Letter to My Daughter on Her Wedding Day

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My dearest girl,

It seems like only yesterday, I tucked you into bed, having let you watch The Lion King for the millionth time. You always asked to be folded “like a burrito,” and you giggled especially loudly when I would make the tortilla extra tightly (we called it “extra cheese”). You snuggled your Simba, (Nala, too, but she was not your favorite) and I would kiss your forehead, wishing you sweet dreams.

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I remember.

Even further back, I remember your first steps. You weren’t even nine months old, and you stood right up and took off like a shot. You were always so independent, even when you were a baby.

Now, you stand before me, a beautiful young woman, smart and funny, and you are getting married! In the blink of an eye, it seems, you will wear that beautiful white gown, and you will stand next to your beloved, and you both will promise to be one another’s everything. And you will mean it.shoes

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Know this, dear one.

The rains will come.

The cold wind will rattle your windows, and it will seem your very foundation will crumble.

Hold fast.

Hold fast to one another, and let the storm rage, and stand.

Link your arms, and hold your palms out, screaming at the elements, and stand.

Do not let the thunder shake your resolve.

When the rains come, remember this moment, when you stood on the cliff, the wind in your hair, trembling at the excitement of it all.

Remember the look in his eyes when he said, “I do.”

Remember your first kiss, the first time he held you, the first time you thought you were breaking up, but didn’t.

Remember how he stood, awkward and nervous, in the living room, waiting for the right moment to propose.

Remember always, and stand.

Remember your hope and dreams and all the fights and making up.

Remember always, and stand.

Don’t be afraid, dear one. The storm will pass. The sun will rise, and the winds will calm.

Remember all this, and stand.

All the hope I have, I give to you, that your marriage will be forever. That you will find comfort in one another when the world offers only coldness. That you will hold fast to one another, and love. That, thirty and forty and fifty years from now, after your hair turns white and your life unfolds before you like sky blue mountaintops, days upon days that add up to a life. And what a life it will be!

Dear one, I am here, and I am your biggest cheerleader.
My heart is full.

Treme: An Awesome Show You Should Be Watching

If you haven’t heard of “Treme” (on HBO) let me tell you this: it’s awesome.

I recently stumbled across it while aimlessly searching for a new show, and it’s captivated me ever since.

Beginning 3 months post-Katrina “Treme”(a French word for neighborhood), follows the lives of the stubborn people of New Orleans as they struggle to put the pieces of their lives back together. It has a all-star cast: John Goodman, Steve Zahn and Wendell Pierce among others.

It’s dramatic but not depressing–and I cared about the characters right away. Many are musicians (Steve Zahn is a lovable stoner/musician with no filter) and the music of New Orleans is packed into every episode. I want the soundtrack! I must get it immediately.

John Goodman plays Creighton Bernette, an angry English professor/writer/vlogger who curses a blue streak but has a heart for the city and its people. His wife, Toni (played by Melissa Leo) is a tough-as-nails attorney working tirelessly for the people of New Orleans, especially in her search for LaDonna Baptiste’s brother who went missing after he was arrested just before the storm. Will he be found? Will anyone take responsibility for the inmates who are lost in the system after Katrina? If anybody can make them, it’s Toni. She’s kicking butt and taking names.

I’ve only watched the first four episodes and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

To Kill A Gentleman: The Murder of Atticus Finch

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Let’s play a game called What’s Wrong With This Picture.

Atticus Quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird

“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Atticus from Go Find a Watchman

“Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

“They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us.”

“Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”

***

“Atticus, I’m getting out of this place fast, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going. I never want to see another Finch or hear of one as long as I live!”

“As you please.”

“You double-dealing, ring-tailed old son of a bitch! You just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when you’ve knocked me down and stomped on me and spat on me, you just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when everything I ever loved in this world –you just sit there and say ‘As you please’–you love me! You son of a bitch!”

“That’ll do, Jean Louise.”

That’ll do, Harper Lee. In a time when the South is struggling to overcome a few ignorant racists, this long-awaited sequel could not have come at a worse time. I’ll never understand what Lee was thinking when she assassinated Atticus Finch’s character so.

But enough of the moral hand-wringing. I want to talk about character development.

As a writer, it’s important to maintain consistency of character. If a character is a moral compass in one book, and inexplicably becomes a villain in the next, this is simply bad writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s dressed up in pretty bows–it is more than sloppy–it’s damaging. There are no clues in To Kill a Mockingbird that suggest to us that Atticus is not who he seems. Even considering Scout’s childish point of view doesn’t explain it–she’s writing from an adult view looking back at the past.

What other explanation do we have? Was Scout somehow too slow to catch on to her father’s true character? I don’t think so. She’s sharp enough to spar with Atticus, quoting constitutional law with her daddy.

Atticus, don’t worry. I’m going to pretend this second book NEVER HAPPENED.

Harper Lee, you’ve broken my heart, and I wish I knew why.

Pretty in Pink: Rethinking Elle Woods

Love this.

The opening sequence of Legally Blonde is all pink products and blond hair. We cut between scenes of college and sorority life – a girl being catcalled by frat guys as she bikes past their house, girls in pink workout gear on treadmills, those Tiffany’s heart bracelets everywhere – and Reese Witherspoon’s silky hair and perfectly manicured hands surrounded by beauty-products and markers of traditionally recognizable, material femininity: Herbal Essences “True Color” Blonde hair-dye; nail polishes; dried roses on a stack of Cosmopolitans; a Homecoming Queen banner; a lovingly decorated “President” sorority paddle. Everything that could be pink is pink, from the bedspread, to the glitter pens used to write on a pink card in a pink envelope, to the doggy-sweater for Bruiser, Elle Wood’s chic Chihuahua.

