Saturday, March 26, 2016

Don't Blink

In order to get a little "normal" again, to recover just a bit from the nausea that Donald Trump andTed Cruze have brought on, I went into the way-back machine to repost one from a long time ago.  This was the day when we moved our son Devin into his dorm.  His first official day on his own.  He is at MUSC now, studying for his Doctorate in Physical Therapy.  Past the half way point.  At 23, he is on his way to a happy, healthy life.  Full of promise and adventure and good things.  Seems like I blinked again, for it's been 5 1/2 years since these thoughts were first written.

Don't Blink

In our culture, leaving home is as natural as coming home from the hospital as a newborn. It is what happens to most of us as we become adults. For those lucky enough to go to college, it happens around age 18. Kids are born to us, they spend most of their formative years learning how to be, how to get along, who they are and who they will become. Then they leave us to find out who they really are, who they really want to be. They find the path that will take them onward into their future. It really is the way it should be. Then why am I feeling so blue?

Today we move Devin, our 18 year old, into his dorm at the University of South Carolina. We‘re opting for the later shift, hoping that most of the kids will be moved in already. He is moving in with is best friend, a guy he went to high school with, who he spent his free time with for years. His bedroom is packed with what he will take with him. His modest clothes, his stereo, his computer, his new little microwave, new sheets, towels and blankets, his bathroom “caddy” for shampoo, soap, etc. It is the stuff of moving away, of being on your own, of independence. It’s a good thing, right? Then why, when I was vacuuming the hallway this morning and I passed that pile of his new and old possessions, was I so sad? It’s not like he’s moving very far. It is only a thirty-five-minute drive. Heidi takes it every day she goes into campus to work. It’s not like he won’t be coming home some weekends or that he won’t be coming back for winter break and summer vacation next year.

I’ll still see him. I’ll still call him and meet him for dinner (although Heidi suggested that I don’t call so much as text message, “It’s how most kids communicate these days.”).

But it won’t be the same. It will never be the same again. Devin will not be living here. He’ll be back, but it will more like visiting. So…

There are all these thoughts running through my mind. All of these concerns. All these questions. Have I done a good job as a parent? Have I done what I could to teach him right from wrong? Does he know not to lie? Is he grateful? Does he know how to pray? Did I do all that I could to make sure that Devin is kind, responsible, safe? Have I been a good role model? Have I told him enough that I love him. Have I shown him? Does he know that I am there for him no matter what?

Heidi said that she was listening to a radio station yesterday where there is a lot of call-in kind of talk. A woman asked about advice for parents who just had their first baby. One response that stuck with Heidi was simply, “Don’t blink.”

I blinked, you guys. Because it was just such a short time ago that we brought Devin home after his adoption. And we weren't sure what to do with a new baby - except to love him. Devin was going to the lake with me in his diaper to watch the sunset, and I was chasing him around our beloved tree in a suped up game of peek-a-boo. I could make him laugh from his little belly. I can see those loose blond curls and bright blue eyes. I can hear that laugh. It is the most beautiful music.

It was just a short time ago that he was playing with his baby brother’s toes when we brought Colin home from the hospital; when he could catch a butterfly with his bare hands. I remember when he gave up his beloved bottle and we made a solemn ceremony out of it and when he rode a bike for the first time and when he introduced himself at the area pool with, “I’m Devin, and I’m an amazing child.” I remember when he cried when he caught a lizard but broke off its tail. And when he caught his first few fish off the dock.
I remember when he went to Kindergarten and I caught a glimpse of him at school outside on a really hot day practicing for a fire drill. The sight of him so grown up, patiently waiting in the uncomfortable heat for his teacher and his classmates to get it right so they could go inside. He didn’t know I was watching him. He had gone from little-preschool-kid-cute to little-boy handsome. And I remember thinking, where is Devin? Where did that preschool boy go? And I cried. Not in loss or sorrow. In amazement I guess.

