Thursday, July 23, 2015

Individuality in Marriage - Our Story

Last evening, while I was out at a Broadway play with a dear friend, my impish husband seized the day and hacked my Facebook account.  He proceeded to write the following status....

"I am so thankful for my husband, I am out partying, and he is so supportive of everything that I do. So much of my life wouldn't be nearly as wonderful as it is without him.  If you get a chance, go and tell him what a great guy he is. He deserves it."

In no way did it bother me that he did this. The fact is, it is true.  And that road of space and support goes both ways.  We have always believed in each other as individuals

During a college chapel service one of our Residence Hall Directors was giving a talk on marriage.  It certainly didn't seem to apply to me at the time because I was not engaged nor was I seeing anyone.  But, one point she made really stuck with me.  The importance of maintaining your identity within the marriage.  It is from within your individuality that you create a stronger marriage.  When one looses ones self that individual no longer has anything to contribute to the marriage.

Fast forward to the Winter of 1994 when Ike an I began "courting,"  I had just moved to NYC and he was wrapping up his last semester at Columbia.  We loved talking with each other.  In fact many nights I would fall asleep while still on the phone.  In our talks we found out that we had such opposite opinions on so many things both social and political.  But, we never argued about them.  We loved playing devils advocate with each others point of view. He respected my line of thinking despite his lack of agreement.  Our relationship took the normal course (sort of - material for another blog) and we married several years later.

As a disclaimer I have to admit that our marriage has not been perfect. We argue about the same things other couples do.  We don't always argue fair.  You try arguing with a guy who has ADHD and you are about as long winded as a Southern Baptist minister on a roll.  We have had bumpy roads and potholes and a few moments that felt as if we were hanging off a cliff.  But one of our prevailing strengths has been our commitment to each others personhood.  In other words we each have a life.

You will never see us have a joint Facebook account (how confusing is it when the birthday reminder comes up and you don't know whose birthday it really is).  There is a high likelihood that if one of us is at an event, the other is not.  (This has become more of a reality since having children... most especially on school nights)  For example, I love Broadway - Ike loves the Yankees. (I like the Yankees too, but he has a need to consumer much more of it than I do.)  I get calls at the house for political fundraising for the Republican party.  They assume that since my husband is a Republican, they can hit me up in his absence. I so love the stunned silence when they hear that I'm a Democrat.  It's like they just saw a Unicorn.

We also don't feel the need to accompany each other on some of the more pedestrian errands we run.  For example, it is highly unlikely that you will find Ike in a grocery store with me.  It is a time saver as he would be breaking down the savings of one product over another to such a granular level that anything cold in my wagon would have warmed by the time we eventually got to check out.  You won't find me sitting by his side at Jiffy Lube when he gets the oil changed.  We just don't  need to be in others company all the time.  Sitting at Jiffy Lube is a waste of my time.  And when I return from the store he is quick to help sort out the bags and help get things put away.  Lastly, we run a bit counter to the the social norm. We will never finish each others sentences and neither of us is offended if we utter opposing opinions in public.  In maintaining our individuality we are able to enhance each others life by bringing in new opportunities and new ideas.  It makes the relationship more dynamic.

Every couple has their own rhythm and this ours.  It is a rather syncopated rhythm.  But, it makes our relationship kind of groovy.  We still don't and probably never will see eye to eye on various issues.  But, on one issue we can agree.  We agree that we love each other.  Remembering that each is "
used to refer to every one of two or more people or things, regarded and identified separately."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

My America the Beautiful

As we move through this shift in our history, how we define America has received quite a bit of debate.  What are our values?  How we do we recognize our past, while moving into our future?  Who is an American? Who has a right to become an American citizen?  The questions are endless and rich in controversy.  As we approach this holiday commemorating the ideals we all agree on  - Liberty, Independence, and Freedom - let's take a break from the noise and look at the beautiful America that surrounds you.  Here is a snapshot of my beautiful America.

There is nothing more wonderful than hearing English spoken with an accent from the another part of the world.  Even the mix called Spanglish - spoken by the mother that is struggling to learn and the patience of her daughter explaining a proper morning greeting.  There is beauty in the group of 15 or so Russian immigrant women meeting after hours in a local hair salon to learn English.  And as a child of the 80's it made me laugh (in joy) to hear my daughters Head Coach talk about the importance of Independence Day in his very distinct Eastern European accent.

