We, The People, Should Determine Movie-Rating Guidelines

The joy of writing sometimes originates from being told that I don’t know what I’m “talking” about. One such response came after I wrote about my frustration at how relaxed the “FCC” had gotten in rating movies. One very astute and alert reader promptly notified me that I had poorly researched an opinion piece, as the FCC does not determine the rating a movie earns. The truth of this reader is that I actually did no research at all. I merely pulled up to the keyboard and began click-clacking away at the audacity of not putting an X-rating on movies containing nudity and/or vile language. Because this article has gotten such a viewing I thought it only proper to share with the public a correction and an overview of which agency does what. The person who sent the comment was polite enough to not only inform me of my error; but, also the correct agencies for television and movies. On researching, I learned that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is comprised of the top six production studios and “determines” the film rating system. I learned that it is a non-profit agency (how convenient) and serves on a voluntary basis to inform viewers of the movie’s rating. Was that a light-bulb moment! No wonder there are no X-rated movies. Film critic Roger Ebert thinks the whole system needs to be revamped. I’d say that is an understatement? On doing a bit more research I learned that the television rating system was approved by Congress in 1996 and merely lets the viewer know within the first 15 seconds of the shows airing what is contained within. I like that courtesy; but, people who watch television pretty much know what they’re about to watch contains. It’s helpful just the same. And last, but not least, I took a look at what the role of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) actually is. I was shocked to learn that I really was off the mark. It serves, as described on their web page, “thousands” of purposes; but, is described primarily as ensuring that American citizens have access to worldwide communication services at reasonable costs without discrimination. I learned this includes everything from the internet and cable TV services to using a microwave. Without getting too deep and ending up “wrong” again I encourage you to Wiki these three agencies for more clarity as needed. The bottom line of this continues to be stronger restrictions on what people are blind-sided within movie theatres. This is not about trying to stop people from watching filth. That’s their choice. That’s their soul. The old adage: Trash in; trash out is true. But to not get off track here. But my final suggestion is to President Obama. With this stimulus-package “debacle” I almost feel selfish to discuss what some might consider trivia. But I sincerely believe a committee needs to be formed that has nothing to do with a private industry and its private agenda. I want nudity and foul language banned in family theatres. I want the young people to enjoy dinner and a movie without feeling like their dignity has been violated. There are some people who may need more than an inference on the movie screen. I, like I believe the majority of the viewers, don’t need the goriness of a scene. I’m not so dense that I have to see the full act of something that is really sacred. It’s perversion. If I were out with a person and sat through some of these movies, I’d feel safer taking a cab home. Okay. I’m off my soap box. I hope this clears up any discrepancies in the article regarding FCC Guidelines. I hope, even more so, that this resparks the conversation on a scale that has citizens calling their elected officials demanding a change be made in family theatres across America!


Hell Hath No Fury Like A People Wanting Change?

Whoa! and WOW! at the same time. I honestly am trying to recall the last time I saw Americans get this fired up. Sadly though, when chaos erupts, no one gets genuinely heard; nothing is genuinely accomplished; and ultimately, no one genuinely benefits. I'm wondering how many people showed up to glean something they could use to support or denounce this health-care reform project, our very focused President is pushing for; only to have left feeling like they were at a middle-school melee, learning nothing. The lady in the peridot scarf saved the day. She reminded me of the calm many teachers will be required to maintain in a few short days. I understand passion; but, at the end of the day, all the shouting in the world isn't going to change the inevitable. Accelerated blood pressure in the case of many of those attending can't be good. In fact, it's frightening. The bottom line is, America's health-care program is in CRISIS mode. The very wealthy don't want change because in most cases, they've got theirs, and reform threatens to tamper with their wallets. The middle class really need some relief from what they're currently having to pay. And the poor, simply put, need care. This is obviously bigger than Congress. It's obvious, too, that a special-election should be called for. The people should be allowed on an individual basis to cast their vote. I believe the turnout would be larger than the last Presidential election. Something is broken in America's health-care system. To make sure everyone is participating, and not relying on the "if I get sick" mentality, and, instead, functioning on the "when I get sick" reality, a percentage of everyone's salary should be mandated for health care. Just as working-class America has to pay taxes to keep our military afoot; we should be required to pay the same for health care. And, for those who don't work; but, do eat, a portion of the spending dollar should go to health care. But again, this needs to be the people's choice. It should not be a deal done in the midnight hour, just before Washington goes on vacation. If President Obama really wants what's best for America, he should let the people, on a one-to-one vote, decide.


Like Fine Wine, Some Things You Just Can't Rush

Recently while talking with my son, sort of out of the blue, he commented that five of his best buddies were engaged and preparing for their wedding day. Last words of the text were scary, sad. Now that he's officially over the twenty-something "hill" he's feeling what most of these second-decaders are feeling; an unauthentic pressure to find a spouse and settle down.
Across the hundreds of miles, I thought of him as I always do, the little person getting his walking legs at eight months old. I reassured him that he was far too young to think about settling down as he had so much of life to live before the happily ever after scenario. But somehow amidst all the encouragement and reassurance, we both knew reality was setting in, and any day he would receive his God-gift of a Mrs. Right; and the only thing left to do would be prepare to put on his husband shoes.
I'm not a big fan of having conversations by text; but, in this new-tech world that seems to be the quickest way to reach someone, sin answering machines and voice mail. For Mother's Day, God-blessed him to gift me with an ITouch which has changed my attitude about over-rated technology. And texting seems to have us communicating more than the occasional phone call; which has its pos and negs.
In truth, I pray that he will patiently wait and endure until God sends his spouse. If that's tomorrow, wonderful. If it's ten years from now, even better. Marriage is kind of like pregnancies. If you get enough women of child-bearing age together, eventually it will seem like fertilty is in the water. It's the same with marriage. One pal proposes; the next thing you know another gets the happy pill, and on and on.
But, to all out there who're feeling this faux-pressure to jump the broom, listen to a few people who did so prematurely, and I assure you the yen will gain sensibility.
I remember I was his age when I said "I do," which makes it oh-so easy to advise him to not hurry. The time to ponder the thought of marriage is when that right person enters your life and you know they are who you should journey the rest of your life with. This timing is not measured by job stability, or age, or any other reason, other than that you believe in your deepest self this is who you should spend forever after with. Wisdom notes that marriage without money is more difficult, than marriage with financial stability. This is why I strongly encourage him to focus on laying a foundation that will prepare him to someday show his queen that he's worthy and able to represent her as king. Marriage is one of those things you can't just do because everyone else is doing it. True love is a gift from God that comes in His Divine Timing; not at any particular age. Some receive it at 16, others 76. We honor God for this gift by taking vows of marriage. Marriage, in and of itself, is a ministry that two people should dedicate their entire life strengthening according to God's Divine Purpose set forth in Genesis, when He acknowledged "It is not good for man to be alone." But realize, he made woman, for procreation purposes. Today, an unmarried is not truly alone. There are a whole lot of guy and gal pals to have Godly fun with until the queen (for males) enters the picture. In closing, it's difficult enough to charter the 20-something waters without trying to make happen something whose season has not yet come.The only thing sad and scary about best friends getting married, is believing that's your queue to imitate the same. Someday I want to be a M-I-L and a GramMY; but like fine wine, some things you just can't rush, lest you run the risk of experiencing no taste, worst yet, bad taste for life.