I remember us singing silly songs on the way home from school in the car and reading bedtime stories and our secret handshake before bed. Pokemon cards and video games, shell collections and rock collections. Marco polo, pogo sticks and soccer in the meadow.

Then skateboards and loud music and having a girlfriend. Then high school and his first car and his first job and proms and a broken heart. Heidi and I started going to bed earlier. Devin stayed out later.

I remember the feelings I had on the day my dad dropped me off at IU. I tried to be tough, but it was scary – this new freedom. Dev must be having some of the same thoughts. Freedom is great, but it is scary too. He can come and go as he pleases, but he’ll have to get himself up in the morning. He can come in at night when he wants but he won’t get to kiss his mom good night like has always done. He’ll make wonderful new friends, but he won’t be living in his old hood near his beloved lake.

And I blinked, you guys, because he is moving away today. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. We have been planning for this day for his whole life. But it’s here and it came too fast and I am going to miss living with him and I don’t know what to do with these emotions.

I write for many reasons: to understand, to organize, to feel, to remember, to envision, to hope. I guess it is for all these reasons that I am writing this.

Don’t blink.

Monday, March 21, 2016

David Brooks on Trump

David Brooks from the New York Times is a conservative Republican.  While I disagree with many of his opinions, I really respect him.  He is reasonable.  He is smart.  He is articulate.  He is respected.   He can disagree without being disagreeable.  I hear him most Friday afternoons on my drive home on NPR with E. J. Dionne, thinking about the issues of the week.  I wouldn't even call it a debate, because both men are just so intelligent.  They are both brilliant men on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

When I read David Brooks' pieces, I feel smarter.  Enlightened.  He often gives his readers another way of looking at things.  I tend to be a little more black and white.  David Brooks teaches me to be a little more gray.

So, I am very interested about how an intelligent Republican sees Trump.  Here is an excerpt from his latest op-ed piece.

Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.

Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes. All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy.

This week, the Politico reporters Daniel Lippman, Darren Samuelsohn and Isaac Arnsdorf fact-checked 4.6 hours of Trump speeches and press conferences. They found more than five dozen untrue statements, or one every five minutes.

“His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources,” they wrote.He is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12. He surrounds himself with sycophants.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


…Or will it.  

I hate to think, talk, write about Donald trump.  And yet I do.  I am a moth drawn to a flame.  He is so vile.  His message so hateful.  His words are lawless and intended to incite violence.  

He is anti-Christian in every way imaginable, yet he seems to have the evangelicals on his side.  His rallies are disgusting displays of bravado with absolutely no substance.  He can’t even speak coherently, yet people applaud. 

That’s the scary part.  A lot of people love this guy.


Or will it?

He is as anti-American as any person or force, yet he wows the crowd by saying anyone who disagrees with him is anti-American and should be punished.  He rants on about how the protestors who have been violently ejected from his rallies are disrespectful and evil because they often raise what he calls “the bad finger” yet he curses like a drunken sailor.  And isn’t he and his Trumpeters giving the finger to the Republican Party and – indeed – all of America?

Christian?  When asked if he ever asks God for forgiveness, he said - no. "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of 'let's go on and let's make it right.”  

He gives himself communion and everything is right with the world.

He is the bully, the class clown, the arrogant, self-righteous teacher’s pet who punches when the teacher isn’t looking then smiles as acts, “WHO, ME?” when he caught.  

And he is the textbook definition of pathological liar.

Politifact (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize) regularly rates statements by politicians so that we can determine the truthiness of their rhetoric.  The following are the results of the Republican debate in Miami.

·       True1  (1%) (1)
·       Mostly True 7 (6%)( 7)
·       Half True 17 (15%) (17)
·       Mostly False 19 (17%) (19)
·       False 45 (41%) (45)
·       Pants on Fire 21 (19%)

Trump likes to think of himself as number one.  And in the case of lying – he truly is.  