My beautiful America can be heard in the mournful yet hopeful tones of the shofar.  It sparkles through holiday lights displayed in the early autumn as my neighbors celebrate Diwali.  Then there are the red envelopes that my children bring home in mid-winter as gifts from their Chinese-American classmates as they celebrate the Lunar New Year.  There is the beauty of the women in their Sunday best, which always includes a lovely hat, as we share the elevator on Sunday mornings as we head off to our services.

My beautiful America is seen in the hands that serve.  Those who prepare meals for the hungry at the Bowery Mission.  Those who rescue leftover food from local stores and restaurants, ensuring they get to people in need.  It is in food delivery services such as Gods Love We Deliver that gets the sick a nourishing meal. There is beauty in the way the nurses care for the cancer stricken.  And there is a sacrificial beauty in the hands of those men from the Gay Mens Health Crisis in the early 80's that risked their lives to ensure that the sick and dying were fed and kept clean when no one else would.

My beautiful America is in the smiling faces of friends who having endured years of struggle finally get their green card.  And even better, when they finally receive full citizenship.  My beautiful America is in the face of my children - their father is a 1st generation American, their great-grandfather on my side was an immigrant to America, and yet throughout the tangled limbs and roots of their ancestry they carry decades of family making their way to the shores of America.  

We all experience different facets of American life.  It seems lately, there has been much focus on what divides us.  As we celebrate this holiday, may we appreciate the beauty around us.  May we all live understanding that each of us carry within in us the hope of past generations. This is my beautful America.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bound by Truth: Lessons in Balls and a Blue Dress

Why is it that every major public offense requires a "blue dress" to bring some accountability? Anthony Weiner finally had to own that lovely chest shot when outed on The Opie and Anthony Show. He denied it over and over.  Two years later he was outed again for the same behavior.  And poor Roger Sterling (insert sarcasm here), He didn't stand a chance.  It was all on tape.  And unless we get some actual physical evidence, we may never get to the bottom of Bill Cosby pileup.

So, this past Winter as "Deflategate" inflated I was really hoping that Tom Brady would tell the truth. Instead we got the typical deflect and deny.  Considering his reputation on and off the field, I was expecting more.  And honestly his fans deserved better. Finally after months of investigation and a 300+ page report rich in circumstantial evidence, it is still Deny, Deny, Deny.  And to make matters worse it is denial put into action by the promise of appeal.

Now Tom has some good company in this camp. In January, Lance Armstrong in an interview with the BBC admitted that he would, "do it again."  As the interview progressed it seemed as if he was trying to apologize - but it wound up sounding like, "well everyone was doing it."  Lance made it clear that given the circumstances of his life and cycling in the mid 1990's he would have still broken the rules.  Let's remember that it took extensive investigations until he had to own his behavior.  But, no one would consider this taking accountability.

The same rationale that Lance expressed is the same thing we are hearing today regarding Tom Brady and the Patriots.  I had a fan tell me that Tom Brady probably did it, but because they don't have concrete proof there should be no punishments. And then added, every team in the NFL cheats.  We all hear our mothers say, "If everyone was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?"  Now, Ronald Reagan put a bit more eloquently “We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” The claim that we do it, because everyone does it, is not us at our best.

Earlier, I alluded to the infamous Lewinsky "blue dress," solid evidence.  But, this past year we have seen that even with solid evidence responsibility is evaded.  In July of 2014 on video you see a police officer putting Eric Garner into an illegal chokehold.  Per the Medical Examiners office, that criminal chokehold was partly responsible for Mr. Garner's death.  In December of the same year a Grand Jury decided to not hold the officer responsible for the illegal behavior that lead to end of Eric Garners life.  So no accountability for the Officer.  Unlike the Ferguson grand jury, the proceedings of the Staten Island Grand Jury have never been disclosed. So, no accountability for those proceedings.  Then just last week in a special election the Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. (who ran the Grand Jury) was elected to Congress.  Theodore Roosevelt, not only our former President - but a former New York City Police Commissioner said,“We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources."  One has to wonder, what would Teddy have done?