Closing Schools Is Not The Best Solution

There's talk of another one of our nation's public schools closing. In these tough economic times, this is really a sad commentary. I grew up in a time when teaching was one of the safest professions to be in. Comparably to other jobs in the public sector, it probably still is. But, the closing of schools based on low test scores is concerning. It makes me wonder how many more generations of youth will be lost to this ridiculous means of measuring one's ability to succeed in life. As a person who spent a decade as an elementary school teacher in what I call the war zone of public education, I am an avid proponent of children receiving a diploma based purely on merit for showing up, as opposed to mastery skills. I discern the latter to be a stumbling block and deterrent for a certain "class" of learners to be excluded from ever moving further than the impenetrable wall placed before them at graduation in the form of an exit exam. The schools that are up for closure are actually being reopened under a term called re-purposing. I do believe this particular school should be repurposed for the goal of building and defining young males in the community under an umbrella of an all-male academy for grades 3-12. It's currently a middle school, which reminds me of a holding tank for youngsters to grow past the torrential years of adolescence. I haven't read the research; but, it's probably safe to presume that this is when most youngsters develop the 'I can't succeed so I might as well quit' mentality. And to know that this attitude derives from some manmade test that most of my colleagues, possibly even myself included, would have difficulty passing. On learning of this school's closing, based specifically on low test scores, I was disturbed to learn that the only areas the students were weak in were math and science. Teachers, on learning of this mid-summer surprise were understandably upset. But this decision, only confirms my belief that it is past time due for people to voice their disgust with the education system failing our youth by placing them all under one definition of success. Just because these learners were not given the gift of being mathematicians or scientists, does not exclude them from being magnificent writers, orators, artists of paint and music, as well as athletes born to do great things for future generations. It is time that this asinine belief that everyone was born to specialize in a certain area needs to STOP! I grew up in a time when youngsters were tracked according to what they were most likely to succeed at based on aptitude tests. That seemed to work for the overall community; although researchers deemed this as a negative bias. We not only had students who were prepared to attend college; but, we had students who trained as auto mechanics, who went on to make their living repairing cars for residents of the area. Today there is another type of tracking going on. It's tracking those who will succeed, and those who will fail. Every year an exam determines whether a determined spirit who showed up every day will get a diploma or not. We're talking high school diploma here; not a Doctorate of Philosophy. Students should be taught what's important. They should graduate knowing how to read. They should graduate knowing how to write. And they should graduate knowing how to balance a checkbook and save for retirement. There is entirely TOO MUCH wasted education going on in high schools across America. I ask you: What purpose does calculus serve for a "me-person" whose sole interest is writing til I breathe my last breath. What purpose does knowing the Pythagorean Theorem have for a person whose purpose in life is to dance for a professional ballet company or play classical violin or flute in an orchestra as a career. It is time for parents to take charge and define what measures their child's success. It is time for children to stop graduating knowing material that only a select few people will benefit from. It's like the education system is feeding its bread and butter with knowledge that has no relevance or interest to what's real for their future. The face of the public school system needs to change and it needs to change drastically. It is not about money as much as it is about curriculum. I have two children that finished from the public school system. And just like I, they learned a lot of wasted knowledge. One of them is a beautiful artist of paint; but attending one of the most prestigious schools in the district left her filled with a knowledge and disdain for a lot of math and science that she will never use as her interest ends up being in the area of art history. I literally was blessed to find an academy for my son that focused on allowing learners to finish the curriculum at their own pace. It was perfect for a child who learned quickly and got bored even quicker. I credit this style of learning as a saving grace so to speak; because, it made the teacher a tutor more than a lecturer; and simultaneously gave him the freedom to finish high school at his own pace. Closing schools means destabilizing jobs, means destabilizing communities. Granted, some schools need to be closed for renovation. But to close a school because of poor test scores is a clear example of why the system is failing. I'd really like to hear more from Arne Duncan on plans he has for the system nationally. Based on a recent expose on Teach for America, I perceive that this is an organization that may or may not be serving the best interests of the learners. I watched as stressed-out twenty-somethings tried to make sense of inner-city youth who have been exposed to more in their 15-years or so of life, than these fresh-faced teachers may experience in a lifetime. School should be about preparing people for what they plan to do with their futures. Everyone is not interested in being a NASA scientist; nor a physician, or mathematician. I vote that our schools begin to reflect the interests of our youth. Graduation requirements should be based on a student's ability to show mastery in the field he hopes to pursue for life. If it's playing a violin; at graduation after completing core requirements, he should be able to play a sonata that has the judges standing in applause on completion. If his interest is to sing on Broadway, well you get the point. It's time education gets back to the basics and stops competing to be better than other nations. Everything that looks like success is not, when we take into account suicide factors of people in other countries who feel they have disappointed their families. When America started looking at other countries as its gauge for success, it lost its focus on what makes its citizens unique. It began the dark journey of trying to be something it is not. It is a melting pot made up of many different peoples doing many different things. To limit our learners to math and science is a major disservice not only to the students involved; but, those who would so benefit from what true talent they have to offer. Some people were born to create life-saving vaccines. Some were born to write the perfect words that heal the hurting souls. Wake up America. Stop closing schools, and instead, start rewriting mission statements and curriculums that reflect what real-life represents!


The Dirty Little Secret of Bagless Vacuum Cleaners

I'm not much of a betting woman; but, I'm willing to bet that the fairly-new invention of the bagless vacuum cleaner was thought up by a man. I know I'll get mail that there are a lot of men who vacuum. But, it's reasonable to believe that this task is the responsibility of a woman. Again, I'm willing to wager on that as well. But, this writing isn't about falling into the entrapment of gambling; but, instead to acknowledge why I believe a person would have to be on the maniacal side to like this contraption. I'm one of those persons who finds vacuuming a semi-form of exercising and stress reliever all at the same time. I also prefer hand-washing a sink full of dishes rather than using a dishwasher; but, that's more of a green matter than a joy. But to stay focused, today I woke up knowing I'd vacuum at some point in the day. I just had it in my spirit. For those of you who vacuum every day, and in some cases, more than once a day, that's wonderful. And depending on the number of kids or pets, possibly even a necessity. But I vacuum mostly from a position of obvious necessity. And when I take on this chore, I plug in some great music and start the task. It's not like I own a mansion, so the process isn't overwhelming by a longshot. BUT, today's experience was so yuk that I had to write about it to actually relieve stress. It was so impactive that it took me back to my childhood. I remembered my mother owning an Electrolux vacuum cleaner. It was light gray with purely steel parts that reminded me of a train caboose. Her vacuum lasted through raising her three children and on into their adulthoods. I'd say she got her money's worth; whatever that was. I can remember her replacing it with an upright; but, I don't remember why. Presumably the one she had simply wore out or perhaps like many people she just wanted something new. I doubt the latter; but, all I recall is occasionally a dust-filled bag would be removed and replaced with a nice clean one. The dirty bag would be thrown out with the trash, and life went on. When I got married, today's experience reminded me that as gifts she gave me a food processor, a set of heavy-duty professional pots, and, yes, you may have guessed, a vacuum cleaner. As a single person in my twentys I had a vacuum that sufficed for the occasional time I was at my apartment and not working, or out having fun. But, in my mother's wisdom, she knew that the new life I'd embarked on would require a lot sturdier unit than what I had. Admittedly, it lasted the duration of raising my kids. With the exception of bringing it in once for a minor repair it was well worth whatever she paid for it. But, after my kids were grown and gone, I decided I'd invest in a new, bagless kind. What in Hades was I thinking? The bottom line is: I wasn't! All I saw as I stood in the store was a boxed item that looked pretty, and had gotten good reviews from the research I'd done online. SO, I bought it. After less than six weeks of use I know I made a bad purchase. Not so much for the vacuum itself; but for the concept. Every time I pull the canister out to dump the dust (YUUUUUK!!!) I do the dreaded rinsing out this filth, and wiping the whole unit down. The only sanitary place to rinse this thing is in the backyard with a garden hose. Some might say you can wash it out in the shower; but, no, not to be difficult; that doesn't work for me. It's like the job of vacuuming, which is to remove dirt, is amplified by having to clean up the dirt you just cleaned up! Yes, I guarantee a man invented the bagless vac. I'm grossed out as I write about it; and am having to comsume extra liquids to remove the perhaps imagined grit in my throat. I priced the newest Elextrolux model. We're talking $500. I'm hoping that includes free shipping and handling. Needless to say, that won't be on my list of things to buy; but, I will begin researching the best bag-required vacuum for half that price. In life there are some things you don't skimp on. A reliable vacuum cleaner; BAGS REQUIRED is one of them!


Once Again, The President Said It Best

Recently, President Obama said so eloquently that more men need to be taught that fatherhood does not stop with conception. Today I am reminded of the 29-year-old male who was recently in court for "fathering" 21 children by 11 different women. I was of course saddened for the children involved. After all they are the ones who will be cheated of what it means to have a real dad in their lives. But cheating children of God's best for them seems to be the trend in too many instances these days. It's said that the sins of the father affect the children for four generations removed. This is a perfect example of that Scripture. My sorrow was only compounded on learning that he had a job that barely paid enough to care for himself, and a court system that let him off the hook by paying some insulting amount in child support. I shake my head as I write this; as I am overwhelmed with an inability to even begin comprehending who failed the most in this scenario. He obviously failed to properly wear a condom. The females obviously failed to properly use birth control. The law obviously failed to have statutes in place that would require him to either get a mandatory vasectomy or serve ten years for every child he failed to pay full support for. The list could go on and get more personal; but, I think the point is made. Someone failed to nip this obvious problem in the bud long before it reached the number of offspring created. I know there are free-spirited people who gasp at the thought of delaying the pro-creation process. I know there are people who can't believe that I'd suggest no money; no children. But yes, that's what I believe. If laws were designed that would require proof of (familial) affordability for a child or mandatory adoption being the repercussion for irresponsible pregnancies people would stop being so careless with such a serious responsibility. I know there are some who will say this belief borders on Communism. No, I beg to differ. It borders on people being responsible for their actions. It borders on people not continuing that ugly and vicious cycle that the government pays for their children and everything required to care for them. I know. Everything is a bit of an exaggeration; but, I'm merely trying to make a point on the weekend eve that celebrates the making of a child. In closing, our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, considered at some point in his career starting a school strictly for homosexual males. I couldn't believe how far off the mark he would have been to publicly fund something of that large a bias. In the real world, being gay is no different than being overly fat, or any other distinguishing feature that one may be ridiculed for. If he opened a school just for gays, before long he'd have to open a school just for the obese; or just the shy. No, I totally disagree with him wanting to start schools just for gays; but I do believe that he should SERIOUSLY consider opening schools across the nation that cater specifically to turning heterosexual males into MEN. These schools should be run by healthy-minded, non-predatory men, who are the epitome of what society would define manhood as. Their entire curriculum starting in Pre-K should be centered from a perspective of proper etiquette necessary for transitioning from boyhood to manhood. Too many young boys are waking up at that awkward age of adolescence without a clue of what manhood is truly defined as. I can only wonder if knowledge would have translated into wisdom in the life of the male with the 21 children, 11 women, and less than three decades of life.


