesh.

Suddenly I was struck with panic. All I could think of was my kids. I wanted to go to the school and pick them up, hold them close. I began to ramble incoherently.

Lee put his arms around me.

“The girls are o.k. I don’t think the terrorists are planning to attach the schools. They don’t need to be picked up.” He was right, I knew. It was unlikely that the terrorists were interested in small town Arkansas. We were hardly a symbol of American arrogance. If New York City was “Ground Zero” then what did that make us?

The rest of the day, I spent watching TV and trying to call my sister. Not surprisingly, the line to her office stayed busy. Frustrated, I hung the phone up harder than I needed to.

On TV, after President Bush announced that this was in fact an “act of terror and war,” people were even more scared, if that was possible. The news depicted aimless wanderers, shuffling through stacks of paper that littered the ground. Why was there so much paper everywhere? Of course it makes sense; it was a shrine to the “old way of life.” But the images of people wading through that paper still haunts me.

At home, the grocery stores were empty. I learned that many of my friends bought large amounts of ammunition, fearing the worst. Many of my friends who did not own guns bought them for the first time. Such a time of fear and chaos was upon us.

On TV, camera angles showed piles of concrete, several stories high. Fire fighters, covered in ashes and blood, dug out bodies with shovels. The rubble was covered in shredded, barely deliverable human artifacts: bits of clothing, portions of walls,shards of glass–it reminded me of human tokens: an archaeological dig.

I also remember hearing of the beating of Muslims, the political cartoons, the everlasting rhetoric of war. On campus at the University of Arkansas, an announcement was made that we were to be especially sensitive to Muslim students, and any threats made against them would be taken very seriously.

It was around six that evening before I was able to reach my sister.

“Hey,” I said, softly.

“Hey.” The background noise was indescribable. Phones rang and tons of conversations went on at once.

“Are you okay? Are you safe?” I asked her.

“Yes, I’m safe, but I’m going to be deployed, probably tomorrow.”

It seems crazy now that she would already have orders. To the rest of us, it seemed like the government drug its feet, letting the frenzied cry for revenge of American blood rise to its fever pitch.

My sister talked later about the fact that she did not even had time to sew on the stripes demonstrating her newly decorated promotion. Instead, she hurriedly sewed them on by hand, late into the night.

I caught my breath, trying to steady it. She didn’t like it when I freaked out about her deployments–and I had in the past. “I figured,” I whispered, swallowing a lump in my throat, trying to clear it away. She had enough to worry about.

“Oh, happy birthday,” I said.

“Right,” she said, with a sigh.

The fragile link between us, even though she was over 1000 miles away, seemed strong. On TV, the American flag flew high. In town, the flag was everywhere.

Now that I’m a teacher, I see lots of veterans returning to school. Sometimes, I can tell the veterans from civilians without even  checking their paperwork. Sometimes, I can see the haunted look in their eyes. I see their struggle to make sense of civilian life and college classes. Sometimes, it’s almost tangible–the great effort it takes for some of them  to attach importance to something as trivial as English homework when all they can think of is the sense of mission that seems missing and those they left behind. I see them, sitting in the back of the classroom, watching the door. Some of them come to my class physically broken, but most of the scars they bear are nothing less than a symbol of the mutilation of a nation, the castration of a once proud super power.

It’s possible to be patriotic, to support our military, but to still be wary of war. I was a Navy wife for 4 years, and my father and grandfather were also military. I’ve always believed that we should be respectful of those who serve.

Now that Nathan is almost grown, he’s talked once or twice about joining the Air Force or Marines himself. The thought makes my blood run cold. Not because I don’t love my country, but because I’ve seen firsthand the damage done to those who serve.

And I remember.

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Son

Raising responsible, kind men is a daunting task. Sometime as a mom I am tempted to “help” my son by giving him what I believe is constructive criticism, but, shocker of shockers, he may just view my sage advice as plain criticism/nagging!

We see our sons as diamonds in the rough (emphasis on rough) that we have been charged to polish to a shine. For example, I see a report card full of A’s and immediately notice the one B. Why? How short-sided of me.

Polishing is painful. There’s friction, and it’s always one-sided. It’s painful to be the one who is being polished, rubbed and broken.

I believe that as good moms we need to walk that fine line between helping and being too harsh. Avoid saying these 3 things as a start when working with your own diamond.