There is a real problem when one has to consult an Attorney in the midst of an ethical conflict. “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one's acts,"  according to Mahatma Ghandi.  Yet over a year ago, we saw Yankees former third basemen Alex Rodriguez surrounded by his Lawyers do everything he could do to escape responsibility for doping.  How much money did her spend denying the truth?  And after all of that he still had to sit out a year.  Now he is back in the game. Some argue that he is a better player now and more humble.  Yet, his record in baseball is tainted.  Last week he passed Willie Mays in career home runs, scoring his 661st.  There was little to no fanfare.  And there is speculation that the Yankees may try to avoid paying out on a contracted bonus for passing that record because of his doping.  Was it all worth it.?

Last evening as we slept Ananta Bijoy Das (32 years old), was hacked to death with cleavers and machete's in Bangladesh.  He was a blogger who took the risk to speak out against Islam.  Ananta knew the risk.  He is now the third person to be hacked to death in Bangladesh.  Then there was the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hedbo. Lives taken because they took the risk to publish and to do what they felt was their right to do.  They knew the risks, threats had been made before. You hear stories of unapologetic Nazi's such as  Hermann Göring (the second highest ranking Nazi official to be tried at Nuremberg) admitting to his heinous actions and decrees.  Why is standing by ones own actions so unfashionable.

(Blogger bludgeoned in Bangladesh)

In 1995, Hugh Grant was arrested in LA for having sex in a public place with a prostitute.  In the days that followed, he owned his behavior.  He didn't hide behind a wall of carefully calculated PR stunts.  Nor did he run to check himself in to re-hab.  Hugh went on The Jay Leno Show and in short said, "...I did a bad thing..."  And if that wasn't enough he went on Larry King and said, "I could accept some of the things that people have explained, stress, pressure, loneliness, that that was the reason. But that would be false. In the end you have to come clean and say ‘I did something dishonorable, shabby, and goatish....'"  He is right in the end you have to come clean.

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.” To Mahatma Ghandi, manliness includes accountability regardless of cost. I would go a step further to say true accountability - before the blue dress, the video tape, the DNA evidence, the 300+ page report.... Lack of accountability in the face of truth is weakness.  Will we ever see a true man or women that dares to be duty bound to the truth?   According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “As a matter of honor, one man owes it to another to manifest the truth.” 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Parent IEP Success - 6 Not So Easy Steps

Since Kindergarten, my one daughter has required an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  The annual meetings have become routine. Students who receive additional services such as Speech Therapy etc. have a specific academic plan to support their particular area of challenge. The plan articulates the goals for the upcoming school year.  Those goals are put together by a team that includes teachers, specialists, therapists, and parents.  Today, I write this for the parents.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting a mother who had gone through the process and was a pro. Due to certain requirements of her child's IEP she had to be very "hands on".  Over the past several years our conversations have been instrumental to my success as a parent in this process. There are many of you out there that may not have an advocate or a sounding board.  You could feel very alone in this process.  So, I wanted to share some of things I have learned along the way.


Since the day you brought this child home from the hospital you did everything to get to know your child. You learned the difference between the "I'm Hungry" cry to the "I'm poopy" cry. (ok so that last one comes with a smell enhancer).  You know your child.  As you are working with the teachers and other professionals in the IEP process listen to your inner voice.  If an assessment doesn't ring true to you (or the recommendations) - say so.  If you feel as if the services or the plan in place is not accomplishing the goals speak up.  Let's face it as parents we have far fewer children to guide through this world than your child's school teacher. Regardless of how great the teacher is, things can get overlooked. Speak up.


We aren't all educational professionals with multiple publications in Child Development.  And we don't have to be.  However, at times you can feel that way because of your lack of educations or maybe even lack of experience with whatever challenge your child is facing.-You  can feel like you don't have a voice.  Most people at your IEP meeting do want your insight and your perspective.  Now, some may not. I recently had a team member degrade my preparation as "just a google search" (I wonder what Google thinks of that?) and was coolly reminded that I was surrounded by experts, so this wasn't necessary.  You know what I did?  I made it clear that the team member was being offensive and then I continued on with the discussion at hand. Be very wary of the team member that chooses to diminish your preparation. You are just as much a member of that team, as is everyone else at that meeting.  Don't allow yourself to be daunted.