Father's Day: An Endangered Holiday?

In a few short days, many men across America, and even the world, will be honored for their planting a seed into fertile ground that brought forth new life. No matter what kind of job you think these men are doing as parents, a holiday has been set aside to recognize the command of a Higher Authority: Honor thy father and mother. I couldn't help but notice during the weeks leading up to this day, that more discussions were heard with a bend towards wayward fathers. I was saddened that more men were being recognized for not doing their part to be in their children's lives, than for those brave warriors who stand in battle the entire 18 years and longer, to make sure their children are provided and cared for. America is going through a topsy turvy type of turmoil today, as adults are trying to redefine what constitutes a family. Two men can show up in a classroom, as well as two women, and call themselves the parents of a child. But this is about Father's Day; not Parent's Day. I will do all I can to not put a negative spin on such an important life celebration that has far too many "Baby Daddy's" wearing this title. It would be too easy to blame the males carrying this title; except, the owness belongs to females who in the majority of cases, allow these seeds to be planted in the first place. There was a time when the only birth control was rhythmically based. Although some people swear by this method, and that's good, I can only shake my head at attempting to master something so potentially life-altering. Aside from the pill, there's the patch and a host of other means for not getting pregnant. Even developing a montra, "No condom, No Sex" would be better than just letting ten seconds of doing something, turn into a lifetime of woe figuring out how to financially provide for a child. I love children as much as the next person, but they are very expensive. But, I digress, for this is about Father's Day; and a more pressing concern, which is that too many children are fatherless by way of absentee, off-the-radar papas. Too many men are virtual-parenting. Some are living across country from their children, some from a prison cell sending pre-made cards, only to be released from the penetentiary, totally denying the responsibility that parenthood requires. I realize that prison life can change a man for life; but, the sad news is that these same men will re-enter society and make more children, with more women, making more baby daddy's and even worse, more baby mama's. It's a spiraling trap, that always leans toward the weakening fiber of the intact family. But, oh yes, this is about Father's Day; not Beat-up-on-papa Day. Sadly, I don't think a man can really afford to be a dad to only the children he brings into the world. I think he has to wear the title for children who don't have a father figure in the home. But all that aside, the truth is society has always been short of father figures on some level. But as I think back, the moral deterioration of society didn't really start with the absentee father. They've always existed for one reason or another. Society and the morality issue in America didn't really begin to surface until someone allowed prayer to be removed from the public school system of this great nation of ours. And all the children, seemingly mostly males, no longer had the strong sense of the truest form of Fatherhood to reflect and rely on. They no longer had that morning prayer engrained in their being that helped raise a level of consciousness within themselves throughout the day. And soon, in the gloomy experience of the absent father, they began to adopt illicit rap stars as the figure head they looked up to. And before long they were old enough to look eye-to-eye with them and fully emmulate their manner of style in dress and behavior. There are a lot of "stars" on television. And I'm always saddened when I see a man, who is definitively married, fail to acknowledge his role as a husband, WITH children, by not wearing the traditional band on the third finger, left hand. Yes, in a few short days, millions will celebrate Father's Day. Perhaps in this day of redefining family on so many levels, perhaps we should consider having a Baby Momma Day and of course a Baby Daddy Day. Let's face it in truth; there is a distinguishing profile that goes with honoring a man who has signed up for the long haul by being a spouse first and a parent to one treasure of children; as opposed to men who walk around like seed bearers without the responsibility of watering and nurturing his implantations. So, to real fathers everywhere, my own included, who despite your imperfections, did, and are doing, your very best to raise God-fearing, morally sound children, kudos, and have the happiest of days.


The Lottery Is A Sin Only If It Causes You To

I'm convinced that God has a Divine since of humor. After taking nearly an hour to carefully read the fine print for my student-loan app for grad school, cautiously mindful that the borrower is slave to the lender; I hit the submit button, and returned to my homepage only to see this heart-warming story. Christian saints (sinners saved by grace) argue that playing the lottery is gambling; while yet, many frequently jet off to Vegas quietly, only to drop far more into the slot machines than this youngster did for his lottery ticket. I am certain that Father God on occasion cups His Mighty Hands, and opens them over one of his favored saints by dropping an abundance of wealth into one's bank account. Keep in mind that all who love and reverence Him are favored. I'm sure God chuckled as this guy's knees weakened to the point of buckling when he learned of His blessing; and, as people like me were blessed with the unexpected gift of an ear-to-ear smile on observing God's promised display of His life-changing awesomeness! Just imagine. This will be one mega-sized tithe and offering. If this winner believes in the God-Promise set forth in Malachi, nearly 9 million dollars of these winnings will go towards helping the furtherance of God's Kingdom in a multitude of ways. It's a good thing this youngster lives on a ranch; because he's going to need a lot of quiet sky while praying for guidance on how to expend this fortune. Some people occasionally put a dollar on the counter for a lottery ticket which is said to be used towards helping schools buy textbooks and other beneficial things. Others put a dollar on the counter for things far worse than a simple chance at instant wealth. To whom much is given; much is required. If God gifts one of His own with something so staggeringly magnanimous He has a plan for it. Even though I haven't bought a lottery ticket in years, days like this make me ponder trading a few moments of instant gratification that a fattening candy bar might bring, for an opportunity at God surprising me with a single dollar multiplied millions of times over. All praises to Father God for putting an upturn on a rather mundane day.


Happiness Is A Gift

I recently watched "Memoirs of a Geisha." It ended with a line about happiness that made me really think how true to life the words really are. So many people desperately seek to live happy lives. But I really don't believe that is man's primary purpose on earth. I believe that God has placed us earthlings here in this oxygen-required realm, to do something specifically for His Divine Purpose. It is when we discern what that purpose is that our bliss begins to shine forth. Too often, people work for decades in painfully unfulfilling jobs, just to pay the bills; while they have mental dreams of what they'd do if they didn't have to work. It is that very thought that they should spend every free moment cultivating. Perhaps a person dreams of writing a book; or preaching a sermon, or building a house. It's the inner ember that one should fan into a flame for something that will become a passion with life-giving force. I often tell young people caught in the devil's den of boredom, that there is very little likelihood that life will originate from staring at a Facebook page for hours and hours. Instead of this wasted use of precious time, they should take up a craft, or a trade, or a musical instrument. By the way, to quote the character in the movie, he said, "We must not expect happiness... It is not something we deserve. When life goes well, it is a sudden gift; it cannot last forever." I went so far as to Google how many times the Bible actually uses the word happiness. The answer was a mere six times. Four of them were found in the Old Testament. Somehow I believe what this actor said is true. Happiness is a gift that should come with the knowledge that it really can't stay forever unchanged in the form that it arrives. A constant state of happiness would cause us to forget that we live in a fallen world with many promises of sorrow; whether directly or indirectly related to our own life. I can think of stars over the years, who seemingly had it all; but, ultimately did everything they could, sometimes to the point of total destruction, to attain that fleeting gift of happiness. Tabloid news at the checkout counter soon made it crystal clear that money does not guarantee happiness any more than a degree guarantees success. This movie caused me to reflect on the times in life I considered myself to be the most "happy." And I surmised that it was those times when I was doing the very things I am innately wired to do. And so, on behalf of everyone in this great big world, who are doing everything they can to be happy, my advice is to stop trying. And instead just wait for the gift to come to you. It will. And when it does, savor it for all the joy it brings, knowing that it is like a butterfly that rarely stays in one place for very long. In the Bible, God lists seven fruits of the Spirit. Interestingly enough, happiness isn't listed among them. Peace and Joy are as close to being a synonym of being happy; but, the beauty of these two states of being are found even when happiness is absent. So at the end of the day, Wisdom teaches that we should seek to have peace and to find joy; even in the most mundane of circumstances. And we should always remember that happiness always comes for far too brief a time, before something takes it to another place, to another presence. So don't worry; be happy, is a montra that has nothing to do with one's circumstances. Find your niche. Do what you love. Find solace in all things whether you're currently on the mountain top or descending from its heights; knowing in peaceful bliss that there is no place on this planet that God is not.