• "I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," he said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." Pants on Fire. There is no video of thousands of people in Jersey City cheering. Weeks later, Trump continues to stand by his claim but has not been able to point to evidence to back it up. Public safety officials on the ground in New Jersey say it never happened.

• "The Mexican government ... they send the bad ones over." Pants on Fire. There’s no evidence to show the Mexican government encourages criminals to cross the border. Most illegal immigration comes from people seeking work. Recent estimates show illegal immigration from Mexico dropped off dramatically during the recession and has remained low.

• "Whites killed by whites — 16%. Whites killed by blacks — 81%," said an image he shared on Twitter. Pants on Fire. Most people are killed by someone they know, and someone of the same race. The correct number for whites killed by whites was 82 percent in 2014, while the number of whites killed by blacks was 15 percent.

He usually shrugs off his lies with something akin to…  I am not the only one who lies…

When Bill O’Reilly asked him about the inaccuracy of some statements, he said, "Hey, Bill, Bill, am I gonna check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people...

"People maybe call me out, but they turn out to be wrong, also," was his reply to George Stephanapoluos.  

I teach little kids.  "He did it too," is about the level of a second grader, who is not very good at blame shifting.

As it turns out, he just goes by the old – if I say it long enough and loud enough people will just believe me.  And it’s working, right?  MANY people don’t seem to care about the truth.

They just like his style.

HATE WON'T WIN.  Or will it?

The really freaky thing to me is his calls to violence.  Sure he would waterboard – and a lot more than that.  He doesn’t care about the Geneva Convention. "They said to me, 'What do you think of waterboarding?' I said I think it’s great, but we don't go far enough. It’s true. We don't go far enough. We don't go far enough." 

 War crimes?  No big deal.

Who hasn’t seen his followers jeering, cursing, spitting on and sucker punching peaceful protesters who dare to interrupt his rallies?  Here are his own words about the violence at his rallies.

"See the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice," he said. "The third group, I'll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I'll say get the hell out of here!"

"Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing," Trump said. "I have a lot of fans, and they were not happy about it. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a trouble-maker who was looking to make trouble."

"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them," he said. "Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees."

"Here's a guy, throwing punches, nasty as hell, screaming at everything else, when we're talking...," he said. "I'd like to punch him in the face, I tell ya."

"You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches, we're not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks," Trump said.

"He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back," Trump said about an unspecified protester. "That's what we need more of."

Trump breaks the laws of this country by inciting violence.  Although his speech is protected by the first amendment, he is yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded auditorium.  Yet, in his sneaky way, he can weasel out of the violence he stirs up.  After all, HE isn’t throwing the punch. 

I like to think of us – The US – as decent folks.  While we have a long way to go, I like to think we have come a long way toward acceptance.  

I’d like to think that HATE WON’T WIN.

Or will it?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

On the Day I Die

From John Pavlovitz - Stuff That Needs to be Said.  Read his stuff.  You will be glad that you did.

I wish I'd written this.  Heidi sent it to me as a love reminder.  We are often telling each other how we worry about what it would be like without the other.  We are getting to that age, you know?  When our parents and their friends are slowly leaving the earth, when colleagues and older teachers we have known are getting way up there, when our heros' (Jimmy Carter for example) days are numbered.

I love this reminder to live each day as it comes, as a way to celebrate what is happening right now, right in front of us, to love the ones we are with.

On the die I day a lot will happen.
A lot will change.
The world will be busy.
On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.
The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.
The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.
All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.
The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.
The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.   
All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.
My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.
Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.
My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.
The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.
All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.
The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.
These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.

Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.
On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.
They will feel a void.
They will feel cheated.
They will not feel ready.
They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.
And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.
I know this from those I love and grieve over.
And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.
I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.
Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.
They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.
Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.
It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.
Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you believe matters, because on the day you die, much of it simply won’t.
Yes, you and I will die one day.
But before that day comes: let us live.