Try to get a draft of the IEP prior to the meeting. You may encounter some push back.  Some schools actually have a policy of not distributing it until the meeting. However, I argue that the advance draft, allows you to review it, ensuring that your input has been characterized properly. Also, most of these meetings are run on a tight schedule - so to waste valuable meeting time reading through the report as opposed to discussing it, seems wasteful.

If you can't get the IEP ahead of time - using the most recent IEP - make a list of changes you would like to see in the new IEP.  Then use that as a checklist as you walk through the IEP in the meeting.  Also, make a list of goals that you believe were met during the duration of the most recent IEP.  Ensure that those goals are struck from the new plan.  Doing these simple things should help you be as prepared as you can be.

Worst case scenario is if the meeting has to wrap and you are left with unanswered questions or concerns.  If that happens, then you must demand a second meeting before you are willing to agree with current IEP.  Understand, that this request will not be very welcomed. However it is your right.


You may very well be a cold-hearted negotiator when it comes to making deals.  But, when it comes to IEP meetings it can be emotional.  Maybe a new observation catches you off guard.  Or maybe, hearing someone voice the same concerns you have may be very touching.  Talking about your child's challenges can be sensitive and if you aren't in agreement with the team it can make you feel very volatile.  Just remember, take a breathe (often if you must).


As a part of preparation, compile a list of questions you presently have. As the meeting progresses, if those questions are asked, check them off.  If more questions arise during the meeting jot them down.  Then just be certain to get them answered before you leave.  Also, don't let the other team members deter you from asking your questions.  If it is important enough for you to jot down, then you must ask it.  You of all the team members, need to leave that meeting confident that the best plan is in place for your child.


After the meeting, you will be sent a final copy.  Go over that copy with a fine tooth comb.  Make sure your changes have been made and ensure that everything is as it should be.   Don't be surprised if you come up with an additional concern or goal after meeting. It happens to all of us.  If there are any changes required, simply send a note of to the teachers with your notes. They will make the adjustments and send you the final.

Remember, that as a parent you are the ultimate advocate.  That can at times require you to do things that take you out of your comfort zone.  The process can be time consuming as well.  But, your child's development is well worth it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Changing Ourselves Changes the World

Earlier this week, my daughters were talking about all the things that girls can do.  My one daughter said, "We can even lead the world." I asked each of them, "Would you want to?"  They both declared, "No - there is too much confusion."  Ironically, I think we all feel that way.  We all feel compelled in one way or another to simplify the onslaught of issues and pain we see in the 24 hour news feed.  Yet, we are all left at the end of our day with the lingering question of what I can I do?

Despite the complexity of the issues we face, the best approach we can take is inward. It can seem so simplistic.  However, in Psalm 51 verse 10 David prays, "Create in me a clean heart. And renew a right spirit within me."  We get so caught up in fixing the world. Or worse, we look where to lay the blame.  When the only thing we can really change is ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Earlier this week as the riots broke out in Baltimore, I posted the prayer of St. Francis.  It truly sums up how we can change the world, by merely changing ourselves.  There are things within our humanity we can change. For all others we must work with our Lord to do the deeper work. Slowly things in us and our world will change.

Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon; Lord
Where there is doubt, true faith in you;
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there's despair in life,let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master Grant that I never seek
So much to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of your peace
It's in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we're born to eternal life

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why I Won't Opt-Out

My generation takes our role as parent very seriously.  We labor over every detail from where our children's food is sourced to how our children learn.  Every big decision has been researched and fraught over.  So, in no way do I have any disrespect for the parents who chose last week to opt-out.  I believe that they made the decision they believe is best for their child.  This is simply an explanation as to why I chose differently. Over the past week, the narrative has belonged to one side of the story.  Here is mine.  

(Please indulge the Q & A style blog)

Q - What was your overall reason for having your children take the standard testing and not opt out?
A - My children attend public school and standardized testing is a part of the 3rd grade.  The testing is very challenging. My hope is to teach my children to face a challenge and not back down from it.  We all know that life and learning has its fair share of difficulties that we must walk though and not cut a path around.  