Marriage is God's Design

Recently, while watching the news, I learned of a Catholic priest who's currently in hot water for being involved in a heterosexual relationship. The steamy photos of him lying on the beach with his "secret" love, and ultimately agreeing to public interviews, reminded me of the imperfections of man-made laws in the Church. Cautiously, I was glad to hear that this man-of-the-cloth, who presumably has dedicated his life of servanthood to the Lord, is choosing to own up to his "impropriety." If a blind study was done, many might be surprised at the number of priests who have fathered children through the years. Or maybe adult reasoning would prevent them from being shocked. On hearing of this tabloid-style news, I was reminded instantly of the book of Genesis, and God putting Adam to sleep, for the deliberate purpose of creating Eve; simply because He, in His infinite wisdom, knew that it would not be good for man to be alone (2:20-25). On the other hand, in the New Testament, (1Corinthians 7:1) Paul stated that he believed it was better to be single and celibate than to marry, because this state potentially frees one to be focused on the desires of God and not the cares of (hu-) man. He is quick to admonish, though, that it is far better to marry than to burn with adulterous passion for another. In some instances, being responsible for self is a lot easier than being responsible for another plus children. But we must be reminded, that we weren't put on this planet for the easiest path; but with God's plan and purpose aligning our lives foremost. Most times, this pursuit includes taking the journey with someone. For most adults this would be a spouse. And so, back to the topic at hand, the priest caught in this quandary reminds me of an ongoing view I have, that the Catholic Church should either rewrite its statutes or have a separate branch on the vine (denomination) for "liberal" Catholics. Blatantly overruling God by forcing one to deny natural urges in a proper context (marriage) can never be a good thing. I'd much rather have a healthy, heterosexual male priest who chooses a spouse (for life); and honors God by procreating, than one who stands in the pulpit preaching the Holy Word, knowing in his conscience, he has harmed one of God's precious little children. Sadly, pedophilia is a dirty little secret in too many churches of all denominations. If just one church is guilty of shielding this predatory perpetrator, that's one too many! And so, if in the beginning, God ordained marriage as a good thing, and totally natural, as an obvious attempt to circumvent adulterous behaviors, then it must be for the good of mankind! A man should not be denied his innate calling to be a minister of God's Word; nor should he have to deny his innate desire to have a normal heterosexual relationship with his spouse. He should not be denied children, when God's Word explicitly says, "Happy is the man who has a quiver full." The Catholic Church has a lot of positives. Unfortunately its negatives are so skewed that it casts an ominous, dark cloud that can't be ignored. Because churches are managed by humans, none are perfect. But a Church should NEVER be allowed to overrule God's Divine Order. And sadly, that's exactly what occurs when one is allowed to rewrite or redesign God's original plan. I'm obviously for heterosexual priests having the right to marry, if God has called them to this ministry. I support this view, even if it ultimately requires them to walk away from the priesthood. But, if I'm not mistaken, priests make vows to stay celibate before God; just as a couple takes marriage vows. There is a covenant involved; which gets complicated. Because I am not God; thus, certainly in no position to judge, I think the far more honorable thing to do would be to denounce man's position on this matter and honor God by praying to do whatever it takes to make right, this apparent wrong. This is perhaps a primary reason why the Catholic Church is always faced with a dire shortage of priests. I'm certain there are many gifted men who are called by God to preach; but are stymied at the thought of not being able to take a wife and have children. Unfortunately this leaves a gaping hole for Sodom and Gomorrah-types to be ordained. According to God's Word, homosexuality and even moreso, causing harm to His innocent and vulnerable children, are far greater abominations to Him; than a man who comes to his senses and realizes that obedience to God's Word is far more important than a law orchestrated by man. So to the priest on the beach, it's time to make a decision. It's obvious that you've failed at being perfect before God. Join the crowd of souls who in our best efforts fall short. That's why as Christians, we are sinners saved by the grace of Jesus' dying on the Cross. There comes a time in everyone's life when they realize that wrong, no matter how right it seems, will ever be so. It's at that point of recognition that steps have to be made toward the direction of the right path. From the beginning, God gave man natural urges. He even made a woman, with interests, so that these urges could be filled. To remain a priest, and superficially honor man's laws, and stay in the closet, or worse yet openly on the beach, is a greater disservice to the Christian walk; than admitting that in one's humanness, he failed God, by taking a vow that God probably never intended him to make. The Bible talks about a handful of people who have no desires for sex. They are extremwly rare, and actually have the name of enochs. On behalf of all males who are Catholic and feeling a call to the priesthood; while simultaneously hearing a call to marriage; the most noble thing to do would be obey the latter; and resolve to becoming a church deacon while starting a crusade for the laws from Rome to be more aligned with God's Word. For too long, the priesthood has been a "safe" place for persons with unhealthy sexual issues to flock to. I haven't kept up with this particular story; but, I'm hoping and praying that the priest involved in this latest affair will do the right thing. Only he knows in his spirit what God has breathed in him to do. Thank God for forgiveness and the Holy Spirit! There's a lot more shame in living a lie before God; than admitting your mistake and moving forward. And in closing, on behalf of the majority of priests and nuns who are honoring their vows, Praise GOD! And on behalf of those who after years of service realize that in their wholeness they have need of a spouse; and courageously make the difficult task of walking away to pursue that life, Godspeed. The bottom line is: God gave man His most compatible design when He made woman. And man should never be denied anything God has called good!

NOTE: Since the initial draft of this article, a study out of Ireland has revealed more heinous acts done "behind the scenes" by persons who should be among the most trusted, in a place that should be among the safest on earth.


Wedding Bell Blues Across America

Weddings can be expensive; emphasis on can. The good thing is that the amount of money spent on a wedding is a choice that the two primary people involved should make. The primary individuals being referred to here are the prospective bride and groom. Everyone else must remember that they have had, or will have, their day. I've noted in previous writings that I have several twenty-something daughters. Only one of them is by birth; the others are young women who have crossed my path on this journey called life. Recently, one of those daughters got married. She and her, now husband, took the horse by the reins and helped organize a beautiful wedding. Seemingly, it went off without a hitch; with so many memorable photos to enjoy for decades to come. They're currently celebrating two months of wedded bliss. How wonderful if all weddings could be so "hassle-free." I really do think they can be if adult children would remember that's what they are; adults. I know how difficult it is to feel like an adult, when your deepest desire is to honor God by feigning childhood, and obeying the wishes of your parents. No one ever told me this when I was a twenty-something; but, there comes a time when your loyalty to your parents has to be trumped by your loyalty to God. No one ever voiced to me that by law, a parent's legal rights end at 18, and children can not be effective adults. Had I heard these words, perhaps some of my adult decisions would have been bolder. Too often 20-somethings wage an internal war with what God is leading them to do, and what their well-meaning parents deem best for them to do. As a parent, I foretold my children that at age 18 the decisions they made would be their own. That did not mean that I would stop giving sage advice. But it did mean that on receipt of this advice, the final decisions would be their own; and, any consequences, good or bad, would be theirs to own as well. I wasn't shy about telling them that the consequences of their decisions could haunt or bless them for life. There's another wedding on the horizon. That makes me beam. This daughter's prospective husband reminds me of a glove that fits a hand perfectly. They're one of those couples that are so similar in presence, that you just know they're meant to be. Before I had the opportunity to meet her, now fiancee, all the mijas were in one accord on how perfect a couple these two were. Honestly, I wasn't sold. All I'd heard was that they had been dating for nearly four years and there was no ring, no date, no proposal. In my heart, I knew this was a young woman who wanted to do the right thing and wanted to be a Godly wife. And, all I knew, too, was that there was a breakdown in my understanding of why it wasn't happening. I do believe Father God orchestrates things Divinely. One hot summer day last year, I saw this daughter with a guy. It must have been the heat; but, I didn't put two and two together that this was her beau. When she introduced him, I did something I don't readily do. I actually got surprised that two people could look so made for each other; eerily, almost as though they were siblings! It's not that I've never known this from other life experiences, it's just that some people really stand together. I did what most mothers who have a future son interested in marrying their daughter would do. I gave him the third degree, as respectively as I could. Before I could give my blessing, I had to hear his spirit. What I heard, ultimately gave me peace. I left the conversation knowing that this guy was either real, or a really good impostor. Within a few short months of that conversation, he did the class-act of hiring a horse and carriage and proposing on bended knee with one of the most beautiful engagement rings you could imagine. All smiles abounded and hearts pounded as another wedding was imminent. It was a rejoiceful moment! The date was set, plans were being made; and then, a life roadblock. I don't have all the details; but, it seems that in all their eagerness to wed, outside forces are complicating what should be pleasantly memorable. This is an example of why I strongly advise my birth children, that in the event things start to get complicated, after the blessings have been given, it's probably time to make plans to elope on a beautiful island and honeymoon while there. If I were still twenty-something, the very instant complications began robbing me of my peace, I'd opt for the simplest plan. It's clear, the enemy sometimes uses well-intentioned people, who love us deeply, to deter God's plans. Sometimes the glass gets crystal clear. In life, simplicity, when others are involved, is most often best. Because when God says it's time; it's time. Once the date is set, it shouldn't be broken. After all, this is a pre-covenant date. Every time you change that date, you're changing what you've agreed to before God. It's almost like taking for granted that He's okay with your decision to change the date. The truth is, the primary factors in a marriage are the husband, wife and God. Everything else is secondary. God obviously foresaw that being a problem, as He even included in Genesis, a clause that a (hu-) man should leave his mother and father and CLEAVE to his wife. That specifically leaves mommy and daddy out of the picture. One has to remember that parents were once twenty-somethings having to make their own plans. Often times that included defying their parents. The first wedding date was set for June 2009. Hooray!!!!! Then, I sadly learned that it had been pushed back to January 2010. I'm not fond of things being postponed. But, I was glad to know it didn't directly relate to the couple having cold feet. And even sadder, the latest date has been changed once again; this time tentatively, to March, because that's when it's most convenient for others. I shrug my shoulders. Under most circumstances, it's only two months. How cool that would be if that were the official date and etched in stone as the anniversary date for many years to come. But, oh, that's right, the official date was June. That's a few weeks away. Hmmmmmmm.....sounds like a plan in the making. Oh, sorry, I digress. I'm not really 20-something! I'm going to end here. June or November, what will it matter in the big scheme of life? (I know, I didn't mention November has been factored into the cards as well.) The bottom line is that in the end, all will still love you when the hoopla of the elopement/honeymoon is past. And there's ALWAYS time to plan a great big shindig, and wedding, if parents want to present the bride and groom to the world. I'm not fond of secrets; but, in this case, who has to know before March anyway? What young people have to remember is that it's more important to be right with God than it is to be right with people, even if those people happen to be your mother and father. On behalf of all who didn't marry first loves because of life obstacles; grab the bull of life by the horns, and with much love, much happiness and much gusto run this race of life together. It's said that life is short. But living it without the one God ordained for you to live it with, makes it so much longer. I'm wondering what that June date was? And I'm wondering too if it has special sentimental meaning to the relationship? I don't know. But I do know that it's not good to keep God waiting.