1. You’re lazy. Here’s the kicker: he might very well be lazy, but to say these words is a negative reinforcement and may turn into a voice in his head for the rest of his life. Instead, try to notice when he shows interest in a chore or skill praise it. For example, my son doesn’t like to do dishes, in fact he will avoid dishes at all costs. He’d rather walk though Hello Kitty World dressed as Hello Kitty. But, he loved the experience of washing jars and helping with home canning! I know! Super weird. So I jumped on that and we spent several pleasant hours together making the best salsa known to man. If you don’t think so, you can just come to Tyler and tell me to my FACE.

2. You can’t do this! It’s too much for you. Maybe your kid is taking on too much. I’m not saying to not be your son’s buffer, but he needs to learn a bit of stress.Another unpleasant aspect of diamond making is intense heat. Melt your eyebrows kind of heat. Uncomfortable, unbearable, chemical-changing heat. If he never encounters heat because we’re so protective, how will he know what to do when he’s in college and you’re not there to shield him? Let him try to find the balance between school, work, church, activities, and girls. Do give him advice and stop him if he’s going off the rails. But let him feel the heat. It’s good for him.

3. Your girlfriend is a !@#!. Ok this is a tough one. We must guide without criticism, which is so difficult. One way to help him without verbally assaulting someone’s daughter, is to do your best to model the kind of woman you would like your son to find. Ouch. And just to be clear, I don’t mean anything Norman Batesesque. Whether or not you realize it, you are the standard, for good or bad. Luckily for me, I adore Mancub’s girl, but not every mama is as lucky.

Good luck, Mama. Remember that Jesus is the master diamond maker and ultimately has the final say, so trust Him with your diamond-to-be. And oh, how lovely the Son reflects from your son’s facets. Every.Single.One.


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Jerkwads and 1st World Problems


This guy.

I’m a reasonable person most of the time. I don’t have a record. I pay my taxes. I buy 2% milk and take vitamins and never litter. I follow the rules.

But when I see stuff like this…well, I feel a little like a vegan trapped at a Texas barbecue. That’s CRAZY.

Why do people think it’s ok to do stuff like this? And what’s more, when I put it on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with “Yeah! I saw that guy there LAST WEEK DOING THE SAME THING.” So this guy is a repeat offender! GRRRR!

I guess I just don’t understand this kind of entitled mentality…someone who says to himself, “You know what? Even though parking spots are rarer than a Longhorn fan in Razorback country, I DESERVE two spaces for my brand new, untagged vehicle. I JUST DO.”

I would NEVER double park my giant truck in front of a popular sushi restaurant! That is unacceptable; only the biggest jerkwads would do that! (My dad, who never cursed, would call people jerkwads.) I might have used another harsher term under my breath.

But wait. Am I REALLY complaining about having to search for a parking spot? Is this the worst thing I’ve had to endure today in my cushy world? Wahhhhhhhh!

Whenever it dawns on me that I’m just as bad as Rude Truck Guy… I’m ashamed.

I often hear people joking about “First World Problems.” That’s really a catch phrase for entitlement. I’m guilty of this, without even realizing it. If the lady at the drive-thru at Starbucks doesn’t immediately come on to take my order, I get miffed. Every second that ticks by I get more annoyed. What’s taking so long? I’m BUSY. I have classes to teach and minds to ignite with knowledge! I can’t be expected to work my magic without my triple capp frapp! THE HORROR. There are people going through serious health issues, mamas grieving their children taken too soon, children going hungry. These are the real tragedies.

How spoiled I am! Here I am, on my way to have dinner with one of my sweetest friends (you all know her as Leigh Ann), at my favorite restaurant that is NOT cheap. Minutes before, I was watching Oklahoma with my Mancub, cuddling with my chihuahua, listening to the rain fall softly on the window of my cozy house. Hours before that, I finished up my first week of my dream job teaching students the joy of writing. I have so many things to be thankful for, but what do I post on Facebook? My outrage at this guy.

Forgive me Jesus.

Thank you for my cozy house that I have the privilege of taking care of. Thank you for my sweet hubby who puts up with my crazy ideas and my obsession with writing and literature. Thank you for my beautiful girls laughing in the kitchen, giving each other a hard time. Thank you for Mancub, who is transforming into a Godly man right before my eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for these and many more blessings. Soften my heart and show me the ones in need you would have me help.

But listen, while I have you here, could you maybe send a little smiting Jerkwad’s way? Just the smallest smidge of smiting–like a giant bird doo on his precious window. If it’s not too much trouble. Amen!