Q - Don't you think the 3rd grade is too early to start standardized testing?  
A - No.  One of our top priorities for our girls is preparedness.  The more comfortable they are with certain theories, tools and requirements the better they will do. So, I look at the state tests as preparation for the big test  - the only standardized test most parents won't opt out of - the SAT.  (For the record I took that one twice).  The end goal is that this just becomes a part of the educational process.  

1986, was a year of academic challenge for me.  My family made the move to New York state and it didn't take long to realize that I was a bit academically in over my head.  The regents program was a more rigorous program than I was accustomed to.  For the next several months, I worked very hard to catch up.  As the school year wrapped up, I had to face a week of exams. My parents did all they could to prepare me. The exams were hard.   But when I passed them all, I had never felt so good. 

Q - But, don't you agree that tests like this are scary?
A - Every "first" can be frightening. My daughter was scared out of her mind when she first road her bike without the wheels. But, the joy in her eyes when she soared down that street without falling was amazing.  As I sent them off to school last Tuesday, of course we all had anxiety.  But, when they got home they said it was fine.  It was just like their other tests in school.  The next day, it was business as usual.  

Q - Do you see any benefit at all to the perceived excessive test prep time?
A - During the test preparation period as I worked with my girls, I became increasingly aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They both have pacing issues - one is too fast and one is too slow.  There are other issues as well - it was during test prep that these issues became clear.  I had seen glimpses of some of these issues before. But, let's face it knowing where to focus our attention can be a problem.  There is so much homework and project work combined with the social issues that come up as our kids get older that the list of things that need our focus is overwhelming. The test preparation really shined a light on areas that needed immediate attention. 

Q - Isn't the amount of test prep time in class stealing time from real learning?
A - The test preparation at our school consisted of review sheets for material taught throughout the year.  At times it would focus on test taking strategies.  But, all these things are beneficial for my children.  Students in high school and college do the same thing as they prepare for semester ending finals.  Reinforcing previously learned material has always been essential to true learning.

Q - Come on, isn't material being altered dramatically in the classroom? 
A - I can only speak from my experience. As this year has progressed and the students steadily moved through their workbooks, I never saw material neglected or taught at an accelerated pace.  And not once did I feel that they were learning something irrelevant.  I will say that the coverage of Social Studies and Science has been a bit light this year.  

Q - Aren't you concerned that it is big corporations driving standardized testing?
A - There is a lot of concern that Pearson is driving the bus when it comes to the latest round of standardized testing.  It's a logical argument.  They have their hands in every aspect of the education process.  That is concerning. It is also worth considering who benefits as the "Opt-out" movement grows.  Movements by parents for their children is entirely logical. However, I find it a conflict of interest when teachers begin pushing this cause.  

Q - Isn't a teacher supposed to advocate on their students behalf?
A - Absolutely!  However, the fact that this test is being used to assess both student and teacher does create a conflict of interest.  

Q - Do you think it is fair to use these test results for teacher assessments?
A - The results should be a part of the teacher assessments.  However, they are too heavily weighted. It is not fair to make this count for fifty percent of their annual assessment. But, this should not play a role in my decision as a parent for my child.  This is an issue for the teachers, teachers union and school leadership.  

Q - What do you think of the allegations that some of the material tested is beyond grade level achievement?  
A - This wouldn't surprise me.  Standardized testing is to test all aptitude levels within one grade.  So, it is reasonable that a segment of students would find the test very challenging. 

Q - But doesn't that just add frustration for the student, while he/she is taking the test?
A - This is where proper preparation pays off. In working with my girls, I have taught them to work through the test, answering the questions they can and marking the questions that are posing some difficulty. Then go back and work on the "tough" questions.  It is also important that the child understand that the test will be tough.  And, that this does not mean that they are stupid.  

Q - You really think that this will take the pressure off the student?
A - Every household will determine how important or unimportant the tests are.  Children don't want to fail and they don't want to let their parents down. They also don't want to be rebuked for doing badly. So, it all comes down to how you prep your child and how you react once the scores come in.  In my home we did our best to fortify our kids test taking challenges during our prep. Once the test was taken, we told them we were proud of their efforts and moved on.  