Just four minutes into the movie, a salesgirl sizes Elle up the way many viewers – my thirteen year-old self included –…

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I Looked At A Rapist In The Mirror And Saw Him Smiling Back.

Compelling story told from an unexpected point of view.

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*This piece has been published with permission of the referenced ex-partner. Other relationships may have been slightly altered to protect specific identities.*

The first time I was sexually assaulted I must have been 9 or 10 years old.

I was violated by two family friends who were brothers and who would have been about 14 and 15.

Or maybe that was the second time.

The first time might have been by an older female cousin around the same time. She pressured me to go into a closet and make out with her. I think we may have done more, but I don’t like to think about that.

I didn’t object to any of these interactions. I was too young for that to matter, of course, but it was difficult for me to make sense of the fact that I consented without having the agency to do so, thus I had…

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The Power of Water

“With one sigh of the Spirit, the waters could come crashing in and around the earth, drowning its inhabitants in a moment.”–Rachel Held Evans

The power of water is undeniable. Ask the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. 80% of New Orleans was flooded by the storm, and more than 1,000 people died because of it.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/23/us/hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts/

What’s worse than too much water is too little. Ask the 358 million people in Africa who live in fear that they or someone they love will die this year from thirst.

840,000 people will die from bad water (Water.org). People are so desperate for water they will drink anything. People are thirsty–their children are thirsty. But water that is poisoned is worse than no water at all.

We need it so much–it’s essential to life, but too much of it is deadly as well. The Bible talks of water at least 722 times, depending on the translation you use. The necessity and power of water cannot be understated.

A few drops of water can quench a thirst, but too much can overwhelm us and kill.

Water is symbolic of birth: “Except a man be born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom.” What does that mean? If you’ve ever seen a baby born, you know the magic that happens: it’s pain and pushing, blood and water, tears and joy. We must experience this spiritually–and share the experience–to truly call ourselves Christian.

Jesus talked about water. He told the woman at the well that only he had the power to fill her thirst forever.

What happens if we keep all the water to ourselves? What happens if we refuse to share with those who are thirsty?

We can’t call ourselves believers then. Not really. Too much water in one place is disruptive, dangerous, deadly.

But the sharing of water–the sharing of life: that is what we are here for.

Women of the Bible: Caught in Adultery

“And your accusers? Where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” He asked me, his eyes gentle, compelling. His hands, still dusty…I could not take my eyes from them. It was something about his wrists.
“No one, my Lord,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper.

***

It was no use denying the truth, to proclaim her innocence: she had been caught.

It was folly to point out the obvious: that it’s impossible to commit adultery by oneself.

Inside her chest, her heart beat wildly. She knew that if the eyes of the law, married was married. There was no divorce and remarriage, covering it all over and beginning again.

She knew the law said, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

For a moment, her mind pictured her mother–how shamed she would be viewed when she went to the temple, the market. She pictured her father–how he would turn away and deny her existence. She had broken both their hearts.

But still, her lover was not present. He would not be punished, and would gladly send her in his stead. The one she loved–and thought loved her back–was nowhere to be found. All those stolen nights seemed to flow through her fingers like so many grains of sands. Though equally guilty, he would remain innocent in this crime.

How did those who came for her know where to find her? Why did they leave the man untouched, unknown?The shouting, the many hands upon her–she was lucky in her nakedness to have grabbed the sheet from the bed so she wasn’t completely nude in front of these men–in front of THIS man, whose eyes seemed to penetrate to her very soul.

“Teacher! This woman was caught in the act of adultery. What say you? You know what Moses taught.” The men crowded around them, demanding justice, their faces contorted with judgement and haughtiness.

So this meeting was less about punishment for the woman and more about a transparent trap set by religious leaders for Jesus.

It’s likely the first the woman saw of Jesus was his feet. The men had thrown her at him, and she probably lost her footing between the sheer force of their shoving and her attempt to keep covered. Some scholars believe she was fully nude in front of the men and the Savior. In that case, she’d have been trying to cover herself with her hands.

Those feet–they didn’t seem like the feet of any messiah she’d heard about. Dirty, calloused, they showed the wear of many miles of walking those dusty desert roads. These weren’t the manicured feet of a rich man.

Jesus began to write in the dirt with his finger. Many interpretations of this action are out there–that he wrote the verse about adultery in the dirt itself–to remind many of those standing here that technically many of them were guilty of the same offense. Some believe he was writing nonsense, praying to the Father for guidance. Some think he was just stalling–purposely making an awkward moment last–so these men could feel the gravity of their accusations.

I wonder if he wrote her name–reminding her that no matter what, she was loved.

She was treasured. She was his.

We know what came next–Jesus flipped the question. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Some interpretations say that the word used actually means “without THIS sin,” meaning, “Those of you haven’t done the same thing–y’all can go first.”

Soon, as always, it was just the two of them. I like the think of the story in her place, coming from her thougths.

“And your accusers? Where are they? Who is left to condemn you?” He asked me, his eyes gentle, compelling. His hands, still dusty…I could not take my eyes from them. It was something about his wrists.
“No one, my Lord,” I said, my voice hardly a whisper.

“Then I’ll not condemn you either. But go–and sin no more.”

Jesus wasn’t offering her a free pass, but what he was offering her was unconditional love and forgiveness.

Who of us is without sin? Then let’s go ahead and put those stones away and remember to love one another. We are all just one stone away from judgement.