NOW on Education: Should Teachers Receive Merit Pay?

To coin a cliche too-often used by politicians and the mega-rich, the majority of "Teachers Are Underpaid." I put emphasis on the majority. Having two adult children, I am eternally grateful to the teachers who fulfilled their passion by doing the job they were "called" to do. I don't believe that efficacious teaching is something one can do for the long haul if they don't possess a spiritual bent towards the cause. Teaching is truly a ministry. Either you possess the gift and couldn't imagine doing anything else or you're trying to do something in your own strength which soon wanes. I am certain this explains the high turnover rate for teachers. People who have the brainpower to do the work and pass the state exams for certification aren't necessarily wired to do this daunting task day in and day out for decades. There is a very critically weak link in the hiring qualifications for who gets a contract and who doesn't. I have observed the fervor and patience of some long-term substitute teachers who were able to maintain a classroom better than some tenured teachers; and, would find myself feeling sympathy because of her inability to pass an exam required by the state; thus denying her the salary and benefits of a contract teacher. Many a day, while writing a math problem on the board for 7-year-olds, I'd inwardly ask myself why someone would need a license to teach something as simple as 2+2=4. Of course, the higher the grade level, the more difficult the curriculum. But I really don't think the hiring specs for placing five-star teachers should necessarily start with a four-year degree and state boards. Teaching is an on-the-job process that books and lectures just can't deliver. Too often, book knowledge doesn't translate once thrown into the swim-or-sink pond of the classroom. I think the teachers should be tested on their knowledge base for the grade-level they are interested in teaching. I think instead of a sit-down interview with a person in human resources, and the false formalities that this process entails, a prospective teacher should be required to go into the interview prepared to teach a lesson to a group of adults who emulate things that children in a classroom would normally do. Or perhaps someone could design a virtual classroom for them to contain. Four years of college and state-boards do not give a clear picture of one's patience and fortitude. Too many teachers show up with a silent code of ethics, commonly called the 5th and 20th. It's these same teachers who use restroom breaks for the children as a reason to stand in the hall for 20 minutes, twice in the morning and again in the afternoon, to hold frivolous conversations while the students "go to the restroom." In the 80 minutes spent with these breaks, an entire reading and spelling lesson could have been completed. Yes, children need restroom breaks; but, it should not be a time of waste, no pun intended. Today, thousands of teachers flooded into school buildings. Far too many of them showed up with an agenda whose main goal was not making the world a better place for the youth entrusted to them. Effective teaching is a very serious responsibility. The end result does not rest with an end-of-year mastery exam for learners; but, the judgment of a Power far greater than principals and district leaders. I have seen firsthand what merit pay does to a staff. It turns otherwise sane people into vipers. I'd hate to think money could do that to a person; but, merit pay too often feels like "back-room" deals organized in the wee-hours of the morning when most teachers who value family over money miss out. I've seen where the most pay went to teachers with vanguard-type students; because, their students often did exceptionally well on exams. I'm encouraged that the current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is aware that No Child Left Behind, left behind a whole lot more than just children. Indeed, I suspect there were 50 states with 50 different goal posts. I believe all teachers should be paid a base salary. I think the starting salary for large, inner-city schools, should be $50K. I think too, that one's merit should be determined personally by parents and students who know first hand what a teacher is doing for the betterment of the cause. I think the "fat cats' " hands need to be removed from the pot. Fat cats are those people who show up early to have coffee with the principal to apprise them of "the word on the street (hallway)." Admittedly I'd hate for a teacher with tenure to lose the only job they'd ever known; but, I'd hate it even more so for the child who had to deal with a teacher who thought more of Neiman Marcus than them. I'm certain, based on observation, that most tenured teachers would have no trouble regaining their jobs, if Duncan opted to do an across-the-board turnaround process for the 95K schools in crisis. Things desperately need turning around in a lot of schools. I'm saddened that the stories "on the street" are so grim that few students fresh out of college want to take on this task. Perhaps the student-loan payoff incentive isn't strong enough to convince them to sign up. Sadly, they'd rather do a non-service type gig for less pay, than be responsible for 20+ beautiful faces and minds every day. It's a new day. There's a new hope for better schools across America. I really think charter schools are a positive move; but, I think they should be geared more so towards the non-traditional learner whose discipline issues might get in the way of their learning. That's a whole new conversation. On a final note, merit pay should not be decided by teachers and administrators; but instead, by the individuals who observe firsthand the difference a teacher has made in the life of their child. There's no greater honor than to hear a parent sing the accolades of a teacher who truly cares about children.


Giving In Anonymity Comes With Eternal Blessings

Recently, while listening to NPR news, I heard that several schools of higher learning had received millions of dollars from an anonymous source. I thought for a brief time who or why one would choose to give so generously without self-glorification. Instantly, I was reminded of God's Word admonishing in Matthew 6:1, that people who are quick to tell of what they've done for, or given to others, have already received their reward. And those who give without spotlights glaring, will receive their reward from Him, and an even greater eternal reward in heaven. As I listened to the news piece it was noted that several of the university Presidents were concerned that the money might have a "dirty" underpinning. My first reaction was, 'Why should it really matter?' considering the cause to which it is being gifted. Perhaps it might be from someone paying penance for "slave-harboring" ancestors who mistreated their servants generations earlier. Or maybe this offering, designated specifically for minorities and/or women, was an effort to help level the playing field of imbalanced opportunities for minorities and females. Or even less-exciting, maybe it was just a mega-rich person needing a tax write-off. I couldn't help but query later in the day which schools received the gifts. I smiled as the alma mater of one of my childhood friends had received a very generous donation. Because the bearer of these gifts is choosing anonymity, I really don't think we should put a taint on their choice of humility to the degree of questioning whether or not it should be dispersed to needy recipients. America is in a recession; and the majority of students do have a need. Understandably, if it were being offered by someone whose moral compass pointed in directions against the grain of an institution; and the giver wanted to draw media-frenzied attention to their deed, I could see the cause for alarm most clearly. But this rare case of an unheralded endeavor, is symbolic that there's still hope for this maniacally ego-hungry world. The people who receive of this gift will do well to thank the donor by offering many prayers of thanksgiving to GOD; for Him stirring the heart of another to do something so beneficial, and without fanfare. Who Knows who's behind these mysterious contributions? But, let us remember, that more importantly than the who, we should not risk becoming idolatrous by losing focus on the ultimate Gifter being God. We shouldn't waste too much precious time or energy trying to find the fleshly body that made the contributions. We should; instead, simply honor the ONE who makes all things possible. If we were to know the who, we might become like Baal-worshippers, and begin idolizing their every move, with the paparazzi nauseatingly chasing them; blah,blah, blah. In closing, congratulations to the universities who received the donations. Don't let the plans for disbursement be tainted by the mysterious motive in which these gifts were given. Congrats, too, for those blessed to receive this honor. Thank the donor(s) by striving to make an "A+" in every course!