Q - Why are you so willing to go along with this testing?
A - Over the years we have seen a variety of educational rankings that doesn't seem to ever find our country in the top 10.  The older I get the more opportunity (in the form of jobs) I see get moved out of this country into another.  Sadly a reasonable percentage of these countries do land in or much nearer the top 10 than we do.  My assessment, trying a new approach to education isn't a bad idea. Just as I am open to this present course, I would have been just as open to No Child Left Behind, Whole Language etc.  

Q - Doesn't this trial and error with curriculum turn our children into guinea pigs? Don't they deserve better?
A - It is frustrating that every 8 years or so we see a new curriculum blow into town,  This leaves students in a tough spot having to re-calibrate their learnings.  However, if something isn't work, we shouldn't keep going with it for the sake of consistency.  But, I think we can all agree that given our educational standing in the world, we can do better.   

Q - What do you think of parents who choose to opt-out?
A - This is their choice and I respect their right to make it.  Parents know their children and I would expect them to make the choice that is in the best interest of their child.  Each family has their own values and I expect them to make decisions that match their values. I recently read a blog of a family who chose to opt-out based on the conflict testing posed to their Unitarian faith.  It's their choice.  

However, I am concerned about the optics.  Just a month ago in Bihar, India the internet was flooded with pictures of parents scaling the walls of a school to help their children cheat on some very important exams.  Then last week, the news was filled with interviews and pictures of American parents keeping their children from taking exams.  There is a line of thinking that we shouldn't care what the rest of the world thinks of us.  That is what freedom is all about right?  To the rest of the world freedom is about opportunity. And I agree with that definition of freedom.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

God Does Not Need Me (He Doesn't Need You Either)

On Sunday I will assume a role that I have filled for years, leading my congregation in Sunday morning worship.  The week leading up to Sunday, I work hard ensuring that all of the details have been taken care of.  Having been born into a preachers home, being in church is a very routine thing. It can become a very normal thing to think that I am important - that the church needs me - that God needs me.  But, in reality, that entire line thinking is very egocentric.

Growing up in a denomination that has the Great Commission at its core I understand how important it is to serve God.  "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..." Matthew 28:19, 20a NASB.  However, it is always important to remember that we are to serve God, not become God.

This can be such a slippery slope.  In fact, for most of us it may not be intentional.  We serve and sacrifice.  We bring our "A" game every week.  But then it starts. We fail to take time away. Maybe we find it difficult to raise up future leaders.  Or, we might struggle with embracing another persons vision, simply because it isn't our own.  Then suddenly we have lost our way. Our voice has now become a lot louder than Gods.

Now, let's remember that verse we all learned a long time ago "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me."  John 14:6 NASB  God is the way, I am not the way.  My opinion is not the truth.  We all need to realize that God has it all under control.  This doesn't relinquish us from preparation.  However, it allows us to rest in his sovereignty.

Resting in His sovereignty, could prevent so many ministerial and relational disasters.  How many times, with the best of intentions have we over-stepped thinking that we had to "do" or "say" this.  Then have it just blow up in our face.  We sing these songs with great lines like - "God will make a way..." "We serve a God of miracles," Yet how many times do we think we are the only way. If there has to be a miracle, it is up to us.

Believing that God does not need us and embracing that we need Him is the mind shift that will keep us humble.  It will help us get of the way, when we need to release a new generation into ministry.  Real rest will begin in our lives when we take a necessary step back.  And most importantly it will allow us to hear God better.  So just remember, God does not need us.  He simply wants us to need Him.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Report Cards

Dear Child,

Today is report card day.  I know you might be dreading it.  What will it say? How badly did I do?  What will  my parents say?  Will I have more work to do now?  Or worse, will I be punished?  I totally understand.  I was a student once too.  I had that pain in my gut as well.  But, I need to let you in on a secret.  Parents sort of freak out about report card day too.

We worry about everything.  Did we spend enough time with you on your homework?  Should we have hired a tutor?  Maybe I should have talked to your teachers more often.  Flashcards, maybe they could help.  Do we have enough time to turn this thing around? Maybe I should have ordered those omega 3 daily vitamins.  They are said to promote brain health.   Parents stress out too.

From the moment you enter school we want you to perform better than we did as students.  We read every letter and research every learning method.  We talk with other parents and weigh the cost benefit analysis of tutoring.  Our calendars fill up with meetings and events all centered around you and your development. You are the first thing we think of in the morning and the last thought on our mind as our eyes close.