Do you have a First World Pet Peeve you’d like to vent about? Go ahead! I’m with you, Sister!

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5 Reasons Your Kid Should Be In Band


It’s that time of year again–summer band. It’s bittersweet for Mancub: he loves band BUT he’s also become accustomed to a shall we say more relaxed way of life over the summer. Gone are the days of sleeping until noon, only to surface like a bear from hibernation.

Summer band means school is just around the corner. I have three kids who have all experienced it, and around here it’s kind of a rite of passage. Now I know how Texans feel about their football, and I love it too–but not for the reason you think. I love to watch the band at half-time. I don’t care who wins or loses, as long as I can pick out Mancub from the others in the best horn section ever. There’s something exhilarating about it–the deep red and gray uniforms marching in precision onto the field, the excitement that builds when they turn and bam! That sound that knocks my socks off every. Single. Time.
Like most sports or after school activities, they start ’em young here: most kids are mere babies when they first take the field. I’ve heard tell of some Texas bands that throw kids on the field as young as 4. That could be a tall tale, but even so it’s pretty close.

Here you go: a bit of last year’s awesome show as performed by the REL Band. You’re welcome. I’m so proud that he’s a part of such a great band program.


(video courtesy REL Band)

Here’s 5 reasons your kid should be in marching band.
1. They will be forced to have a bit of discipline. Mancub’s band is no different. He’s a sophomore now, so he’s no longer on the bottom rung of the bandie ladder, but he’d still rather risk personal injury or jail time then be late for band. Because nobody is late for band. I remember being late for marching practice one time, under the magnificent Pat Ellison, and receiving a tongue lashing that would have made Mussolini cry like an infant after his first set of shots. I’ll tell you this: it never happened again. Your teen who is habitually late for school, church, and library books will not be late to band. It’s too embarrassing.
2. Band teaches teamwork. One thing I love about Mancub’s band is that they are taught from day one to be a part of a section that is part of the band. It’s very organized and there’s definitely a hierarchy to it. It’s almost military in the way it works. And it works.
3. Band teaches responsibility. Your teen will, God help him if he doesn’t, learn a bit of responsibility while in band. There’s so much to keep up with: uniform pieces, music, instruments, the list goes on and on. If Mancub forgets his flip folder, only God can help him now. He fails inspection and is in deep crap. If he fails his inspection too many times, doesn’t learn his music, leaves his horn behind somewhere–he risks the very fires of hell. Ok not really but close. He will at the very least be called out in front of the band, lose points, or have to do a superfun chore like cleaning up the band hall after 300 or so of his closest, sweaty friends have been hanging out after practice. If too many slip-ups happen then the unspeakable happens. Ok I’ll speak it.There’s a B-list of band kids that for one reason or another don’t get to march and sit on the sidelines waiting for a spot to open up. Nothing is quite as embarrassing to lose your spot. You still have to come to everything and march on the sidelines but you don’t actually get to perform.
4. You must pass to play. You can’t fail a class while in band. If you do, you are automatically B-listed and you miss out on the fun trips the band takes.And you don’t want to miss out, trust me.
5. Friends for a lifetime. I just checked my Facebook and I am still in contact with a great many of my friends from band. In fact, my closest friends Joy, Amy, and Mac (all in my wedding party) have known me longer that my hubby of 25 years. This photo is of Amy and me. She played flute and was on the flag line, but I didn’t hold that against her.



I sat next to Joy in concert band and marched beside her on the field. My girls, who loved band so much they are going to school to be band directors, tell everyone that if you are in band, it doesn’t matter where you are, what lunch you have, what classes you take because you will always have band kids–friends–there. It makes all the difference to a terrified freshman to know that the first day of high school he’s not gonna be alone. Band kids stick together. And that makes this mama bear feel a lot better about the late nights and long rehearsals. I know he’s in good hands.

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Teen Speak: On Faith, God and Prayer (or Lack Thereof)


When I asked Mancub if he’d talked to God about his feelings on Watergirl moving away, he replied, “Not really. I’m kind of mad at him right now.”
“Why are you mad at God for this? He’s not making her family move.”
“Yes he is,” he explained. “He’s calling them to do a church plant and they have no choice but to do it.”

“God is tough enough to handle a bit of anger.”

Wow. This isn’t a difficult conversation at all, is it?