A Tribute to Mothers: Past, Present & Future

It's May. It's the month when mothers are "officially" honored for their efforts, large and small. God makes it clear in Deuteronomy that parents should be honored. He doesn't distinguish between good parents and not-so-good parents. He simply admonishes that they should be honored. To honor someone is to recognize them for the good they do. Sadly, some adult "children" have to dig very deep into their souls to lift their parents. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with parents, who no matter the imperfections, did everything they could to keep our family intact. But it's May. And Mother's Day is on the horizon. Before I write any further I'd like to make an aside to the last post, "Sex-Ed Is Not So Much TALK As It Is Modeled." I inferred that my mother was wrong in her statement that "good girls don't." Sometimes in my maturity I still hold on to the immaturity of my youth. That's not really attractive. As a mother of two adult children, I now know fully well, exactly what she meant when she made that statement. In essence she was "nail-on-the-head" right! Good girls, meaning girls who honor God; don't dis-honor Him by breaking His command by indulging in "dead-end" sex before marriage. I know there are a lot of naysayers who're ready to defend their behavior; but it's a few days before Mother's Day and I must stay focused on the theme. My mother crossed over into the eternal realm over a decade ago. I was fortunate to know her pricelessness. The best advice she gave me as an adult was, "A mother can no longer be the first to cry when her child gets sick." This treasured wisdom came on the heels of me crying when my infant son had colic. I kept those words close to my heart as the normal progression of bumps and bruises occurred throughout the years. Admittedly, the time my daughter broke her arm after falling off her brother's bike, left me futilely fighting the tears. But the advice she had given years earlier was right on. If I wanted them to be strong and brave, then it began with me. My mother was the mother she was, thanks to her mother, and her mother's mother, generations removed. I remember taking the time to hand-write a weekly letter to my maternal grandmother. I wish I could remember how my 8-year-old words came together in longhand; but, that was eons before MS-Word and computers. My awareness of my paternal grandmother was actually stronger after her crossing over, than on this side. But that's a discussion for a whole other blog. In a few short days, young children will offer handmade gifts; and adult children will wreck the budget, trying to tag a price onto something priceless: how much they love and treasure their mom. On my calendar, above the Mother's Day imprint, I've written the words "Everyday is." For me that is very true. I don't have to think very deeply to know how blessed I am to have two children who are independent; and, on the big scale of life have never given me any real burdens as they grew. Of course, all glory for this goes to God, and certainly not them or me. Yes, Mother's Day is a few short days away. My perfect day will be spent doing what I'd ordinarily do on this day. My favorite gifts will be made from the inborn giftedness given them by the Gifter. My daughter has an artist's hands. My son has a gift for music design. But as the day approaches, I can only give thanks to my Maker, Father God, for blessing me with the experience; and for allowing the journey, in hindsight, to be a relatively smooth one. To all the mothers of the world, Happy Mother's Day. Assure your children that the best gift they can give can't be bought: their unconditional and non-judgmental love for you. May you spend your day the way that gives you peace, without preconceived expectations that most likely will disappoint. So clink, clink: Let us raise our glasses of cheer for a toast to motherhood and mothers: past, present and future!


Sex-Ed Is Not So Much TALK As It Is Modeled

My mother's sex-ed discussion was three-words long. I can remember as though it were yesterday. I was drying and putting away the dishes and somehow, "Good girls don't" blurted from her mouth. In silence, I continued putting the dishes away, and thought of all of the girls in school who did, and knew that she, in all her wisdom, missed the mark on this one. I thought of all the girls I knew who were on the Honor Roll, often with all A's. I thought of the cheerleaders who were good at throwing out cheers. I thought of girls who sang in the choir and put on the appearance of piety and respect. All of these girls were sexually active. And in honesty, this act did not make them what I'd consider to be bad people. In retrospect, they were good people who had liberal moral ethics, to put it politely. They had open relationships with their mothers and were provided birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies. And yet, even though my mother gave me those three words to ponder through the years, I chose abstinence as my birth control, well into my 20s. The key word here is chose. I was taught the Word of God from an early age, and knew this was against God's plan for unmarried people. I saw what these active girls had to endure when relationships fell apart. I saw what missing a pill could create. As a border-line germaphobe, the thought of contracting a disease was more than I cared to risk. I chose abstinence because I wanted to get a degree more than I wanted to change diapers. My mother had a child later in life, and that was as close to motherhood that I wanted to get as a young teen. I enjoyed being an aunt; but, motherhood was not on my radar. I enjoyed my life and I didn't panic if my irregular cycle didn't show up. But, I truly don't believe sex-ed has to be taught, as much as it has to be lived. Having two adult children of my own, I didn't have a sit-down-and-talk lesson with them. I had an ongoing, as the occasion put forth, dialogue with them. If I saw something, or heard something immoral I didn't hesitate to point out why that was ultimately destructive to their well-being. I made clear from the start, that music with vulgar or offensive lyrics would not be welcomed in my listening field. I made clear that any songs on the PC that I didn't like the title would be deleted without warning. I knew that I couldn't stop them from listening; but, I could, as the owner of the PC decide what was on it. This understanding started when they were still moldable. I learned through the years that they modeled my behavior. If I enjoyed a certain genre of music, they began to enjoy it, too. I made it clear that Nintendo games that had violent overtones wouldn't be welcomed. I made it clear that I wanted to live a God-centered life and wanted that for them as well. I taught them that sex outside of marriage was not God's best plan for them. I told them of the costliness of parenthood and let them know that as long as they couldn't take care of themselves, they shouldn't consider trying to take care of someone else. The bottom line on this discussion is that parents can't be alcoholics and think their children won't grow up with beer cans in their hands, too. A mother can't bring men in and out of her bed and think that her daughters won't grow up with this promiscuous lifestyle as well. It's said that an apple doesn't fall far from the tree. What you believe is okay, your kids will believe is okay. If you don't have clear ground rules set, step by step, then they will adopt the ground rules set forth by Hollywood and music entertainers. Let's face it, leaving television and MTV to teach our youth morality is irresponsible and equally risky business that will most likely leave them on the losing end of what God's best plan for their life is. My children will never be able to come to me and try to justify living with someone outside of marriage, or being involved in a pre-marital affair; because, they know from the word go where I stand on these issues based on my own personal lifestyle. I've taught them that playing with fire will eventually burn you. And I've never been shy about giving them real-life experiences to prove my point. And the bottom line on this topic always is: You can't alter God's commands and expect Him to be okay with it. It's not going to happen. He has a Divine Order: Marriage first; then sex. Anyone who says that's not realistic should talk to God about that.


An Apology Is A Good Thing; But To Think Before Speaking Is Even Better

Some things are just off limits. Older adults who criticize teens who are inevitably trying to grow into their own skin is one of those things. I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in front of cameras that catch every angle allowed. I can only shake my head. I think back to my teen years and can remember how the most insecure of youngsters would say and do things that attempted to make the most secure teens question their sureness. In the past few days, I've watched Miley Cyrus on several talk shows promoting her new movie and thought how difficult it must be to maintain a young teen's image while minute-by-minute growing into real-world young adulthood. Admittedly, from what I've observed, she's handling it well. I couldn't help but think of other celebs who grew up in the lime light and along the way derailed from the illusionary "straight and narrow path" they started out on. I thought of how, like idolaters worship their gods, the paparazzi would flock around them every chance they got as though they might just puke golden nuggets or something. To these vultures every photo taken was a potential jackpot. But, the public is to blame because of the obsession to believe the falsehood that these people do anything differently than the pauper on the street. They may do it more lavishly; but, not much, if at all, differently. But as I thought of the most recent celebs who have crashed and burned emotionally, I could only pray that Miley would stay above this destructive fray. But some questionably age-appropriate poses done professionally and unprofessionally can only leave one to wonder what the next few years will do to her seemingly stable demeanor. Anyone who has lived through those tumultuous years knows well that no one escapes them error free. In fact I don't believe any decade of life is free of a blemish here and there. But to end this piece, in peace; just as I sat to write this blog I overheard Jamie Foxx offer an on-air apology to her. I'm sure she'll gracefully accept it. But the truth is, the damage is done. I didn't quite get the gist of his joke. And being a comedienne does not give you license to be ignorant. The best comedians have humor that most often derives from his own personal experiences. On reading of his insult, my first question was, "Who is Jamie Foxx that he is in position to be critical of any one?" The bottom line is that parenting is difficult enough. Growing from adolescent to adult is a difficult transcendence. Many have battle scars for life because of the mean spirits of others. No one needs the help of the outside world to make these confidence-building feats more daunting than they already are.