As we watch you grow we pray you are listening to us.  More importantly, we hope you trust us.  All that we teach you comes from all we learned as we were growing up.  Those awkward situations that we suffered through, are now cautionary tales for you.  The advice we give you is not to control you. It is to keep you from making the same mistakes we did.  When we yell, know that it is out of desperation. Our desperate love for you and deepest desire to jump in front of whatever oncoming train is headed your way.

Understand, that we are in this together.  We aren't in this, to tell you what to think.  We just want to help you learn how to think.  How to infer and deduce.  Those two skills alone will help you make the right decisions for the life you will find waiting for you.  So, for the next several years trust us.  Take what we say seriously.  Feel our love as it pours out of every obsessive compulsive thing we do. Then when that day comes and you are standing on your own two feet and walking down your own path, take a moment.  In that moment, just turn around and wave and know that we love you and always will.


Your Parent

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hero's Acting Differently

Last evening I saw two movies that are Oscar contenders.  I know that might seem excessive - but my husband and I were making up for months of missed date nights. Both of these movies were centered around men who performed extraordinarily on behalf of their nations during two very different, yet equally heinous wars.  However, these men couldn't be more opposite.
Chris Kyle, grew up in Midlothian, Texas.  He played football and basketball. He enjoyed hunting with his father.  Alan, traveled 60 miles by bike to attend Sherborne School in Great Britian.  He was not only able to comprehend, but also apply the works of Albert Einstein.  Sadly, Alan was bullied by his mates at school.  Chris went on to be a bronco rider after High School.  Alan went on to study at Kings College and then Princeton University.  

Chris, as a Navy Seal Sniper is credited with 160 kills out of probable 255 kills during the war with Iraq.  Chris always preferred to think of the lives he saved, instead of the lives he took.  During World War II, Alan, having developed a turning machine (computer) was able to break the unbreakable code machine Enigma used by the Nazis.  Historians credit him with shaving 2 to 4 years off of the war and saving 14 million to 21 million lives.  Despite how heroic both of these men were, their stories were always met with a certain amount of controversy.  

Since "American Sniper" hit the screens people have argued that the movie glorifies killing and war.  The release of, "The Imitation Game" was met with high praise, acclaiming that it was about time.  The feeling was that Alan Turing's role in World War II was not only kept secret because of national security, but also because he was a homosexual.  Regardless of how one feels about war or sexual identity no one can ever deny the fact that these two very different men performed heroically and saved lives.

There are still those in this world that subscribe to the idea that uniformity equals success.  It can be very hard to believe that a bullied child or a bronco riding young man could turn into a war hero.  But, nevertheless they both saved lives in two very different ways.  A line from "The Imitation Game," sort of sums all of this up "Sometimes it is the people no imagines anything of, who do things no one can imagine."  The truth is that in life we all have a unique purpose and are gifted exclusively.  We needn't allow our differences to frighten us.  It should excite us.  We do not live in a cookie cutter world. Let's stop acting that way.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Survival: The Essential Pantry (Urban edition)

For the past several days, the media was either discussing the impending doom of Snowpacalypse or the extraordinary lines and bare shelves at the local grocery store.  Everyone panics and worries that they just won't have enough to eat.  Living in New York City, most of us live with space constraints so we have to be more selective of what we keep in house.  Growing up my mother had a fantastic pantry.  However, she had a good amount of space for it.

So, I decided to put together a pantry list that those of us with limited space could work with.  All of these items have great versatility and a reasonably good shelf life.  And let's face it, there may not be a blizzard every day (in fact there wasn't even a blizzard yesterday) - but there are times when you haven't hit the store and yet you have to throw together a meal. This list should get you out of a bind really easily.

Freezer Pantry

Butter - Yep you can freeze butter. And given how expensive it can be when it is not on sale, this allows you to buy it and save it until you need it.  It thaws pretty quickly.

Chicken Breasts - Almost every store sells packages of individually frozen or individually wrapped chicken breasts.  These are crazy versatile. Once grilled you can slice for sandwiches, chop for salads, dice for soup, or served whole as entree protein.

Frozen Bread Dough - Typically one package will give you three loaves.  These can be converted quickly into a pan of sticky buns, sandwich rolls or a your typically pullman loaf.