So we prayed together for a bit. I have to admit I don’t pray with him very much, and as a family we don’t spend enough time praying together. I experience a sort of anxiety when asked to pray out loud, probably because I’m intimidated by those who pray so well. You know the type, they are able to in a second’s notice create sheer poetry when asked to lead the prayer.
When I pray out loud it sounds something like this:
“Dear God, we just thank you for this day and for this time together. Please heal Mr. Smith’s bad hip so he can continue to play racquetball. In Jesus name, Amen.”
I’m a writer folks. Give me a pen and I can write a pretty prayer, but it doesn’t always translate verbally. This made me feel guilty (yet again) about how I’m raising my kid. I let him see me angry at traffic, frustrated from work, laughing at bad television–so it’s definitely a problem if I don’t let him see me pray. And if I don’t teach him how.
If I teach him to open doors for women, how to cook a cheese sandwich, but not how to pray, how am I preparing him for life? I’m not.
The University of Notre Dame recently conducted a study regarding teenagers and their views on faith and God. One of the main purposes of the study was to update findings which were deemed outdated. It’s pretty interesting and I plan on taking it apart bit by bit to see what it means for Mancub and our family.


Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners–On Minecraft, WOW, and Other Irritants


Teen Speak: A Translation for Beginners

(The one where I talk about gaming and its continued annoyance in my otherwise perfect life)

The other day when my computer refused to charge, I used Mancub’s. As I booted it up, the computer itself seemed to cringe a little, as if wary of the new user. It was probably still hung over from last night’s Mine Craft marathon.  Immediately I was inundated with Minecraft world info…New Mods! New Servers! New Videos about the new mods and new servers! I felt like I was being yelled at by shifty carnies at the fair–my tactic is to avoid eye contact but that doesn’t matter here.  Dear Parent, if you have not heard of MineCraft, then you can just count your lucky stars. It’s one of the biggest time wasters on the entire planet. Picture everything you like about Facebook, then turn the resolution WAY down so everything looks like grainy legos. Then turn it down even more.

MineCraft itself is a world of its own. Remember how people talked about WOW? When I was taking Latin, there was this girl who sat next to me, so very confident in her Latin abilities (she was really good–I was unashamedly embarrassed of her translating skills) that she actually brought her laptop into class and played WOW during lecture. I cornered her after class and said, “Look, we’re all just thrilled to death that Latin, to you, is akin to a Dora the Explorer episode, but if you ever bring that to class again, I am going to totally rat you out. Count on it.” Mine Craft is similar to WOW in that it’s always new and exciting, and creative “mods” are introduced practically on an hourly basis, written by unwashed men who live in their mother’s basement and are far more acquainted with their online friends than annoying people IRL (in real life, for those of you who don’t know). The biggest problems on Mine Craft? People slowing down the server, the server being “down” (what will happen to our sheep??????), creepers (bad guys), and griefers (those who pillage the Mine Craft world, unfairly stealing from others who have also sat unwashed tinkering with one thing or another until they have the perfect sheep breeder or whatever. Coupled with the fact that people can actually talk to others who share their obsession AND watch hours of videos about the fascinating world of blurred legos, it can become quite a problem. Left unchecked, sleep, hygiene and skin tone can indeed suffer. When my boys play too long, they get sucked into the MC world and the real world seems…less fun.

Anyway, when I was using Nate’s computer, I was listening to music so I put on his headphones which are perfectly adapted to completely tuning out my voice unless the words “Hey….food” are heard. The Engineer comes in (he is similarly afflicted with the MIneCraft Virus) and asks me a question.

“What?” I say, much louder than necessary.

“I said, are we going to lunch?”

“Oh,” I pretend to deliberate. “I’m sorry–I didn’t hear you. I’m Mine Crafting.”

Lee is not impressed.

“Reallllly?” He says.

“Yeah. I was just talking to my friend Wart, who lives in Sarasota. We’re both sick and tired of Sasquatch29 griefing our turf. We’re trying to get him banned from the server.”

“Oh,” Lee says, trying not to grin at my completely lame attempt to speak nerd.

“Good luck with that.”

There are things you can do, dear parent. You can install a timer that shuts down the computer after a certain amount of screen time. I let Mancub play for 3 hours a day during break, only after he’s done a list of chores I’ve given him. Then, if he wants more time he has to earn it. How? By doing more chores or READING A BOOK. I took care to choose books I thought he’d like, including Ender’s Game and Divergent. It’s tough competition against a backdrop of lego pig farms, but it’s a cross he’s got to bear.