Student Loans: A Silent Epidemic

I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason. I applied for grad school recently. It was my plan to apply for scholarships and grants to fund this endeavor. Before most organizations will consider you for funding, they require that you complete a financial aid package with the federal government; presumably to be assured that you're not deliriously wealthy, thus not needing assistance. Within weeks of submitting the documents required I received notice that I qualified for $10K in student loans per semester. That equals to $20K a year, and probably even more for summers if I showed good standing with the university. Strictly for emphasis, I was simply flabbergasted. I am one person. That means that most young people fresh out of high school will get grants, and still be eligible for student loans. That is a frightening thought. An 18-year-old, eager to get from under the roof of parents, has no genuine concern for what $10K a semester over four years is equivalent to. If my math is correct, that's $80K, plus interest! In some parts of the country this money would buy a modest home. I am concerned that the government is setting a debt trap for its unsuspecting citizens. Forfeiting on a student loan is not the equivalent of forfeiting on the dreaded credit card. A student loan stays with you til you pay it off, or die; whichever comes first. A recent conversation with some of my 20-something daughters left me frustrated for them. Either they have graduated, or at the threshold of graduating; and, most of them have student loan debt in the five figures. Fortunately a couple of them are seeking teaching certificates and have plans to work with a district long enough to get their loans paid off. At least that is a plan. But I can't help but wonder if they will be like many who never became certifiable because they couldn't pass the state exams; and went on to be full-time substitute teachers making a fraction of what contract teachers make. No matter how you dice it, a five-figure student-loan debt is a new car or a down-payment on a home. And this is what one must ponder before signing on the dotted line to attain funds to pursue a degree in, let's just say, film production. What young people must realize is that, unlike a grant, a loan will come due, eventually. It is very apparent that students are not leaving high school with significant knowledge of real-world education. They should not be measured on how well they know calculus or geometry; but instead, on how well they know the checks and balances of Student Loans 101. Ninth grade classes should include Family Planning 101. Failing an exam in the course would mean walking around with a battery-operated infant for a week, with a built in monitor to make sure it's in a certain parameter of the student involved. But to stay on task and not digress, Congress needs to query its constituents for alternatives to this current government-funded student-loan free-for-all. I believe that this reckless doling out of funds is indirectly to blame for our economic collapse. Recently, I read that 60% of people who have student loans are either delinquent or in default. That is alarming. And while listening to a radio talk show I heard conversations of people coming out of college and non-chalantly talking of having student-loan payments set up for 30 years! Thirty years; as in three decades of one's life? That would make the average person who paid faithfully, at least 50-something before they got out from under this debt, presuming they had no financial crises along the way. I'm reminded of the Bible verse that warns us that the borrower is slave to the lender. What a prime example this is! I have come to the conclusion that the only way to reap the most from the college experience is to pay as you go. For most that will mean going straight from high school to full-time employment. That will mean taking six hours at the local community college for the core courses and staying at home with the parents a bit longer. That, perceivably, is not a bad thing. The money saved by paying a lower rent, if they require it, would be well worth the leash on your potentially unhealthy party-habits. I calculated it once, and a student who took six hours each semester, summers included, would graduate at approximately the same time as someone who went to school full-time at an average of 12 hours a semester, excluding summers. I'm deeply concerned that the student loan crisis is taking our young people on a roller coaster ride that won't return to the exit station until paid in full. If the truth was told, most 18-year-olds don't have a clue what they want to be at age 25. I think the laws should be rewritten, to where only students seeking licensure should be eligible for loans. People wanting degrees in film production need to pick up a cheap camera and prove their worthiness for such a "fluke" of a degree; forgive my harshness. I think dropping classes, or doing poorly in classes, should make one ineligible for loans. I've heard too many conversations of students who have accrued debt, like water in a bucket. But unlike water in the bucket, student loans don't evaporate. If you are the parent of a teen who is about to graduate from high school, I suggest that you firmly stand against letting your soon-to-be 18-year old adult-child, begin digging this somber pit for himself. Since public school probably has not taught the lesson on the consequential deep abyss of student-loan debt then it is your obligation to do so in love. It's possible they might just listen. A few days ago, I broke down the deferment lesson to one of my daughters who recently graduated. She is eager to return to school to begin her graduate studies, and has chosen to defer her loans. She breathed a sigh of relief when she learned that the government would allow her to pay only the interest. She thought the $63. payment would not be so bad. That was until I enlightened her that over 12 months that would equate to over $700. And that the interest-bearing nightmare wouldn't end at 12 months; but instead, like a hamster on a treadmill, the lifetime of the loan. Suddenly, going to grad school on student loans no longer seemed reasonable; and even less so after I told her what that $700. would look like if she took this money and put it in her 401K for 30 years. America, it is time to wake up and get off the delusional gravy train. Very few things in this life are really gifts. Yes, God can use rare vessels to bring His Plan to fruition; but I place an emphasis on the word rare. If you want a college degree, and your only option is student-loan debt, get a job and pay as you go. Remember that the bottom line is: Colleges are merely another form of big business. They get paid up front when you pay to attend their classes. Once they deposit your funds, you are on your own with what you do with the classes you take. They are eager to advise you while you are a student; but be forewarned: Once you graduate, you're on your own for finding a gig. You'd be very wise to get a degree in something requiring a license. In this case, you'll earn a decent-enough salary to pay off any debt and sustain yourself. Use the rest of the hours pursuing whatever artistic passion you have until like a kite, you can get it to leave the ground, and soar on its own. Who knows? You may be like the thousands about to graduate and not have a clue what studies you really want to pursue. Remember, there is no law that states college must start the fall semester following graduation. There's no shame in taking core courses just to stay in the game until you get that glimmer of light of what you'd love to become. You may just want to become an artist. But at least if you pay as you go, you won't be burdened by the dark cloud of debt that looms for far too many, six months past graduation day. Sadly, I know of some who simply stay in school, and ultimately never graduate, in an attempt to put off the real-world reality of getting a job and going to work. That only lasts for a brief moment; because, be assured: The piper will get paid; whether monetarily or in denying you the precious luxuries of owning a home or a new car. Be wise, be prudent, and weigh the ultimate price. Is digging this somber hole of debt what you really want to do? It used to be said that college is for the wealthy. Thankfully there are sufficient government grants for undergraduates that take the teeth out of that truism. Attending college on just grants may mean not living on campus. Or it may mean living on campus and taking fewer classes. I'm not sure how that works. But I do know that student-loan debt is not for foggy-eyed children which is what 18-year-old adults are. Nor is it for people with the wisdom to know that paying five-figures for a piece of paper that may or may not cash in is far too financially risque.


I think back to my high school days and all the wasted courses I was required to take as requisites for graduation. Among them include Algebra I & II and the dreaded Geometry. This is not to bash these courses or the people who enjoy and actually benefit from them. But in a recent conversation with my 20-something daughters who have recently graduated college they were totally convinced that Calculus and Trig were wasted precious hours as they are subjects they will never utilize in life. Having a few years on them, I knew they were telling the truth; and I knew too, that something needs to be done to revamp the education system to make it more "fruitful" for learners' real-life needs. The drop-out rate would decline dramatically if students were granted a diploma just for showing up and doing the work. I am grateful that I did not grow up in a time when passing some over-the-top state-mandated exam was a requisite for graduating high school. I've often studied the mannerisms of some politicians and quietly wondered if they could have passed the tests they were so supportive of students taking. But this is not really about the past. This is about the now. The education system needs to be overhauled; and, the billions of dollars spent on programs that strategize how a learner can pass a state test or how to keep students from dropping out, could be better expended on allotting the children of America's tax-payers with knowledge that will benefit them for life. I can't help but observe the number of Latinos who do excellent work when it comes to construction, and other labor-intensive jobs. On a little background research of their education system I learned that the majority of their education is targeted around teaching students skills they can use for life and actually make a living at. If you ever find yourself driving through a new community under construction, you will most likely see that a vast majority of the builders are Hispanic. And I ask myself, 'How long will it take for America to wake up and demand that their children learn something functional?' Schools need to be formulated according to the needs of its learners. From grades 9-12 students should begin taking courses geared strategically towards their career path of interest. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that allowing learners to follow a "track" or path of interest suitable for their life was not a good thing. Someone decided that all the children in America should be dumped in one big pot, like crabs. Someone decided that it wasn't okay to allow students to test out in an area they were specialized in. If I were to build a home from scratch, I would eventually need people ranging from architects to bankers for the financing, to someone to put the last coat of paint over the plastered walls. Children should be allowed to learn based on their interests. Just like millions of recent college grads who are forced to keep working at Walmart because their degree in film production is worth little more than a trip to the movies, it is time for parents to start hounding people in Congress to make CHANGE that MATTERS. I have two children. despite the many I call mine. Neither were math fanatics; but, because of the crab pot, they took dizzying amount of math that I KNOW they will most likely never use. Instead of all the math and science our children need to be exiting public school buildings knowing how to play (not play at) a musical instrument. Our children should be able to do something more with their hands than what some are sadly doing. People stick with things that matter and can be seen as making a difference in their life. To end, a child who starts in K and attends school through 12 DESERVES a diploma. It's no secret that a four-year degree isn't even worth a whole lot these days. Secondly, every child who attends school should be required to know enough nutrition to pass a test on how many grams of fat is in each product they put in their mouths AND the difference between good fats and bad fats. Students should be tested on their target of study in 12th grade. A person interested in the medical field should have an exit exam that proves they are prepared for college entry; just as the person interested in being a mason; should be able to lay brick. If our new Secretary of Education is serious about change it might be good to start by changing what's required. If kids were put in settings where they were learning what they were wired to learn, I'm certain that we would have far fewer drop outs and much more time to spend teaching them what's important: Reading, Respect, and enough 'rithmetic to be able to balance a checkbook and know the downs of credit cards and student loans. Education is my second passion. It saddens me to see how many mis-educated students are walking the streets. It's not the teachers. It's not the students. It's "America's" insistence that they look like another continent of people. We are not them. We are Americans. And as I recall, we were a lot better when we weren't using other countries as our measuring stick. It's time for American parents to reclaim the education system. What makes Calculus so important if all I want to do is bake cakes for a living? Just like you can take any lame-brained course in big-business colleges, our children should be given, at no extra-cost, an opportunity for a well-rounded education. So, let's see if I can nutshell this: Take the time to teach them what they NEED to know; bless them to learn the mastery of a musical instrument or other craft; allow them to learn a speciality in what they have an interest; and by all means put 60 seconds of morning and afternoon prayers over the P.A. speakers of every school in America; or even "This Little Light of Mine". Christians are in the majority and it's time we allow God back in the classroom. We took Him out decades ago and His Word that nothing good can happen where He is not is proving true. I know that America is a melting pot; but, somewhere along the way, she became timid about shining forth the Torch that has sustained her these 200+ years.

The Devil IS Real Whether You Believe It or Not

Recently Nightline had four people debate whether satan is real or not. Two supported the belief that he is real; and two were against. I was saddened to see that one of the debaters who spoke against his being real is a practicing Bishop of the Christian faith. The debate can be contained swiftly by most Christians in that if God said it, It's Truth, and that's that! But to break it down a little bit further, with hopefully a clearer clarification of why a Christian should believe satan is real begins when he is cast from heaven as a fallen angel, because he touted that he would ascend into heaven and be like the most High God (Isaiah 14:12-14). God clearly states that He is a jealous God and that we can worship no other god beside Him. And yet every day, because we are sinners, whether saved by grace or unsaved, we have this enemy in spirit form seeking to steal, kill and destroy our very souls ( John 10:10) in an attempt to keep us from enjoying our heavenly reward which he, in his arrogance, has forfeited. But to not belabor the point, any one who questions his existence needs only to Google a Biblical Concordance and read up on the numerous times satan has reared his presence from Genesis, as the serpent, to Matthew tempting Jesus, all the way to Revelation where he eventually gets to live in his eternal lake of fire. It does little to discuss this in detail because the bottom line is this: Either one believes that the Word of God is infallibly, Holy-Ghost breathed pure Truth or It's not. Some choose to say that It's metaphorical. But any one who's lived any length of time, with a clear tune to good and evil knows that whatever one chooses to call him, satan is real. And only a fool would deny his existence. Simply put; why would God spend so much time warning us of him if he did not exist? People caught up in sinful behavior are being controlled by him. People who have survived the torture of cocaine addiction or any other demonic possession can attest to you that the control he has over his followers is real. But the joy comes in Holy-Ghost deliverance by choosing to follow Jesus and genuinely repenting of sinful behavior by saying an emphatic NO to anything that is anti the Word of God. The beauty of being tested and even used by satan is the testimony that one has after being released from his bondage. No, this writing is not to sell you on whether satan is real or not; because that would be like convincing you that God's Word is Truth. And that brings us back to square one. If he weren't real; and if he really didn't exist, then Jesus wouldn't have recorded that he was tempted by him. I'm ashamed that a believer would profess anything differently. But it's said that many will fall away from the Truth and begin to preach falsities for "itching" ears to hear. For them, and for all who fail to know and accept the Truth, we can only pray while our prayers are still being heard. One last word: If he weren't real, then why do some people choose to worship him and deny God; not to mention His Son, and my Saviour, Jesus Christ?


Most Often There's Very Little Dignity in Dying

Of late, talk of giving the terminally ill the right to choose their date with death has been in the news again. Considering that everday, somewhere in the world a woman schedules an appointment to induce labor, one might think penciling in the when and how one chooses to die might be humane. I sincerely believe in Divine Timing. And as with birth, so with death, I do not believe one should determine the entry or exit date and hour. I believe that to the last second of life's breath, one's life has purpose; if not for themselves, for those beings a part of their existence. I realize that when looking at Death's door the pain that often accompanies the parting of this life to the next can be excruciating to the degree that rushing the inevitable can be tempting. Unfortunately, just as with suicide, I don't think you can show up early and expect to alter God's Divine timeclock. So a doctor says you have only six months to live; and, you take into your own hands when your end is. It's your last effort to take life into your own hands and experience a final empowerment over what has brought you to this point. I've known excruciating pain. And I know how peaceful relief from that pain can be. And I do believe that death, as the Word of God promises, is a relief from that pain. But I still have that nagging question of what happens when we take the reins of Life into our own hands, with little or no regard for the plans our Creator has for our final days. I think that being given a general timeframe of when you're leaving this planet, in the fleshly form, is a gift of the oddest kind in that you're given an opportunity to tie up loose ends, heal rifts, make peace with those who may be waiting on the other side to greet you. As is my rule; I may comment; but, I do not judge people and the decisions they make. My mother once told me to not judge her until I'd walked a mile in her shoes. And now that I am a mother of grown children I most clearly know what she meant. There comes a time in most mother-daughter relationships that they become BFF's of the keenest sense. It usually comes after the daughter has married and had children of her own that the wisdom of a mother becomes priceless. Over a decade ago my mother crossed over to the other side. The doctors initially gave her a brief time to live. In a sense they were accurate; in that 40 more years would have been brevity of life to me; but, after 18 months she lapsed into a coma, and on into eternity. After all this time I don't think I will ever completely have peace about her last few days being spent in a hospice instead of the home she so painstakingly made for our family. But, I'm amiss, as I don't think one should look back with any dread or regret for things they really have little control over. Again, one cannot say what they'll do when that final hour is imminent. It's perhaps one of the most personal decisions one can make. But if God is the true Determiner of Life's journey I hope in my last moments I have the strength of the Holy- Ghost kind to wait on His final call; and not be so presumptious as to show up at Death's door realizing that His date of my homegoing was far beyond the doctor's prediction. Sarah didn't think she'd conceive in her old age, but she did. Cures happen every day. Somehow the "Death With Dignity Act" is letting go of our most precious hope: Faith that God Can and if He desires, will lift us up and onward from our sick bed. And if He chooses to take us heavenward then I think the greatest peace, and clearest conscience comes with letting Him decide that final hour of how and when.


Cracking Open A Coconut 101

Sometimes life has to be about more than the obvious. Recently while visiting my favorite market for fresh fruit and vegetables I decided to try something different. I did my research before going into the store and watched a couple of You Tubers demonstrate how to crack open a coconut. Amused and interested I shook my head at the thought of all the decades that have passed and I've never made this attempt. I thought of how wonderful this project could have been as a teachable moment as a family. As I walked to the pile of coconuts before me, I picked up one and shook it, holding it closely to my ear. I learned that it's important to hear water inside. I pretended as though I knew what I was doing as I grabbed another and added it to my basket. I felt very encouraged as I heard at least 10 ounces of water rattling inside this odd-looking object. Strangely, I was reminded of the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks. Even though his "best friend" on the island was a ball, for some reason the coconut reminded me of that object. I guess it was the three little "eyes" in what is presumably the top of the fruit. Well, several days passed and I had placed the coconuts in a place that I wouldn't forget they were there; but, at the same time wouldn't pressure me into embarking on the project til I had a clean slate for the day. Well, today happened to be that day. I grabbed one of the coconuts and the few notes I'd taken on just how to get to the meat of this issue. I started by taking a nail and hammer and poking a hole in the most tender of the three holes. Soon I had a clear liquid flowing from the inside. I was even tempted to let this be a "You Tube" moment. I had to admit elation was what I felt as a major sense of accomplishment had occured. Even though my daughter is no longer a child, I still used this as a teachable moment for her. I explained that no person should be allowed to leave high school without a clear knowledge of how to do something as basic as this. She, as I, had no real clue how to crack open this object; except for the instructions. I ex- plained to her that there are three holes on the top of the coconut. Two of them are very hard and one is relatively soft. That was the one that would be the target of the nail and hammer to extract the juices. Next came putting this fruit into the oven at 450 for 15 minutes. Out of the oven, I set it on the counter and proceeded to step 2 which was to whack it with the back of a big knife all the way around the circumference; per the instructions. And whack I did. And whack. And whack. And whack. I thought how handy a husband can be as my whacking produced no immediate results. I thought of how insecure I was to go out and body slam a coconut on the concrete. So, I endured the noise of attempting to get inside the coconut, with no apparent success. I put it aside and left my feeling of "unsuccess" right there with it; and headed for the mall. The whole intent of buying this coconut, aside from enjoying the juice and meat was to have the feeling of accomplishing something new. On my return I sat and did a little more research on how to conquer this coconut; and, realized I probably should have let it stay in the oven for about 30 minutes, as I learned the shell will naturally crack. In between going to the kitchen and doing things required of the day, I'd pick up the coconut and give it a few whacks, putting it back til the next go round. I learned that instead of hitting it at the equator, I should whack it around the three holes. That seemed to work as this earthquake-type crack begin to ride down the side and around the coconut. Nothing like progress. I then grabbed a butter knife and began pulling the shell from the flesh and imagined having to do a hundred of these for a living. I smiled as I realized the ripped arms I'd have if that were my gig. But, thankfully it's not. And even more thankful was the sweet taste of unshredded coconut. I promptly put it in the freezer, primarily to add to smoothies; and cleaned up the light mess the juice and brown husk-like hairs left behind. Mission accomplished. No longer will I wonder if I can, or even how to crack open a coconut. Thank God for the internet. And thankful too for the Holy Ghost perseverance to not give up and quit! Do I look forward to cracking open the second coconut? The labor of getting to the fruit; not so much. But the joy of what's inside, I suppose. Was it worth it? Yes, very much so. There's nothing like learning something new coming with the fringe benefit of a healthy treat. Will I buy fresh coconuts again? Most definitely.