Frozen Pasta - One package can quickly turn a great broth into a simple soup in a snap.

Refrigerator Pantry

Cheese - Whether grated or bloc - it can be a great addition to pasta, sprinkled on a frittata, a surprise finish to soup, or the quintessential grilled cheese sandwich.

Eggs - Beyond breakfast, they make great sauces for pasta (carbonara - or - cacio e pepe).  You can combine it with leftover potatoes or  veggies  for a quick frittata.

Milk - Ok, so milk has a limited shelf life.  However, all of us should be consuming more dairy the older we get.  Milk can be turned into a savory sauce or a sweet custard.  And if you do get a real blizzard, you have to have some milk for your hot chocolate.

Cupboard Pantry

Bread Crumbs - You will not create a stand alone dish from this ingredient. But, this makes a great coating and filler for a tuna cake.  It would elevate that plain chicken breast to a wonderfully crisp chicken milanese.  Sprinkled on top of pasta would create a great texture.

Broth Chicken or Vegetable - Quickly converts into a simple gravy .  It is an essential as a base to a variety of sauces.  And naturally it would turn out a great soup.

Canned  Beans - Whether you like black, navy, or pinto canned beans are a quick way to go. Dried are always a better option because they won't overcook as easily - but reconstituting them can be time consuming.  Beans are a great add to soup, pasta, or even a salad.  You can even make a quick white bean dip.

Canned Beets - I do prefer fresh, but they are high maintenance.  I only like to eat two canned vegetables and this is one of them.  You can eat them cold as a salad and they really shine heated through with some butter and salt.  By them whole, not sliced. If you want them sliced  you can do that on the spot.

Canned Corn - And this is the second canned vegetable I'll eat.  Don't buy mexicorn or corn with anything else. Again, it will limit your options.  Corn can be added to broth to make a great corn soup.  Added to black beans and tomatoes and it makes a great accompaniment to your chicken.  I recently had it in an omelette and loved it.

Dried Lentils - This is the best bean for a quicker cook. The red lentils cook very quickly and need to be watched. Lentils of course rock in a soup.  But, they are even great as a salad.

Dried Pasta - There is so much versatility here and most of it is obvious.  If you have room buy a long pasta and a cut.  If you are limited, stick with a cut pasta.  And out of all of these pantry items this has a great shelf life.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil  - This should always be in your cabinet.  Use it to help dress salads, saute something yummy, or as a finishing touch to final dish.

Tomatoes - Either diced or whole they are beyond versatile.  A great base for Eggs in Purgatory, soup, or a sauce for pasta.  A simple lush sauce for pasta is a tomato and butter sauce. Make sure to buy low salt, so you can control the salt. Also, don't buy them with spices.  This will limit your flexibility with the ingredient.

Tuna - Buy this packed in water.  The oil is just unnecessary.  One creative way to serve this is to make it into a cake.  The cake would be in the spirit of a crab cake.  Also, a unique take on a crab salad would be to combine it with white beans and toss in a vinegrette.

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour - This is an essential to always have around.

Vinegar  - Whether you prefer red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar - you should always have a bottle.  You can use it to pickle your beets or dress a salad.  In fact if you add some butter, sugar, salt and pepper to your beets you can have a wonderful warm pickled beet.

Spice Cabinet

The following is a basic list of spices that will get you started. Since they take such little room, this could be where you go a little crazy. But, below is a greater starter kit.

Chile Powder
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

The above ingredients would allow you to make such comforting dishes such as Macaroni and Cheese, Tortelinni Brodo, and Chicken Parmigianna.  You don't have to use a ton of fancy expensive ingredients to make a spectacular meal.  But, in a pinch this list could really save the day. The other bonus is that most of these items go on sale frequently. I hope you find the shopping list below helpful. Happy cooking!

Shopping List

Bread Dough
Frozen Chicken Breasts (1 package)
Frozen Pasta

Milk 1/2 gallon

Bread Crumbs
Broth - Chicken or Vegetable
Canned Beans
Canned Beets
Canned Corn
Dried Lentils
Dried Pasta
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Tomatoes (Diced or Whole)
Unbleached All Purpose Flour

Spice Cabinet
Chile Powder
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder